Challah bread

Challah bread is a Sabbath loaf that was first made by the Jews of central Europe. I always associate it with one of my friends who would make it while we were growing up. Challah bread isn’t a bread I usually have but I fell in love at first bite with its fluffy, slightly sweet dough that’s finished with a beautiful plait. While there are professional bakers who have mastered an intricate 12-strand plait, I was challenged enough with the four-strand plait and was quite chuffed when it worked out.

Bread isn’t time consuming to make in the hands-on section of the recipe, it just has a few steps where it has to be left for rise for a few hours. It’s a great way to be productive for an hour or two hours at a time between rises! This recipe turned out perfectly and would highly recommend making it.

Four-plait Challah

INGREDIENTS
700g strong white flour
1x7g packet instant dry yeast
2 tsp salt
250 ml lukewarm water
100ml oil (vegetable oil; sunflower oil; any neutral tasting oil)
3 eggs
3 tbsp honey
1 egg beaten with a pinch of salt for the finish
poppyseeds or sesame seeds to garnish

DIRECTIONS

  1. Mix the dry ingredients in a large bowl and mix until combined. Make a well in the centre of your flour mixture.
  2. Stir the wet ingredients together and pour into the center of the well.
  3. Using your hands, or an electric dough hook on the lowest possible speed, work the mixture together to make a soft but not sticky dough.
  4. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 10 minutes. Once it feels firmer, smooth and elastic, place back into the bowl and cover with a damp dish cloth to rise until doubled in size. At 1.5 hours at room temperature.
  5. Punch down the dough, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface, cutting it into four equal portions. Using your hands, roll each portion into about a 40 cm long sausage.
  6. Pinch the four strands together at the top, with the strands laying vertically towards you. Plait the dough into a braid and pinch together at the ends. 
  7. Place the sheet into a large plastic bag (a clean garbage bag works well), inflate the bag and seal leaving the dough to rise at room temperature until almost doubled in size; about 40-50 mins.
  8. Preheat the oven to 425F.
  9. Once risen, brush the dough with two coats of the egg mixture. Decorate with seeds, if using.
    Bake in the oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 375F and bake for another 30 minutes.

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