Challah is such a wonderfully easy bread to make which despite its simplicity is rich, soft, and flavourful.
I decided to add a bit of lemon to this classic. Some zest in the dough and a sticky lemon glaze to brush on after baking give this bread a nice citrus kick which works really well in any kind of sweet, enriched dough really.
If you have never tried doing a 4-strand braid before, then this will be the perfect guide for you. While the loaf may look intricate and complicated it is far from that. 3 and 4 strand braids are the simplest. When you get to 5 and over it gets complicated, but as with anything – once you know, you know.
In the video I make four small loaves. If you want to you can make two larger ones or one giant one. Baking times will need to be adjusted, of course. You could also go in the other direction and make more smaller ones. In fact, this dough would make amazing burger buns!
Simply choose the number of individual buns/loaves you wish to make and divide the dough into the number of total strands needed.
Watch the video down below for detailed instructions.
For the dough –
500g (1.1lb) strong white bread flour
40g (1.4oz) sugar
40g (1.4oz) vegetable oil
10g (0.35oz) salt
7g (0.25oz) instant dry yeast or 8.4g (0.3oz) active dry yeast or 21g (0.75oz) fresh yeast
2 lemons worth of zest
3 eggs, around 150g (5.3oz), cold from the fridge *
110g (3.9oz) cold water *
*To learn more about dough temperature control click here.
The egg and water should add up to 260g (9.2oz).
To decorate –
1 egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon of water and 1 teaspoon of oil
You can use different seeds if you want or leave the seeds off altogether.
For the lemon glaze –
30g (1oz) lemon juice
30g (1oz) sugar
Bring this up to a boil in a small pot right before the bread comes out the oven.
- In a large bowl combine the water, eggs, lemon zest, yeast, salt, oil, and sugar. Mix well to dissolve any large salt and sugar crystals and to hydrate the yeast.
- Add the flour and mix to a dough.
- Tip the dough out on your table and knead for 6 minutes. *Desired dough temperature 25-26C (77-79F). If your dough is warmer, then it will ferment more rapidly. If it is cooler, then it will take longer. Adjust proofing time accordingly.
- Cover and ferment for 2 hours or until doubled in volume.
- Divide the dough into 16 equal pieces. Pre-shape into blunt cylinders.
- Leave to rest for 20 minutes.
- Roll out 4 strands at a time to around 30cm (1ft). Follow my instructions in the video on how to braid them. I would never explain it as well as I could show it!
- Place on a non-stick paper lined baking tray. Cover and ferment for 1 – 1.5 hours or until well puffed up. The temperature of your dough and the temperature of your kitchen will have great effect on the fermentation time especially because of the sugar content in this dough which slows down fermentation. In short – bake the bread when the bread is ready to be baked and not when your kitchen timer goes off! *During the final hour of fermentation preheat your oven to 160C (320F) fan on.
- Brush the challah with the egg yolk, water, and oil glaze. Leave to dry for 5 minutes, then brush again. Sprinkle with the seeds.
- Bake for around 30 minutes. You can turn the tray around half-way through the bake to get a nice and even crust.
- Brush the loaves with the hot lemon glaze as soon as they come out the oven.
Leave to cool down and enjoy!
Keep in mind that the conditions in each kitchen are different, so fermentation times may vary for you. It is up to the baker to control the bread and react accordingly.
Your oven may be different too, so your baking time may vary.
Watch the video here