When I lived in New York, my friends Jackie and Milena hosted a potluck dinner almost every Friday night. It was our time to feast and gossip, and it was my favorite way to start the weekend. Every potluck had a theme (like “breakfast for dinner” or “English tea party”). No matter what the theme though, Jackie’s challah bread was always on the table.
To me, Jackie’s challah is pure comfort. Nothing could melt away the stresses of working and living in New York quite like that bread, and I looked forward to eating it every week. When I moved to Houston, I had to say goodbye to a city that I loved, dear friends, potluck Fridays, and Jackie’s challah.
Luckily, Jackie gave me her recipe. Unfortunately, I have to make it myself now.
I’m convinced that no one can make challah quite like Jackie, but that doesn’t stop me from trying. I adapted her recipe slightly so that I could use instant yeast (versus active dry yeast–although I know she uses fresh yeast sometimes too) and I changed it so that the recipe yields one loaf instead of two.
One thing that sets Jackie’s recipe apart from other challah breads is the amount of sugar in the dough. It’s sweeter than most with a mixture of sugar, brown sugar, and honey.
So far I have only made this challah a handful of times on my own. Each loaf takes me back to those nostalgic Friday nights at Jackie’s place. Each loaf has also taught me that I’m not the best braider (oh well). I must have had beginner’s luck because the first challah I braided has been my prettiest to date. My last few attempts have proved more challenging.
Perfectly braided or not, this is hands down my favorite bread recipe. Thank you Jackie, for all the great memories and for making the best challah on earth!
Jackie’s Challah Bread
Adapted from my good friend Jackie Goodman
I know it is traditional to have two loaves when you make challah and this recipe only yields one. Should you want to make two loaves, try doubling the recipe. I think it should double just fine as it reads closer to Jackie’s original recipe, although I can’t vouch for the same results.
1 cup bread flour
2 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast
1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1 tablespoon honey
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup vegetable or canola oil, plus more for coating
2 large eggs
3 to 4 cups bread flour
1 large egg
Make the sponge: In the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together the flour, yeast, and water and let sit for 10 minutes.
Make the dough: Add the sugar, light brown sugar, honey, salt, and oil to the sponge and mix with the mixer’s paddle attachment until combined. Mix in the eggs and then beat in 1 cup of flour until fully incorporated. Continue to add flour, about 2 to 3 cups, until a very soft dough forms. Then remove the mixer’s paddle attachment and replace it with the dough hook attachment. Knead on low speed for about 10 minutes, adding additional flour or water as needed, until the dough is smooth and springy. Lightly oil a large bowl and place the ball of dough in the bowl, turning it so that it is also coated with oil. Cover with lightly oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 1 to 2 hours, until doubled in size.
On a clean surface, divide the dough into 6 even pieces and roll each piece into a rope, squeezing out any excess air pockets. Squeeze ropes together at the top and begin braiding the challah. Starting with the furthest right rope, weave the rope over 2, under 1, and then over 2 and repeat until the whole loaf is braided (watch this video for a demonstration). Once braided, squeeze the ends together and fold both ends under the loaf. Reshape as necessary and transfer the loaf to a parchment paper lined baking sheet. Cover the loaf with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes to 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the remaining egg and brush the loaf with egg wash with a pastry brush. Bake for about 30 minutes, until the loaf is baked through and golden brown.
Makes 1 loaf.