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Easy Sourdough Challah Recipe (with Braiding Tutorial)

Sourdough challah is perfectly soft and fluffy with a beautifully shiny egg-washed top. The super-soft bread texture combined with the stunningly beautiful look of traditional braided challah makes this bread an absolute culinary masterpiece! If you want to bake up something unique and beautiful, give this traditional Jewish bread a try!

sourdough challah

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sourdough challah

Sourdough challah brings together the tangy flavor of sourdough with the soft, fluffy texture of challah. Whether you’re celebrating Jewish holidays like Rosh Hashanah or simply craving a slice of golden brown goodness, this sourdough challah recipe will impress! In this post, I’ll walk you through each step, from preparing the sourdough starter to achieving that perfect, braided loaf.

Don’t forget to watch the video for extra help braiding this loaf!

The Best Sourdough Challah Bread

sourdough challah dough

This sourdough version of traditional challah has taken me SO many attempts to get perfect, but I am blown away by how perfectly soft and fluffy this bread ended up!

When I tested other sourdough challah recipes, I kept getting a super sticky dough that was impossible to work with. Even though many recipes promised the dough would eventually come together, I was on around minute 20 of kneading with dough sticking to every crevice of my kitchen… And still, no shiny elastic dough to speak of.

This is an enriched dough which means it has less structure than traditional sourdough bread, but it shouldn’t require that much augmentation to get to a place where you can easily knead it without having to scrape it off your counter with a spatula (seriously that’s what happened to me…).

Thankfully, I finally landed on the perfect ratio of flour and starter and achieved a dough that is still high hydration but workable… And delicious!

How To Braid Challah: 6 Strand And 4 Strand

Challah is unique and beautiful because of its braided style. It can also sound a bit intimidating to learn how to braid dough… The good news is, it’s actually quite easy once you get the hang of it!

I recommend a 6 strand braid over a 4 strand. I noticed that the 4 strand braid tends to end up looking like rolls that were baked close to each other and not a stunning rope-like braid.

How to Braid a 6-strand Challah Loaf:

How to Braid a 4- Strand Challah Loaf

Why You’ll Love This Sourdough Challah Recipe:

sourdough challah
  • Soft + fluffy: I can’t over-hype how fluffy this bread is! It’s like biting into a delicious, flavorful pillow!
  • Perfect presentation: This bread is so beautiful, it could be the centerpiece of your table.
  • Benefit of fermented grains: Traditional challah is baked with yeast, while this recipe utilized sourdough to pre-ferment the grains and make it easier to digest!
  • Versatile: If you can’t eat up this recipe in time, chop it up in cubes and save in the freezer for bread pudding! You can also freeze in slices for French toast… YUM.

Tips and Tricks:

– This is a stickier, wetter dough. It is a little hard to knead at first. I recommend flouring your countertop well but try to avoid actually kneading a ton of extra flour into the dough because it can ruin the texture.
– I recommend kneading the dough in your kitchen aid or Bosch mixer until it forms a loose ball and is not clinging to the sides or bottom anymore. Then transfer to a well-floured counter for kneading.
– The 6 strand braid looks complicated but it’s truly SO easy. In my opinion, it looks a lot fancier than the 4 strand.
– Don’t braid this loaf too tightly, as you want it to have room to expand while rising and baking.
– If your dough seems too sticky during kneading or braiding, lightly dust your hands with flour, take a deep breath and keep going.

sourdough challah

Supplies:

  • Large bowl
  • Medium bowl
  • Plastic wrap
  • Stand mixer with the dough hook and paddle attachments
  • Wooden spoon
  • Parchment paper
  • Pastry brush
  • Bench scraper

Ingredients:

challah ingredients
  • Active starter: Feed your sourdough starter 4-8 hours before you want to make this recipe. You want a very strong and robust starter with bubbles. Check out this post for how I feed my starter. 
  • Warm water: Helps to dissolve the starter slightly and everything mix well.
  • Sugar: You could sub with honey but if you want this to be a little indulgent for a holiday, I think the sugar tastes better.
  • Oil: Coconut, vegetable or olive oil are all good options. I used vegetable oil for this recipe but I rarely use vegetable oil. In the future, I’ll probably opt for olive.
  • 4 eggs: Eggs give this bread a nice yellow color and depth of flavor! Yum.
  • Salt:
  • Bread flour: If you don’t have bread flour you can use All-purpose flour, but no promises on the texture.

Let’s make Sourdough Challah:

Before diving into the sourdough challah recipe, ensure you have an active sourdough starter. If you don’t have one already, you can create your own. 

Make Dough

Step 1: Combine 200 grams of active sourdough starter with 275 grams of water water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use a fork to lightly mix together and let the sourdough starter dissolve for about 30 seconds or so.

sourdough challah

Step 2: Next, add 100 grams of white sugar, 4 eggs, 80 grams of oil and 12 grams of salt to the bowl. Mix using the paddle attachment until everything is well combined- about 1 minute.

Step 3: Change the stand mixer attachment to the dough hook. Turn the mixer on to 1 or 2 and Gradually add in the bread flour, mixing on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. Start with 950 grams of bread flour and allow the dough to knead in the mixer for 5-10 minutes. If the dough is still sticking to the bottom and sides and not forming around the dough hook, add a little additional flour one tablespoon at a time, until you achieve the desired consistency.

You don’t want a dry thick dough, it should be a bit on the stickier side.

sourdough challah

Step 4: Turn the dough out onto a well-floured countertop and begin kneading with your palms. The dough may be sticky at first but as you continue kneading it should begin to smooth out. Knead for about 5-10 minutes. Avoid adding extra flour to the countertop unless the dough is impossible to knead/sticking to the counters and not smoothing out. The dough should look smooth and elastic and pass the windowpane test.

Bulk + Cold Proof:

Step 5: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 4-6 hours, or until almost doubled in size. This slow fermentation process allows the flavors to develop and results in a beautifully fluffy texture. Because this is an enriched bread, it can take a bit longer to rise so if you want to speed up fermentation, you can place it in a proofer at about 85 degrees.

Step 6: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours or overnight.

Step 7: After the cold-proof, remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured work surface. The dough should be cold and easy to handle at this point without much flour. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, separate the dough into 6 equal sections. I like us use a digital scale to ensure each section of dough is equal. Roll each section into a ball and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

sourdough challah

Step 8: Roll each ball into a rectangle about 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. You may need a small amount of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Roll each rectangle up very tightly into a roulade shape. (Similar to rolling up cinnamon rolls.) Roll tightly to avoid air bubbles and pinch to seal. Let each roll rest for a few minutes.

Next, using the counter top or between your palms, roll each roulade until it is abut 20″ long. You want the segments of dough to be smooth and even all the way down.

Step 9: It’s time to braid your challah. I recommend watching the video for this part because writing instructions is a bit difficult for the process.

Braiding Challah:

  1. Start by gently pinching all the strands together at the top.
how to braid challah bread

2. Next take the far left strand and cross it all the way over.

how to braid challah bread

3. Take the far right strand and cross it over the opposite way.

4. Now, you should have 2 strands crisscrossed at the top and then 4 strands below. I like to separate the strands into 2 groups. We’ll call them the left side group and the right side group. Slightly separate each group so you have a space in the middle.

5. Take the far left strand and bring it down to the open space in the middle and slightly to the right.

6. Now you’ll notice, the left side only has 2 strands while the right side now has 4.

7. Take the second from the furthest right side strand and bring it all the way across to the left side.

how to braid challah bread

8. You should be back where you started: criss-cross at the top, and 2 groups with a space in the middle.

9. Next, bring the outermost right strand down to the middle. This process continues until the whole loaf is braided.

how to braid challah bread

10. Finally when you have reached the end, gently tuck the ends of the dough under and pinch so the dough forms a nice smooth end. Do the same on the top part of the loaf.

Bake Your Loaf:

Step 10: Transfer your bread to a parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let the bread rise for about 4 hours at room temp or until it is puffy and jiggly.

how to braid challah bread

Step 11: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix one egg yolk with 1 TBS of water. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush egg wash all over the loaf. This is what gives the bread that nice shiny, brown finish. Sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top for added flavor and texture if desired. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

NOTE: If the top is browning faster than you’d prefer, lightly cover with foil for the last 10-15 minutes of the bake. Mine came out perfectly without being covered but every oven is different.

Step 12: Remove the bread to a cooling rack and let it completely cool before digging in. Enjoy this bread with butter, jam, and honey, or use it to make world’s best French toast!

how to braid challah bread

Enjoy Sourdough Challah!

Whether you enjoy it fresh out of the oven, toasted for French toast, or as the centerpiece of your holiday table, this sourdough challah recipe is sure to impress. With its perfect balance of tangy sourdough flavor and fluffy texture, it’s bound to become one of your favorite loaves of bread.

I really hope you love this sourdough challah recipe! Can I be needy for a second and ask for you to leave a review?! This is the best way for The Sourdough Artisan to keep creating awesome recipes!

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Easy Sourdough Challah Recipe (with braiding tutorial)


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  • Author: Cassia Egerdahl
  • Total Time: 0 hours

Description

A soft and fluffy sourdough version of a classic traditional Jewish bread, this sourdough challah is insanely delicious and beautiful. Easily repurposed into french toast or bread pudding if you can’t finish it all!


Ingredients

Scale

200 g active sourdough starter

100 grams white sugar

80 grams oil (vegetable, coconut, olive)

4 eggs

12 grams salt

950975 grams bread flour

275 grams warm water


Instructions

Step 1: Combine 200 grams of active sourdough starter with 275 grams of warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer. Use a fork to lightly mix and let the sourdough starter start to dissolve. 

Step 2: Next, add 100 grams of white sugar, 4 eggs, 80 grams of oil and 12 grams of salt to the bowl. Mix using the paddle attachment until everything is well combined- about 1 minute.

Step 3: Change stand mixer attachment to the dough hook. Turn the mixer on to 1 or 2 and gradually add in the bread flour, mixing on low speed until a shaggy dough forms. Start with 950 grams of flour and allow the dough to knead in the mixer for 5-10 minutes. If the dough is still sticking to the bottom and sides and not forming around the dough hook, add a little extra flour one tablespoon at a time. The dough should be slightly sticky but workable.

Step 4: Turn the dough out onto a well floured countertop and begin kneading with your palms. The dough may be sticky at first but as you continue kneading it should begin to smooth out. Knead for about 5-10 minutes. Avoid adding extra flour to the countertop unless the dough is impossible to knead/sticking to the counters and not smoothing out. The dough should look smooth and elastic and pass the windowpane test.

Step 5: Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature for 4-6 hours, or until almost doubled in size. 

Step 6: Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator for 8-10 hours or overnight.

Step 7: After the cold-proof, remove the dough from the refrigerator and place on a lightly floured surface. The dough should be cold and easy to handle at this point without much flour. Using a sharp knife or bench scraper, separate the dough into 6 equal sections. I like to use a digital scale to ensure each section of dough is equal. Roll each section into a ball and cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let the dough rest for about 10 minutes.

Step 8: Roll each ball into a rectangle about 8 inches long and 4 inches wide. You may need a small amount of flour to keep the dough from sticking. Roll each rectangle up very tightly into a roulade shape. (Similar to rolling up cinnamon rolls.) Roll tightly to avoid air bubbles and pinch to seal. Let each roll rest for a few minutes.

Next, between your palms or using the countertop, roll each section of dough into a long cylindrical strip, about 20″ long. Make sure the dough is smooth and even all the way down.

Step 9: I’ve included video directions for both a 4 strand and a 6 strands challah. I recommend watching the video for this part because writing instructions is a bit difficult for the process. I’ve attempted to break down the 6 strand process below:

    • Start by gently pinching all the strands together at the top.

    • Next take the far left strand and cross it all the way over.

    • Take the far right strand and cross it over the opposite way.

    • Now, you should have 2 strands criss-crossed at the top and then 4 strands below. I like to separate the strands into 2 groups. We’ll call them the left side group and the right side group. Slightly separate each group so you have a space in the middle.

    • Take the far left strand and bring it down to the open space in the middle and slightly to the right.

    • Now you’ll notice, the left side only has 2 strands while the right side now has 4.

    • Take the second from the furthest right side strand and bring it all the way across to the left side.

    • You should be back where you started: A criss-cross at the top, and 2 groups with an empty space in the middle.

    • Next, bring the outer most right strand down to the middle. This process continues until the whole loaf is braided.

    • Finally when you have reached the end, gently tuck the ends of the dough under and pinch so the dough forms a nice smooth end. Do the same on the top part of the loaf.

Step 10: Transfer your bread to a parchment-lined baking sheet and lightly cover with oiled plastic wrap. Let the bread rise for about 4 hours at room temp or until it is puffy and jiggly.

Step 11: Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Mix one egg yolk with 1 TBS of water. Using a pastry brush, lightly brush egg wash all over the loaf. This is what gives the bread that nice shiny, brown finish. Sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top for added flavor and texture if desired. Place the loaf in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until it turns golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.

Step 12: Remove the bread to a cooling rack and let it completely cool before digging in. Enjoy this bread with butter, jam, and honey or use it to make the world’s best French toast!

Notes

  • If the top is browning faster than you’d prefer, lightly cover it with foil for the last 10-15 minutes of the bake. Mine came out perfectly without being covered but every oven is different.
  • If the dough is getting too overworked or sticky when braiding, lightly coat hands with flour and try again. If it is still sticky, use a pastry brush and very lightly dust the strands with a bit of flour.
  • You can sub honey instead of sugar if preferred.
  • Use this bread to make bread pudding or french toast! Amazing!
  • Prep Time: 24 hrs
  • Cook Time: 40
  • Category: bread
  • Method: baking
  • Cuisine: jewish

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