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)Β  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. πŸ™‚ This is now one of our top three breads. πŸ™‚

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. πŸ˜€

[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? πŸ™‚ 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 β€” 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… πŸ˜‰

  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 πŸ˜‰
    .-= 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. πŸ˜€

    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. πŸ™‚

    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 β€” 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. πŸ™‚

  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. πŸ™‚ Please let me know how yours turns out. πŸ™‚

    Thanks for the compliments. πŸ™‚

  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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