Challah for Mellow Bakers

Journeying through the wonderful collections of breads in Bread by Jeffrey Hamelman, from time to time I come across a bread that simply doesn’t resemble the bread I associate the name with. This challah is a prime example of this. Challah in my childhood was a soft, dense white bread, plaited tightly and tasting of poppy seeds. Whether England was still in the post-war egg rationed mode in the early 1960s, I don’t know. Today’s American challah bread I can only describe as a butterless brioche, light as an angel’s feathers and almost ethereal. I doubt my grandparents would recognise it.

I have put off making this bread. Everytime I looked at the recipe, I thought, hmm, I don’t have enough eggs, or I’m going to have to think very hard about braiding and so it has gone on till this morning, when there were indeed enough eggs and I had thought long enough about braiding.  It’s a bit like when you are learning to drive and it just seems impossible that anyone will ever give you a licence. You just have to look around you and say, “Hey, all those people can do it, it might be difficult, but it can’t be impossible.”

Celia has created a beautiful tutorial showing how to braid a Winston Knot. How could I fail with that guide?   I printed it off and kept it close by while I made the first braid. I almost panicked when at the bottom of page 1, I could only find page 3 –  I squawked and then found page 2 which had got stuck to the back of page 1. Disaster averted but it was close.

So here are the pictures of my challah adventures for Mellow Bakers this morning, not quite as hard as it looks but still required some serious concentration.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.


I mixed the dough in a Kenwood mixer. I put the eggs, water and oil in first, added the salt and sugar to that. I added the yeast to the two flours separately and then added the dry to the wet, that’s the way the Kenwood likes it.  I also hand kneaded the dough for about 3 minutes once the Kenwood started rocking about. The dough was left in the fridge for a couple of hours, but there is so much yeast in it that it still had to be knocked down every 40 minutes or so. I am sure one could make this with less yeast!

I made the braids for the Knot 150 grams each and rolled them out to 60 cms long having been forewarned.  This left me with 800 grams of dough for the 6 strand plait so they were smaller at  133 grams each.  Even so both loaves were huge by the time they had proved and baked. I showed them off to my neighbour and then gave her the Winston Knot to take home. Too much bread for us and no room in the freezer for such a monster.

The other bread which was a 6 braided loaf was easy by comparison.

So don’t be afraid, well don’t be too afraid, if a braid-phobic like me can do this, you can too !  This was one of the October breads for Mellow Bakers. Thank you to all those of you who have already baked this, by watching and learning from you all I have gained so much.

25 thoughts on “Challah for Mellow Bakers

  1. heidiannie

    You made beautiful challah- and the knot- perfection!
    Enjoy eating it now!
    Tomorrow I’m making little whole wheat bread bears and dressing them up for Halloween with masks and orange bows at their necks. I have an order from The Bake Shop in Ghent- Ghent, Ohio- that is!

  2. lisamichele

    Joanna, thanks so much for stopping by my blog because now I have the pleasure of reading and viewing yours :) Wow, is all I can say about your challahs. I am completely in love with that Winston knot, and had it not been for you, I probably never would have known! I cannot wait to try it, and I can’t wait to see what kind of yummy fiillings you come up with for your ‘filled’ challahs. I’ll be back :)

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      Hi Lisamichelle, nice to meet you :) Thanks for visiting me too! I hope you visit Celia at Figjamandlimecordial and read her Knot tutorial. It’s based on the drawings in Jeffrey Hamelman’s book Bread but her photos are really easy to follow. I am going to try your all yolk recipe next time I do these, as I would like a less airy challah. Having said that it was delicious toasted for breakfast with some greengage plum jam :) I had a quick look at the Maggie Gleezer video you linked to. She makes the long rolls in a completely different way doesn’t she? I need to have a good look when I have a bit more time. I might be back to see you too ;)

      I’m going to put a link to your fabulous challah post here as I’m sure more people would like to read it !

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      The slideshow is an option in the 2010 theme, I don’t know if you can use it in the other themes.
      Here is a link to the support page.
      It is a bit limited in how you use it, the best thing is just to have a go and see if it is any use for your needs :) You can set the order by if the photos aren’t that brilliant but tell a story then it works quite well.

      This bit is quite important “A slideshow will display a set of images attached to a particular post or page. If you upload images using the Add an Image button while editing/creating the post or page, they will be attached automatically. If you upload images directly to the media library from Media -> Add New, you will need to attach them to a post or page before they will appear in a slideshow.’

  3. Robin

    Just to concur with the previous comments – those braids look fantastic. I will definitely have a go at challah!

      1. Robin

        I love freshly made brioche but you need a kitchen full of curious bakers to eat it… It’s so rich and there are only two of us. The challah might be a the right balance – rich and slightly sweet but more flexible day to day.

  4. azélias kitchen

    Challah has a soft spot for me, well I’m partial to a sweet dough and this one I can eat it guilt free as it’s dairy-free, where I buy them. I’m so impressed with the skill of the platting of the round loaf even seeing the photos of un-proven and then proven looks so good, looks absolutely gorgeous, really does, could quite easily slice two pieces right now…

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      That WInston Knot looks so fancy doesn’t it? It doesn’t take very long once you have rolled out the strands which do take a while and can be very naughty and keep shortening. Best thing to do then is to just walk away and let the dough relax again… I bet you could do it! It really is a case of if I can, anyone can….

  5. Di

    Wow, both of your loaves are gorgeous! I don’t know when I’ll have time for this bread, but I’m definitely going to check out the tutorial when I do. And I love the slideshow.

    1. Joanna @ Zeb Bakes Post author

      HI Di, You’ll be surprised how easy it is when you do find the time… I must admit I put it off till I had a clear morning to stand and roll, roll and roll again :) Though having just been over to your blog and seen all those fine pie crusts and that birthday cake with homemade marshmallows on the top…. well, I’m speechless with admiration for all you achieve :)

Comments are closed.