Butter Challah Loaf
Recipe and photo by Tami Ganeles Weiser
slices (2 loaves total)
Prep Time: 55 minutes Resting and Rising Time: 2 hours 20 minutes Cook Time: 35 minutes
This challah is a rich and luscious dairy-based loaf. Baking it in a regular loaf pan makes it a bit less labor-intensive than the traditional braided challah, but no less delicious. It’s great for everyday sandwiches, toasted, or made into French toast, and if you like, you can braid it into traditional challah for Shabbat. Be sure to allow enough time for resting and rising.
2 packets (½ ounce/14 grams/about 1½ tablespoons) active dry yeast
¼ cup warm water (see Kitchen Tip)
⅓ cup (68 grams) granulated sugar
1 cup ice cold water
3 large egg yolks (see Kitchen Tip)
3 large eggs, divided
¾ stick (⅜ cup/85 grams/3 ounces/6 tablespoons) unsalted European-style butter or cultured butter, melted
4¾ to 5¼ cups (646 grams to 714 grams) bread flour, chilled, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons (8 grams) kosher salt
2 tablespoons water
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine the yeast, warm water, and about 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and mix for 1 or 2 turns (see Kitchen Tip). Let stand for 3 to 5 minutes, until it foams.
- Add the remaining sugar, cold water, egg yolks, and 2 of the eggs and mix to combine. Add the butter and mix again to combine.
- Add 2 cups of the flour and the salt and mix at low speed to combine. Stop the mixer and scrape down the side and bottom of the mixer bowl, add the remaining flour, half a cup at a time, mixing between additions, until incorporated.
- Still at a low speed, knead the dough for 10 to 12 minutes, or until it is smooth and supple (if you are kneading by hand it might take a little longer).
- Place the dough in a bowl and cover with a damp kitchen towel. If you are planning to use it the next day, cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate for up to 12 hours before continuing. If you are going to proceed with the baking, let it rise for 40 to 90 minutes, until doubled in volume.
- Dust a work surface lightly with flour. Turn the dough out and fold it in from the edges to the center. Cut the dough in half, cover again, and let rest for about 10 minutes.
- Spray 2 (9¼-inch) bread pans or Pullman loaf pans with nonstick baking spray or spray with nonstick vegetable oil spray and coat lightly with flour. Roll each dough ball into a tube shape long enough to fit into the pans. Pat to form a smooth surface and make sure the seam at the bottom is sealed well and that the loaf is the same diameter for its entire length (this will ensure that it rises and bakes evenly, without blow-outs). Place the loaves into the pans, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 30 to 40 minutes, or until doubled in volume.
- Make an egg wash by beating the remaining egg with the 2 tablespoons water in a small bowl or cup. With a pastry brush, brush the risen loaves with egg wash.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Place the loaves into the oven, preferably all on the middle rack, and bake for about 35 minutes, until the crust is a warm brown color, and it feels firm when pressed and makes a hollow sound when rapped on the bottom. Yes, take them out of the pans to test them, and while they are out, take their temperature by inserting an instant-read thermometer into the bottoms. They should have an internal temperature of 190° to 195°F. Doing it this way enables you to avoid making holes in your lovely loaves (even though they would be tiny).
- When they are fully baked, gently turn the loaves out of the pans onto a cooling rack and place them on their sides. Let cool for 10 to 20 minutes before cutting.
- The water for your yeast mixture should be between 85°F and 95°F. Yeast is a little living creature, and it needs special handling. You need warm water to activate it and get it started eating and bubbling, but if the water is too warm, you’ll kill it and it simply won’t work at all.
- When separating multiple eggs, crack each one into a small bowl before adding it to the big bowl, that way if the yolk separates and falls into the white, you only ruined one egg, not the entire batch. Also, separating is easier when the eggs are cold, so do this before bringing the eggs up to room temperature.
- This amount of dough requires a 6- or 7-quart mixer, but if yours is smaller, don’t fret; this soft and supple dough can be kneaded by hand.
- These are best the day they are made, but when wrapped in plastic wrap, they are great toasted up to two days later. Some challah baking authorities, for whom I have the greatest respect, suggest that the loaves can be frozen. I have found that it does work—especially for an overnight French toast, for which it soaks and soaks—but honestly, if you are eating it out of hand, I think freezing compromises the texture. That being said, if you choose to freeze it, wrap it well to guard against freezer burn, and use within 1 month.