The first year I was married I kept trying different challah recipes. No to were alike. They all had different measurements, ingredients, tools, rising times, and braiding techniques. A few months into the insanity of searching for the right recipe I realized that at this point I had tried so many different recipes that I knew what I liked from each one, what my requirements were and that if I tried hard enough I could probably come up with my own recipe. This way I would have a dough that was everything I wanted.
So, what was on my list?
- It had to be easy. Meaning no weird ingredients that I don’t regularly keep in my house and as few bowls, spoons and measuring cups/spoons as possible
- It had to be a dough that is equally delicious when made by hand as in a mixer. At the time, I assumed I would one day have mixer. Fast forward ten years, nope. No mixer
- The recipe had to be extremely versatile. All the ingredients are adjustable. It can be made more or less sweet depending on your mood and it can easily be made with whole wheat or split flour for a “healthier” challah.
- Lastly, it had to be really nice to work with. Pliable, not too sticky and not to dry.
It took me a while, but once I knew what to aim for I kept trying and trying until I came up with a recipe I was happy with.
Within this recipe I’ve devised ton and tons of little tips and tricks for how to achieve extra special result. So read the recipe in it’s entirety before you start.
Also, and I do not say this lightly, no matter what you do and how exactly you follow the recipe our challahs will never taste them. A hundred people could make the same recipe exactly the same way and I firmly believe that it will yield 100 slightly different challahs. Everything from the temperature of our houses, to how we need the dough, to the brand of yeast, to the temp of our eggs to the quality of flour and even our emotions will all effect the final product. AND THAT’S OK. Because, then, that recipe truly becomes yours.
For the printable No-Fail Challah recipe click here
- 2 heaping tbsp yeast
- 3/4 c sugar
- 4 c warm water
- 3/4 c oil
- 1/2-3/4 c sugar (depending on how sweet you want your challah to be)
- 2 eggs
- (2 Tbsp. honey)
- 1 tbsp vanilla (trust me)
- 5 lb bag of flour (or 2, 1 kilo bags + 3-4 c flour)
- 2 Tbsp. salt
- 1 egg + 2 yolks, beaten
- In a very large bowl, add yeast sugar and warm water.
- Set aside and allow yeast to bloom for 8 minutes.
- While yeast is blooming, combine oil, eggs, sugar and vanilla.
- Mix well.
- When yeast mixture is very bubbly, pour in oil mixture.
- Add a little less than half the bag of flour (or 1, 1 kilo bag) to the bowl.
- Using a spoon, mix the flour into the liquid very well.
- Mix for a good 2-3 minutes to help the gluten start to develop.
- Add salt.
- Mix till incorporated.
- Add in 3/4 of the flour that's left in the bag (or the second 1 kilo bag + a handful of flour) and mix with a spoon until it becomes too hard to mix.
- At this point pour dough out onto your counter.
- Knead for 10 minutes, working in more flour as needed.
- Once dough is smooth and elastic, place back into the bowl.
- Pour a little bit of oil into your hand and rub all over the dough.
- Place a piece of saran wrap directly on dough and cover the bowl with a towel.
- Allow to rise until it has at least doubled in size and then remove Saran Wrap, punch down, replace Saran Wrap and let it rise again.
- (You can repeat this steps as many times as you need until you are ready to braid the dough.)
- Braid your dough, place on sheet pan or in a tin and cover with a towel.
- Let them rise for 45 minutes to an hour. (Don't skip this step.)
- Preheat oven to 350f (180c). (For circle challahs I lower the oven to 175c)
- Brush challah with beaten egg and top as you like.
- Bake for 25-45 minutes until challahs are deeply golden and cooked.
- Remove pan from the oven, and allow to cool for 5 minutes.
- Transfer challahs to a cooling rack and allow to cool completely.
- I like wrap my challah individually in tin foil.
- If I make them on Friday, I leave out what I need for shakos, but another day I make them, even Thursday, I freeze.
- Remove from freezer a few hours before serving.
- Place wrapped challah on the plata or in the oven to reheat with the rest of your food!
- Serve warm and enjoy!
- Use a 4 c measuring cup to measure your water that also has a 3/4 c measure on it. After you pour out the water, measure your oil and add the rest of your ingredients to the cup. No need to dirty another bowl!
- The more you knead the dough the smoother and more elastic the dough will become. Be patient. If after 7 or 8 minutes of kneading the dough feels very dry or too sticky add a drop more water or flour. Just remember you can always add but you can't take out!
- Make sure the all the dough is covered with the Saran Wrap to prevent air from drying it out.
- I like to let my dough rise a few times for a fluffier challah. Let it rise completely, punch it down and then let it rise again. Do this at least one time, and up to three or four times!
- Everything spice
- Egg wash and then a sprinkle of sugar
- Minced garlic, parsley and chilli flakes
- Roasted garlic, or garlic confit on the bottom ( place the garlic in the bottom of a greased challah pan, put dough on top, egg wash and sprinkle some salt and paprika. bake as usual. The garlic bakes into the bottom of the dough and it is heavenly!)
- Crumb topping ( 2 c flour, 1&1/2 c sugar, 1/4 tsp salt, 1/8 tsp cinnamon, a scant 1/2 c canola oil: mix together to form crumbs. if too dry add oil little by little.)