Challah & Challah Wreath
Challah & Challah Wreath
You can make this lightly sweet, airy and golden brown bread in two shapes—either straight, or twisted into a pretty wreath.
The process is easy, but you’ll need to block some time for it—I’d say about two hours and 10 minutes—because we’re not in a muffin, done-in-30-minutes territory. First, biology and chemistry happen while the yeast (a living organism) is proofing, and the dough rising undisturbed in a warm place for about an hour. Then you’ll need to use your forearm muscles and some patience to roll out three long strands of dough, which you’ll then braid together. It bakes for about 40 minutes.
You can eat it any time of the day really. I love it dipped in coffee or spread a slice with jam for breakfast. It will last for a few days too, simply stored in a plastic bag. And if for some reason there is still some challah left, you can give it a second life by turning it into bread pudding.
- Yields 1 challah or 1 challah wreath (about 12–15 slices)
- ¾ cup + 2 tablespoons whole milk
- 5¼ teaspoons active dry yeast (about 3 packets)
- 1 cup powdered sugar
- 2 egg yolks
- 8 tablespoons unsalted butter
- 4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
- Zest of 1 lemon
- Pinch Salt
- 1 egg for egg wash, lightly beaten
- Pearl sugar to sprinkle on top (optional)
- Heat the milk in a small saucepan over low heat until lukewarm, about 1 minute. (Don’t let it get too hot, because it could kill the yeast—the temperature should be about 100–110 F°).
- Measure out ¼ cup of the milk and 1 tablespoon of the sugar into a small bowl, and stir in the yeast. Let sit on a kitchen counter for 10 minutes to proof. The mixture will increase in volume and become frothy.
- Combine the egg yolks with the rest of the milk in a small bowl and lightly whisk.
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Set aside.
- Sift the flour and the rest of the sugar into a large bowl. Add the lemon zest and salt, and stir to combine. Add the yeast mixture, the egg yolks with milk and melted butter, and stir with a wooden spoon until sticky.
- Transfer the mixture to a clean work surface, and knead with your hands, pressing down hard and turning it over regularly, for 10 minutes, until shiny, soft, slightly sticky dough forms. (You can also use an electric stand mixer fitted with a dough hook. When ready, the dough will come away from the sides of the bowl. Transfer to a clean surface, and knead for another 3–4 minutes).
- Form the dough into a ball, place in a bowl, and cover with a kitchen towel. Place it in a warm, draft-free place. Let the dough rise for 60 minutes—it will double in volume.
- Flip the dough onto a clean surface and divide it into 3 equal parts. Using your hands, form each part into long log. You can either roll it out, or hold the piece of the dough vertically in your hands, pressing and pulling at it at the same time, until a long log forms—don’t worry the dough is pretty elastic and won’t break in half. For a regular challah, each log should be about 18–20 inches long and 2 inches thick. For a challah wreath, the logs should be longer, about 28–30 inches, and 1 inch thick.
- Line up the three strands together. Pinch them together at one end and braid tightly together. Pinch the other end. For a challah wreath, form into a circle, and adjust/pinch together again where the two ends meet.
- Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Brush all over with the egg wash, sprinkle with sugar if using, and let rise for another 15 minutes.
- Preheat the oven for 350 degrees and place a rack in the middle. Bake until golden brown, about 35–40 minutes.