Challah, or in this case Poppy Seed Challah, is a traditional Jewish braided dough. It can be eaten year round but is especially prominent at holidays, except for Passover. The bread can be made plain, or sprinkled with poppy seeds like I did above, or sesame seeds like in the last picture. This is an egg bread so it is extremely silky and rich tasting. Plus, if you have leftovers it makes a fantastic Challah French Toast.
This bread is actually extremely simple to make, so if you are bad at baking bread you’ll still be able to do this one. This goes along with another of the more popular recipes on this site: Old Fashioned Peanut Butter Bread. I guess I tend to make simple, easy to succeed breads since I’m not the best baker. The most eye catching part of this bread of course is the braid. I did a simple 3 piece braid, but you can check YouTube for videos of people doing 6 or 12 piece braids.
265 ml Water. Room Temperature
1 Tbsp Dry Yeast
1 tsp Sugar
575 grams Flour. All Purpose
3 Eggs. Large
1/2 Tbsp Salt
50 grams Sugar
60 ml Olive Oil
1 tbsp Poppy Seeds. Because it can’t be poppy seed challah without poppy seeds. Or sesame seeds if you prefer, I’m sure you could guess what that version would be called.
Poppy Seed Challah Instructions
Making Challah bread starts with activating the yeast. In a bowl add the water and the yeast and the tsp of sugar and whisk it up until slightly foamy. Set aside for 10 minutes. In another large bowl beat two of the eggs and add in the salt, sugar, and olive oil. Whisk everything well until combined, then add the yeast mixture and continue mixing. Slowly add in the flour mixture, switching to a wooden spoon when the whisk is too difficult.
Knead the dough on a floured tabletop until it is quite elastic. If it is too sticky then add a bit more flour. Roll into a ball and place in a bowl with some more olive oil. Rub the oil all over the dough ball and then cover with a kitchen towel.
Place the towel covered bowl in a warm place (I put it into my oven just with the light on) for two hours. Then punch down the dough and knead again for 10 minutes. Divide the dough ball into two pieces (because this recipe makes two loafs you could do a poppy seed challah and a sesame seed challah).
I use a knife to cut three strips of dough as seen in the picture above. Some people recommend fully separating the dough, but I was always taught to leave it together at the top, I think it is down to personal preference or how your babushka taught you.
Braid the dough. Here you will let the dough sit out on the counter top for another hour to rise a bit more. Then move to a parchment lined baking tray (or a silicone mat like I used). Beat the other egg and brush the egg all over the top of the challah dough. Sprinkle poppy seeds very generously all over the dough.
Place the tray into the oven preheated to 180 Celsius. The bread takes 25 minutes to cook and the tradition to see if it is done is to knock on the finished challah. If it sounds hollow or empty, you’ve done a good job.
Poppy Seed Challah
- 265 ml Water Room Temperature
- 1 Tbsp Dry Yeast
- 1 tsp Sugar
- 575 grams Flour All Purpose
- 3 Eggs Large
- 1/2 Tbsp Salt
- 50 grams Sugar
- 60 ml Olive Oil
- 1 tbsp Poppy Seeds. Because it can't be poppy seed challah without poppy seeds. Or sesame seeds if you prefer, I'm sure you could guess what that version would be called.
- In a small bowl mix together the water with the dry yeast and tsp of sugar. Whisk it up until lightly foamy and then set aside for 10 minutes.
- In a large bowl beat two eggs with the sugar, salt, and olive oil. When homogenized add in the frothy yeast mixture.
- Slowly add the flour, and when it becomes too difficult to whisk (after about halfway) move to a wooden spoon to help mix. Pour out onto a floured table top and knead for 10 minutes or until the dough is quite elastic. If it is too sticky add a bit more flour.
- Make into a ball, rub with some olive oil, and place in a bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and place in a warm place for 2 hours. (I recommend using your oven with just the light on).
- Take out the dough and punch down the middle. Knead the dough again and then divide into two parts. Cut the parts into three strips each (or more if you want to do a more complex braid) and braid the dough.
- Place the dough on a parchment or silicone lined baking tray and let rise for one more hour.
- Beat the last egg and brush it over all of the dough. Sprinkle generously with poppy seeds.
- Place into an oven preheated to 180 Celsius for 25 minutes. Give the bread a knock when time is up and if it sounds hollow you did a good job.