Sourdough Challah

4 July 2009

wild yeast challah bread, bread baker's apprentice challengeThis is the next bread in line for the Bread Baker’s Apprentice Challenge.

I haven’t had challah before, nor have I ever seen it. I knew that it was a Jewish traditional bread and a favourite of some Jewish friends, and I knew it was usually braided. And that’s the extent of my knowledge about it.

Was I looking forward to making challah? Sure, why not? Life’s an experiment, after all. And it would be an interesting experiment with me braiding bread dough. I suck at braiding my own hair, so how well can a dough braid turn out?

As it turns out, better than I expected.

As usual, I substituted the yeast with my wild yeast starter (sourdough starter that isn’t sour, Houdini by name) and reduced the flour and water amounts appropriately. I also converted the recipe to grams and halved it. Here’s the resulting ingredients list:


  • 80 grams sourdough starter (100% hydration)
  • 60 – 88 grams (3 1/2 – 4 1/2 ounces) water, at room temperature
  • 28 grams (1 tablespoon or 0.5 ounce) vegetable oil
  • 1 large (47 grams or 1.65 ounces) eggs, slightly beaten
  • 1 large (0.625 ounces) egg yolk, slightly beaten
  • 270 grams unbleached bread flour (215 grams (9 ounces)  from the recipe + 55 grams flour added during kneading
  • 14 grams (1 tablespoon or 1/2 ounce) granulated sugar
  • 3.5 grams (1/2 teaspoon or 0.25 ounce) salt
  • 1 egg whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
  • Sesame or poppy seeds for garnish

And then I followed the directions from there. Of course, my wild yeast starter was refreshed before using and was happily active and bubbling.

The end result was a braided bread that looked far better than I had ever expected, given how bad I am at braiding my own hair. The bread itself was soft, only slightly chewy, and had a fantastic texture. Solid enough for sandwich or bun bread, but not at all heavy.

Fahim loved it, too. 🙂 This is now one of our top three breads. 🙂

In fact, this will likely be the bread dough recipe I use to make things like, oh, sub buns, hoagie buns, hamburger buns, and so on. It’s perfect!

I’m also submitting this post to Yeastspotting, a weekly showcase of truly drool-worthy breads. In addition to this being part of Sourdough Saturday here on my blog. 😀

[pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after mixing” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after mixing, side view” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after first rise” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after first rise, side view” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after second rise, side view” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after second rise, top view” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after braiding” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after third rise” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, after applying egg wash and sprinkling sesame seeds on top” alt=””] [pg-image src=”” link=”” caption=”challah bread dough, fresh out of the oven” alt=””]

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16 Responses

  1. #1

    How cool! I’m glad it was a success. Your challah looks beautiful. Perfect braid.

  2. #2

    What’s not to love about this? 🙂 Awesome. Golden and tasty looking.

  3. #3

    Beautiful! Your braiding is perfect. I’m still struggling with the percentages thing, so I’m doubly impressed by the alteration with your wild yeast starter. Well done!
    .-= kelly ´s last blog ..BBA Challenge Week 8 Redux — Sticky Buns =-.

  4. #4

    Did I fail to mention I used to be an accountant? And that for someone who used to be a true math geek, accounting is just the basics and not much of a challenge, mathwise? Did I also fail to mention that, as an accountant, I was, er, am, anal? Yeah… 😉

  5. Looks amazing, and I’m impressed that you actually weighed out the additional flour you added while kneading? I’m always too engrossed in the kneading process to focus on anything else 😉
    .-= Danielle/Bon Vivant´s last blog ..BBA Challenge #3 – Bagels =-.

  6. #6

    And this is where I mention my anal nature that I referenced in my previous comment. 😀

    For me, it’s all about taking sufficient notes so that, next time I make it, there will be less guesswork. If I make the same recipe five times and every time, the flour used sticks in a ten gram range, then I know I’m on the right track. If, however, it has a variance of, oh, 100 or more grams of flour, then there’s still something for me to figure out. 🙂

    Usually, the bit that needs figuring out is that I previously added more flour than was strictly required to get the bread working properly. That’s something I need to work on.

  7. I refuse to believe you cannot braid your hair if your challah comes out looking that good.
    .-= Susan/Wild Yeast´s last blog ..We Have Bread — Sort Of =-.

  8. #8

    Yeah, you’d be surprised how difficult it is for me to braid my own hair. Can’t see what I’m doing, back of my head, arms hurt, no coordination… It ends up being a real mess. :p

    Thanks for the compliment. 🙂

  9. #9

    I have a great SD starter that hasn’t been used in a while nd a copy of after seeing how gorgeous your Challah came out, and never having used a SD starter for Challah, I must try it! Beautiful job, braiding, photos etc!

  10. #10

    I use my sourdough for everything – I never use commercial yeast. Most things turn out, and when they don’t, I suspect *cough* user error.

    Every leavened bread used to be made with sourdough/wild yeast. It can be done. 🙂 Please let me know how yours turns out. 🙂

    Thanks for the compliments. 🙂

  11. Your Challah looks fabulous! You did a beautiful job braiding it. It looks like the addition of the wild yeast starter makes a huge difference. I need to try that.
    .-= Cathy/breadexperience´s last blog ..Bread Bakers Challenge No. 8 – Cinnamon Buns =-.

  12. #12

    Cathy, I think I’m confused. How did your challah turn out differently than mine that you think the wild yeast made a difference?

    Wild yeast usually means slower rise times, but mine is very active, which tropical temps help with, so I tend to get slower than commercial yeast rise times, but not necessarily by much.

  13. #13

    This looks very nice! Check out the half whole wheat challah my sister in law made here. It was so delicious!
    .-= Hillary´s last blog ..Want to Win Free Cooking Tools? =-.

  14. #14

    Another great way to use sourdough. Your challah turned out beautifully!

  15. #15

    Ciao ! My Challah is raising…it’s so hot here I don’t think it will take too long ! I love your braiding !
    .-= natalia´s last blog ..Daring Cook’s Challenge : Rice with mushrooms, cuttlefish and artichokes =-.

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About LMAshton

Howdy and welcome to my site! I'm Laurie and I'll be your, er, hostess today. :)

I'm a Canadian expat currently living in Singapore. I'm married to a Sri Lankan and lived in Sri Lanka for nearly a decade. We also lived in New Zealand for half a year.

I cook Sri Lankan curries, sambols, and mallungs. I bake bread using wild yeast (sourdough that isn't sour). I bake on the stove. I experiment with Indian / Malaysian / Indonesian / Thai / whatever cuisines interest me. And I experiment wildly.

Life is an adventure. Join me! :)

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