This eggy, hearty challah bread is easy to make and sure to be a hit! Tastes amazing straight out of the oven or as french toast the next day!
It was a bread-bakin’, pasta-makin’ weekend, folks. I made what felt like a zillion rigatonis (read: 10 servings or so) and a billion buckets of bread (read: 3 loaves + a batch of biscuits), not to MENTION a gigantic breakfast of everything I could think of on Saturday just.because.I.could.
Among the masses of bread I whipped up this weekend was my favorite challah recipe, adapted from Deb at Smitten Kitchen. And YOU GUYS. It is THE BEST. So I decided to share it with the world (well…the part of the world that doesn’t already creepily stalk Smitten Kitchen’s recipe archives, anyway) (not that I do that, whatever) and also with a few select friends who came to dinner yesterday.
The braiding part is tricky, folks – I won’t lie to you. It took me a few tries and several batches of challah before I got it to look somewhat right. There’s a good tutorial on six strand braiding here – I won’t try to explain it myself, because I will fail. But watch the video – it helps! She starts braiding around the 1:40 mark.
Here’s what my braided loaf looked like:
I actually started making challah because of a restaurant in Portland called Gravy that makes the BOMB DIGGITY-EST french toast on the planet. (On the PLANET, folks.) They make it with challah bread and a super secret custard-y egg batter recipe that I have been determined to recreate for YEARS. Seriously – I know a lot of places make custardy french toast with challah bread.
But there’s something magical about the one at Gravy. It’s one-of-a-kind and will never be bested. Stay tuned for my copycat version of their super-duper french toast, though – I’m close to a breakthrough, I can feel it!
And now that I have fresh challah on my counter, I’m pretty sure it’s about to be french-toast-o’clock in my apartment (friends and/or french-toast-testing-guinea-pigs welcome).
But until then, make yourself some of this bread. Slice yourself off a piece and butter it up real nice. Sit on your couch, eat your challah, and pat yourself on the back for being so bread-savvy. Refusing to share is totally acceptable – this bread just does that to people.
- 5 tsp. active dry yeast
- 1 3/4 cup warm water
- 2/3 cup sugar
- 1/2 cup olive oil, plus extra to grease a bowl
- 5 eggs, plus 1 extra for an egg wash before baking (6 eggs total)
- 1–2 Tbsp. salt, depending on your taste (I use 1–1/2 Tbsp. or so)
- 8 to 8-1/2 cups flour, plus extra for kneading/dusting
- In a large bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water. Let sit for 5 minutes or until yeast begins to foam.
- Mix oil, sugar, and salt into yeast.
- Add 5 eggs, one at a time.
- Add 8 cups of flour in 1-cup increments, mixing the dough a bit between each flour addition. (If you’re using a stand mixer, use the dough hook attachment here. If you’re working without a mixer, stir in as much flour as you can with a wooden spoon and then knead the rest in by hand).
- When you’ve added 8 cups of flour, take a look at your dough. It should be slightly sticky but should still hold together and pull away from the sides of your bowl as you mix. If the dough is too wet, add more flour in 1/4-cup increments until dough reaches the right consistency.
- If you’re working with a stand mixer, add an additional 1 Tbsp. of flour to the mixer and continue to knead the dough with your dough hook attachment until the dough is smooth and holds together. If you’re working without a mixer, turn the dough out of the bowl onto a floured surface and knead it by hand until it reaches a smooth consistency.
- Oil a large bowl and place your dough inside. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours or until it has doubled in size.
- When dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it over in your bowl. At this point, you can either let it rise again on the counter or let it rise slowly in the fridge overnight. I ALWAYS do one rise overnight in the fridge, no matter what kind of bread I’m baking. It gives the flavors more time to develop and makes for a much richer end product. If you’re in a hurry, though, re-cover the dough and let it rise again for 45 minutes on the counter. If you have the time to wait, re-cover the dough and place it in the fridge for 7-8 hours or overnight. After the dough has risen in the fridge, take it out and allow it to come back to room temperature before you proceed with the next step (about 3-4 hours).
- Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, punch it down slightly, and cut it into 12 equal pieces. (Each loaf will use 6 of those pieces). Set 6 pieces aside while you form the first loaf.
- Roll each piece of dough out into a long rope, about 12-14″, and place the ropes parallel to each other on your floured surface. See this video for great instruction on how to braid the pieces. Braid one loaf, set aside, and repeat the process with your remaining 6 pieces of dough. Transfer the loaves to a large baking sheet.
- At this point, you can freeze one or both loaves for baking later or you can let them rise a final time. If you freeze a loaf, remember to let it come back to room temperature and rise before you bake it. If you’re moving straight onto baking, cover each braided loaf and let it rise a final time – in a warm place for 1-1/2 hours or until the loaves have nearly doubled in size (they should be puffed up pretty significantly).
- Beat your remaining 1 egg with 1 Tbsp. of water to make an egg wash. Brush it liberally on each loaf. Place loaves into a 375 degree oven and bake for 20 minutes. After 20 minutes have passed, pull the baking sheet slightly out of your oven and give each loaf another liberal brush of egg wash.
- Return loaves to the oven for 10-20 minutes or until loaves have developed a deep golden color. Fully cooked loaves should make a hollow sound when you tap them and will have a sturdy outer crust. (Don’t worry, the inside will be soft!)
- Let loaves cool for 15-20 minutes. This bread tastes UN.BE.LIEVEABLE. when you eat it warm, but it’s pretty dang delicious at room temperature, too. Enjoy!
*Note: I make challah in my stand mixer, a KitchenAid Professional 600 Series 6-quart-er, but even my supercharged motor slows down and pulls a bit with the amount of dough this recipe produces. If you have a smaller, standard mixer, I’d recommend cutting the recipe in half or foregoing technology and kneading this by hand.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen