This traditional Jewish bread has lightness and a nice color. The loaves are formed with either three or six braids, glazed with egg, and sprinkled with poppy seeds. They emerge from the oven a rich golden brown attractively flecked with the seeds. Challah is not a sweet bread but a delicate, well-textured egg bread of some richness.
2 braided loaves
Make Ahead RecipeYes
Recipe Courseside dish, snack
Dietary Considerationpeanut free, soy free, tree nut free
Mealbreakfast, brunch, dinner, lunch
Moodadventurous, blue, festive
Taste and Texturebuttery, rich
Type of Dishyeast bread
- 3 packages active dry yeast
- 1 1/3 cups warm water (l00° to 115°, approximately)
- 1 tablespoon granulated sugar
- 1 tablespoon coarse salt
- 3 tablespoons softened butter
- 3 eggs
- 5 to 5½ cups all-purpose flour
- 1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon cold water
- Poppy seeds
Proof the yeast in the lukewarm water in a large bowl. Add the sugar, salt, butter, eggs, and 5 cups of the flour, a cup at a time. Beat thoroughly with a wooden spoon or with the hands. Gradually add more flour until the dough is very stiff. Turn the dough out on a board sprinkled with flour. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic, approximately 10 minutes.
Place the dough in a very large buttered bowl, and turn to coat the surface with butter. Cover and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until doubled in bulk, about 1½ to 2 hours. Punch the dough down and divide into six equal parts. Roll each portion into a rope about 1 inch in diameter on a lightly floured board. Braid three ropes together to make two loaves. Place the breads about 6 inches apart on a buttered baking sheet. Cover and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in bulk. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake in a preheated 400° oven for 35 to 45 minutes, or until the loaves sound hollow when tapped with the knuckles. Cool on racks.
1973 James A. Beard