The Ultimate Challah Recipe

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
  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. 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.
  5. Once shaped, let rest 1 hour for its final prove.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.
  8. Let cool on a wire rack and enjoy!

Sourdough Discard: Gros Pain

This is a bread that I made pretty frequently last year but haven’t made since I got into sourdough. It’s been a while and I’ve wanted to expand my use of sourdough discard as a flavoring for my bread so I decided to start experimenting with this recipe. It’s one of the most basic bread recipes, using just flour, salt, yeast, water, and time. The original recipe is from Jacque Pepin’s “Essential Pepin” cookbook. I love to make this bread because it’s a very classic bread recipe with a crunchy crust and a fluffy inside. I don’t make it as much at home because my father has a penchant for sandwich loaves and if I do, my brother has a habit of consuming at least half in one sitting. It’s pretty impressive and I’m glad that he likes it that much.

So as I’ve started to experiment with adding discard to my regular recipes, I’ve learned that its a finicky process. My sourdough starters is 100% hydrated which means that there’s an equal ratio (weight-wise) of water to flour. With that in mind, you’d think that if you added a half cup of discard, you could just subtract a quarter of a cup of flour and water and be fine. This is what I thought as I started the process and have come to realize that it really just depends on the texture of your discard and how long it’s been in the fridge. Discard that’s been in the fridge for a longer period of time is just tougher and requires more liquid. So if my discard has been in the fridge for 2 or more days, I’ll usually just omit the corresponding amount of flour and keep the same level of water. It’s a much trickier process than I thought it would be but I encourage you not to get discouraged if you’re trying it for the first time. I’ve really had to encourage myself to experiment in my baking; to me, the nature of baking is very precise and I’m not as comfortable experimenting with flavors and additions as some people. However, if you have the time, go ahead and try something new. If it goes wrong, then it does. If it goes right, you’ve discovered a delicious new way to make something. So I encourage you to try this recipe and let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Sourdough Discard Gros Pain Recipe

  • 113 grams discard sourdough starter (1/2 cup)
  • 480 grams bread flour (4 cups)
  • 7 grams instant or active-dry yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
  • 2 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 350 grams warm water (1 1/2 cup)
  1. Mix the dry ingredients then add the water. Knead until smooth and the dough springs back to the touch. If you’d like one big loaf, put it into a lightly greased bowl and let rise 3 hours. If you want two smaller loaves, divide the dough now and let rise in separate greased bowls and let rise 3 hours.
  2. Punch out the air and reform the dough into a ball. Make sure the dough is stretched tightly and very smooth. Shaping the dough now is your only chance to determine its shape. Place on a greased pan, put a bowl on top and let rise for 2 more hours.
  3. Preheat oven to 425F and place a pan with sides on the bottom rack of oven. Ensure that the rack where the loaves will be baked is also in the bottom third of the oven.
  4. Flour the top of the dough balls and score with a knife. Scoring here is important to allow the dough to expand in the oven.
  5. Bake at 425F for 20 and then at 400F for 25 minutes (this doesn’t change if you make one big loaf or two small, but for two small, watch closely during second half of bake).
  6. Remove from oven and check for doneness. If you can knock on the bottom of the loaf and produce a hollow sound, it’s ready to be taken out.
  7. Let cool completely on a wire rack and enjoy. (Let these cool completely, the moisture will escape if they haven’t cooled completely and the bread will go stale much quicker)

Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Discard Recipe

This is absolutely my favorite sourdough discard recipe that I’ve done so far and it is BELOVED by my mother. I distinctly remember her asking for a loaf of this bread rather than a birthday cake for her birthday, both of which I ended up providing for her special day. This recipe is adored by my entire household and I usually eat it with a dash of peanut butter and honey in the morning although it’s so sweet that you may not need it. This base recipe is actually the same as another favorite, my sourdough discard dinner rolls!

Like most bread I bake, this freezes well as long as you freeze immediately after it is cooled. I usually defrost by leaving it out overnight but that’s more of a personal preference. I have tried to make this bread vegan before by substituting applesauce for the eggs. Unfortunately, it was a little laggy for me when I did it the first time so you may have to bake it for longer if you do decide to substitute applesauce for the eggs. I didn’t love the taste as much as the normal bread but it’s definitely still very tasty.

One of the biggest mistakes that I made the first time I made this bread was that I rolled it out the wrong way! After the first prove, you should roll it out into a 6″x20″ rectangle. This means that it is six inches wide at the base and twenty inches tall. Guess who thought it was the opposite! I ended up twisting it a little to get it into the pan because it was wayyyyy too long and ended up with something akin to povitica which was yummy but not the original intention. I hope that you enjoy making and eating it as much as my family does and good luck!

Cinnamon Raisin Sourdough Discard Recipe

For the Bread

  • 113 grams sourdough discard (1/2 cup)
  • 361 grams All Purpose flour (3 cups)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon sugar
  • 1 1/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 71 grams unsalted butter, softened (5 tablespoons)
  • 152 grams lukewarm water (2/3 cup)

For the Filling

  • 60 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 2 teaspoons All Purpose flour
  • 37 grams raisins (1/4 cup)
  • 37 grams chopped pecans (1/4 cup) (Can omit pecans if chosen, add 37 extra grams of raisins or 1/4 cup)
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water (Meant to be a wash to get the bread to stick together once filling is added)
  1. Combine all the dough ingredients and knead until a soft smooth dough forms. You may need to add additional flour, it shouldn’t be sticky once you’re done kneading.
  2. Place in a greased container and let rise 1 1/2 – 2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Watch it carefully on hotter days, mine will sometimes be done in an hour.
  3. While dough is proving, make the filling. Combine the sugar, cinnamon, flour, raisins, and pecans in one bowl. Beat the egg with one tablespoon of water in another to a watery consistency. Put egg wash in the fridge if you won’t use it immediately after making it.
  4. Deflate dough and place on a floured work surface. Roll dough into a 6″ by 20″ rectangle.
  5. Brush dough with egg wash and sprinkle evenly with filling. Leave a 1″ margin around all sides to make sealing easier.
  6. Roll dough into a log lengthwise, from bottom to top. Pinch ends to seal and pinch long edge closed to seal.
  7. Transfer to a greased loaf pan (mine is a 9″) and let rise for about an hour or until the dough has risen 1″ above the rim of the pan.
  8. Preheat oven to 350F. Bake for 45 minutes. Tent with aluminum foil after the first 20 minutes in the oven. This is to make the internal temperature get up to 190F and this will take an hour or longer without the aluminum hat.
  9. Remove loaf from pan once done and cool. After cooled, freeze or enjoy immediately! Keeps for about 3 days at room temperature.

Note: PLEASE wait for your bread to cool! If you let the heat out too early, it both won’t slice properly and will turn as hard as a rock. By letting the internal temperature cool, the loaf retains moisture for MUCH longer.

Sourdough Sandwich Bread

When I first started baking bread, I made artisanal loafs almost exclusively. I felt that they symbolized the essence of bread and that to use a tin to make bread more suited to our modern conveniences was sacrilege. However, some astute comments courtesy of my father made me realize that in order to appeal to a broader audience, my bread had to be in a useful shape to encourage consumption. This recipe is from the King Arthur Flour website, one of my favorite places on the internet.

At the beginning of the first proof

I’ve made it with and without the addition of instant yeast to leaven it and while it’s truer to the sourdough title if no additional yeast is used, it’s not as practical for me. I really enjoy a nice big loaf and using instant yeast helps to get there. Using just fed sourdough starter, the rising times double or quadruple depending on the strength of your starter and I’ve had a hard time getting the appropriate volume from my dough. This could also be because the loaf tins that I have are a little larger than the original recipe calls for, 9 inches rather than 8 which is the size of a medium sized-loaf tin. I have grown to love this recipe and it makes two loaves, which freeze really well. I find that freezing freshly baked loaves is a lifesaver in order to have something close to fresh bread around my house every day. I know that the freezer isn’t for everyone but it’s one of the modern conveniences that I believe is essential to the practical and busy baker.

My loaves on their second proof inside the tin

There’s also a few different methods that you can use to shape the actual bread. I use a slightly more complicated method from the King A’s website which involves some weird folding but you can really just roll the dough out in an 8″ by 16″ rectangle and roll it up to fit into the tins. I don’t love the swirl that the simpler method often leaves and you can always just look up how to shape a sandwich loaf. The bread also keeps for up to a week and a half in an airtight plastic container at room temperature. I’ve never refrigerated this loaf after baking so if you do, let me know how it goes in the comments below!

Sourdough Sandwich Bread Recipe

For the Levain: This is an offshoot of your sourdough starter that develops on its own overnight. It needs about 12 hours to fully develop, it should have small holes throughout and then its ready to be used.

  • 128 grams All Purpose Flour (1 cup+ 1 tablespoon)
  • 128 grams cool water (60-70F, 1/2 cup+ 1 tablespoon)
  • 44 grams ripe sourdough starter (3 tablespoons)

For the Dough

  • 631 grams Bread or All Purpose Flour (5 1/4 cups, if using All Purpose, the dough will be much stickier but it gets the job done)
  • 50 grams granulated sugar (1/4 cup)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (table salt can be used, personal preference here)
  • 2 teaspoon instant yeast (if omitted, quadruple rising times and plan accordingly)
  • 57 grams unsalted butter at room temperature (1/4 cup or 4 tablespoons)
  • 340 grams milk (70-80F, 1 1/2 cup, can use any percentage milk fat
  • Ripe levain

For the Levain

  1. Mix all ingredients together and place in a covered container to grow. I use a deli container because it allows me to see the rise. Should take about 12 hours to double in size at a room temperature of 70F. It is ripe when there are large bubbles throughout the levain.

For the Dough

  1. Mix and knead all the ingredients to make a smooth and supple dough. Even using AP flour, the dough should not be overly sticky. Takes me about 10 minutes to knead and I check that its ready by seeing if the dough springs back immediately when poked.
  2. Form into a ball and place in a greased container and let sit 2 hours or until doubled in size.
  3. Turn out the dough and divide into two. Using a scale helps here because the dough can trick your eye. Shape the dough into two 8″ logs and place into two greased loaf tins.
  4. Cover the tins with a proofing bag and let rise 2 more hours or until the dough has risen to 1″ above the rim of the tin.
  5. Preheat the oven to 375 and bake for 30-35 minutes. Once done, immediately turn the dough out of the pans and let cool on a wire rack. Wrap once cool and keep at room temperature in an airtight container or freeze immediately.