Challah bread is a braided egg bread and a traditional part of Jewish meals on the Sabbath and holidays. Depending on where you live, challah bread is also very commonly found in grocery stores and bakeries, because it has this slightly sweet yet savory flavor and a dreamy texture making it perfect for eating alone, or using for everything from sandwiches to French toast. In fact, my first blog post ever was for a pumpkin challah bread pudding. 🙂
I started making challah bread about five or six years ago after an experience at a nicer grocery store in Georgia. We wanted bread to make French toast that weekend and sandwiches, but when I went to ask, the attendant at the bakery told me they would have to go thaw some from the freezer. We had shopping to do, so I agreed, although I did find it a little odd that it wasn’t baked fresh on site. When we got the bread home, it was dry, and not as good as we were hoping for. It was fine for French toast, but not the consistency and flavor we had come to know growing up in an area where fresh baked was always readily available.
I decided to look for a recipe and start baking my own in the hopes that we could always have access to delicious challah bread whenever we wanted. To date, it is the bread I make most frequently in our home. I like to play with variations from time to time, and the reigning favorite is roasted garlic. To make this Texas Toast variation, I swapped some of the traditional olive oil for melted butter.
While this isn’t a variation I’d use for sweet recipes, it’s amazing for sandwiches, topped with additional butter and garlic for garlic bread, or as toast topped with a drizzle of olive oil, butter, or even mashed avocado. The garlic flavor is very subtle, especially if you only use one head of garlic.
My biggest pet peeve with challah comes with the braiding. I feel like challah loaves should always be hand braided. The only exception would be if you’re making a gluten free challah and then the dough has to be poured into a mold pan. You can definitely tell a molded bread from a hand-braided bread in the way it pulls when you bite it. It’s hard to explain, but once you make this and try it, you’ll see what I mean.
Personally, I had a lot of trouble following written instructions for a six strand braid when I started baking challah and it took me some trial and error practice to find the pattern to make the perfect braid every time. In case you’re like me, and learn better by watching, I’ve taped a video for you to follow along showing how to braid challah with 6 strands.
This recipe makes one big loaf (just over 2 lbs), or two smaller loaves (about 1 lb each). If you choose to make the smaller loaves and want to save one for later, freeze the dough just after braiding and before the second rise. Wrap it very well once it’s frozen. When you’re ready to bake, thaw in the refrigerator overnight, and then set on the counter 2 hours to bring to room temperature and complete the second rise. Use 1 head of garlic for a subtle garlic taste, 2 for a slightly stronger flavor. Either is still mild enough not to be overpowering.
For Roasted Garlic
For Bread Dough
Use 1 head of garlic for a subtle garlic taste, 2 for a slightly stronger flavor. Either is still mild enough not to be overpowering.