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  • Writer's pictureFay Walsh

The Simple Challah

An unfussy challah recipe for the newbie baker

Challah is a traditional braided bread brought to us from Europe that is easy to make and delicious to eat.

Winter vs. Summer Yeast

Flour is like a sponge; in summer, it soaks up humidity from the air, while winter flour dries out. If the dough feels a bit dry to you this winter, increase the water amount by a tablespoon (or 2, or 3). Also, yeast loves warmth. The hotter the air, the more quickly yeast grows. My dough rose very rapidly today (70 degrees) and I will likely need to allocate more rising time this winter.

Sesame Seeds vs. Poppy Seeds

Personal choice - your call. I tend to like either sesame seeds or poppy seeds to disguise some imperfections on the surface :) I also used za'atar spice once and it tasted fantastic. Just be sure to always use the egg wash for optimal shine. Vegans like maple syrup, but I prefer the traditional egg wash.


Squeeze the ends of the braids together.

The bottom strand goes over the two middle strands...

...then back under one.

The top strand goes over the two middle strands...

...and back under one.

bottom strand over the middle two...

...and back under one.

Top strand over the middle two...

..and back under one.

Repeat until the loaf is totally braided, tucking the both ends underneath.


The Simple Challah

  • 1 cup lukewarm water

  • 2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast

  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar

  • 2 teaspoons salt

  • 2 large eggs

  • 1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)

  • 1/4 cup neutral-flavored vegetable oil

  1. In a small bowl, combine yeast and warm water. Wait until the yeast starts to foam (5-10 minutes) before moving to the next step. If your yeast doesn't foam, it's dead and you need to buy new yeast.

  2. Sift all the dry ingredients together (flour, sugar, and salt) in the bowl of a stand mixer.

  3. Add in the wet ingredients by making a well in the center (the eggs, egg yolk, and oil). Whisk to combine.

  4. Attach the dough hook to the mixer and knead on low, gently pouring the yeast over top. Allow the dough to knead on low for 6 to 8 minutes. If the dough seems too wet, carefully add a bit more flour. I like my dough to be a bit more on the wet, flexible side so that the braid is easier to form.

  5. Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with a dish towel, and let rise for a couple hours (until doubled in size)

  6. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes and then try again.

  7. Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. Proceed with your basic four stranded braid technique by following the instructions above.

  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top and sprinkle with a little flour. Cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise about 1 hour.

  9. About 20 minutes before baking, preheat to 350°F making sure to have a rack centered in the middle. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with a splash of water and brush it all over the challah making sure to coat the entire surface area.

  10. Bake for 30 minutes rotating the baking sheet halfway through. Challah should register 190°F in the very middle with an instant-read thermometer.

  11. Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Dip in the honey for a sweet new year.

Recipe inspired by and King Arthur Flour.

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