A freshly baked challah is a special treat in Jewish cuisine that can be enjoyed by everyone.
Challah dough is quite hard and brioche-like with eggs and honey being included in the traditional recipe. Being a traditionally non-vegan mix, it took me quite a while to get the moisture level of the dough right to ensure it rises like its non-vegan counterpart.
I am very pleased to say that I have managed to perfect this recipe, baking it religiously every week – and I am proud to share it with you!
I have found it works best to take time and relax while baking challah. I make the dough a night before and finish off baking the following afternoon.Ingredients
To make the preferment:100g strong white bread flour 250g warm water 1 sachet of 7g dry yeast 10g agave nectar
To make the dough:
400g strong white bread flour (I have used Marriage’s Very Strong Canadian White Flour and I find I can get a nice distinction on the braids)
50g agave nectar
10g olive oil
Egg wash alternative (optional):
1sp molasses diluted with 1tbsp hot water then cool before use.
Method Make one large challah
A night before (about 8pm):
- Make the sponge by mixing the flour, water, agave nectar and yeast using a whisk. Leave it for 10min or so until it starts to bubble.
- To the sponge add flour, salt, olive oil and agave nectar. Using the food mixer with the dough hook on, knead the dough until it is evenly mixed for approx. 3-4 min at medium speed. Don’t be tempted to add water because the dough looks harder than the usual soft smooth dough. Also it may not look that it needs more kneading, it’s absolutely fine. With challah always better to do slightly less than normal bread.
- Knead the dough into a nice ball (at this point don’t worry if the dough is not that smooth, it will be much softer after it has rested) and place it into a slightly greased bowl with seam facing down. Cover and rest it in the fridge over-night.
Take the dough onto the work bench and gently push out the air inside. Then make it into a ball and rest again until the dough doubles in size.
Place the dough onto the work bench and cut the dough across into four equal sizes. Shape the dough into four long tubes as follows:
- When the dough is cut into four, each of them will be a fan shape. Press with your fingers to flatten with the wider section towards you.
- Start folding the tip towards you, and using your left thumb (if you are left handed that would be your right thumb) push the dough inside and keep rolling to a tube while pressing the seam with your other hand.
- When you get to the end, pinch the seam so that the dough does not open and unroll itself.
Plait the dough into 4-plait challah shape as follows:
- Place four tubes next to each other.
- Grab the top end and squeeze so to join them together.
- Lift 2 and 3, slide 1 across under to the right next to 4.
- Twist 3 and 1 to the right with 1 on top.
- Lift 1 and 3, slide 4 across under to the left next to 2.
- Twist 1 and 4 to the left with 4 on top.
- Renumber from 1 to 4 from left to right and repeat from step 1 again.
- Pinch the end to secure. Tuck both ends to the bottom.
Leave the dough covered for the final proof until the size almost doubles.
Preheat the oven to 180C (160C fan / 350F / gas 4).
Using diluted molasses, glaze the challah (optional – it will still taste amazing without it).
Bake for 20 min, then cover with foil, and bake a further 15 min. This may feel slightly less than normal 2lb bread but shorter length of baking will make sure the bread is moist.
Let the bread cool before devouring.