I did it folks!!!! I found the challah of my dreams!! After multiple unsatisfactory attempts, I have found the perfect challah recipe. However, I didn’t do this on my own. After my previous attempts, I sent out a cry for help to my lovely friend Laura and she sent me the challah recipe from her family. So thank you Laura!! This challah recipe is absolute perfection. It creates beautiful, fluffy, and rich bread. One of these rolls was enough to satisfy my appetite! They are pretty simple to make, taking far less time to rise/prove than other recipes. I’ve changed one or two things like proving times within the recipe but otherwise credit goes to the original creator! Now let’s dive into a few technical parts to the bread before we get to the recipe.
This recipe calls for SEVEN egg yolks with an additional egg beaten for the egg wash before baking. Seven eggs is a LOT of eggs but even that number of eggs is not sufficient to make the dough the startling yellow that it is in store bought versions of challah. However, I discovered the dirty secret of commercial challah baking and it is simply food dye. Challah relies on egg yolks for its hallmark richness but the cost of eggs can add up for bakers. To cut down on costs, many commercial bakers use yellow food dye to get the yellow color that most associate with really rich challah. I was a little bummed when I learned this but it also made me set my sights on more realistic expectations for my challah. One issue with using seven egg yolks in a challah recipe is that you have to separate them all out. I would recommend doing the separation while the eggs are cold. Cold eggs have firmer yolks that are easier to separate. There are three methods to do this and I suggest trying all of them to find which one you’re most comfortable with. You should also use at least three bowls while you’re separating egg yolks, one for the current egg that you’re working with, another for the leftover egg whites, and a third for the yolks. Doing it this was makes more dishes but it’ll ensure that you don’t get any cross contamination between the whites and the yolks.
The first method is using your hand. This is a good technique to start with because it doesn’t require a ton of skill and gets you really familiar with the egg and its white. All you have to do is crack the egg over a bowl and put the yolk in the palm of your hand while you sort of jiggle the white into the bowl. The white will slide off and you’ll be left with your yolk. The second method uses the shells. Once you crack the egg (which you should do firmly to give the shells clean edges), you juggle the egg between the shells to get the white to slid off. I would recommend turning to youtube to see how this is done. The third method uses a clean and empty plastic, disposable water bottle. With this method, you crack the egg into a bowl and then use the opening of the empty water bottle to suction up the yolk and transfer it to another bowl. This can take some practice and time but it’s the most fun and cleanest of all the methods. Please save your egg whites once you’ve separated out your yolks. Egg whites will stay good in the refrigerator for three months and can be used in omelets or macarons or many other confections! However, egg yolks will only stay good in the refrigerator for three days and their quality will degrade with each passing day. So if you’re thinking of separating your yolks ahead of time, I beg you to reconsider! Also, I would always recommend having backup eggs around. Even the best pastry chef will puncture an egg yolk or two while separating eggs and it’s best to be prepared for this possibility!
My last few words are about braiding the challah strand. I really like to make knotted challah rolls but I have yet to perfect my knotting method. When I make large loaves, I usually do three or nine strand braids which are not terribly complicated. A three-strand braid is just like doing a regular hair braid while a nine strand braid consists of three separate three-strand braids that are braided together. There are lots of youtube videos on braiding so if you’re itching to get more complicated, the internet can provide guidance! At the moment for my rolls, I do a simple square knot and tuck the ends underneath my rolls. I’m trying to get more complicated but have had issues with the bread bursting through its shape while in its second prove. If anyone has a suggestion, put it in the comments below and I’d be happy to try it! Otherwise, just do what you want to do with the challah. It’s a very forgiving bread and will be tasty regardless of its final form as long as its baked through! Happy baking!
Challah Bread Recipe
- 1 tablespoon instant or dry active yeast (If you’re really fancy, use SAF gold yeast, it’s for enriched breads like challah)
- 227 grams (1 cup) warm water (75-95F)
- 4 cups bread flour
- 7 large egg yolks
- 40 grams (1/4 cup) granulated sugar
- 1 teaspoon kosher salt (I’ve started using flaky kosher salt and have liked the results a lot!)
- 6 tablespoons canola oil (I used sunflower oil and it also worked great so feel free to substitute!)
- 1 large egg beaten with a tablespoon of water
- Black sesame seeds or Demerara (raw) sugar
- Combine bread flour, yeast, egg yolks, sugar, salt, oil, and water together. Mix until the dough is almost cohesive then turn out of the bowl onto a kneading surface. Knead for up to five minutes or until the dough is smooth and springs back when poked with a floured finger.
- Oil a large bowl and place the dough inside. Cover and let rest 1 1/2-2 hours or until it has doubled in volume.
- Punch down the dough. Divide into three or nine if you’re making a three or nine strand loaf. For large rolls, divide dough into 10. For smaller rolls divide into 15 or weigh out 45 gram pieces of dough. Cover and let rest 15 minutes.
- Once rested, roll dough out with your hands to 12-24 inch strands. For smaller rolls, 12 inches is sufficient but for other braids, 24 inches is needed. Don’t force the dough to stretch, it will shrink back once left alone so decide on the length as you roll out each piece of dough. Shape the dough and place it on the baking sheet where it will be baked.
- Once shaped, let rest 1 hour for its final prove.
- During its final prove, preheat over to 375F for loaves and 400F for rolls. Prepare the egg wash by beating together an egg and some water to thin out the consistency. Before baking, brush the rolls all over with the egg wash and sprinkle on topping of choice like black sesame seeds, white sesame seeds, or Demerara sugar.
- Bake. Baking time will vary on the loaf or roll type. Loaves will bake 35-45 minutes and if extremely large, may take 50 minutes and you may need to cover with foil to prevent it burning. Large rolls will take 15-20 minutes to bake while smaller rolls will bake 10-13 minutes. To check for doneness, remove the bread from the oven and roll onto its top. Knock the bottom of the roll or loaf. If you hear a hollow sound, it is done. If no hollow sound is heard, put back into the oven for another five minutes.
- Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy!