I grew up making Challah with my dad pretty often as his side of the family is Jewish…but it had been quite a while since I’d made it so I was a little nervous. Plus, the added challenge of using sourdough instead of yeast as the leavener was exciting and a little nerve-wracking.
I’ve been keeping Sid (my sourdough starter) in the fridge for the majority of his life up here where I go to school, and feeding him as needed…but I really haven’t experimented with him as much as I should. A few things here and there (bread, pancakes). (Yes, Sid is like a third being in our abode. He has a name, gets fed. He’s like our mascot.)
When I was thinking of things to attempt in the sourdough realm, I immediately thought of Challah because I’m going to Israel this summer. I hadn’t heard of sourdough Challah before, but when I was looking up recipes I read that it may actually be more similar to the traditional ways of making it back in the day with natural fermentation before yeast!
I was super frustrated by the braiding process (apparently I suck at braiding anything) but I was able to get a mini 6 strand braid complete. Then I did two snailshell swirls filled with cinnamon brown sugar. SO GOOD.
The sourness of the bread is juuust right. It’s not like you’re eating straight up sourdough bread in the shape of Challah. It’s slightly sour Challah, still with it’s perfect sweetness from the honey. And the crust! Perfect.
Recipe adapted from: The Fresh Loaf
Prepping the Starter: (the night before baking)
2 tablespoons very active sourdough starter (refreshed 8-12 hours before)
1/3 cup warm water
About 1 cup bread flour
Final Dough: (day of baking)
1/4 cup warm water
3 eggs, plus 1 for glazing
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup olive oil (or vegetable)
3 tablespoons honey
3 cups bread flour
Filling & Topping:
3 tablespoons brown sugar
1 tsp cinnamon
Poppy seeds or sesame seeds for top
The Starter: (night before baking)
In a small mixing bowl, mix together the starter and water. Then stir in the flour. Measure out 1 cup of the new starter mix and place in an airtight container (discard the extra, or save it for another use). Let ferment/rise overnight 8-12 hours. It should triple in volume overnight.
Final Dough: (day of baking)
In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs, water, salt, oil and honey until well combined. Mix in the bread flour with a wooden spoon until it creates a shaggy ball. Scoop out onto a work surface, add the sourdough starter and knead until it forms a smooth dough (no more than 10 minutes). It will be a fairly firm dough, but if it’s too hard to work with (too dry or wet) add a tablespoon of water or flour to get it to the right consistency.
Transfer the dough to a clean warm greased (olive oil) bowl and let ferment for 2 hours. It probably will not rise at all (that’s normal).
After 2 hours, divide the dough however you’d like. You can do two 1 pound portions for loaves, one 1 1/2 pound loaf and smaller pieces for rolls (which is what I did) or look up different ways to do it. This page is a great resource. Braid or shape them how you prefer, and then transfer to baking sheets lined with parchment paper.
Cover with plastic wrap, and let proof for 5 hours. The recipe I followed said they should triple in size (however, mine did not…and turned out fine. I think it just depends how active your sourdough is).
Half an hour before baking, move your oven racks to the upper and lower third positions, and preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Once the 5 hours are up, whisk together the final egg in a small bowl with a splash of water. Paint the tops of your Challah with the egg wash.
Bake small rolls for 15 to 20 minutes, 1 pound loaves for 25- 35 minutes, or the 1 1/2 pound loaf for 35 to 45 minutes all until they are well browned. Halfway through baking turn your pans around to ensure even browning. You can tent them with foil if they are browning too quickly. Transfer to a cooling rack.
I’m very happy with how it turned out and I want to keep working on the braiding. I absolutely love Challah. It’s always so beautiful and delicious! Can’t wait to experiment more. 😀