This glorious Braided Challah Bread from Baking with Julia brought back childhood memories of my first bites of this delightful, eggy loaf!
Braided challah was my absolute favorite bread as a child. Soft, chewy, eggy. I loved it from my first bite.
This wasn’t a loaf commonly found in Ames, Iowa, where I grew up. It was on our annual family summer vacations to Aspen, Colorado, where I was first exposed to this braided wonder.
Wired up with anticipation, my sisters and I could never sleep the night before departure. 4 girls, dosed with banana Dramamine, piled into the back of our green Plymouth Satellite station wagon with my dad at the helm and my mom at his side.
No seat belts, no radio, no air conditioning, just each other singing, bickering and bugging my parents for the duration of the 12-hour ride. The stretch across Nebraska was unending, but when we finally caught a glimpse of the foothills of the Rockies, our excitement was palpable.
My mom would treat us to pastries and bread from some of the lovely bakeries in this picturesque ski town. She’d bring home sugary palmiers and our first braided challah bread.
As I grew older, I volunteered to walk down the hill from Lift One condominiums to the Paradise Bakery to buy the freshly baked loaves. It was as a newlywed when I started baking my own. There was a bit of controversy over whether this is a true challah on the Tuesdays with Dorie boards.
With the addition of butter, it’s not considered parve, but more of a brioche than a challah. But whatever it’s labeled, it’s a winner. I made challah pretzels with half my dough, and those disappeared even faster than the loaf. Whole Wheat Challah is wonderful, too!
Tips for Braiding Bread
I’ve never been formally trained but these are some tips that have helped me braid bread. It certainly helps if you grew up braiding hair, although it’s simple enough to learn even if you’re a novice braider.
- Start with a 3-stranded braid. There are some fun 6+ stranded loaves, but they’re for the more advanced bread baker.
- Practice with some defrosted frozen bread dough. The results will be tasty, but you’re not going through both the making of the dough and learning how to plait.
- Start with forming 3 evenly sized ropes of dough. Roll them on a very lightly floured work surface, but do not stretch. The lengths and diameters should be the same.
- Start by placing all 3 ropes on a parchment lined baking sheet and pinching the 3 ropes together on one end.
- Start the braiding process by crossing the rope on the right over the center rope, then the rope on the left over the center rope. Repeat until the braid is complete.
- Pinch the ends of the ropes together and tuck under for a clean look.
- Allow the bread to proof as per your recipe’s instructions, then glaze and bake.
- Sprinkling the top with sesame or poppy seed is a nice touch if you’re making a challah.
A delicious braided egg bread.
- Prep Time: 30 minutes
- Cook Time: 35 minutes
- Total Time: 1 hour 5 minutes
- Yield: 2 loaves 1x
- Category: Bread, Yeast Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: American
- 2 packages active dry yeast
- 1/2 cup lukewarm water (about 110°)
- 1/3 cup sugar, plus a pinch
- 1 stick (4 ounces) unsalted butter, thinly sliced, plus 2 tablespoons, melted
- 1 cup warm milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 2 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 4 extra-large eggs, at room temperature, plus 1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 extra-large egg yolk and 1 tablespoon water, for glazing
- About 6 cups bread flour
- Cornmeal, for dusting
- In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the lukewarm water with the pinch of sugar and let stand until it starts to bubble. In a medium saucepan, combine the sliced butter and the milk. Warm over low just until the butter melts. Stir in the remaining 1/3 cup of sugar, honey and salt. Pour the milk mixture into a large bowl and stir in the yeast and the 4 eggs.
- Grease a large bowl with 1 1/2 tablespoons of the melted butter. Place the dough in the buttered bowl and brush the top with the remaining 1/2 tablespoon of melted butter. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a thin towel and let rise in a warm spot until doubled, about 2 hours.
- Punch down the dough, then cover and let rise until doubled again, about 1 1/4 hours.
- Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment paper and sprinkle the paper with cornmeal. On a lightly floured work surface, divide the dough in half. Cover one-half with plastic wrap and divide the other half into 3 equal pieces. Using lightly floured hands, roll each piece into a 10-inch-long rope with tapered ends.
- Arrange the ropes side by side and just touching. Starting in the middle and working toward one end, braid the ropes together, bringing the outside ropes over the center one. Pinch the ends to seal and tuck them under. Turn the loaf around and repeat with the other half, this time braiding the outer ropes under the center one. Seal the ends, tuck them under and transfer the loaf to a prepared baking sheet. Repeat with the remaining dough. Cover the loaves with thin towels and let rise for 35 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 375°. Brush the loaves with the egg glaze. Let stand uncovered for 10 minutes, then brush again with the glaze. Bake the loaves in the upper and lower thirds of the oven, switching the pans halfway through baking, for 35 to 45 minutes, or until they are golden and sound hollow when tapped on the bottom. Tent the loaves with foil if they become too brown during baking. Transfer to a rack and let cool thoroughly before slicing.
Total time does not include proofing times
The recipe and braiding instructions can be found on the Food and Wine website. Thanks to contributing baker, Lauren Groveman, for this perfect challah.