Sunday, 27 May 2012

Daring Bakers' May 2012 - Challah

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Ruth provided us with three recipes to choose from; I decided that the Honey White Challah sounded very inviting and decided to stick with this recipe, topping with a generous sprinkling of poppy seeds. 

I have to admit, this challenge was a rushed one as I only completed it a couple of hours ago. Having never eaten nor seen a challah in real-life I tried familiarising myself with the braiding techniques by watching videos on YouTube numerous times. This wasn’t good enough because as you can see, my loaf is rather lopsided and the braiding pattern got kinda lost towards the end bit.  In hindsight, I should have probably stuck to the basic three-strand braid. Instead I decided to be adventurous and attempt a four-strand braid without any practice.

With regards to the taste and texture, this was probably the best loaf of bread I’ve ever made. It’s light and fluffy with a lovely crumb and the smell of honey is divine!

**A brief historical introduction:
Challah is a bread of celebration in Jewish tradition. At a time when white flour was considered a luxury, its use was reserved for either the wealthy or for festive events. In Judaism, the Sabbath is a weekly holiday, and therefore is a festive occasion. It was around the 15th century when Jews in parts of Austria and Germany adopted an oval braided loaf from their neighbors to make the Sabbath special. These fancy shaped loaves made with white flour were seen as a fitting way to honor the Shabbat (Sabbath), symbolized in Jewish culture as a queen, therefore deserving of the finest one can achieve. In honoring the Sabbath as a day of rest, two loaves are traditionally put on the table. This is generally seen as a representation of the double portion of manna provided to the Children of Israel on Fridays during their wandering in the desert after fleeing from Egypt. This double portion allowed them to maintain the commandment to not do “work” on the Sabbath.

You can find more information on this historical bread here, as well as the recipes for other versions of challah. 

Honey White Challah

Makes two loaves 

360 ml warm water
15 g sugar
18 g dry active yeast
120 ml honey
15 ml vegetable oil
4 large eggs
A large pinch of salt
700 g plain flour, possibly more
1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp water

  1. In a large bowl, combine yeast, sugar and 125 ml warm water. Allow to proof for 5-7 minutes until foamy.
  2. Add the remaining water, 4 eggs, honey salt and 700 grams of flour to the yeast mixture. Knead by hand or by machine, using the dough hook, until the dough comes together and is smooth, adding flour as needed. Continue kneading for a further 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer the dough to a well oiled clean bowl and cover with a tea-towel. Leave to rise until doubled in size, which takes about 1.5 hours.
  4. Punch down dough and divide into two portions.
  5. Use each half to make a loaf.
  6. Braided according to desired preference. * YouTube has many videos showing the various braiding techniques.
  7. Place loaf on a greased parchment lined tray and cover with tea-towel. Leave to rise for a further 30 minutes.
  8. Pre-heat oven to 200C. Brush top of loaf with egg wash and generously top with poppy seeds.
  9. Bake loaf for 25-30 minutes, or until done.
  10. Cool well before slicing.


  1. Seriously - this braiding takes way more practice than I thought! LOL - but yours looks so rustic and delicious, I love it! Really great job on the challenge.

  2. Honey plus sesame seeds - I bet it was super tasty. And I agree with Shelley, rustic and delicious!

  3. I love the look of your challah! great job!

  4. She's a thing of beauty - first time or no! Wish I could have a piece for breakfast right now...

  5. That looks very nice indeed:)

  6. this looks amazing.. you really are a daring baker... and take the most stunning images.

  7. I am not sure whether I can make the same before my baking skills are not there like yours. Looks so splendid and thumbs up for such an amazing recipe.

  8. Your Challah looks great, I love the poppy seeds on top! I love the story about Challah at the end! Learned something new today, Thank you so much for sharing.