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Oct 25, 2012 04:37 AM

challah help

I have been trying to make challah for so many years and i just can't get it.
I gave up on altering recipes to make them less oil or less sugar, or more whole wheat....
I follow them exactly but whatever i do, unless we eat it right out of the oven it is like a crouton by friday night or lunch.

I get confused by yeasts, as all the recipes say to activate in warm water before but often the packet says to just mix it in with the dry ingredients, does that matter? activated is activated right?

Also- how much kneading does one really need to do?

my challah never has that dense chewiness that store-bought has.

lots of people say to just get a bread machine, but im not going to do that....

any help appreciated also any recipes you swear by...

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  1. Yeast is important. It often sits on the store shelf too long. Therefore, what you want to do is put the yeast, warm (not hot) water ( sugar or honey if you are using them) and some of the flour into a bowl. Enough flour to make it like a thick soup, not as thick as hummus. This is called a sponge. Making one before you start kneading not only "proves" the yeast, it lets the yeast do all the work for you. Let it sit for an hour or so and it will bubble up. If it doesn't, a little time, sugar and warmth may help. If not, you need to buy new yeast.

    Once you have the add flour to make a soft dough. I knead once, then let it rise, shape, let it rise and bake. repeated kneading is not necessary, just old-fashioned.

    I truly do not know a way to get the challah the way you like except by practice and experimentation. Or by starting by a recipe that you have tasted at someone's table.

    Reason is, challah's vary. But I also find that most home recipes use less oil and fewer eggs than bakeries must to get that chew. Chewiness is produced with ample additions of oil and oil-containing egg yolks. Home cooks often balk at the oil and egg yolks in this volume, but happily eat the store bought challah. Then they are disappointed by the challah they bake at home. Also, older recipes rarely call for enough oil/yolks to produce that chew.

    Challah with less oil can taste heavenly on Friday evening, but it will have dried out somewhat by Saturday lunch whereas the high-oil high-egg type will retain its softness and chew for a couple of days (bakeries also use freshness enhancers unavailable to home cooks). Your great-grandmother's challah was much less chewy and not sweetened at all. Rich, chewy challah (i.e. Zomig's in the NY area) is a very recent phenomenon.

    13 Replies
    1. re: AdinaA

      i appreciate your input. my great grandmothers made chapati:)

      does using high gluten flour help?

      1. re: peacepug

        Absolutely. I buy ordinary supermarket brands labeled "bread" flour.

        1. re: AdinaA

          Admittedly, I have only made Challah twice, but I used my daughter's modified Kosher Palate recipe. I made it by hand, and found it pretty easy to do. My wife and kids said it was good and want me to make it again. Only thing is I cannot braid to save my life, so only pull aparts.

          1. re: njkosher

            I second the Kosher Palette recipe (as modified slightly, below). I've taught literally dozens of people to bake challah with this recipe and people rave about it constantly. I buy a 1 pound bag of yeast. I keep it in the freezer after I open it and replace it twice a year - junk it just before Pesach and just before Sukkot and it works well. ($10 per year v. $3 for a small packet) I use King Arthur Bread flour, available in many stores.

            Delicious Challah


            4 cups warm water (105-115 degrees)
            2 2 ounce bars of fresh yeast or 2 packets Active dry yeast, or
            2 yeast spoonsful but NOT instant yeast; 2 full packets dry yeast = 4 1/2 tsps. or
            2 2oz. bars of fresh yeast
            1 Tablespoon sugar
            1 5 pound bag King Arthur Unbleached Bread Flour
            2 cups sugar
            1 1/2 Tablespoons salt
            3 large eggs
            1 1/2 cups Canola oil or corn oil
            1 large egg, lightly beaten
            Sesame seeds, (Whole Foods sells Kosher, organic sesame seeds)


            1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Open oven door.

            2. Combine water and yeast on a medium or metal or glass bowl. Stir in 1 tablespoon sugar. Place the mixture on the open oven door (the small amount of heat helps proof the yeast) and let stand for 10 minutes. The mixture will be bubbly. (If your yeast mixture isn't bubbly, then something is wrong with the yeast and you must start the recipe all over again.) Turn the oven off.

            3. Place flour in a large aluminum bowl. Stir in 2 cups of sugar and the salt, mixing well. Push the mixture against the sides of the bowl, leaving a well in the center.

            4. Pour the yeast mixture, 3 eggs and 1 1/2 cups oil into the well; mix with a wooden spoon until you can no longer stir it.

            5. Knead the dough with your hands until it no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl, at least 15 minutes. The dough should be smooth and springy. (If the dough is still very sticky, knead in small amount of flour until it is smooth.)

            6. Cover dough with plastic wrap and a dry towel. Let rise for 1 1/2 - 2 hours in a warm room. (If the kitchen is cold, preheat the oven to 200 degrees. Turn it off. Place the dough in the oven to rise.)

            7. Turn the dough out and punch down. Say the blessing for separating challah and separate a piece of challah about half the volume of an egg. Divide the dough in half and each half into thirds. Divide each of those sections into 3 equal pieces. Roll each portion into a thick rope, about 15 inches long. Each rope makes a roll or a strand of the challah braid. To braid, place the 3 pieces side by side and begin in the middle or an end, pinching each end when completed. Repeat with remaining dough. Place each loaf on a parchment paper covered baking sheet. (At this point, each loaf can be wrapped individually in plastic wrap and then aluminum foil and then placed in a freezer bag and frozen. To defrost, wait until soft and then proceed with next step.) Results may be better with freezing fully baked challot.

            8. Brush challot with beaten egg and sesame seeds, if desired. Let rise, on parchment paper, uncovered for an hour.

            9. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

            10. Bake challot 25 to 35 minutes until golden brown and challah sounds hollow when topped on the bottom. After 15 to 20 minutes, reverse the direction of the baking sheet. Cool on wire racks.

            Source: The Kosher Palette

            1. re: iris

              "2 2 ounce bars of fresh yeast or 2 packets Active dry yeast, or
              2 yeast spoonsful but NOT instant yeast; 2 full packets dry yeast = 4 1/2 tsps. or
              2 2oz. bars of fresh yeast"

              Somehow I can't get my erev Shabbos head around this. Could you please clarify?

              1. re: almond tree

                They are equivalents. When I teach this, I guess I usually demonstrate and describe.
                2 bars -Fresh yeast is sometimes called cake yeast - it comes in bars and is found refrigerated, but often not for sale in the summer months.
                2 packets - Active dry yeast packets are probably the most common and what you see near the refrigerated section. Instant yeast is sold the same way - but don't use those.
                4 1/2 tsp. = 2 yeast spoons This is what I actually use. I buy 1 pound packages ($4 or $5, compared to the same price for the 2 small packets) of active dry yeast - again not instant - available at some supermarkets or online from King Arthur Flour, which also sells a yeast measuring spoon, which holds 2 1/4 teaspoons, which equals the contents of 1 of the 2 packets. One uses 2 of those spoons, for a total of 4.5 teaspoons of active dry yeast.

                Is that clearer?

                1. re: iris

                  For a dense chewy challah, try Jamie Geller's recipe on
         Takes a bit of time, and it calls for a 6 lb. bag of bread flour found in most Jewish grocery stores . Delicious!

                  1. re: iris

                    Yes, thank you. I think it was the"yeast spoon" in particular that threw me --never heard of such a thing until now.

                2. re: iris

                  I'm just not into kneading by hand for 15 minutes - any chance you have a version of this that will work with the 5 qt. KitchenAid? I think 5 punds of flour would be too much for the bowl.

                  1. re: helou

                    There's no reason to use five pounds of flour if you want to make a smaller recipe; just scale it down to one or two pounds of flour and reduce the rest of the ingredients similarly. It seems that in the past 5-10 years it has become the thing to make challah with five pounds of flour so one can say the brocha on taking challah. However, if you don't need that much challah, there's really no need to make that much just to say the brocha. Judaism doesn't believe in magic incantations, and the halacha is clear that if you don't use that much flour, you don't need to say the brocha, so it's certainly not forbidden to use less flour. Don't get me wrong . . . it's undoubtedly a mitzvah to take challah if you are using that much flour; there just is no need to do it. (And some would argue it might be baal tashchit to make that much if you don't need to; how many of us have freezers large enough to keep all the extra loaves? Or can afford all the extra calories of the multiple loaves if all served on one shabbat?)

                    I make my challah dough in a bread machine, and I don't know if it would give you the chewy challah you are in search of, but just for guidelines: I use 1 cup water, 2 oz oil, 1 egg, 9 oz. of whole wheat and 7 oz. of bread flour [one pound of flour total (I weigh it, so I'm not sure how many cups it comes out to)], 3 oz. sugar,
                    2 tsp. kosher salt, and 2 1/2 tsp. yeast. I put it in on the dough cycle of a bread machine, but it would certainly fit in a Kitchen Aid. In fact, I'm sure I could probably multiply it by three and still have it fit, though four or five times would probably not.

                    1. re: helou

                      In truth, this is the only version I've ever made. If I don't have room in the freezer, my friends are very happy to receive the extras. I do it by hand and guess I'm used to it by now, sorry. In theory, I suppose you could halve things and have 3 loaves, which is a perfect Shabbos number to have, but then you'd have to weigh the flour and eggs to accurately get the right measurements.

          2. The Holiday Baking Cookbook by Marcy Goldman has wonderful recipes with detailed instructions
            Also,check out, Marcy's website

            1. This might be a better question for a baking thread, but here goes. I don't do the 5 lbs of flour recipe. My recipe is 7 cups flour, 2 cups water, 3 eggs, 2-3 tbsp of sugar, 1/4 cup of oil and about 1 1/2 tsp of salt, and 2 pkgs of yeast. I use bread flour exclusively and something I noticed nobody else is writing about is I use vital gluten which is made by Hodgson Mills (Bob's Red Mill makes a comparable product). Just follow package for how much to add. I also usually use a mix of sugar and honey. I don't know if it will be the denseness you're looking for, but I've never had croutons the second day!

              1. I've been using this recipe for a sweet challah that came home from preschool with one of my kids many years ago. It is very fast and easy and makes 6 medium sized loaves. I use 2, and freeze the rest. Seems to be pretty fool-proof, and no heavy kneading. Can be made in about 2 hours including rising time.

                In a large stock pot:
                Pour in 4 cups of hot tap water (it will cool to just above room temperature quickly)
                Add 5 TBSP yeast (that is not a mistake and Red Star works well)
                Add 2 TBSP sugar
                Swish it around and cover pot with the lid. Let rest for 10 minutes.

                In a medium size bowl, blend together:
                3 eggs
                1 1/2 cups sugar
                3 TBSP salt
                1/2 cup vegetable oil

                Add to stock pot.

                Mix in a 5lb bag minus 1 cup of all purpose flour. Mix well. Dough should be sticky. Cover with lid. Let rise for 1 1/2 hours.

                Punch dough down (no need to knead it). On a floured surface, divide into six pieces and make a loaf out of each. Cover with a dish towel and let rise for 20 minutes. Brush each loaf with beaten egg. Bake on baking sheets covered in parchment paper or in challah loaf pans at 350 for about 35 minutes.