Challah is a yeast-raised egg bread that is part of the Jewish tradition. Served on Shabbat or during the holidays, challot (the plural of challah) may be braided from anywhere from two to six ropes of dough, woven into spirals or crowns or fashioned into birds, books, trees or other shapes to commemorate events. Challot are used as any bread, as part of the evening meal, used for sandwiches, to accompany soup or even used in French toast. Similar to brioche, the sweet, eggy bread is moist, rich and a holiday favorite.
The egg bread is appreciated for its rich flavor and beautiful presentation, but there are many variations, incorporating everything from raisins and apples to parmesan or jalapeño. Our favorite recipe employs a traditional three-strand braid, but adds a savory element to the sweet bread with a pairing of olive oil and fragrant rosemary, fresh from our kitchen windowsill.
Yield: Two loaves
- 5 teaspoons active dry yeast (or 2 packages)
- 1 cup warm water
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup olive oil
- 2 large eggs
- 2 sprigs rosemary
- 5 cups flour
- 1 egg + 2 teaspoons water for egg wash
Combine yeast and water in the bowl of a stand mixer.
Add salt, honey, olive oil, eggs, rosemary and flour.
Knead with dough hook attachment until dough is soft and pliant.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover.
Allow to rise until nearly doubled (about 90 minutes).
Punch dough down and divide into two pieces of equal size.
Cover one piece of dough and divide the other into three piece.
Roll divided pieces into 3 ropes about 18” long.
To Braid: Lie ropes next to each other vertically on a lightly floured surface spaced a few inches apart. Bring the top ends together and pinch to merge. Pass the right rope over the middle rope (making it the new middle rope). Pass the left rope over the middle rope. Repeat this process (right over middle, left over middle) until loaf is braided then pinch the bottom ends together to complete.
Uncover other piece of dough, divide into three pieces and repeat the assembly process for the second loaf.
Carefully place loaves on a greased baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap to rise until large and puffy (about an 90 minutes).
Brush with egg wash.
Bake for 25 minutes in a 350 degree oven.
Tent with aluminum foil to stop browning and bake an additional 20 minutes.
Transfer to wire rack to cool.