Za’atar Challah

Challah is a delicious, rich bread traditional in Jewish culture and ritual. For the purpose of this recipe, I’m making mini loaves but this recipe can also be used to make a single, large loaf or two medium sized loaves. Here, I’m creating four mini loaves, slightly larger than challah rolls. But, I’m still going to teach you the six strand braid. I know, what am I thinking doing six strand braids on mini loaves? But to me, it’s worth the little bit of extra effort to divide the dough.

Six strand braiding is far less complicated than it sounds. The key is “over two, under one, over two”. Most of the tutorials I’ve found tell you to pinch together the dough strands at one end but this causes an ugly blob at one end of the bread and can cause it to bake unevenly. The trick is to start your braid near the middle of the strands and then braid back to the other end. Let’s walk through it and the photos will make it easier to follow.

Let’s start with our raised dough

Divide the dough into three equal pieces

Roll each piece into a long rope

Cut the ropes in half and roll them to six equal lengths

Now let’s braid

Start with the rope farthest to the right. Over two, under one, over two. Remember to start near the middle of the ropes.

Now finish the other end

Again, working from the right on the unbraided side, repeat the pattern: over two, under one, over two.

Finally, roll the ends under

Roll the ends under to meet in the center of the loaf, tucking in any loose ends.

Allow to proof a second time, brush with egg wash, sprinkle with za’atar, and bake

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Za’atar Challah

Prep Time 2 hrs 45 mins
Cook Time 35 mins
Total Time 3 hrs 20 mins

Equipment

  • Large mixing bowl
  • Bench scraper
  • Baking sheet
  • Silicone baking mat

Ingredients
  

  • 1 cup Warm Water 110-115 degrees F
  • 2 tsp Active Yeast
  • 4 – 4 1/2 cups All-Purpose Flour
  • 1/4 cups Granulated Sugar
  • 2 tsp Salt
  • 3 Large Eggs
  • 1 Egg Yolk
  • 1/4 cup Avocado Oil
  • 1 tsp Za'atar

Instructions
 

  • To the warm water, in a measuring cup, add the yeast and a big pinch of sugar. Allow the yeast to bloom for five minutes.
  • While the yeast is blooming, in a large mixing bowl, add four cups of the flour, the salt, and remaining sugar. Stir to combine and form a well in the center.
  • Add the bloomed yeast, two of the whole eggs and the egg yolk, and the oil to the well. Gradually add in the flour until a shaggy dough forms.
  • Turn the dough out onto a clean board and knead about ten minutes until a soft, smooth ball forms.
  • Lightly oil a clean bowl. Turn the dough around in the oil to coat. Cover the bowl with a dry towel. Allow the dough to rise in a warm place until doubled in volume. About 90 minutes.
  • Turn the dough out on a clean board. Divide the dough into three equal pieces. Roll each into a rope of equal length. Cut the ropes in half and roll again until each is about an inch in diameter.
  • To braid the challah, lay the six ropes close together. Start braiding near the center, working from right to left, following the pattern of "over two, under one, over two (see the image tutorial above). Then work form the other end, staring from the right with the same pattern to complete the braid. Tuck the ends under, to meet in the center.
  • Set the braided challah on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Allow to proof again about 60 minutes, until puffed.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
  • Beat the remaining whole egg to make an egg wash. Brush the loaf with a thin layer of the egg wash and sprinkle with the za'atar.
  • Bake the challah at 350 degrees about 30 to 35 minutes until the loaf is golden brown and registers 190 degrees in the center.
  • Let the challah cool on a wire rack until just warm. Slice and serve.

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