This challah makes me holla, honey boo-boo child. While the recipe is a bit more complicated than I usually like to make, there’s something special about this bread: its subtle sweetness and springy softness, with a touch of honey to give it that awesome classic challah flavor, make it pretty irresistible. Inspired by a recipe from the forest feast, this is a homemade bread for the ages. Frequent readers of KellyintheKitchen might know that I usually end my recipe posts with a few serving suggestions. Well, this one ends with a serving command: eat this with honey butter. If you don’t, you will be sorry. Pillow-soft and meltingly good (not to mention gorgeous!) everything about this bread is worth the extra time and effort.
3/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 tsp dry active yeast
2 eggs, divided
1 1/2 tbsp honey
1/3 cup packed brown sugar
1 tsp salt
4 tbsp vegetable oil
3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (give or take)
1/2 tsp sugar
optional garnishes: sesame seeds, raisins, walnuts, poppy seeds, etc.
Just the Recipe link: Challah Bread
In a large bowl, gently stir yeast into warm water. Place it in the oven – the oven should be off, but the oven light should be on. Let the yeast proof for about 5 minutes.
Meanwhile, combine 1 egg, honey, sugar, salt, and oil. Mix into yeast and water. Then begin adding the flour, about 3/4 cup at a time, until the dough becomes kneadable and is no longer sticky.
Knead dough for 3-5 minutes. Flour the bowl and place the dough back into it. Cover bowl with a tea towel or plastic wrap and place back into the oven (again, oven off, oven light on) until it has doubled in size, about 2 hours.
When the dough has risen, punch it down in the middle. Now you have a decision to make: one big loaf, two small loaves, or about 12 small rolls? I decided to make 2 loaves, so I separated the dough into two equal-sized sections. If you’d like to separate the challah the traditional way, here are some tips.
Optional step: I wanted to make one loaf plain and one loaf with raisins and walnuts, so after separating the dough, I worked about 1/3 cup raisins and 1/3 cup chopped walnuts into one of the sections and then proceeded as usual.
Now, place the sections on lightly-floured baking sheets for shaping. Here are some great ideas on braiding the challah. For the raisin and walnut loaf, I did a standard four-stranded braid. So pretty and classic! And I did the other loaf in the shape of a wheat stalk: roll the dough into a rough baguette shape. Then, using a scissors, snip sections of the dough at an angle and pull them off to alternating sides.
Place the loaves back into the oven (you know the drill—oven light on, oven off) to rise again, about 35 minutes. Then take them out of the oven to rise for 10 more minutes, meanwhile preheating the oven to 350 F.
In a small bowl, whip the second egg with sugar. When the loaves have risen, brush with the egg. If you want, sprinkle with sesame seeds, poppy seeds, a bit of brown sugar, etc.
Just before you start baking the challah, toss a handful of ice cubes into the bottom of oven, for steam. Bake the bread until well-browned, about 20 minutes. The wheat-shaped loaf definitely baked faster than the braided one, so be sure to keep in mind the shapes/sizes of the loaves as you bake them.
Enjoy the bread steaming hot right out of the oven with a big dollop of honey butter. Challah also makes great toast and sandwich bread when it’s fresh, and if you find you have some stale bread left over, it’s also a heavenly French toast. With more honey butter, of course. And did I mention this goes great with honey butter?