Challah: Baking Bread for the First Time



The taste of warm French toast with Maple syrup and my morning cafe con leche. Grilled bread with gooey cheese in a tuna melt. A warm roll used to mop up my dinner plate. Those are some of the ways I love bread, but despite enjoying it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, I had never baked bread. That is, until last Friday, when I was inspired to bake bread for the first time in my life. Intrigued by a century old recipe from “97 Orchard”, I spent all afternoon baking 2 loafs of Challah and I loved it.

The first time I had some Challah, I was reminded of the Pan de Yema we have in Peru. Both are egg based breads with similar texture and taste. The Challah, however has no butter and is a braided loaf, while the Pan de Yema is baked as rolls. Here in the Bay Area, several bakeries such as Semifreddi’s, Bi-Rite, and Market Hall make some of my favorite Challahs. I could easily pick one up, but I really wanted to get my hands dirty, make a mess in the kitchen, and enjoy the bread of my labor.

This recipe is very traditional, however I used instant yeast instead of fresh yeast. Also, I used two egg yolks to brush the Challah before baking. Finally, I baked one rectangular loaf and one round loaf. The most challenging part for me was waiting a couple of hours for the dough to rise, and not knowing what the end result would be. In the end, I was very happy with the bread’s taste, texture, and consistency. If you have ever wanted to bake bread but weren’t sure where to start, this old-world recipe is well worth the effort.

  • 7 1/2 cups of flour
  • 4 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 1/2 cups warm water
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 4 eggs, room temperature
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 tablespoons Kosher salt
  • 2 egg yolks mixed with 2 teaspoons of water for brushing bread before baking
  • sesame seeds for sprinkling on bread before baking
  1. Dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand for 10 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl combine all ingredients, except the 2 egg yolks and sesame seeds, and stir to form dough.
  3. Knead dough for 10 minutes on a flour covered surface.
  4. Place dough in a lightly greased bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Let rise for 1-2 hours until dough doubles in volume.
  5. Punch down dough, remove from bowl and knead 10 times.
  6. Divide dough in two halves, and divide each half into thirds. Roll each third into long pieces, about 18 inches long.
  7. Braid each set of 3 pieces to form loafs, one rectangular loaf and one round loaf.
  8. Place loafs on lightly greased baking sheets, cover with a damp cloth, and let rise until each loaf is doubled in size, or about 45 minutes.
  9. Brush loafs with egg yolks and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  10. Preheat oven to 375ºF and bake for 45 minutes to 1 hour, or until brown.
  11. Place on a cooling rack for 1 hour before serving.

2 loafs.


Tap the bottom of the bread to test for doneness. It should make a nice hollow sound, otherwise return to oven and bake for 5 more minutes.