This delicious challah is light and fluffy, sweet and slightly chewy. It can easily be turned vegan with great results. We braided ours using six strands.
Baking is my meditation
This past year I’ve been working as a kindergarten teacher. I love many things about my job, but one of the most unexpected parts that I’ve come to look forward to is the baking. Most mornings start out with the quiet and meditative work of kneading dough. The children are invited to join in as one of the teachers kneads and rolls, and the delicious smell of freshly baked bread begins to fill the room. The repetitive and physical work is the perfect opportunity to daydream and helps me begin my day in a relaxed way.
Each day of the week has its own designated baked good. On Sundays we bake rolls, on Tuesdays sourdough and on Mondays and Thursdays we make cookies or pretzels. But Fridays are my favorite. On Fridays we bake challah.
My friend and colleague Chaiki is in charge of the challah. She has been a kindergarten teacher for over 10 years and has tasted at least 30 different challah recipes. After years of trying all different ones at the kindergartens that she worked, she finally created her own recipe. It’s fluffy and chewy and soft and sweet. She brushes it gently with watered down date syrup and sprinkles it with sesame seeds. She always makes sure to serve it still warm from the oven.
Every child makes their own little loaf to take home. They are creative bakers and it’s always exciting to see the flowers and snails and braids and turtles that come out of the oven. For the kindergarten’s Shabbat ceremony Chaiki braids a giant loaf for all of us to share. She usually uses a 6 strand technique that you can see here. The traditional way to share the loaf isn’t by slicing the bread, but rather tearing off a piece for each.
The Perfect Challah
I’ve had my eye on Chaiki’s challah since the beginning of the year and finally got the chance to learn her recipe. The tip is to add in the water very gradually while mixing. You want to keep the dough slightly wet and sticky, but still dry enough to be able to knead. This recipe can be made 100 % vegan. Adding one egg makes the texture a tiny bit fluffier, but the vegan option is great as well. Challah is delicious eaten warm from the oven slathered with butter or dipped in olive oil and zaatar. It is slightly sweet and makes delicious French toast the day after. You will thank me from the moment the smell of the baking challah begins to fill your home.
Also, if you enjoyed this challah recipe, we invite you to try our delicious olive and onion focaccia!
- 1 kilo all purpose flour
- 2 tablespoons dry yeast
- 1/2 cup +2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/3 cup oil (not olive oil) I like using grapeseed, but canola is good as well
- 1 egg you can leave out the egg for a vegan option, the egg makes it a tiny bit fluffier, but the vegan challah is amazingly delicious as well
- about 2 cups of slightly warm water
- 1/2 tablespoon salt
- Whisk the flour and the dry yeast together in a large bowl.
- Add in the sugar and whisk
- Add in the oil and mix with a spoon.
- Add in the beaten egg and continue mixing.
- Slowly add in the slightly warm water. At first mix with your spoon, and as the dough begins to form continue using your hands. You want the dough to be sticky but still comfortable to knead and work with. Make sure to add in the water slowly. You don't want to pour in too much and create dough that is too sticky. It is better to not have to add extra flour later because it can offset the proportions.
- After about 2 minutes of kneading, sprinkle the salt over the dough and knead to combine.
- Continue kneading for about 5 minutes, until a smooth ball has formed. At this point it shouldn't be sticking to your hands but will still feel a bit sticky to touch.
- Place the ball of dough back in your bowl and cover with a towel.
- Let it rise for about an hour and a half or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Depending on the temperature in your home the dough may need more time to rise. If you're in a hurry you can heat up your oven on a low temperature, and then turn the oven off and place the bowl inside leaving the oven door slightly open.
- After the dough has doubled in size, braid your loaves and place them on a baking paper lined tray.
- Either brush them with egg yolk or use the vegan alternative that I actually prefer. Take a couple of tablespoons of date syrup and mix it with a quarter cup of hot water. Let it cool and then brush it on the challah breads. Then sprinkle them generously with sesame seeds. Feel free to make little challah rolls as well. They come out great.
- Let the braided challah rise for 40 minutes, meanwhile preheating the oven to 180 C.
- Bake for about 25 minutes, or until the bottom of the bread is slightly brown and the top is golden brown. Smaller loaves or rolls may need less baking time, check them after 15-20 minutes.
- This recipe can make 2 big loaves, or a combination of all different sized challah loaves and rolls.
- For this bread we used a 6 stranded braiding technique. You always start with the strand on the far right and go over two, under one, over two. Then continue with the next strand on the far right, and go over two under one over two, and so on and so forth.