Honey Challah

Honey Challah photography © ShulieMadnick
I realize that, with some exceptions, I have many challah recipe riffs on this site that are based on my basic honey challah recipe.  I published the original honey challah recipe many years ago, as a guest blogger, on Indonesia Eats. I would like to share a slightly tweaked honey challah recipe here since my recipe testing and writing improved in over a decade, so we have a honey challah baseline on Foodwanderings. You can get creative with the toppings and even fillings. For fillings, first, check out some of my other filled and stuffed challahs for directions. Please find links to my published challahs on this site, the Washington Post, etc., at the end of this post.

Sagie (soft g like in geese/ghee), our son, who is an Environmental Science graduate student in Israel, and cooks my food, just bought yeast for the first time. It motivated me to re-work and re-publish this honey challah post in the hopes that he might make it. We do some "virtual cooking" together. Oh, by virtual cooking, I mean, I mainly post on Instagram stories cooking videos for his sake, and some of his friends who cook my recipes from time to time. Exhibit one are these challah videos from Instagram. It makes me giddy happy that Sagie and his friends cook my recipes.

So for the sake of these young adults, since I assume that the rest of us have mixers: if you don't have a mixer, no worries. You can knead by hand. It takes a tad longer than the 10-12 minutes in the mixer. There's a sense of satisfaction making the challah from scratch without a mixer.  Punching and kneading the dough by hand is therapeutic and satisfying, on any given day, much less during quarantine.

Honey Challah


Note: Sugar amount can be reduced

1 kg (2.2lbs) unbleached all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon salt
1/4 cup sugar in the raw (optional)
25 grams (3 ½ packets) of active dry yeast (each packet is 1/4oz)
½ cup canola oil
¼ cup honey
2 large eggs, whisked
1½-2 cups mineral water
Little canola or vegetable oil for brushing the bowl

Topping Ingredients:

1 large egg, whisked
Sesame seeds

Line 2 cookie trays with parchment paper
After braiding the challahs preheat oven to 350F or 177C


Note: often, I add the dry yeast directly into the flour the method I am using in this recipe. But at times, I bloom/proof/activate the yeast beforehand. Blooming is explained in this video. If you don't have a thermometer, just use lukewarm water. I will wait 10-20 extra minutes for the yeast to fully bloom if it's slow foaming at first.

In a mixer, with a dough hook attachment, add the dry ingredients, flour, dry yeast, salt, and sugar and mix on low. Add the wet ingredients, except the water, one by one, and mix on low. It's easier to measure the oil first add to the mixer, then add into the same measuring cup the honey. The honey will slide out smoother that way. Add the water in small batches and continue mixing at low speed for 10-12 minutes until the dough is soft and smooth. In my challah, 1 1/2 cups water is enough, but flours vary, so you might need up to two cups of water. If your dough becomes too wet, just add an additional 1 tablespoon of flour at the time to achieve a smooth dough.

Take the dough out of the mixer bowl (it will be slightly sticky) and form into a ball. Brush a large glass or ceramic bowl with a thin coat of oil. Place the dough into the oiled bowl and brush the top with a thin film of oil. Cover with a clean kitchen towel or saran wrap and place in a warm spot in the kitchen for an hour or until the dough doubles in size.

Divide the dough into six equal parts, three parts for each challah. I don't flour surface, but if you find it necessary, flour just slightly. You are now working with only three parts. Put the other three parts back into the bowl with some space between them and cover with the kitchen bowl or saran wrap. Punch the air out of each part of the dough and roll out into a 20 inches long ropes.

(Check this post for a 3 strand challah braiding visual.)

Pinch the three dough ropes at one edge/the top side and braid challah braid. Pull the outer right rope over the middle rope then pull the outer left rope over the middle rope (the middle rope in this case used to be right rope initially). Continue braiding right rope over the middle rope and then the left rope over the middle rope, and so forth. Pinch the bottom side of the braided challah, once you are done braiding, and tuck both pinched edged underneath challah, at each end. You can leave the challah braided as is and proceed to proof/rise for the second time for 20 minutes or roll the braided challah gently like a snail into a round challah shape. Tuck the outside edge under the round challah gently.

Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel and let it proof/rise for 30 minutes - 1 hour in a warm place.

Repeat with the remaining dough to braid the second challah.

Preheat an over to 350F/177C. Whisk the third egg. Once 20 minutes passed, brush the challah with the whisked egg, sprinkle with sesame seeds and bake for 35-45 minutes or until deep golden. Ovens vary.

Can freeze once cooled down to room temperature. Cover with foil and place in a Ziploc bag and freeze. 20-30 minutes before serving, take out the challah out of the Ziploc and place the frozen, foil-covered challah directly into a 350F/177C preheated oven and warm-up for 20 minutes.

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