Jeffrey's Challah

This classic challah recipe makes two large (or three smaller) braids: one to enjoy, and one or more to share with family, friends, or neighbors. With its familiar comforting flavor, golden interior, and fine, tender crumb, it’s wonderful fresh but also ideal for toast, sandwiches, and French toast.

The recipe comes to us courtesy of "Bread: A Baker's Book of Techniques and Recipes" by Jeffrey Hamelman, a noted bread expert and former director of the King Arthur Bakery.

Prep
35 mins
Bake
25 to 30 mins
Total
4 hrs 30 mins
Yield
2 large or 3 medium loaves
Jeffrey's Challah - select to zoom
Jeffrey's Challah - select to zoom
Jeffrey's Challah - select to zoom
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Instructions

  1. Place all of the dough ingredients into a large bowl (or the bowl of your stand mixer) in the order in which they’re listed. Mix just until the dough comes together to form a shaggy mass; using your mixer equipped with the dough hook, this will take about 3 minutes on low speed.

    1. Knead the dough, by hand or mixer, until it’s smooth and well-developed; this will take 5 to 6 minutes at medium speed using your mixer.

      1. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a reusable cover and allow the dough to rise at room temperature for 1 hour. Refrigerate the dough for 1 hour, or until it’s thoroughly chilled.

        1. Remove the dough from the refrigerator, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. To make two large loaves, divide the dough in half; each half will weigh about 824g. Note: For three smaller loaves see “tips,” below.

          1. Working with one piece of dough at a time, divide it into three, four, or six pieces (to make a standard braid, a four-strand braid, or a six-strand braid). To make the six-strand braid pictured above, divide into six pieces, each about 137g. Preshape each piece into a rough log; you’re going to be rolling them into long strands. Cover the logs. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough, dividing it into six pieces (or however many you need for the braid you want to make).

          2. Let the covered logs relax for about 20 minutes.

          3. Uncover the logs. Working with the dough for one loaf, roll each log into a strand about 20” long. Make a six-strand braid; for help with this technique, check out our video:  

          4. Repeat to make the second loaf.

          5. Place each loaf on a parchment-lined or lightly greased baking sheet. Cover the loaves and let them rise at room temperature until they’re almost doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. 

          6. Towards the end of the rising time, preheat your oven to 375°F.

          7. Whisk together the egg and water for the topping and pour it through a sieve to remove any clumps of egg. Brush the risen loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if desired.

          8. Bake the loaves for 25 to 30 minutes, or until they’re a rich golden brown and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Their interior temperature should register about 210°F using a digital thermometer.

          9. Remove the loaves from the oven, and place them on a rack to cool.

          10. Store cooled bread, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

          Tips from our Bakers

          • To make three medium-sized three-strand braids divide the initial batch of dough into three pieces, each about 549g. Working with one piece at a time, divide it into three pieces, each about 183g. Pre-shape the pieces and let them rest as directed above, then roll each piece into a 16”-long strand. Braid the three strands. Repeat with the other two loaves. Finish as directed, baking the loaves for 20 to 25 minutes.

          • The baking time listed above yields loaves that are a deep mahogany brown. If you prefer your bread a bit lighter in color, tent the loaves lightly with a sheet of aluminum foil for the final 5 to 10 minutes of baking.

          • Join master baker Jeffrey Hamelman as he demonstrates how to make Jeffrey's Challah from start to finish. Watch the Preshow and Episode 4 of the Isolation Baking Show now.