ZACHARY ZOLLMAN

Challah recipe

How to make braided bread

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A 3-braid challah on a baking sheet, viewed from above.

Introduction

This is my first attempt at writing a recipe in a long time. It was adapted from a recipe in chapter 2 of A Taste of Challah. I found this measurement conversion tool a while ago and I liked the concept. It seems finnicky but I’m including it in case it might be of use to anyone wanting to convert to metric measurements. If you try the recipe, I’d be happy to hear about your experience.

Ingredients

  • Water
  • Active dry yeast
  • Salt
  • Sugar
  • Flour
  • Canola oil
  • Optionally, filling ingredients (such as raisins or chocolate chips)

Tools

  • Measurement cups
  • Three mixing bowls
  • A cloth towel
  • A stirring implement
  • A rolling pin
  • An oven

Guidance

A flowchart overview

flowchart TD A[Activate yeast]-->A2[Does it seem appropriately active?] A2--yes-->B[Mix ingredients] A2--no-->B2[Try again] B-->C[Is the flour absorbed?] C--no-->C2[Add water] C2-->C C--yes-->D[Knead] D-->E[Divide] E-->F[Shape] F-->G[Bake]

Activate yeast

Add one tablespoon sugar, two tablespoons of boiling water, and 1/4 cup room temperature water to a bowl. Next, add 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (this is the typical size of a single yeast packet) to the bowl and stir (for example with the tablespoon measure, which isn’t used again in this recipe). Then cover the bowl (for example with a plate or cloth towel), and let it sit for 10 minutes.

Mix ingredients

Inspect the mixture. It should be foamy because the yeast should be active. If things seem amiss, try again. Otherwise, sift (or just add if you don’t have a sifting implement) 4 cups flour into the second-largest bowl. In the largest bowl, add 1/4 cup plus one tablespoon sugar, 1/4 cup canola oil, 1/2 cup warm water, 1/2 tsp salt, then half of the flour from the other bowl. Mix (I recommend using a wooden spoon). Add the active yeast mixture and mix again, then add the rest of the flour. Add 1/4 to 3/4 cup more water until the flour is absorbed. Transfer the mixture to a bowl with a tablespoon of oil at the bottom and allow to rise for 10 minutes.

Knead

Knead with lightly oiled hands for 5 minutes then return the dough to the bowl, adding a few drops of oil to the bowl if it seems dry. Let it rise for 10 minutes again. Knead for 5 minutes. Transfer to the bowl (potentially adding a few drops of oil), cover, and allow to rise for an hour.

Divide

Place the dough on a floured surface. If you would like to make one large challah, divide the dough into thirds, roll each third into an oval/pancake shape, (you could add toppings at this point if you want them to be on top) and roll up each pancake into a log/crepe kind of thing. Cover them and wait five minutes.

Shape

Squeeze each log into a longer, thinner, rope-like form. Each should be approximately the same thickness. Pinch the tops together and braid into the desired form. You could add toppings at this point if you want them to be on top. Cover and allow it to rise for 45 minutes. Preheat the oven to 375°F such that the oven is preheated for a few minutes (A Taste of Challah says 20 but I think that’s excessive) before you put the challah in.

Bake

Bake the challah for 20-25 minutes, until it starts to brown at the edges. It can be frozen for long-term storage.