How to Braid Challah Bread

Challah Bread
Elaine Lemm
  • 01 of 12

    Prepare Ingredients

    Challah Bread Ingredients
    Elaine Lemm

    Gather your ingredients and parve bowl.

    For the Dough

    • 5 pounds/2.25 kg all-purpose white flour
    • 2 cups sugar
    • 2 tablespoon salt
    • 4 tablespoon instant dry yeast
    • 1 cup canola oil
    • 2 to 3 cups water
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  • 02 of 12

    Sift Flour

    Challah Bread Sift Flour
    Elaine Lemm

    In a large mixing bowl, sift the all-purpose white flour. Jewish Dietary Laws require that bugs be removed from food for it to be kosher. In Israel, the flour must be sifted for it to be kosher. In other countries, it is best to ask a local rabbi if the flour needs to be sifted. In addition to making the flour kosher, sifting also lightens up the flour.

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  • 03 of 12

    Add the Sugar and Salt

    Challah Bread Add Sugar and Salt
    Elaine Lemm

    Add the dry ingredients to the flour. For sweeter challah bread, use more sugar.

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  • 04 of 12

    Add the Yeast

    Challah Bread Add Yeast
    Elaine Lemm

    Add the dry yeast. It's easier to use dry yeast, but if you prefer to work with fresh yeast, then you'll need 100 g (preferably in cube form) for this recipe. For the fresh yeast, mix together 1 cup of tap water with 1/2 cup of boiling water. Add 2 of tablespoons sugar, followed by the yeast. Cover and wait 10 minutes. The yeast should bubble. If the yeast does not bubble, then you should try again with other yeast. Finally, add the yeast to the dry ingredients and mix.

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  • 05 of 12

    Add the Oil and Water

    Challah Bread Add Wet
    Elaine Lemm

    Add the oil, followed by the water, adjusting the amount as needed and mix. When the dough is smooth, soft, and flexible, you've added enough water. If the dough is sticky, then you've added too much water and you will need to add some flour.

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  • 06 of 12

    Knead the Dough

    Challah Bread Kneading
    Elaine Lemm

    While you can use a stand mixer with a dough hook to mix the dough, you can also simply use your hands. When kneading by hand, Tamar Ansh, author of A Taste of Challah, suggests greasing hands with oil. Ansh says not to use flour, as that will dry out the dough.

    At this point, bless, separate, and discard a small piece of dough in remembrance of the gifts of bread given to the Jewish priest (Kohen) in ancient times.

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  • 07 of 12

    Allow the Dough to Rise

    Challah Bread Rise
    Elaine Lemm

    Cover the dough in the bowl with a towel, and let rise for 10 minutes. Knead the dough in the bowl for a few minutes. Cover the dough in the bowl again and let rise for 10 more minutes.

    Knead again lightly, return the dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for an hour or until at least doubled in size.

    With hands lightly greased in oil, punch down the dough. Punching down releases trapped gasses and enables ideal rising of the shaped loaves. Knead and punch for a few more minutes.

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  • 08 of 12

    Shape Into Three Strands

    Challah Bread Rolling
    Elaine Lemm

    For nicely-shaped challah loaves, roll out each strand used in the braid. First, break off a chunk of dough. Roll it out with a rolling pin. Then, roll into a long log. Cover with plastic wrap and let it rise for 5 minutes. Before using the strand in the braid, gently roll out each strand again, making each one a bit longer.

    Line cookie sheets, baking trays, or loaf pans with parchment paper. Place the shaped challah on the paper.

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  • 09 of 12

    Start the Braid

    Challah Bread Pinch Together
    Elaine Lemm

    Use the strands to braid a challah loaf. If rolls are preferred, you can take one strand and tie it in a knot. Pinch the three strands together, then tuck the pinched bread underneath the loaf.

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  • 10 of 12

    Braid the Challah

    Challah Bread Braid 2
    Elaine Lemm

     Braid the three strands together and at the end, pinch together and tuck underneath.

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  • 11 of 12

    Brush With an Egg Wash

    Challah Glaze
    Elaine Lemm

    Gently brush the tops of the loaves with an egg yolk mixed with a drop of water. 

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  • 12 of 12

    Bake the Challah

    Challah Bread
    Elaine Lemm

    Preheat the oven to 375 F/190 C.

    Bake the challah for 10 to 20 minutes, or until the challah starts to turn brown. Then, turn the oven down to 350 F/180 C. Continue baking for 10 to 20 more minutes, or until the challah bottoms are browned. The baking time depends on the size of the loaves. Large challahs will generally need 25 to 30 minutes total baking time, while smaller challahs or rolls need only about 20 minutes. When done, the bottom of the challah should be firm and brown.