Growing up in Israel, I had challah every friday for Shabbat and on most days in between. But I didn’t start baking my own until I was an adult cooking professionally. After trying countless recipes, I discovered my favorite is baker Uri Scheft’s from his brilliant book Breaking Breads. He really figured out the perfect proportions, so why reinvent it? Labneh makes the dough richer—almost creamy—and olive oil lends a fruity savory flavor. If you want a dairy-free dough, you can simply omit the labneh and still end up with delicious bread. Just don't leave out the spices—they deliver both extra flavor, and texture. In this master recipe, turmeric tints the dough gold, while nigella seeds add an aromatic crunch to every bite.
Remember, the challah can be wrapped tightly in plastic wrap and kept at room temperature for up to two days, and in the freezer for up to a month. Thaw before reheating in the oven or cutting slices and toasting. —Food52
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Lior Lev Sercarz's Yoghurt Challah
Main spice blend
2 1/2 teaspoons
1 1/2 teaspoons
active dry yeast
extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for bowl
Whisk the water, yeast, and 1 teaspoon of the sugar in a medium bowl. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.
Combine the flour, oil, yogurt, salt, 1 egg, the spice blend, and the remaining sugar in the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook. Add the yeast mixture, then mix on low speed. Mix, scraping the bowl and hook occasionally, until the dough comes together in a firm, stretchy mass, about 7 minutes.
Turn the dough out onto a clean work surface and knead to form into a tight ball. Lightly oil the mixer bowl, put the dough ball in it, and cover with a clean kitchen towel. Let rise in a warm
spot until doubled in size, about 1 hour. When you gently press the dough, your finger should leave an indentation that rises back up slowly.
Line a half-sheet pan with parchment paper. Turn the dough out onto a clean un-floured work surface and cut into six even pieces (108 grams each). Roll each piece into 12-inch-long ropes with tapered ends.
Place two ropes parallel to each other, spacing them 3 inches apart. Crisscross the ropes, leaving an inch at their ends. Lay a third rope over the point at which the others cross. Braid the
three ropes, leaving an inch open at the other ends. Repeat with the remaining ropes to form another loaf. Transfer to the prepared pan, spacing at least 5 inches apart. Cover with a clean
kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until puffed, about 45 minutes.
Position a rack in the center of the oven and preheat the oven to 400°F.
Beat the remaining egg with a few drops of water, then gently brush all over the risen loaves to lightly coat. Sprinkle toasted sesame seeds all over the loaves.
Bake until browned and well-risen, about 19 to 20 minutes. You know the loaves are done when they’ve left a light brown imprint on the parchment paper. Cool completely on a wire rack.