This has become one of my favorite sourdough recipes. I love the texture and flavor of the challah and it’s also just SO pretty.
The enriched doughs tend to be much softer than a sourdough that only has water, flour and salt. Enriched can mean all kinds of things: egg, butter, milk, sugar, honey, oil, etc. In this case the dough has oil, egg and honey which creates a very soft, slightly sweet bread, that’s super fun to work with.
The recipe also uses a levain to start. A levain is basically an offshoot of your starter, with some of the ripe starter, and fresh flour and water. A levain is used entirely in one recipe. It provides the leavening factor and also much of the flavor due to the fermentation.
For the Levain:
- 35 grams active sourdough starter
- 35 grams room temp water
- 35 grams all-purpose white flour (or bread flour)
- 185 grams room temp water
- 100 grams levain
- 100 grams eggs (approx. 2 medium eggs)
- 40 grams honey
- 500 grams all-purpose or bread flour
- 40 grams oil (I used light olive oil)
- 10 grams salt
- More honey for brushing
- Poppy seeds (you can also use sesame or seed mix, but I prefer the poppy seeds)
Start your levain. Add the starter, water and flour to a bowl and mix to combine. The cover and let rest in warm spot for four hours or until doubled in size.
When the levain is ready, combine the water, honey, eggs and levain in the bowl of your stand mixer. Then add the flour. Mix using the dough hook for about 2 minutes until the dough comes together. Then cover the bowl and rest (autolyse) for 30 minutes.
Turn on the mixer and add the salt. Then add about 1/4 of the oil. Knead for two minutes until the oil is mixed in, then add another 1/4 of the oil and continue mixing until fully incorporated. Repeat until all the oil has been added. Be patient here and just add a little at a time until it’s all mixed in.
Once all the oil is added, continue to knead on low-medium speed for 5 – 10 more minutes until the dough passes the window-pane test. (This means that when you stretch a portion of the dough gently it should stretch thin, but not tear.)
Once the dough reaches this stage, lightly oil a large bowl, transfer the dough into the bowl and turn to coat with oil. Cover the bowl and let rise for five hours.
At this point you will transfer the bowl to the refrigerator to cold-proof for 10 – 15 hours or overnight.
The next day you will shape the strands to form the challah loaf.
Take the dough from the fridge and dump it onto your work surface. Cut the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each one into a seamless ball. Cover and let rest for 10 minutes.
Using your rolling pin, roll each round out into a rectangle about 8 inches long. Then roll into a log from the long ends. Repeat on all 6 rounds. Then using your hands to roll and extend the logs until they are about 16 – 18 inches long. If at any point the dough resists and is springing back, let that strand rest, work with another one and move on through all the 6 strands like that. Once all are rolled out long, lightly flour your surface and the strands (if they are a bit sticky) and then arrange them side by side. Group them together at the top and pinch together/tuck under slightly to fasten.
Now for the braiding. Braid them a bit loose so the challah will have room to rise.
- Move the outside right strand over two strands
- Move the second strand from the left all the way right
- Move the outside left strand over two strands
- Move the second strand from the right all the way left
- Start over with the outside right strand
- Continue all the way down your strands
Tuck the pinch the ends to close up your loaf of challah.
Now transfer the loaf to a lined baking sheet (parchment paper or silicone mat).
Cover and let rise for 4 – 6 hours or until puffed up and jiggly when you shake the tray.
Preheat your oven to 350 degrees.
Gently brush the top of the challah with honey and sprinkle with the poppy seeds.
Bake for 25 – 35 minutes, until golden brown and an internal temp of about 95 degrees. Cover with foil if it is browning too quickly. Cool on a wire rack before slicing.
The challah is delicious on its own, toasted with cream cheese or butter, made into french toast, or along side a savory stew. Enjoy!
“There will be days when we feel fully risen and expansive and up to facing life’s most difficult challenges, and we will gaze at our lovely fat challahs with pride. There will also be days when we may feel deeply deflated and incapable, and the slightly lop-sided challahs cooling on the counter may be more reflective of that state of mind. Through all the risings and the fallings, through the knowledge that we are good enough to nurture, exactly as we are, will help us appreciate the yield of our efforts and recognize the loveliness in all its imperfection.”
― Rochie Pinson, Rising: The Book of Challah