Updated: Oct 20
This Sourdough Challah Bread is actually super simple. It's true, I swear! You mix a rich dough with eggs and oil, let it rest for six hours on a counter, braid, and bake. I use a four-strand round braid as it's the braid that I find most visually appealing while also being easy to explain to someone else. I know that sounds like a lot, but compared to many sourdough methods this one is straightforward and simple. I top mine with Everything But The Bagel Seasoning but feel free to leave it off for a more classic Challah.
Note: 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.
New to sourdough baking? 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 honey
20 grams vegetable oil or melted coconut oil (I prefer the slightly sweeter taste of coconut oil but use whatever 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 But The Bagel Seasoning, available at Trader Joe's stores or you can make your own using any of the many recipes found online
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 before placing the dough back into the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise at room temperature for about 6 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 Challah you'll want to let it rise until it's about doubled in size.
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 right 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 space 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!
*note the unfloured surface for rolling out the strands. I've found that when rolling them out on a floured surface it's harder to control the exact size and shape of the strands to get them even.
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 covered in parchment paper.
7. Make the egg wash in a small bowl (1 egg beaten with 1tbsp of water mixed in). Brush the braided loaf with the egg wash mixture. Leave the dough to rise (proof) for one more hour at room temperature.
8. After one hour, 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 you're using the Everything But The Bagel Seasoning, sprinkle evenly over the top of the freshly egg washed dough. For a more classic Challah, omit the seasoning.
*I couldn't find a pastry brush, so I used my hand to brush the egg wash onto the dough.
9. When the oven is finished preheating, bake it 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.