We are morning people at my house. “Sleeping in” means sleeping until 7am. We’re all early risers, and we all love breakfast. During the week we’ll have muffins, banana bread, or coffee cake. But Saturdays mean homemade pancakes, waffles, or French toast. To be more specific: super awesome French toast made with homemade Challah.
When we lived in Michigan, we used to get weekly grocery deliveries. Kind of like a CSA, only with way more options and add-ons like local eggs, milk, and fresh bread. This service sourced bread from the famous Zingerman’s Bakehouse. We would regularly get loaves of Zingerman’s challah for our Saturday French toast.
It was emotionally taxing enough to move a family of five (the youngest of which was only two months old) across the country…and then it interfered with our French toast routine. No Zingerman’s. No grocery delivery. No challah. Unacceptable!
I dug through our moving boxes and found my cookbooks. I was looking for something obvious. One of these cookbooks had to have a good challah recipe in it so I could get my family’s French toast game back on track. I laid my eyes on Sarabeth’s Bakery cookbook and just knew. I’d made multiple recipes from the book and, while many are time consuming, all have been delicious. I adapted the recipe over time for ease of preparation, and the end result is just what I was hoping for.
This bread is eggy, with a chewy crust and soft center. The loaf will develop a deep, dark brown color in the oven, thanks to a brushing of egg wash prior to baking. The crumb of this bread was just made to soak up all that French toast goodness (and the maple syrup we drizzle over the top).
I find a couple of tools to be helpful in preparing this recipe:
1) A kitchen scale is handy in ensuring that your pieces of dough are equal in size, which leads to an even braid and even baking. If you don’t have a kitchen scale, you can find one [here]. And,
2) I like baking my challah on a silpat because is slows the browning of the bottoms of the loaves, and helps in quick cleanup. If you’re interested in purchasing a few for yourself, you can find them here.
Although I find these items helpful, they’re not necessary to make the recipe. No special tools or ingredients required. You just need some time and a little patience, and you’ll be rewarded with Challah goodness and Saturday morning breakfast glory. 😀
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- 3 1/2 tsp active dry yeast
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 cup water, divided
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 4 1/2 cups flour
- 1 1/2 tsp salt
- 1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
- Pour 1/4 cup warm (105-110F) water in a small bowl. Add yeast to the warm water and let stand 5 minutes. After 5 minutes, stir to dissolve.
- Pour yeast mixture into the bowl of a stand mixer. Add remaining (3/4 cup) water, honey, eggs, egg yolks, and oil. Whisk to combine.
- Place the bowl on the mixer and affix the paddle attachment. On low speed, gradually add half the flour and the salt. Once combined, gradually add the remaining flour. The dough will the soft and rough, and will clean the sides of the bowl as it mixes.
- Replace the paddle attachment with the dough hook. On medium-low speed, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic (about 6 minutes).
- turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface. Knead slightly to ensure it is smooth. Dough should be slightly sticky. If too sticky to work with, you can knead in a small amount of flour.
- Grease a large bowl. Shape the dough into a ball. Place dough smooth side down in the bowl, coating it in oil, then turn the smooth side up. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap or a kitchen towel. Let stand in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.
- Turn the dough out onto an *unfloured* work surface, taking care not to deflate the dough (do not knead the dough). Gently cut the dough into 6 equal pieces (see note).
- On a clean work surface (even a tiny bit of flour will make the dough difficult to roll), shape each piece of dough into a rope about 13 inches long.
- Line two half-sheet pans with parchment paper or silpats (see note). Line three dough ropes next to each other. Loosely braid the ropes without stretching them. Starting in the center, braid the ropes to the end and tuck the ends under. Turn the loaf around and complete braiding on the other half, again starting in the center and then tucking the ends under.Repeat with the remaining three dough ropes on the second pan.
- Cover each braided loaf with a kitchen towel. In a warm place, let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour.
- Position oven racks in the center and top third of your oven and preheat to 375F.
- Once the dough has risen, brush the top of each braid with the beaten egg.
- Bake for 15 minutes. Switch the position of the breads from top to bottom and front to back. Reduce the oven temperature to 350F and continue baking until the loaves are golden and the bread sounds hollow when tapped with your knuckles, about 50 minutes. If the loaves seem to be browning too deeply, cover them loosely with aluminum foil. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and cool completely.Enjoy!