Last week, I came down with the first cold I’ve had in 3-1/2 years. While staying home to keep my germs to myself, I decided to try baking some bread, despite being intimidated by bread and having had poor results in the past. I started with this simply crusty peasant loaf, which worked out so well, I was excited to try something more challenging. So I attempted this gorgeous 5-strand braided challah bread.
Isn’t it beautiful?! I’m so proud! No one is more surprised than me that this was successful. The only thing better than the way it looked was the way it tasted.
This week, I took the same recipe and tied it into rolls sprinkled with flaky salt. They came out even better than the single loaf! It’s safe to say I’m wholly addicted to this dough. It’s going to be a regular thing in my kitchen for a long time to come, for sure!
A huge thank you goes out to Sara Malka with Frum It Up. Her step-by-step videos of how to master challah bread make the process far less intimidating and even fun! If an amateur baker like me can master this, anyone can! For tips and demonstrations on how to do a myriad of different braids and knots, click the link below and watch her fantastic video tutorials.
Easy Challah Recipe
(Original recipe: Sara Malta from Frum It Up)
Yield: 2 medium loaves or 12 rolls
TO BLOOM YEAST
95g (6 TBSP) lukewarm water
8g (2 tsp) yeast
4g (1 tsp) sugar
500g (3 C + 2 TBSP) bread flour, sifted
10g (2 rounded tsp) salt
8g (2 tsp) sugar (double the amount of sugar to have a sweet challah; add 10 minutes to the 1h30-2h rising time)
80g (1/3 C) neutral oil (recommend: sunflower oil)
95g (6 TBSP) lukewarm water
1 TBSP milk
1/8 tsp salt (if not making sweet challah)
Mix together the first three ingredients (yeast, sugar, and water); set aside for 8-10 minutes to allow yeast to bloom. It should bubble up and form a cake on top. If it doesn’t, start again with a new batch of yeast.)
In a stand mixer with dough hook attached, sift together flour, salt, and sugar. Add eggs one at a time, incorporating between each egg for even distribution. Add oil and mix. Add bloomed yeast mixture and mix.
Add water by pouring in a quarter of the amount at a time and mixing for 2-3 minutes. If dough is still dry, add another quarter of water and mix again. Continue until the dough feels “crumbly but humid to touch”.
Mix (or hand knead) for 8-10 minutes.
Cover and let it rise for 20 minutes. Dough should be more supple and fluffy.
Mix (or hand knead) again for 2-3 minutes.
Shape your dough into a ball, place in a greased bowl, cover with plastic, and let it prove for 90 minutes – 2 hours, or until it doubles in size. (Add 10 additional minutes if you doubled the sugar for a sweet challah.)
Once the dough has doubled, gently deflate it with your hands. You should have approx 42 oz of dough.
Portion the dough into the number of braid strands or rolls (we recommend 12) you wish to make. Use a scale to make sure they are equal in weight. Cover dough balls with plastic or a damp tea towel and let them rest on the counter for 5 minutes.
Flatten your dough balls, and use a rolling pin to remove all air bubbles. Roll the flattened dough into a cigar shape, pinching the seam and ends together. Roll the cigar out until you feel resistance, around 12″. Cover strands with plastic and allow to rest for 2-3 minutes (allowing gluten to relax). Roll each strand one last time.
Braid strands together into one large loaf or roll/braid them individually into rolls as desired; tuck any loose ends in underneath. Allow loaf/rolls to rise 40 minutes (any longer will be overproved).
While your loaf/rolls rises, preheat your oven to 350F.
Add egg wash ingredients to a mason jar and shake to combine thoroughly. Once your loaf/rolls have risen, use a brush to apply the egg wash to every nook and cranny. Add toppings to the top, if desired.
Bake loaf for 30 minutes or rolls for 16-18 minutes. DO NOT OPEN THE DOOR. They are finished when internal temp is 190F and golden on top. Cool loaf on a cooling rack before cutting.
Loaf and rolls freeze well!