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Sourdough Challah

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This sourdough challah recipe is a beautiful sourdough recipe. This easy sourdough challah recipe is the perfect use of your sourdough starter! Perfect for sandwiches, french toast, and more!
overhead view of sourdough challah on wooden cutting board

Challah is one of my favorite loaves of bread to bake. It is an enriched dough, which means that it has eggs, oil, and honey in the dough. This helps make the bread soft! It is similar to a brioche, but it does not contain any milk or butter. Its crust is thin, the crumb is light, and its a perfect bread for snacking, french toast, and grilled cheese.

This recipe uses a sourdough starter as its leavening, with no additional yeast. To minimize the sourdough tang on this loaf, we use our starter to create a stiff levain (or a bigger starter that has more flour than water). This bread dough is a low hydration dough because there is less water than flour. This creates a dough that is easy to work with, which is just what we want for braiding it.

challah made with starter with slices in front

Other sourdough bread recipes:

sourdough challah with slices

How to make Challah with sourdough starter

This sourdough challah recipe is a great bread recipe to try your hand at! Because it is used with a stiff starter and a low hydration dough, it is really easy to work with! 

Note: The temperature and humidity of your house will affect the timing in the bulk fermentation and proofing times. Dough in cooler houses with less humidity could take longer. Dough in warmer houses with high humidity could take less time. Watch the dough here, not the clock.

Make the Levain the night before:

The levain is like a bigger, specific hydration starter. You need to use 1/2 cup of fed and active 100% hydration starter (which weights roughly 113 grams) to make this stiff 50% hydration levain.

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the active 100% hydration starter with the 113 grams warm water and the 226 grams bread flour. Mix until combined. This is a stiff starter, so it will take some work to get all the flour mixed in. Do not add extra water. You might need to do a little kneading to get it to all mix in. If all the flour won’t mix in, its ok, just get as much as you can.
  2. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter overnight 8-12 hours.
collage showing steps to make sourdough challah levain

Mix the dough.

  1. In the morning, get out a large mixing bowl.
  2. In the large mixing bowl, whisk together the warm water, eggs, salt, vegetable oil and honey. Whisk until the salt is dissolved.
  3. With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the bread flour in all at once.
  4. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface.
  5. Add the levain from the night before, and knead until the dough is smooth (it should take about 10 minutes by hand). You might need to lightly sprinkle your counter with a small amount of flour as you knead to keep the dough from sticking. The dough will be firm and should feel almost like modeling clay and should be easy to work with even if a little bit sticky. If the dough is too firm to knead easily, add a tablespoon or two of water to it. If the dough is too wet, add a tablespoon or two of flour. 
  6. Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
collage showing steps to make sourdough challah dough

Bulk Ferment

  1. Allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for 2 hours. It will probably not rise much, if at all.

Shaping and Braiding Challah

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Divide the dough into four even balls (for a four strand challah. If you want to do a 6 strange, divide the dough into 6 balls).
  3. Roll each ball into a long thin strip the same length as your baking sheet, working from the middle, out. If the dough is too elastic and keeps shrinking on you, cover the strips with a cloth and walk away for 10 minutes while the dough rests. 
  4. Place the strips on the baking sheet and bring the top points together. Pinch the four strands together.
  5. Starting with the strand on the right, pass it over the next strand, under the third strand, and over the fourth strand on the left. 
  6. Repeat with the strand that is now on the right, passing it over, under, and over the other strands. 
  7. Continue braiding until you reach the end.
  8. Pinch the ends together and tuck both the top and bottom under the loaf a little so you don’t see the pinched ends.
steps showing braiding of challah

Proofing

  1. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and allow the loaf to proof until tripled in size, about 5 hours. The time it takes will depend on the temperature and humidity level in your house, if it is cooler it could take longer, and if it is warmer it could take less time. Watch the dough, not the clock. It will be fully proofed when you can gently dent it with your knuckle and the dough springs back.

Baking the challah

  1. Arrange the oven racks so you have one in the upper third of your oven, with nothing above it.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 F and let it get nice and hot – at least 15-20 minutes before baking.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt. 
  4. Brush the egg glaze over the loaf.
  5. If desired, you can sprinkle the loaf with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or you can leave it plain.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, rotate the baking sheet in the oven to promote even browning. If the bread is browning too fast, tent it with foil.
  7. Remove the bread from the baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack. Some baking still happens while it is cooling, so make sure you wait until it is completely and totally cool before slicing it.
sourdough challah loaf on wooden cutting board

Frequently asked questions.

Can I mix this in a stand mixer instead of kneading by hand?

You can, however, make sure your stand mixer is heavy duty and can handle it. It should take about 5 full minutes of mixing on low in the mixer, and the dough should not stick to the bottom of the bowl.

Can I use this recipe to create different shapes of challah?

Yes, You can use this same recipe to create a 3 strand challah braid, a 6 strand challah braid, or a round challah. Just shape it according to what design you want.

Use this challah to make:

sourdough challah with slices

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sourdough challah bread with slices
Yield: 12 Servings

Sourdough Challah

overhead view of sourdough challah on wooden cutting board

This sourdough challah recipe is a beautiful sourdough recipe. This easy sourdough challah recipe is the perfect use of your sourdough starter! Perfect for sandwiches, french toast, and more!

Prep Time 15 hours
Cook Time 45 minutes
Total Time 15 hours 45 minutes

Ingredients

Levain:

  • 113 grams  very active, fully fermented sourdough starter at 100% hydration
  • 113 grams warm water
  • 226 grams bread flour

Final Dough:

  • 1/4 cup (60 grams) warm water
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
  • 1 1/2 tsp (8 grams) salt
  • 1/4 cup (55 grams) vegetable oil
  • 3 TBSP (65 grams) mild honey OR 1/3 cup (60 grams) sugar
  • about 3 cups (400 grams) bread flour
  • Optional Toppings: sesame seeds or poppy seeds

Instructions

Make the Levain the night before:

  1. The levain is like a bigger, specific hydration starter. You need to use 1/2 cup of fed and active 100% hydration starter to make this stiff 50% hydration levain.
  2. In a medium mixing bowl, combine the active 100% hydration starter with the 113 grams warm water and the 226 grams bread flour. Mix until combined. This is a stiff starter, so it will take some work to get all the flour mixed in. Do not add extra water. You might need to do a little kneading to get it to all mix in. If all the flour won’t mix in, its ok, just get as much as you can.
  3. Cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap and allow to sit on the counter overnight 8-12 hours.

Mix the dough.

  1. In the morning, get out a large mixing bowl.
  2. In the large mixing bowl, whisk together the 60 grams warm water, eggs, salt, vegetable oil and honey. Whisk until the salt is dissolved.
  3. With your hands or a wooden spoon, mix the bread flour in all at once.
  4. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, scrape it out onto your work surface.
  5. Add the levain from the night before, and knead until the dough is smooth (it should take about 10 minutes by hand). You might need to lightly sprinkle your counter with a small amount of flour as you knead to keep the dough from sticking. The dough will be firm and should feel almost like modeling clay and should be easy to work with even if a little bit sticky. If the dough is too firm to knead easily, add a tablespoon or two of water to it. If the dough is too wet, add a tablespoon or two of flour.
  6. Place the dough in a clean oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.

Bulk Ferment

  1. Allow the dough to ferment at room temperature for 2 hours. It will probably not rise much, if at all.

Shaping and Braiding Challah

  1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Divide the dough into four even balls (for a four strand challah. If you want to do a 6 strange, divide the dough into 6 balls).
  3. Roll each ball into a long thin strip the same length as your baking sheet, working from the middle, out. If the dough is too elastic and keeps shrinking on you, cover the strips with a cloth and walk away for 10 minutes while the dough rests.
  4. Place the strips on the baking sheet and bring the top points together. Pinch the four strands together.
  5. Starting with the strand on the right, pass it over the next strand, under the third strand, and over the fourth strand on the left.
  6. Repeat with the strand that is now on the right, passing it over, under, and over the other strands.
  7. Continue braiding until you reach the end.
  8. Pinch the ends together and tuck both the top and bottom under the loaf a little so you don’t see the pinched ends.

Proofing


  1. Cover the baking sheet with plastic wrap and allow the loaf to proof until tripled in size, about 5 hours. The time it takes will depend on the temperature and humidity level in your house, if it is cooler it could take longer, and if it is warmer it could take less time. Watch the dough, not the clock. It will be fully proofed when you can gently dent it with your knuckle and the dough springs back.

Baking the challah

  1. Arrange the oven racks so you have one in the upper third of your oven, with nothing above it.
  2. Preheat your oven to 350 F and let it get nice and hot - at least 15-20 minutes before baking.
  3. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with a pinch of salt.
  4. Brush the egg glaze over the loaf.
  5. If desired, you can sprinkle the loaf with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or you can leave it plain.
  6. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, or until well browned. After the first 20 minutes of baking, rotate the baking sheet in the oven to promote even browning. If the bread is browning too fast, tent it with foil.
  7. Remove the bread from the baking sheet and cool completely on a wire rack. Some baking still happens while it is cooling, so make sure you wait until it is completely and totally cool before slicing it.

Notes

Can I mix this in a stand mixer instead of kneading by hand?
You can, however, make sure your stand mixer is heavy duty and can handle it. It should take about 5 full minutes of mixing on low in the mixer, and the dough should not stick to the bottom of the bowl.

Can I use this recipe to create different shapes of challah?
Yes, You can use this same recipe to create a 3 strand challah braid, a 6 strand challah braid, or a round challah. Just shape it according to what design you want.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

12

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 239Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 20mgCarbohydrates: 44gFiber: 2gSugar: 5gProtein: 8g

Nutrition information is an estimate and is provided for informational purposes only. For the most accurate information, please calculate using your specific brands and exact measurements.

Did you make this recipe?

Please leave a comment on the blog or share a photo on Instagram, and don't forget to tag #gingeredwhisk.

This Sourdough Challah recipe is based off of (Maggie Glezer, A Blessing of Bread, recipe found via The Fresh Loaf) with a few adaptations.

close up of challah loaf
freshly braided challah bread ready to be baked
challah loaf with slices cut in front of it
showing how to shape challah
image showing how to braid a four strand challah

I’ve been wanting to try a challah recipe for a while now. I’d never actually eaten a challah before, but I honestly think it is one of the most beautiful loaves of bread I have ever seen. But I have heard they were difficult and complicated to do, and so I always kept it on the “someday I’ll make this but not quite yet” list.

This loaf was beautiful, too, and totally erased my “challah fear”. This bread is no more complicated than any other bread I’ve made, it was not hard at all! The most difficult part for me was my momentary freak out when I couldn’t remember how to do a four stranded braid, haha. The finished loaf is a gorgeous thing, I almost didn’t want to cut into it. When I finally persuaded myself to break out the bread knife, I was rewarded with a super soft and rich slice. I will definitely be making this again, and again!

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Delaney

Sunday 15th of August 2021

Hi Jenni! I was wondering how I could change the grams to cups, teaspoons, Tablespoons etc.??

Jenni

Tuesday 7th of September 2021

Hi Delaney! I do provide measurements in cups and tablespoons for my easier discard recipes, but because this is a more technical bread recipe where the amount of ingredients really does matter for the best outcome, I only provide grams. I hope that it doesn't deter you away, though! A scale is really worth it, and this bread is a great recipe to try!

Lana

Friday 2nd of July 2021

WOW! I make challah every week and this one was FANTASTIC! This will definitely be in regular rotation from now on! Great recipe, and easy to follow instructions. Just wonderful, Thank you!

Salena

Friday 25th of June 2021

This recipe was amazing. Worked perfectly the first time. My question: as there are only two of us I'd rather make a much smaller loaf. Should I just halve the recipe? Anyone have any experience with that? And I would have liked for the challah not to have spread as much as it did. Is there any such thing as a challah mold?

Debi

Thursday 22nd of April 2021

Love this recipe!! Have made it twice, and I found it easy as both a challah and a sourdough bread. I add 3/4 cup of golden raisins, as that is how we like challah. We freeze half, and the defrosted bread is just as good as the fresh.

Andrea

Friday 12th of March 2021

I tried this yesterday and the loaf looked beautiful (was superfun to braid) but tasted a little bland. I am wondering what I am doing wrong. I used canola oil. Should I use something more flavorful? Maybe add an extra egg (the loaf came out looking fairly white, not eggy)? I used King Arthur bread flour and table salt. Thanks!

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