You only need one bowl to make the most heartwarming of all Jewish comfort foods.
This is by far my favorite challah recipe.
It is soft, fluffy, delicious and incredibly easy to make!
The dough is gorgeous and silky and comes together rather quickly. I adapted Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s recipe, which thousands of people make.
It’s a tried and true fan favorite.
There’s something about baking challah that is so magical and fulfilling. Not to mention the aroma of challah baking is intoxicating and I won’t judge you if you make a little roll to taste (for experimental purposes, of course) and eat it fresh out of the oven.
After trying many, and I mean MANY, challah recipes over the past couple years, this one has my heart. The challah dramas were many and the frustration level was HIGH. One was too dense; one always came out burnt on the outside while another was always raw on the inside, regardless what I did; one tasted yeasty; and one was only good if eaten right away.
When I finally stumbled on Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s recipe, I really adapted it for Rosh Hashanah because of the custom to eat honey for a sweet new year. Then I couldn’t leave it alone and changed around the water and substituted seltzer to make it fluffier. I now circle back to this recipe year round and it’s definitely a fan favorite. Because who doesn’t want a sweet year all year?
I know the one thing that surprised you about this recipe is that it uses five pounds of flour and zero eggs.
Yes. NO eggs. None.
Well okay, only one egg for brushing and you can leave that out if you’re allergic and substitute with maple syrup. Challah is pretty simple to make, but it is time consuming so make sure you leave a significant chunk of time and patience for this. It’s truly a labor of love. Lots of things impact my challah recipe– the weather, my mood, the water, the brand of flour.
Yes. The weather.
And yes. My mood.
You gotta put lots of love in it.
On a hotter and more humid day, the flour absorbs more of the moisture. If your find that your dough is WAY too sticky add more flour, if it’s WAY too dry add more water or oil. Hey Boss, don’t be afraid of the dough.
I always measure out all of my ingredients before starting so that I don’t get stuck at the last minute realizing I don’t have enough oil or I need to fumble around for the honey while my hands are covered in challah dough.
Best Ever Challah (Egg-free)
3 cups water
2 cups seltzer
1¼ cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons active dry yeast (5 full packets)
5 pounds bread, sifted, or all-purpose unbleached flour
1¼ cups oil
1½ tablespoons table salt, 2 1/2 TBS sea salt, or 2 tablespoons kosher salt, or 1 tablespoon himalayan pink salt
1 egg, 1 Tsp water, beaten with a tiny bit of sugar for brushing
* For egg free shine, use maple syrup.
- In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook, add 1 cup warm water, yeast and 2 tablespoons sugar.
- Set aside for the yeast to proof, about 10 minutes. It will look foamy; if it does not, your yeast may be dead and you should start over.
- Add in the oil, honey, remaining sugar, water and seltzer. Slowly add the flour, 1 cup at a time. Mix on low for 2-3 minutes and then add the salt. Turn mixer to high and knead for ten minutes, until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Remove dough from the mixer and place in a large bowl or bucket. Rub a little oil over the top of the dough so that a craggy skin doesn’t form. Cover with a clean towel or plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place ( so it doesn’t crack when it bakes ) for 1 hour, or until doubled in size.
- Take challah with a bracha: ברוך אתה יי אלהינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצותיו וציונו להפריש חלה מן העסה. This is a very spiritual moment in which many pray for the health and prosperity of others and for their own families. The portion of dough, which represents the portion of dough that was given to the Kohanim in the time of the Bais Hamikdash, is wrapped in foil and burnt or disposed of respectfully. There are different customs as to how it should be done. Please adhere to your own.
- Divide each portion into 3 strands of 6.5oz for a 3 lb oval and roll into ropes. Braid each challah tightly and place in greased pans. Brush challah with beaten egg and a little sugar. Let rise 30-45 minutes, then brush with egg again for that extra shine.
- While the challah rises again, preheat the oven to 350ºF. Bake 40 minutes, until golden brown.
- If using instant yeast, increase the amount by 20%.
- Bread flour has a higher protein content than all-purpose flour, which is what helps develop stronger gluten. I like to use bread flour to provide the structure challah needs. If you don’t have, then definitely use all-purpose.
- To knead the dough by hand, fold the dough over and onto itself, pushing down and forward. Rotate the dough slightly and repeat. Keep going until the dough is smooth and elastic.
- Never tear your dough, rather cut it with a knife or bench scraper to avoid ripping the gluten strands.
- Taking the challah and saying the bracha is a very spiritual moment for some people, in which they pray for the health and prosperity of others and for their own families. The portion of dough, which represents the portion of dough given to the Kohanim in the Beit Hamikdash, is wrapped in foil and burnt or respectfully disposed of. There are different customs as to how this should be done. Please adhere to your own custom.
- You can slow rise your challah dough in the fridge ( which gives it a richer and more intensely developed flavor ) for several hours or overnight. Grease your bowl well, grease the top of the dough, cover loosely with plastic wrap and place in a large garbage bag and take out all the air so it has room to expand. When you are ready for it braid and rise.
- If your dough is very sticky while rolling it into strands, wear gloves and mist your gloves with oil to make smooth strands.
- Always keep challah dough loosely covered with plastic wrap or a clean towel when not braiding so that it doesn’t dry out and crack on the top.
- Metal baking pans, as opposed to aluminum tins, conduct heat better and produce a better crust.
- For a Sweet Challah Crumb Topping gently mix together the following and sprinkle it on the challah after the egg wash:
• 2 cups flour
• ½ – 1 cup sugar
• ½ – ¾ cup oil
• 1 tablespoon vanilla sugar
• ¼ teaspoon baking powder
• Pinch sea salt
- Other delicious toppings include za’atar, cinnamon sugar, everything bagel spice, dried onion, pretzel salt, caraway seeds, minced garlic, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds. You can also sauté onions or roast garlic and then stuff it into the challah strands before braiding.
- • One of my favorites is sesame. You dip each strand in water. Yes water and then roll them in sesame seeds ( keep the ends seedless so you can pinch it closed). Braid and bake.
- The size of your challah will impact the baking time. Rolls bake considerably faster than a full-sized challah.
- The challahs freeze beautifully! Cool completely after baking and wrap with Saran Wrap and seal very well in large freezer safe zip top bags to freeze. Defrost completely and then place in oven 5-10 minutes at 350 to get that fresh baked taste.