Friday, December 4, 2015


Fluffy, light and open interior of Rose Levy Beranbaum's Challah Bread

I’ve never had homemade Challah. I’ve only bought from bakeries, and they’ve always been sweet, and fluffy, but not very chewy. I always considered it a fattening bread due to the amount of sugar and oil necessary to give it its character, and extend its shelf life. And I usually add to those calories by making a Ham and Cheese Strata, so I didn’t really expect much different making my own. I was impatient waiting for it to rest and rise, but I understood. I only hope it understands me too and doesn’t “hang around” my belly (if you know what I mean). I take after my family the way I love bread. Well, much to my surprise, and in spite of the honey, this Challah wasn’t so sweet, and it had a marvellous texture—fluffy yet very chewy. The biga was definitely present. I’m perfectly turned around. 

As you all know, I totally underestimated the amount of time the biga took to “cook.” It’s such a small amount of yeasty dough that transforms into a fermented, sour mass. We haven’t made biga since the pannetone, I think (or maybe one other time). I was curious; what's the difference between biga and dough starter? As it turns out, biga is used when a light open texture is desired (remember the Pannetone?) and it makes the bread less perishable. While it’s usually used in Italian breads, it’s application is perfect here because Challah has a tendency to go stale quickly. Ah! I see said the blind man. 

I chose this recipe for December because we are right on top of Hanukkah, and I was thinking of Mendy. Sorry to see him leave us, but I certainly understand and wish him well. One other note: as per Rose's suggestion, I used the recipe from Rose's blog page, rather than the Bread Bible.

Here’s my experience:


As I mentioned above, biga is certainly well worth the time, as it adds a complexity that rarely exists in store/bakery bought Challah.

Mix the Dough

I like cutting pieces of biga and soaking it in water. Not too difficult. 
Cutting the biga and dropping it into the water.
Biga, water and butter.

The dough mixed up well and was just a little tacky, the way Rose described.
The challah dough freshly mixed and ready for its first rise.

Let the dough rise

My challah dough took two hours to double in size and when I removed it to make the business folds, it was soft and very tender. 

The dough in its container before the first rise

The dough looks open and relaxed after its first rise.
After the first biz fold.

After the second biz fold. Notice how much bigger it is.

Shape the Dough 

Overall, this dough, like all bread doughs, was compliant and cooperative. All I had to do was press it into place—no rolling required. Too easy really.

After its first shaping--just 9 inches

After its second shaping--13 inches

After its last shaping--19 inches

I’ve never done a 4 braided bread before. I didn’t understand what was meant by starting in the middle, as I could barely start at the beginning. 
Half way through braiding

Reaching underneath

Finishing the braid

Giving it some extra love

I think bread dough is beautiful

Glaze the Challah

I used a very diluted egg glaze with poppy seeds.

Just before the Challah went into the oven

Bake the Challah
I know from eating many Challah, that there isn’t much of a crust to speak of. Mine baked in the minimum amount of time and I had no trouble with it over browning. I removed it from the oven when the internal temp reached 203-205 degrees. 
Homemade Challah just out of the oven


  1. Beautiful loaf! This was my first time baking challah too. It made the most amazing french toast.

    1. I made french toast this morning too. It was especially amazing. What a texture this Challah gave. My oh my.

    2. This Challah is my favorite recipe, baked it just before two weeks. Can I join Bread Bible alpha bakers group. I'm a big fan of Rose breads and already lot of time has been baking many kinds of bread from the Rose blog and from the Bread Bible.

    3. Hello Svetlana! My apologies for the delay in responding, but I didn't notice your comment until just now. Of course you can join the Bread Bible Baking group. Please contact me at We will set things up for you. I hope to hear from you very soon. Many thanks, Kim