Ima's Challah

By • April 7, 2010 • 86 Comments

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Author Notes: I make challah almost every week. After trying about 5 other recipes, I've returned to my mother's tried-and-true version. (Should've known -- mom's always right!) At this point, the recipe is so familiar I practically have it memorized. The original recipe calls for white bread flour, but Ima and I have both transitioned to half white, half King Arthur's White Whole Wheat. Take your pick. Either way, my mother emailed me today to let me know that since she gave me her recipe, she's started adding a pinch of cardamom to her dough. I've included that option below. - RivkaRivka

Food52 Review: We've always been entranced by the golden, undulating shape of challah bread, but never felt so confident in the shaping technique as with Rivka's instructions. Her braid-flip-braid trick is ingenious -- and fun too. We let ours rise a second time after braiding for about 30 minutes (we're nervous nellies) and were pleased with the results -- it emerged from the oven grand and poufed with an airy crumb, begging to be buttered up and devoured. The cardamom registers at a bare whisper, so go for a very big pinch if you want yours well-spiced. - A&MA&M

Serves two large challot

  • 1 1/2 cup warm water, divided
  • 1/4 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar, divided
  • 2 tablespoons instant (powdered) yeast
  • 6 cups flour -- either all white or half white whole wheat
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1/4 cup mild honey, plus an extra tablespoon for eggwash, if desired
  • 2/3 cups flavorless vegetable or canola oil
  • 4 eggs, plus one yolk for eggwash, if desired
  • 1 pinch ground cardamom, optional
  1. Put 1 cup warm water in a small bowl. Add 2 teaspoons of sugar, sprinkle the yeast over top, swirl the bowl just to combine, and leave it to proof for five minutes.
  2. While yeast is proofing, mix flour, salt, 1/4 cup of sugar and cardamom, if using, in a large bowl (or in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.) Stir to incorporate or blend on low speed.
  3. In a medium bowl, mix remaining water, honey, oil, and eggs.
  4. When yeast has finished proofing, add it to the flour, immediately followed by wet ingredients. Mix with a large wooden spoon or on medium-low speed in the mixer, just until combined, about 30 seconds.
  5. Switch to dough hook and begin to knead on low speed, making sure to incorporate what's at the bottom of the bowl if the dough hook misses it. If kneading by hand, stir using spoon until dough becomes to thick to stir. Empty dough onto well-floured surface and knead by hand. Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour with a light hand as needed, 7-10 minutes.
  6. Split the dough into two equal pieces. Set each in a large oiled bowl, cover both bowls with plastic wrap or a damp towel, and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size. If using white flour, this should take about 2-2.5 hours. If using white whole wheat, it will take closer to 3.5 or 4. Feel free to let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight instead; if you do this, be sure to set out the dough in plenty of time before shaping, so it can come to room temperature.
  7. Preheat oven to 375.
  8. After the rise, the dough should be soft and pliable. Separate each mound of dough into three equal balls, for a total of six. Roll each ball into a log almost 1-foot long. Braid the logs together to create your loaf. For the nicest-looking braid, do not pinch the top edges of your logs together before braiding; simply place one log over the next and braid until you reach the bottom, then pinch those edges together. Then, flip the unfinished loaf the long way, so that the unfinished edge is now at the bottom and the loaf has been flipped over and upside down. Finish braiding and pinch these edges together. This way, both ends look identical. Tuck the very tips beneath the loaf when braiding is finished. Repeat with second loaf.
  9. Put each loaf on its own silpat-lined baking sheet. If using eggwash, mix yolk with a 1 tablespoon water and 1 tablespoon honey. Brush over loaves.
  10. Bake at 375 degrees for 20-22 minutes, until challot are golden and baked through.
Jump to Comments (86)

Tags: savory, serves a crowd, traditional

Comments (86) Questions (6)

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3 days ago Anne-Cecile Blanchot

I could not get this recipe right on the first try... do you have any advice for bread beginners? My dough way too sticky and I couldn't save it. This is the first time I was using active dry yeast. I used the Kitchen Aid Stand Mixer with the paddle and the hook but it didn't work for me. I'm trying to pinpoint what I did wrong, thank you!

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9 days ago Jenn2323

Your the best, Rivka! Just in time for a Rosh Hashanah!

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9 days ago Rivka

Hi everyone! If your dough is too sticky, you can add a wee bit more flour, but you might try kneading it a little longer, letting it rest a bit, or even putting it in the fridge. Over the years, I've done all of the above with success.

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9 days ago Jenn2323

I had the same problem, but everyone else kept saying how perfect the recipe was. Food52 can you help solve the "wet, beyond, sticky" dough? Is the marble countertop too cold or hot? Could the temperature where my challah rises too cold or hot?

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9 days ago Sheila Litman

I agree with Pikilinska. Mine was also dense and dry. The dough was so wet I added more flour. Is it supposed to be so wet or should I hold back on the water?

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10 days ago Pikilinska

The flavor of the this challah is fantastic, however, mine came out fairly dense. I added some flour during the kneading process because it was quite sticky but not more than an 1/8 cup. Any ideas? Do I need to leave it in the oven longer?

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about 1 month ago Sheila Litman

Not sure what powdered yeast is...is it active dried yeast that you start with water and sugar or do you just add it right into the dough? Thanks, can't wait to make this next week.

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30 days ago Rivka

Hey Sheila,
Yep - it's active dry yeast. Enjoy!

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about 1 month ago Allison T

I love making bread homemade. I think I will be making this recipe this week. Since moving south I have been having a bit of a problem with my bread since we have so much humidity. Thanks for sharing this recipe!
www.lashesanddashes.com

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4 months ago Riegan

Excellent recipe! I made the whole wheat version, kneaded by hand for 10 min, let it rise for about 3 1/2 hours, braided it and then let it rise for another 1 1/2 hours before baking for 22 minutes. It was perfect and delicious. I served it to my guests right out of the oven. We made a meal out of 1 loaf, hummus, olive oil and dukkah, cheese, and honey. This will be my go-to challah recipe from now on. Can't wait to try it with raisins!

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4 months ago Rivka

Thanks - so glad you enjoyed it!

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5 months ago MrsPrincess07

I have made this recipe a few times now and today, I perfected it! I had been kneading by hand but was getting a rather heavy bread. Tasted great, but just heavier than any challah had I eaten before. I used my 7qt stand mixer today to mix and knead, it required a lot of extra flour, and finished the knead by hand. The bread once braided rose nicely but spread in the oven. I expected it to be dense like the other loaves. Not so! it was super soft, super light, and the texture is PERFECT! I am printing this recipe, making some notes, and will stick to this recipe from here in out. Thanks for publishing this!

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6 months ago Zazie

This was a great recipe! I was worried because the dough seemed very sticky when I tried to knead it, but it all came together beautifully. One tweak: I let it rise for nearly an hour after braiding. A delicious loaf of challah!

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6 months ago Ned Semoff

So yummy! My father is not a big fan of challah and he loved this receipt.

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7 months ago Teodora Bojilcheva

Just made it all by hand and it wasn't not at all difficult. Perfect - fluffy and heavenly delicious. My family loved it.

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8 months ago lizbeth

Going to try this one! Just wondering, however, did you knead by hand even after mixing with dough hook in mixer? thanks.

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8 months ago Rivka

nope, you don't need to. Either the mixer or your hands.

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8 months ago Emily Love

i made this and it was absolutely wonderful! i froze half a loaf (wrapped in aluminum foil and then a plastic bag) and heat it up whenever i want some (which is very frequently). thank you for sharing this recipe!

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9 months ago Sandra

As this was the first time i made this recipe, i followed it almost to a T. I used a 1.5 t of cardamom ( love love cardamom), added 1cup of candied orange peel and used deb perelman's round challah method of shaping. Afraid to say, 1 round loaf lasted a day and a half at home. The other was quickly shipped to mom's.

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9 months ago Karola

Oh my. I had been close to despair. Looking for a recipe for soft, dense doughy loaf but every recipe I came across for bread said 'light and airy'. Nooooooo!!!!! Did any one else on this planet want a soft and doughy loaf apart from me? Then my husband found this and he's converted too. I LOVE this recipe - I was a first time challah-maker and they turned out so well. Thank you so much - this soft doughy beast is a dream.

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11 months ago Kaitlyn

Can you braid the dough and then refrigerate overnight for a second, cool rise? Trying to do as much work the night before, so I can just wake up and have fresh bread even sooner!

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11 months ago Rivka

totally! don't see why not.

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11 months ago MrsPrincess07

Hello!

I am interested in making this recipe. Is there a conversion that you know of for granulated active dry yeast or are these one in the same (new to bread baking)?

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11 months ago Rivka

that's exactly what you should use here.

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11 months ago MrsPrincess07

Thank you for replying! Also thank you for answering the question above- I also want to try to let it rise in the fridge. This is a recipe I will make this week. I miss Challah! We moved to South Dakota and that is no where near on the radar out here.

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11 months ago Jenn2323

Would you recommend a certain brand or type of flour?

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11 months ago Rivka

I tend to use Kind Arthur, but I've made this with pretty much every wheat flour under the sun - whole wheat, bread, AP, even pastry in a pinch - and it all comes out good.

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11 months ago Phred

I noticed you don't let it rise again after you braid it. Did I miss that step or is there enough oven spring you don't need too?

Thanks,
Fred

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11 months ago Rivka

Hey Fred, thanks for your question. I didn't used to let it rise before baking, but I have recently incorporated a second rise (about 45 minutes), and the challah ends up much airier and fluffy as a result. If you prefer a denser loaf, skip it. Enjoy!

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12 months ago kgindermaur

This was my first time ever baking bread by myself, and I loved it! I halved the recipe to make just one loaf and used half whole wheat/half all-purpose flour. Also I forgot the salt (oops), but it was still delicious. I ate it all in just a few days!

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about 1 year ago breadwhisperer

This is my new favorite challah recipe - thank you!!! In the spirit of the Food52 discussion being waged on the home page about volumes vs. weights, I thought I would share the weight measurements I used for this recipe. These are the weights I used to make ONE challah loaf:
Water 165g
Flour 490g
Honey 40g
Canola oil 56g
For everything else, I followed the recipe amounts as written in TBS/tsp - except for the salt, which I doubled. (I use Morton's Kosher Salt, and I used 2 tsp for just one loaf.)
I did not weigh my eggs, so the amount of flour will vary.
I didn't proof the yeast; I just dumped everything in a KA mixing bowl and kneaded by machine until the gluten was developed. I let it sit at room temperature for about an hour, degassed the dough, and put it in the fridge overnight. (I didn't grease the bowl; I just kept it in the KA mixing bowl with the cover on.) Next day I scraped it out onto a silpat mat, lightly floured it, and using a rolling pin shaped it into a rectangle. I sprinkled raisins on top, and rolled up the dough into a long rope. Because this was for Erev Yom Kippur, I spiraled the rope into a round shaped challah and let it rise for about 3 hours (on a parchment-lined baking sheet inside a large plastic tub.) Then I brushed it with the egg wash and baked for 30 minutes until the internal temperature was over 190F. I cooled it on a rack but covered the top of the bread with a dish towel so the crust would be soft.
Thank you again for sharing your mother's recipe - it is the challah I remember from my childhood!

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9 months ago Sandra

Thanks for the weights measure, breadwhisperer. Would you just double these to make 2 loaves? This will be my second attempt at Challah making. I have three different recipes I am trying and will see how they go.

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about 1 year ago salem

*bread

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about 1 year ago salem

What is the recipe if im only making one vraid i would totally love to make this recipe:)

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over 1 year ago Sharon N

We Re all loving your challah recipe here in the UK. I have actually been making challah rolls and freezing them so we can just take out what we need the night before and they are delicious! Thank you so much for this recipe.

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about 1 year ago Jose R. Mora

Do you freeze the dough or the baked rolls?

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about 1 year ago Sharon N

The baked rolls

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over 1 year ago Ana Isabel

can i use melted butter instead of the oil?

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over 1 year ago Rivka

I'm guessing I'm too late in answering this, but you definitely can use melted butter instead of oil.

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over 1 year ago miriamsiony

whats the recipe if i am using a five pound bag of flour?

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over 1 year ago Musicnimby

Love this recipe! I was wondering how long we can refrigerate the dough before braiding and baking... Thanks! :)

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over 1 year ago Rivka

Hi there - you should be okay leaving the dough in the fridge overnight. If you want to leave it longer, you might consider cutting the yeast by 1/3 to prevent overrising.

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over 1 year ago Aidel.K

I was googling around for a new challah recipe and happened upon this one. This is the third week I am making it--we all love it! Thanks so much for sharing this recipe and enhancing our Shabbos.

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over 1 year ago Rivka

Thanks, Aidel! Glad you're enjoying it.

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over 1 year ago SydAnderson

First time ever making bread! Came out beautifully and the recipe was so easy to follow! You would think I was a pro.

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over 1 year ago Yocheved

best challa!!

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almost 2 years ago cosmicbeekeeper

This is a beautiful challah bread. I have made it twice now (in high altitude) and it has turned out great. I have been told by numerous people that it is the best challah ever made. Thank you!

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over 1 year ago Rivka

Yay!

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almost 2 years ago copa

How many ounces are equivalent to each cup of flour
Have tried the recipe once and its delicious - just want to make sure am using the correct amount of flour.

Thanks

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almost 2 years ago Rivka

Depending on whom you ask, a cup of flour equals anywhere from 3.5-5 oz. I've measured my cups a few times, and they hover around 4 oz.

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over 1 year ago Rivka

My favorite cup measure full of AP flour weighed in at 4.1 oz, so I tend to use 4 oz of all purpose flour for 1 cup in my recipes. That said, I've seen other measurements at 4.5 or even 5 oz.

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about 2 years ago insecureepicure

You do not mention a second rise after the braiding. Is there one or do you really just put it straight into the oven?

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almost 2 years ago Rivka

I don't typically do a second rise, but the Food52 testers did a second rise when they tested it for a wild card and it worked great. I've tried it with the second rise since then, and it makes for a slightly airier loaf. Enjoy!

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about 2 years ago Mozzy

Rivka, would it be better to use half and half AP flour with whole wheat flour or 100% bread flour? Or half bread flour and half AP? I don't have white whole wheat flour and I'm not sure what to do.

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about 2 years ago Rivka

If you use 100% bread flour, the challah will come out fantastic. I like some whole wheat in my challah, but regular whole wheat can be pretty dense; if that's what you're using, I'd keep it to 1/3 of the total amount.

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about 2 years ago Mozzy

I used the regular whole wheat for 1/3 and it came out great. Thank you!

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over 2 years ago lisa57312

This is the most delicious bread. The recipe is very forgiving and comes out perfect every time! Of course my Kitchenaid mixer does all the hard work. I love this bread...
thank you. Lisa

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over 2 years ago riv

Wow, what an interesting idea! I love cardamom in almost everything, but do you think I can sneak it past the rest of my family? Is the flavor subtle or fairly distinct? They're pretty vanilla when it comes to their challah (no, not in their challah ;)

Claire

over 2 years ago midnitechef

Try adding a little, maybe 1/2 tsp, it won't be too overpowering. I've also added dried fruit or berries chopped very small, it give it a Christmastime feel.

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almost 3 years ago midnitechef

Very similar to my Finnish Pulla bread, it is spiked with cardamom and I like to do an eggwash and sprinkle turbino sugar on top. So delicious as a breakfast toast with butter and preserves :)

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almost 3 years ago naomisachs

I made a similar recipe for Rosh Hashanah using KA Bread flour and had disastrous results - so sad after all the time and effort...is all purpose flour preferred here?

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almost 3 years ago Rivka

oh, no - that's strange. Bread flour contains more gluten (usually in the 12-15% range), so if anything, it should produce a more well-developed dough structure. Did the dough not rise? What was the issue?

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almost 3 years ago TheWimpyVegetarian

This looks so beautiful! I've never made challah and it's been on my list of "to make" items for a long time. Looks like it's time to make it with your wonderful-sounding recipe! Congrats on the Wild Card pick!!!

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almost 3 years ago Rivka

Thanks, ChezSuzanne! Challah definitely needs to be bumped up on your must-make list. It's pretty delicious. And challah french toast is an absolute must as well.

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almost 3 years ago mcs3000

Ditto to what A&M wrote in the lede. Can't wait to try w/cardamom.

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almost 3 years ago Rivka

thanks, mcs3000 - the cardamom is pretty delicious. I'll confess to upping it myself sometimes.

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almost 3 years ago AntoniaJames

AntoniaJames is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

Congratulations, Rivka! This looks perfectly lovely. And the timing couldn't be better, as I was just commenting on bella s.f.'s Grand Marnier French Toast recipe the other day, saying that I need to make some challah this week, to make that French toast for Mr. T this weekend. I'm so looking forward to trying this! ;o)

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almost 3 years ago Rivka

I hope you like it!

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almost 3 years ago student epicure

beautiful -- i can't wait to try this out!

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almost 3 years ago sdebrango

Suzanne is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations Rivka this is beautiful and I can't wait to make it.

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almost 3 years ago Rivka

Thanks, sdebrango, and everyone else! Really excited to see Ima's challah featured here. Shana tova to everyone celebrating!

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almost 3 years ago hardlikearmour

hardlikearmour is a trusted home cook.

Congratulations, Rivka! What a gorgeous bread. I love challah and can't wait to try your version (with the cardamom- yum!)

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almost 3 years ago EmilyC

Beautiful -- congrats Rivka on your wildcard win!

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almost 3 years ago Midge

Congrat Rivka! I've always wanted to make challah and your recipe seems like a great place to start.

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almost 3 years ago drbabs

Barbara is a trusted source on General Cooking.

Congratulations, Rivka, and happy new year! ( i have to try this...love the white whole wheat flour, too.)

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almost 3 years ago mrslarkin

Mrs. Larkin is a trusted source on Baking.

Holla for the challah! (sorry - i couldn't resist!) Love the KA White Whole Wheat. Can't wait to give this a try. Congrats, Rivka! and Happy New Year!

P.S. Have you ever tried it with Active Dry Yeast?

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almost 3 years ago Lizthechef

Lovely, lovely and so well-deserved...Happy New Year!

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almost 3 years ago Panfusine

Congratulations on the wildcard pick Rivka!

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almost 3 years ago Rivka

Thanks, Panfusine! And of course, thanks to Ima - couldn't have done it without her. :)

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over 3 years ago Ordinary Blogger (Rivki Locker)

Just came across this recipe and I am intrigued by the addition of cardamom. Right now, I'm on a chulent/hamin mission, making a new chulent every week till we find a new favorite. But when we're done with this mission, I think I may embark on a mission to find a new challah recipe. I make challah every week and while we love our recipe, it might be time for a change. I like the sound of yours because it's a lot like mine with just a few changes. Mine also uses honey and lots of eggs!
Question for you - have you ever made it with five pounds of flour? If yes, did you figure out the quantities for a 5 lb. recipe?
Thanks!

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over 3 years ago Rivka

I, too, love the cardamom addition in this recipe -- gives it a little unexpected spice. If you assume 5 oz for every 1 cup flour, 5 pounds of flour = 80 oz = 16 cups. This recipe calls for 6 cups, so it's not the easiest to make using a 5-pound-of-flour conversion ratio, but if you want to use exactly 5 pounds, you'd make double-and-one-third (2 1/3) the recipe here. You could also either double or triple, which would overshoot or undershoot slightly. Best of luck!

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over 3 years ago Ordinary Blogger (Rivki Locker)

Thanks for the conversion tips, Rivka. I like to make five pounds because my kids seem to get VERY hungry when I bring out the Challah. They eat a TON of it. If I make five pounds I stand a chance of having enough challah for a couple of weeks. :)

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over 3 years ago allie

Just made this - what a wonderful, easy dough... and one of my braids looks "professional" (the others, shall we say, rustic). Rivka, how big is your mixer? My 4.5 quart kitchenaid wasn't quite up to this task -- the dough went too high on the dough hook.

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over 3 years ago Rivka

Hey Allie, Glad you liked the challah dough. I think my bowl is a 5-quart, and while it definitely fills the bowl, I've never had a problem with overflow -- so sorry you did! Truth be told, this dough kneads quite easily by hand, if you're inclined to try that the next time. Happy baking!

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over 4 years ago NancyM

I made this recipe and it worked perfectly! (My first time making challah - Ima knows what she's doing!) I only had a tablespoon or two of honey, but that didn't make much difference. I tried a 6 piece braid on the first loaf and botched it half way through, so the second loaf turned into sweet rolls, which were delicious. One thing I have a question about: Does it really need 2 tablespoons of yeast? Seems like a lot to me.

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almost 3 years ago Rivka

Hi Nancy, glad you liked the challah! The large amount of yeast compensates for the shorter rising time. If you want to cut the yeast to 1 tablespoon, you'll need to let the dough rise for - and I'm estimating here - about double the time. Let us know if you do it.