semi-wild challah: round I go again (BBBwB)

go directly to the recipe

BBB: Let's Get Baking Worldwide Blogger Bake Off summary: recipe for challah braided into rounds; YeastSpotting post; Bread Baking Babes wannaBe; information on Bread Baking Babes; information about Breadline Africa’s Worldwide Blogger Bake Off Challenge (click on images to see larger views and more photos)

I am a glutton for punishment. Yes, once again, I am a

Bread Baking Babe/Buddy wannaBe (BBBwB)

challah Even though this time I’ve managed to make the bread in time, I’m afraid that I can’t be a BBB because

  1. I didn’t use the BBB’s recipe.
  2. I made round challahs instead of a long braid on top of a braid.

Are you a glutton for punishment? If so, get as comfortable as you can, fasten your seatbelt and forge ahead through this even more than usually long-winded post.

Ever since seeing the article RECIPE REDUX: Challah by Amanda Hesser in the New York Times, I had been dreaming about making challah again. (Last time I used “Grandma Rosie’s Fabulous Challah Recipe” that I found on the internet and it turned out beautifully.) I toyed with the idea of using the “2008: Challah Revisited recipe” in the Hesser article but after reading the labour intensive instructions, I balked. I didn’t really like the massive ingredients list (which included baking powder, vanilla and cinnamon!) for the 1976 version of challah in Hesser’s article – although I suppose I could have used the normal ingredients list from the 2008 version and the 1976 instructions….

Right around the same time that the BBB’s made their challah calling for regular yeast, Eli ( made Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challah from her book A Blessing of Bread. This particular bread uses a firm starter. (Firm starter?! I don’ know noth’n’ ’bout makin’ no firm starters, Mizz Scahlet!) I don’t have A Blessing of Bread yet (I do have Glezer’s wonderful book Artisan Baking though and it’s one of my favourites). And my other cookbooks talk about how to make firm starters but, but, but… I need hand-holding with new techniques. ESPECIALLY where wild yeast is concerned.

So I did an internet search to see if anyone else had made Glezer’s challah. And found yet another version of Glezer’s challah on Tatter’s blog, “The Bread Chronicle”. This one is made with a liquid levain. Ah, that’s what I like to see!! I’m familiar with liquid levains. Not exactly an expert with them but at least I’ve used them frequently.

I really liked the idea of using wild yeast to make challah. Both Tatter and Eli said that the challahs they had made using a Glezer recipe (I gather there are a number of challah recipes in A Blessing of Bread) were “the best” and “favorite”. And the added bonus to the Glezer version Tatter used was that it also calls for commercial yeast to bolster the wild yeast. Considering my problems with wild yeast when the kitchen is cold, this seemed like a good idea.

So I began my semi-wild challah experiment. I used the extra liquid levain I had after mixing wild bread (that unfortunately ended up being flat as a pancake – I blame our cold kitchen). But you’ve already heard me complain about that. Allow me to stay on topic and complain about the challah.

As I mixed the dough, the ice cream maker (yes!! we have our own ice cream maker!!!) was blaring in background; there were T’s white beans boiling furiously on the stove (I ran upstairs to find out if they’re supposed to – NO, they’re not! – ran back downstairs to turn them down to a simmer); stretched and folded the wild bread dough; ran back upstairs to look at the challah recipe again (why on EARTH didn’t I write it down???); ran back downstairs to continue mixing dough to the sound of T hand sawing a little piece of wood to fix the a drawer that had broken; stopped to sort through and separate kidney, black, garbanzo and navy beans that had been rolling around in the bottom of the overfull drawer; stretched and folded the wild bread dough; went for a bike ride (it was SUPPOSED to be raining all day but the sun came out); panicked that neither the wildbread OR the challah dough had moved but decided to go ahead anyway because it was getting late; ran back upstairs to look at the braiding technique again (why on EARTH didn’t I write it down???); rooted through my desk and dresser to find six ropes, ribbons, sashes to test my braiding technique; ran back downstairs and promptly forgot how to six-strand braid, kicking myself, all the while, for trying to make two kinds of bread on the same day (what a moron I am). (Ha!!! I am the run-on sentence queen!!)

Sometimes things just seem too frantic on a slow rainy day off….

challah My impressions:

  • [kneading] What stiff dough!! Did I put in too much flour??
  • [over 2 hours after kneading] Freak out!! The dough didn’t budge after rising (ha) in the oven with only the light turned on
  • [after re-reading recipe] Silly me… this is to be expected.
  • [After googling about challah and special round challahs for Rosh Hashana] Braiding is fun! I made two six strand versions. One is a six strand round and the other is a four strand round with a 6 strand braid wrapped around it. (It’s probably supposed to be a 4 strand with a 2 strand twist wrapped around it to add up to 6. Or is it supposed to be a 6 strand with a 6 strand wrapped around to add up to twelve???)

Here is what I did to make challah, which isn’t at all as difficult as I managed to make it:

Semi-wild Challah
based on the recipe for basic sourdough in Piano Piano Pieno by Susan McKenna Grant and a recipe for challah in Maggie Glezer’s cookbook A Blessing of Bread

wild yeast starter . wild yeast starter buildup . wild yeast starter feeding . challah

makes 2 smallish round loaves

wild yeast starter buildup

  • 2 Tbsp wild yeast starter
  • all purpose unbleached flour
  • water*

buildup preparation

  1. Day before Baking – Morning Take 30gm (2 Tbsp) of wild yeast starter (discard the rest) and stir in 30gm (2 Tbsp) water and 30gm (3 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave in a warm draftfree spot (counter in summer, oven with only light turned on in winter) til midday.
  2. Day before Baking Midday: The mixture should have doubled and there should be lots of bubbling. Take 30gm (2 Tbsp) of above mixture (reserve the rest to add something that doesn’t HAVE to rise… something like onion rings). Stir in 30gm (2 Tbsp) water and 30gm (3 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave… etc.
  3. Day before Baking Evening: Stir 80gm (⅓ c) water and 80gm (⅔ c) unbleached all-purpose flour into ALL of the above mixture. Cover and leave… etc.
  4. Baking Day Morning: The mixture should have doubled and be a bubbling mass. Reserve a portion for future bread making: Take 30gm (2 Tbsp) of above mixture (RESERVE the rest for making bread) and stir in 30gm (2 Tbsp) water and 30gm (3 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour. Cover and leave for 2 hours on the counter. Put it into a covered glass jar and store in refrigerator. (Feeding: you should be feeding the starter every 2 days: take 30gm (2 Tbsp) of the refrigerated mixture – discard the extra – and stir in 30gm (2 Tbsp) water and 30gm (3 Tbsp) unbleached all-purpose flour. To use the refrigerated starter for baking, begin at step #1.)


  • 62.5gm (62.5ml) lukewarm water*
  • ¾ tsp active dry yeast
  • 225gm (225ml) boiling water
  • 60gm butter
  • 30 gm (approx 1.5 Tbsp) honey
  • 200gm (approx 375ml) unbleached bread flour (high-gluten)***
  • 1 egg
  • 25 gm (approx 2Tbsp) whole wheat flour***
  • ¾ tsp seasalt
  • 60 gm liquid levain
  • 10% cream, for brushing

challah preparation

  1. In a smallish bowl, mix yeast and lukewarm water (do the baby’s bottle test on your wrist) til it looks a little like cream. Set aside.
  2. In the meantime, put the butter and boiling water into a large mixing bowl. Cut up the butter til it has melted. Stir in honey. Stir in the flours and salt. Check the mixture against your wrist to ensure that is not too hot to kill yeast.** Stir in the yeasted water and 60gm wild yeast starter buildup (use the rest of the buildup to make wild bread). Stir the ingredients well with a wooden spoon.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Wash and dry your mixing bowl. This prepares the rising bowl AND gets your hands clean.
  4. Hand knead the dough for 8-10 minutes til the dough is smooth and silky. This dough is quite stiff.
  5. Put the dough in the clean mixing bowl. (It is entirely unnecessary to oil the rising bowl!) Cover and notice that no matter how long it sits in a no-draft place 1 to 1½ to 2 to 3 hours, it won’t really budge. When the dough refuses to double, after you stop cursing and crying, check the recipe again and notice that this is to be expected.
  6. Shaping: Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured board. Divide it into 2 even pieces. Set one aside, covered to stop it from drying out. Divide the piece on the counter into 6 even pieces.
  7. Use your hands to roll into pieces that look like dowels.
  8. Press the ends of the pieces together at one end and braid. Tuck ends under. Braid the other half of the dough.
  9. Put the shaped bread on a parchment covered cookie sheet and cover with plastic (or a clean damp tea towel), place in a draftfree area (oven with only the light turned on) and allow to rise to triple (about 3 hours).
  10. Baking: Half an hour before baking, remove the rising challah from the oven and place it on the counter. Put the rack in the highest position. Turn the oven to 400F to preheat.
  11. When the oven is well preheated, brush the tops of the loaves with cream, or a mixture of cream and water. (Most recipes say to use an egg wash, but I’m not wild about the flavour of egg washes – too eggy – so I use cream instead.) Put the challah on the top shelf of the oven and IMMEDIATELY turn the oven down to 375F. Bake for 10 minutes. Bring it out of the oven and brush the loaves again with cream. Return the challah to the oven, making sure that the tray has been turned around – to account for uneven heat in the oven. Bake another 10 to 15 minutes.
  12. Remove to cool on a rack. Wait til the bread is cool before breaking it open or cutting it. It is still continuing to bake inside!****
*Tap water is fine to use – just make sure that it has stood for at least 12 hours so that the chlorine has dissipated.

Under no circumstances should you use water from the hot water tap. Of course, saying that it is unsafe to use water from the hot water tap might be an urban myth, but why tempt fate? Heat the water in a kettle or microwave and add cold water until it is the correct temperature, (use the baby bottle test on the back of your wrist – your fingers have no idea of temperature!) Or you can use a thermometer.

** The temperature should be BELOW 120F because yeast begins to die when the temperature is higher than 120F.

*** The unbleached bread flour is “Five Roses” (about 12% protein). The whole wheat flour is “Five Roses” (about 13% protein).

**** If you wish to serve warm bread, reheat it after it has cooled completely. To reheat unsliced bread, turn the oven to 500F for 5 minutes or so. Turn the oven OFF. Put the bread in the hot oven for ten minutes.

***** Because this challah calls for butter and cream, please ensure that it is served with dairy or eggs to your Jewish friends. In Jewish households, challah must to be made with oil and brushed with egg if is to be served with meat.

challah I’m sure that it’s incorrect to have that little bit of whole wheat flour but I really like to add just a little (using Carol Field’s idea of adding wholewheat flour to our highly refined white flour to mimic stoneground flour). I think the tiny bit of whole wheat adds flavour as well, making the bread seem not quite so much like “white bread” that can be so flavour-free.

Our challah was wonderful! Wonderful and flavour-full. I loved the honey in it. And it was really fantastic for breakfast with hard boiled eggs and strong coffee with lots of cream.

I’ve been given a big green light to make challah again. Next time, I’ll may try making it with brown sugar instead of honey. Perhaps I’ll use oil instead of butter as well. I bet it’s still just as good…

(And yes, Glezer’s book A Blessing of Bread is now on my “wish list”. I think I neeeeed to have it.)

Bread Baking Babes/Buddies wannaBe

Sara (I Like to Cook) is the host of October 2008’s Bread Baking Babes‘ task. She wrote:

Monday, October 20, 2008

Bread Baking Babes – Challah

It’s a lot of pressure to come up with a recipe for these ladies; something interesting, fun, different…. I sat myself down with my copy of The New York Times Bread and Soup Cookbook […], and at one point I had 18 bread recipes marked! It was a tough choice, but I decided on Challah […]

If you’d like to be a Bread Baking Buddy, please make the bread and send [Sara] a link to your post by October 31 [2008]!

For complete details on how to become a BBB, please go to:

Take a look at the Bread Baking Babes’ challah:


Breadline Africa’s Worldwide Blogger Bake Off Challenge

Breadline Africa: Worldwide Blogger Bake Off Challenge The Breadline Africa Worldwide Blogger Bake Off Challenge was created and began on 15 October 2008. (It ends on 15 October 2009 or when US$1 million has been raised, whichever occurs first.)

For more details on how you can join in, please see:

Breadline Africa (image © Breadline Africa is an internationally registered charity supporting ground level African charities that are working with communities to help them to become self-sustainable and “break the cycle of poverty in the lives of individuals and communities in Africa through sustainable, long-term solutions“.


Yeastspotting - every Friday ( image) Each week, Susan (Wild Yeast) compiles a list of many bread-specific recipes from across the web. For complete details on how to be included in the YeastSpotting round up, please read the following:


edit 3 November 2008: Sarah has posted the challah roundup, showing Bread Baking Buddies’ challahs. Take a look! They’re beautiful!

5 responses to “semi-wild challah: round I go again (BBBwB)

  1. ejm Post author

    You are all too generous! It isn’t very difficult at all to do the braiding. Although my six strand braiding needs work – I don’t think I actually achieved a six strand. I’ll look at the instruction videos again next time I make challah.


Post a Response

You must fill in the "response", "name", and "email" fields. Please rest assured that your email address will never be posted or shared. This site uses Akismet to reduce spam; learn how your discussion data is processed. Please note that the optional fields that point to your website URL and website name may be removed without notice. For more information about what can (or cannot) be included, please read our Discussion Policy.