How many people do you know became bread baking fanatical during the shutdown of our country?? So many people baking and cooking like crazy. Of course, I jumped on the same cooking train. Before the pandemic, I would always buy my challah bread; never would I have thought I would be making my own. For sure, never making a sourdough? Wow-what an education making sourdough is.

If you google sourdough or challah bread recipes, there are so many options; it is hard to pick one. I look for recipes that are simple and easy, and of course, delicious

The challah recipe that I found is from the website Afterschoolbakery.com by blogger Jeremy Scheck. The recipe is called Grandma Karens Challah bread.

The Sourdough recipe I use is from Alexandracooks.com called “How to make Simple Sourdough Bread.” Make sure you get you to make or get your own starter.

CHALLAH BREAD


Ingredients for the dough:

  • 1–1/4 cups (288ml) water
  • 1 tbsp sugar
  • 3–1/4 tsp dry yeast
  • 1/3 cup (65g) canola oil or olive oil
  • 1/3 cup (100g) honey
  • 3 large or XL eggs
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 5–6 cups (650–780g) King Arthur Bread Flour

Ingredients for the final prep:

  • 1 egg beaten well with 2 teaspoons of cold water
  • Poppy or sesame seeds or Maldon salt (optional for sprinkling)

Making the dough:

  1. In a large (4 cup) pyrex measuring cup or microwave safe bowl, heat the water in the microwave on high heat for 50 seconds.* Of the hot water, mix about 1/4 cup with the sugar and yeast in a small bowl. Set the yeast mixture aside.
  2. In the large measuring cup with the rest of the warm water, whisk the canola oil and honey and with the water.** Add the eggs and beat well.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (or a large mixing bowl to make by hand), add 5 cups of the bread flour and the salt. Let mix on low briefly to distribute the salt evenly. Add the water/egg/honey/oil mixture on low, then the now foamy yeast mixture. Let knead on medium low speed (#2) for about 10 minutes, adding about 1/2 cup more flour as necessary if the mixture looks really wet (or knead manually for 10 minutes). Once the dough mostly releases from the sides of the bowl, forming one mass, turn off the mixer. It should be a little tacky and very elastic. Err on the side of adding less flour; after the first rising, the stickiness will subside.

First rising:

  1. Take the dough out, place on a lightly floured surface. Clean the mixer bowl, then coat with a little oil. Return the dough to the bowl, and cover with greased aluminum foil. At this point, you can place the bowl in the fridge to use the next day or let rise for 1-2 hours in a warm place.***

Shaping:

  • Shape the challah with a large 3 strand braid on the bottom, and a smaller 3 strand braid stacked on top. Weave the two ends together. This shape gives more height to the loaf and definition to the plaits. You can just do a three stranded braid but it will be more flat.

Second rising, final preparation, and baking

  1. Place both braided loaves on separate baking sheets lined with Silpat or parchment.
  2. Preheat the oven to 400° F.
  3. Let the loaves rise on the countertop, uncovered, for between 1–3 hours.****
  4. Brush the egg wash (from the final prep ingredients) onto one loaf. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds to taste.
  5. Put the first loaf in the oven, and change the setting to 375° F Convection. Bake for 25 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the loaf, exceeds 185° F.
  6. Repeat with the second loaf.
  7. Cool on a wire rack before cutting into.

Sourdough Bread

INGREDIENTS

  • 1⁄4 – 1/2 cup bubbly, active starter
  • 1 1/2 cups plus 1 tbsp warm water
  •  4 cups plus 2 tbsp bread flour
  • 1.5 – 2 teaspoons fine sea salt, see notes above

Instructions

Make the dough: Whisk the starter and water together in a large bowl with a fork or spatula. Add the flour and salt. Mix to combine, finishing by hand if necessary to form a rough dough. Cover with a damp towel and let rest for 30 minutes.

Stretch and fold: After 30 minutes, grab a corner of the dough and pull it up and into the center. Repeat until you’ve performed this series of folds 4 to 5 times with the dough. Let dough rest for another 30 minutes and repeat the stretching and folding action. If you have the time: do this twice more for a total of 4 times in 2 hours. Note: Even if you can only perform one series of stretches and folds, your dough will benefit. So don’t worry if you have to run off shortly after you mix the dough.

Bulk Fermentation (first rise): Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise at room temperature, about 8 to 10 hours at 70°F (21°C) or even less if you live in a warm environment. The dough is ready when it has increased by 50% in volume, has a few bubbles on the surface, and jiggles when you move the bowl from side to side. 

Shape: Coax the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Gently shape it into a round: fold the top down to the center, turn the dough, fold the top down to the center, turn the dough; repeat until you’ve come full circle. If you have a bench scraper, use it to push and pull the dough to create tension:

Rest: Let the dough rest seam side up rest for 30 minutes. Meanwhile, line an 8-inch (20-cm) bowl or proofing basket with a towel (flour sack towels are ideal) and dust with flour (preferably rice flour, which doesn’t burn the way all-purpose flour does). Using a bench scraper or your hands, shape it again, as described in step 4. Place the round into your lined bowl, seam side up.

Proof (second rise): Cover the dough and refrigerate for 1 hour or for as long as 48 hours. (Note: I prefer to let this dough proof for at least 24 hours prior to baking. See video for the difference in the crumb of a loaf that has proofed for 6 hours vs. one that has proof for 24 hours. The original recipe calls for a 1-hour rise, and if you have had success doing that, by all means, keep doing it.)

  • Place a Dutch oven in your oven, and preheat your oven to 550°F (290°C). Cut a piece of parchment to fit the size of your baking pot.

Score: Place the parchment over the dough and invert the bowl to release. Using the tip of a small knife or a razor blade, score the dough however you wish — a simple “X” is nice. Use the parchment to carefully transfer the dough into the preheated baking pot.

Bake: Lower the oven to temperature to 450ºF (230ºC). Carefully cover the pot. Bake the dough for 30 minutes, covered. Remove the lid, lower the temperature to 400ºF (200ºC) and continue to bake for 10 – 15 minutes more. If necessary, lift the loaf out of the pot, and bake directly on the oven rack for the last 5 to 10 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for 1 hour before slicing.

  • This loaf will stay fresh up to 3 days stored at room temperature in an airtight plastic bag or container. It freezes beautifully, too.