Updated: Mar 2
This sourdough challah read is quite simple. You mix a rich dough with eggs and oil, let it rest on a counter, braid, and bake. Top with everything seasoning or leave plain for a more classic challah. And while many of us think of challah as simply a braided, shiny bread, challah is also a bread of significance in Jewish rituals. Read more on that history here.
Recipe note: My recipes are intended to be straightforward guides for the home cook or baker to replicate with minimal fuss. However, recipes are just guides. A multitude of factors can affect how a recipe comes out - from the freshness and quality of your base ingredients to the ambient temperature and humidity. In particular, I recommend upgrading your spices if you are able, as there is a marked taste difference when you are using fresh, single-origin spices. For the best results when following a recipe, taste as you go and be sure to pay attention to visual or tactile cues included in the instructions. For new sourdough bakers, start here.
Sourdough Round-Braided Challah
Makes one medium loaf
You will need a baking sheet, parchment paper, a kitchen scale, and medium and small-sized mixing bowls for this recipe
150 grams sourdough starter, fed a few hours before so it is very bubbly and active (I feed my starter so it's at 100% hydration. For a simple explainer on hydration levels click here)
80 grams water
40 grams runny honey
25 grams vegetable oil or melted coconut oil (I prefer the slightly sweeter taste of coconut oil but use what you have)
1 large egg + 1 yolk
8 grams sea salt
175 grams all-purpose flour
200 grams bread flour
1 beaten egg
1 tablespoon water
Everything bagel seasoning, available at most grocery stores or you can make your own.
1. In a large bowl, whisk together 150g sourdough starter, 80g water, 40g honey, 20g vegetable oil or melted coconut oil, and 1 large egg + 1 yolk. It doesn't matter if all the ingredients completely break down and form a uniform mixture, a rough slurry is fine.
2. To that mixture add 175g all-purpose flour, 200g bread flour, and 8g sea salt. Knead by hand (or with a dough hook on a medium-low setting in a stand mixer) until you have a firm smooth dough. The dough should be tacky but not sticky. By hand, this takes about 3-5 minutes.
3. Remove the dough from the bowl. Clean the bowl and lightly oil it before placing the dough back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 8 hours. Rising (or proofing) is not an exact science. How much and how fast your dough rises depends on the ambient temperature as well as on the particular dough you're working with. For this challah, you'll want to let it rise until it's nearly doubled in size, overnight if you want to bake it fresh in the morning.
4. Clean a counter and lightly flour half of it. You'll want about 6-8 inches of clear space, unfloured, with a similar-sized space next to it that's lightly floured. The clean space is for rolling out the dough into the strands for braiding. The floured space is where you'll place the strands once formed and the area that you'll use for braiding.
5. On the clean, unfloured surface divide the dough into four equal parts, either eyeballing or using a kitchen scale to weigh them out. Roll out each dough section on that clean countertop using your hands to form a strand about 14 inches long. Once shaped, place each strand onto the floured side of the countertop. Now you're ready for braiding!
6. Lay out the strands on the floured section of the countertop to create a hashtag pattern. Follow the below video steps to braid the strands into a beautiful round loaf. When braiding is finished, transfer the loaf to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat.
7. Make the egg wash in a small bowl (1 egg beaten with 1 tbsp of water mixed in). Brush the braided loaf with the egg wash mixture. Leave the dough to rise (proof) for 2 hours at room temperature.
8. After 2 hours, preheat your oven to 375 degrees. While the oven is preheating apply a second layer of egg wash over the shaped and risen dough. If using everything seasoning, sprinkle it evenly over the top of the freshly egg-washed dough. For a more classic challah, omit the seasoning.
9. When the oven is finished preheating, bake the challah on the middle rack for 30-40 minutes. The bread is finished when the crust is a nice golden brown. Remove it from the oven and allow it to cool for at least an hour before slicing!
This bread is best when sliced and eaten the same day it was baked, though it will keep on the counter double wrapped in plastic bags for up to 24-48 hours. After that, like most breads, I find it best to slice and freeze in airtight bags.