Challah is a traditional Jewish bread, and is well deserving of a place in everyone’s baking repertoire. Enriched with sugar and eggs, challah has a wonderfully soft and fluffy crumb, as well as a comfortingly rich flavour.Challah is not overly sweet, and can be enjoyed anywhere you would normally use bread. I often use it to make the kid’s jam sandwiches, and it makes a pretty spectacular bread and butter pudding too.A braided loaf with four strands is traditional, although in the pursuit of beauty I will usually braid it with six, or even eight strands.
Servings: 1 loaf
- 500 g strong white bread flour
- 10 g instant yeast
- 10 g salt
- 75 g caster sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- 125 ml lukewarm water
For the glaze
- 1 egg white
- poppy seeds (optional)
- Put the flour in a large mixing bowl, or the bowl of a stand mixer. Add the yeast on one side of the bowl, and place the salt and sugar on the opposite side. Crack one of the eggs into a small bowl. Scoop out the yolk and add it to the bowl, then crack in the other two eggs. Measure in the oil and water into the large mixing bowl.
- If kneading by hand, bring everything together using your fingers. Once the dough is homogenous in texture, knead the dough on a clean work surface for 5-10 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth.
- If using a stand mixer, use a dough hook attachment on low speed. Once the dough has come together, knead for 5 minutes on low speed, until the dough is soft and smooth.
- Use a little more oil to grease a large bowl, then place the dough inside and cover.Leave to rise, until it has doubled in size, for 2 to 3 hours.
- Tip the dough out onto a clean work surface and knock back. Divide into 6 pieces and roll into long sausage shaped strands. Join the 6 pieces together at one end, ready to plait. Split the pieces into 2 distinct groups of 3 strands.
- Right hand crossed over left, pick up the outer strands. Swapping hands back, hold the left hand up at the 10 o’clock position, whilst placing the right hand strand to the inside of the left group. Then pick up the outer strand of the left group with the right hand and hold the strand up at the 2 o’clock position. Place the left hand strand down on the inside of the right group. Continuing to hold the right hand strand up, pick up the outer strand of the right group with the left hand. Place the right hand strand to the inside of the left group.Continue in this manner until you have braided the entire loaf.
- Line a baking tray with greaseproof paper. Transfer the plait to the tray and brush with the reserved egg white. Cover the loaf, leaving to prove again for about an hour until doubled in size.
- Preheat the oven to 190 °C (375 °F) / 170 °C (340 °F) fan. Brush the plait with more egg white, and sprinkle with poppy seeds if desired. Bake for 35-40 minutes. The loaf colours quickly because of the sugar and egg, so keep an eye on it, covering with foil if necessary to stop further browning.
- Transfer the loaf to a wire rack and leave to cool completely.