While Challah always seems to be the most easy and fun to make, I’ve always struggled to find a magic recipe for the perfect Challah. In fact most of the Challah recipes I followed turn to be heartbreaking food fails. My Challah always came out too heavy, too small and only tasted good warm. I set a goal to bake homemade Challah like store-bought, but better! Soft, fluffy, that will taste good without being reheated and that will still be good the next day. I turned my little kitchen into a Challah lab and I figured out that any Challah recipes can be your dream Challah it all lies in the technique. Here is my Challah 101 – You can also find the complete guide on my Instagram page https://www.instagram.com/shabbatcookingmagic/ look up for Challah 101 story.
In a large mixing bowl add in order: Activate the yeast by adding the yeast, sugar and one cup water. Let it sit together for about 10 minutes.
Then add flour, bread improver/ baking powder, (gluten), eggs, salt and oil and start kneading the dough.
Add gradually cold water. A tip for life: in every recipe the water amount is a suggestion only, Add water gradually and get a feel of the dough as it starts to come together. If you feel the need, add more water, little by little. The consistency should be moist and pliable, with the dry ingredients absorbing the wet. Knead the dough by hand about 13 minutes to let the gluten develop until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding up to a 1/4 cup more flour if the dough is too wet and sticky.
Put the dough in a greased bowl, cover with a towel keep it somewhere warm for 45 min (in the winter up to 1 hour) ONLY, or two hours in the fridge.
Punch down the dough from time to time.
After 45 mins, make balls of 120 g (for medium challah) or 150-170g (for a large Challa) and let the balls relax for 3-7 minutes . Roll each ball out into a rope-shape strand as thick as a thumb (about 15-20cm, yes that’s it!), let it relax for 3-7 minutes. If the dough is a bit dry I love to add oil a little bit on the strands.
Braid the Challah out of 3,4,5 or whatever strands, but the key is to keep the Challah dough pieces equal.
Note that in this stage the Challah might look small but don’t worry as soon as it will go in the hot oven it will rise up high.
Place the Challah on a baking tray cover with a towel and leave to rise for an 45 min- one hour.
Heat oven to 180 c.
Beat an egg yellow (if you are using a whole egg add Teriyaki sauce or soy sauce) to get that laquer-like crust. you can also add some water, salt and sugar, brush the Challah and sprinkle toppings.
Bake the Challah for 30-35 min on 180°c or another 15-min, baking time depends on the Challah size (rolls about 20 minutes in total, loaf about 30-35 minutes in total). Until registers an internal temperature of 90-95 c with an instant read thermometer. Or use grandma’s method – It is ready when the underside is golden brown, dough will sound hollow when tapped with your fingers.
Remove from the oven, brush the challah with olive oil let the Challah cool down. For soft texture Challah cover with a towel. ***You can also keep your challah in the freezer. In a ziploc bag or covered in a plastic wrap. To have a fresh challah, defrost it for an hour in the oven in 100°c.