This post was originally a gallery I put together on Facebook to show the process of making challah to my friends. Now, I share it with the greater internet! A few notes before we start: The entire process takes about 4 hours. So be sure to block off enough time to work. This pictorial uses old pictures from late 2009. My techniques have evolved somewhat since then. I’ll probably do an updated pictorial at some later date, maybe to show braiding techniques. But for now, enjoy!
The first step is to gather all the ingredients together. Having everything ready and measured out before you begin really makes a big difference. The French call this “mise en place
“.In this picture I have sugar, salt, oil, yeast, eggs, flour , and water as well as a couple of bowls and a spoon.
Mix your ingredients together. The salt, sugar, water, oil and yeast is in the mixing bowl. I’m beating the eggs in this picture. We’ll set aside a few tablespoons of the beaten eggs to be used as an eggwash later.I now use a stand mixer for this and the next step. It’s just easier that way.It’s not shown, but I also proofed the yeast in a separate dish.
Begin to mix in the flour. My recipe calls for 6-7 cups of bread flour. I used to do this mixing by hand, but using a stand mixer with the dough hook attachment is so much easier. I typically add a cup of flour at a time. I wait until the cup is well integrated before adding the next cup. It leads to less mess, especially when using a mixer.
After the all the flour is added, you’ll knead the dough for a period of time until it’s smooth and elastic. If I mix the dough in the stand mixer, I will then hand-knead the dough for about 10 minutes.
After the dough is fully kneaded, put it into a clean bowl that has had its sides coated in some oil. This prevents sticking during the first rise. Put a piece of plastic wrap on the dough. It should cover the dough and still be loose.
Then cover the bowl with a cloth. Put into a warm (humid if possible) place and allow to rise for an hour or so.
Clean your dishes! Since you have a while before you need to do anything else with the dough, now is a GREAT time to clean up any bowls or spoons or anything that you may have used up to this point.Trust me on this, it makes your spouse/partner/roommate much happier.
After about an hour, the dough will double in size. I will typically let the dough rise much higher than this now. If your dough hasn’t doubled in an hour, let it continue to rise until it has doubled.
Here’s an example of dough having risen a bit more than it should have. It doesn’t typically affect the final product, but since the entire process takes about 4 hours, it’s good to conserve time when able.
Punch the dough down. Turn out onto a floured surface and divide into the number of loaves (or strands) you’ll be making. In this case I’m making 5 smaller challahs. Not sure why only 4 doughballs are pictured.
Braid your dough however you’d like. In this case, the two on the left are a 6-braid and the rest are 3-braid. Put the challah on a dark, matte sheet pan. I recommend using parchment paper. It keeps your pans cleaner and your challah can’t get stuck!
Let the braided dough rise for another 45 – 60 minutes. Covering the dough with a piece of plastic wrap will help to prevent the dough from drying out during the second rise.
More dishes! Clean up the bowl your dough just came out of as well as any other dishes you have sitting around.
After the second rise it is time to put the eggwash on! Earlier in the process we saved a few tablespoons of the beaten egg. Get a (CLEAN!) pastry brush and gently brush the egg onto the loaves. The more eggwash you put on, the darker the final crust.
Put the challah into the oven for 40 -45 minutes depending on the surface area of the loaves. For instance, if you’re baking one big loaf, you’ll need more time in the oven. Many small loaves will need less time, otherwise they may be too dry or crispy on the outside.
Get attacked by your silicone oven mitts. Go ahead, it’s fun.
After the challah is baked, bring the pan out and immediately move to a cooking rack.
You’ll probably need multiple racks if you make multiple loaves.
After the challah is cool, wrap in several layers of plastic wrap and refrigerate. Or then wrap in foil and freeze for up to 6 months.