There are many variations of challah, but for our Just Bee honey challah we've chosen to make a braided loaf sprinkled with poppy seeds. Typically this type of challah is made for Jewish New Year and religious ceremonies, but it can of course be enjoyed by the non-religious at any time. This recipe will make two loaves, so it's perfect for sharing with friends, neighbours or family and makes a wonderful gift. My neighbour was surprised and happy when I handed them a fresh warm honey challah over the garden fence!
To make honey challah you will need:
- 8 tbsp of Just Bee Original Honey
- 1 kg of plain flour
- 14g of dried 'easy bake' yeast (2x sachets)
- 1 tbsp of salt
- 500ml of warm water
- 4 tbsp of vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 2 tsp of poppy seeds
- 1 egg
- A large mixing bowl
- 2 Baking Trays
- Greaseproof baking paper
- Clean tea towels
How to make the dough
- Add the warm water, honey and yeast to the mixing bowl. Mix together with a fork and leave for a few minutes for the yeast to activate. It should start to look a little frothy quite quickly.
- Add the vegetable oil, 2 eggs and salt, then stir together with a fork.
- Add the flour a little at a time folding it in with a spatula or wooden spoon as you go.
- Dust your hands lightly in flour and knead the dough until it pulls away from the sides of the bowl and forms a nice smooth and springy bread dough, you can add a little flour or water depending if it's too sticky or too dry. If you don't feel you have room to knead the dough properly in your bowl take it out and knead it for around 10 minutes on a lightly floured surface.
- Once you've finished kneading, cover the dough in the bowl with a damp tea towel and leave for around 1 hour. Ideally we want the dough to double in size but we'll be giving it some more time to rise later, so don't worry too much if it's not quite there.
How to braid the Challah
- After the hour has passed, remove the dough from the bowl and place on a lightly floured work surface. Start by dividing the dough into two equal pieces to make our two loaves. Put one aside for now.
- To braid your challah, divide the dough into three even pieces, then roll out each piece of dough into strands that are even in length and width, slightly tapering the ends.
- Crisscross two of the strands, creating an X. Lay the third strand right down the middle on top of the other two strands. All three strands should meet in the middle.
- Start by taking the strand on the right in your hand, lifting it, and passing it over the centre strand. Now take the strand that is all the way on the left and pass it over what is now the centre strand. The method to remember is to always place the underneath strand over its pair.
- Repeat until half the loaf is braided.
- Rotate the loaf. Take the strand on the right and loop it under the centre strand. Take the strand all the way on the left and loop that under the centre strand.
- Repeat until the second half of the loaf is braided.
- Pinch the ends.
- Place the loaf on a lined baking tray and repeat the process for the other piece of dough we put aside earlier. Then cover both loaves with damp tea towels and leave to prove for another 30 minutes.
Baking the honey Challah
- Finally it's time to get the oven on. Preheat your oven to Gas mark 4 or 180c.
- Crack the remaining egg into a cup and give it a quick beat with a fork. Then brush the top of each loaf with the beaten egg, you can be quite liberal with it and if you have some left we can add it later. Then sprinkle each loaf with a teaspoon of poppy seeds (alternatively you can use sesame seeds or leave the seeds off altogether if you prefer.)
- Bake in the centre of the oven for around 50 minutes or until your honey challah is a beautiful golden brown. Unless you have a large oven you will probably have to bake each loaf separately, which can be useful if you find you need to adjust the baking time for your oven.
After 30 minutes of baking you can turn the tray around if needed and brush the challah with any remaining egg if you have some left over, then return to the oven for a further 20 minutes.