Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Indulge in the beauty and deliciousness of braided sourdough challah bread, a true centerpiece at any dinner table. This sweet and enriched bread, made with honey, eggs, and olive oil, is elevated by the addition of sourdough. Once braided, the dough rises, is brushed with egg wash, and baked to perfection. Whether you pull off chunks or slice it, sourdough challah is a perfect accompaniment to any special meal. Plus, any leftover bread makes for an incredible French toast breakfast. Try your hand at making this stunning braided sourdough challah bread today.

Sample Schedule for Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Bread made with 100% natural yeast takes extra time. Because of this I like to start my sourdough recipes with a sample schedule so I can get an idea for what the timing looks like for making this bread. This sample schedule assumes you are using a ripe/active sourdough starter and keeping your dough at a temperature of 76-78 degrees Fahrenheit.

Day 1
7:00 AMMix Levain (1:1:1), keep at 78 degrees F
10:00 AMMix Challah Bread Dough
10:15 AMBegin Bulk Fermentation
10:45 AMStretch and Fold #1
11:15 AMStretch and Fold #2
11:45 AMStretch and Fold #3
2:15 PMBegin Cold Bulk Fermentation
Day 2
8:00 AMShape and Braid Challah Bread
11:00 AMBake Challah Loaves

Important Ingredients in Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Sourdough Starter: Use an active/ripe sourdough starter (doubled in size/bubbly/mild sour aroma) to mix the levain

Eggs: This sourdough challah has 4 eggs. The eggs give color, add flavor and enrich the dough which can lead to a longer rising time but a more rich and delicious bread.

Honey: Adds a sweetness to the bread that counterbalances the sour flavor from a long fermentation.

Olive Oil: Sourdough Challah bread uses a light olive oil instead of butter. You can substitute this for any neutral flavored oil.

Salt: Salt is important to balance the flavors. Don’t leave it out.

Bread Flour: I almost always use bread flour for any bread that I am kneading. The higher protein content and properly activating the gluten results in a lighter/springy bread.

Mixing a Levain

I almost always use a levain method when making sourdough. You can read all about that here. Begin the morning you mix the dough by mixing a levain:

  • 90 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • 90 grams flour
  • 90 grams water

Mix together those ingredients, cover and keep at 78 degrees Fahrenheit. The levain should be ready in about 3-4 hours.

If you want to make a levain overnight so it’s ready when you wake up, mix together 13 grams ripe sourdough starter, 130 grams flour and 130 grams water. Leave it at 78 degrees F for about 12 hours until bubbly and ripe.

Mixing Challah Bread Dough

Set the bowl of a stand mixer on a kitchen scale and add all the ingredients to the bowl except for the olive oil. Start the mixer and knead the dough together for about 3-5 minutes until smooth. This dough is not very sticky and can be difficult to knead. If you use a KitchenAid Mixer, be careful that you don’t overheat your motor. Once the dough incredients are fully incorporated, slowly drizzle the oil into the dough and knead for another 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and passes the windowpane test.

This process may seem like it’s not coming together at first, but continue with it and the olive oil will incorporate with the dough. Because the olive oil is a fat, it has a tendency to coat the flour which inhibits the gluten formation. Being able to work the gluten before adding the olive oil helps the dough create a strong structure for a better loaf of bread.

Bulk Fermentation

Move the dough to a container for the bulk fermentation. Do your best to keep the temperature of the dough at 78 degrees F. I use a bread proofer in the winter to help the dough develop at the right temperature. Cover the container. The entire bulk fermentation will take about 4 hours. During the bulk fermentation you will perform 3 sets of stretch and folds during the first 2 hours to help strengthen the dough.

To stretch and fold, reach down into the bottom of the dough. Stretch it up and over. Turn the bowl 1/4 and repeat the stretch and fold three more times.

Cold Bulk Fermentation

Place the covered dough in the refrigerator overnight for a cold bulk fermentation. This dough can stay in the refrigerator for up to 48 hours. I like using a cold bulk fermentation because it allows me to plan out my bakes better and adds more flavor to the dough. If you prefer to bake the challah bread the same day, skip the cold bulk fermentation and move straight to shaping the dough.

How to Braid Sourdough Challah Bread

Decide ahead of time how many strands you want to braid. My pictures and video are of a 4 strand braided sourdough challah bread, but you can make a 6 or 8 strand too. This recipe makes two loaves of challah, so cut your dough into two pieces and then cut each piece into the number of strands you want for your dough.

Roll each piece of dough into an even rectangular log. Let the dough rest while you repeat this process with the other loaf. This allows the gluten to relax and will allow you to roll the strand evenly and even longer than if you don’t let the gluten relax.

4 strand challah: Gather 4 strands and roll each strand again to even thickness. Pinch the 4 strands together at the top. The strand on the outside is numbered 1 and the strand next to the outside strand is numbered 2. Starting on the right side, bring the strand #2 across to the left side and to the top of the challah. Take strand #1 and put it in the middle. You now have a new #1 and #2 strand. Repeat this process with the new strands going to the right. Continue braiding until the dough is used up and then pinch the ends together.

For a straight loaf, tuck the ends underneath, pinching them in place. For a circular loaf, twist the dough into a circle, pinching the ends together. Place the shaped loaves on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover the challah with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.

Follow the rule: “2nd to the top, 1st to the middle” as you braid from the right side to the left and back again. Watch the video below for a visual.

Proofing Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Cover and let the challah rest in a warm (78-80 degree F) place for about 3 hours. I set my covered loaves in the oven with the light on. This is a pseudo proofing box that helps bring my loaves up to a warmer temperature and continue fermentation for the loaves to rise and get airy and light. After about 3 hours, gently touch the dough. It should feel airy and light and look like it’s puffed up and risen a bit (no longer cold at all). If you press in on the loaf it should spring back just a little bit. If your dough is showing all of these signs, go ahead and preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. If it’s not showing these signs, let it continue rising for another half hour to one hour. If you want more sour flavor, leave the dough to ferment even longer–another hour or two.

Baking Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Once the dough is puffy, light and risen, take the dough out of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make a simple egg wash by mixing an egg with a splash of water or cream. Brush egg wash on top of the risen challah bread. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired. Bake braided sourdough challah bread in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes (the internal temperature of the bread should be 190 degrees). Let the challah bread cool completely before slicing, or pull some chunks off warm. Enjoy!

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you store leftover sourdough challah bread?

Wrap the challah bread in plastic wrap and freeze for up to 2-3 months. When you’re ready to serve it, pull it out of the freezer and let it come to room temperature before serving. I also slice challah and freeze the slices for toast or french toast.

How do you serve sourdough challah bread?

Traditionally challah is pulled apart in chunks. We eat it like this when we serve challah with dinner but we also slice it and use the bread for french toast or sandwiches.

My sourdough challah bread took forever to rise. Is this normal?

Sourdough bread takes much longer to rise than bread made with instant yeast. Challah bread in particular takes longer because it is an enriched dough with egg and olive oil. To help speed up the rise, put the shaped challah in your oven with the light on (don’t turn the oven on). This will give your bread a warm place to rise and help speed up the process. Once the challah is puffed up and no longer feels cold but feels airy and light, it’s time to bake it.

I love sourdough challah bread. What can I do to enhance the flavor?

Try adding citrus zest or a flavored olive oil to change up the flavor profile. You can also add raisins, dried fruit or any other inclusion to the challah bread.

Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

Soft and fluffy on the inside with a beautiful golden braided crust on the outside, this braided sourdough challah bread is the perfect addition to your dinner or holiday table. Use leftovers to make incredible french toast or just enjoy slathered with butter and jam. Learn how to make this challah bread with 100% natural yeast sourdough.
Prep Time 40 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Rise Time 1 day 6 hours
Total Time 40 minutes
Course Bread
Servings 2 loaves

Ingredients
  

Levain (1:1:1, 3-4 hours until ripe)

  • 90 grams ripe sourdough starter
  • 90 grams flour
  • 90 grams water

Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

  • 250 grams levain see recipe notes
  • 275 grams water
  • 4 large eggs about 200 grams
  • 120 grams honey
  • 20 grams salt
  • 1080 grams bread flour
  • 105 grams olive oil

Instructions
 

Levain (1:1:1, about 3-4 hours until ripe)

  • Mix together 90 grams of ripe sourdough starter, 90 grams of flour (all purpose or bread flour is fine) and 90 grams of water. Set in a warm, 78 degree place and let rise until ripe: doubled in size, bubbly and with a slight sour aroma.

Braided Sourdough Challah Bread

  • To the bowl of a stand mixer, mix together ripe levain, water, eggs, honey, salt and bread flour. Start the mixer and knead the dough together for about 2-3 minutes.
  • Once the dough is incorporated, add the oil to the dough and knead for another 8-10 minutes until the dough is smooth and passes the windowpane test.
  • Bulk Fermentation: Move the dough to a container for the bulk fermentation. Do your best to keep the temperature of the dough 78 degrees. I use a bread proofer in the winter to help the dough develop at the right temperature.. Cover the container. The entire bulk fermentation will take about 4 hours.
  • Perform 3 sets of stretch and folds throughout the first 2 hours of bulk fermentation, every half hour. To stretch and fold, reach down into the bottom of the dough. Stretch it up and over. Turn the bowl 1/4 and repeat the stretch and fold three more times.
  • Cold Bulk Fermentation: After the dough has finished bulk fermentation, cover it and stick it in the refrigerator overnight or up to 48 hours.
  • The next day, transfer the dough to a clean countertop and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Separate the dough into 2 equal portions, about 975 grams each. Cut each portion into 4 equal pieces (you'll end up with 8 pieces total, 4 pieces will be used in each loaf).
  • Braiding Challah Bread: Roll each piece of dough into an even rectangular log. Let dough rest while you repeat with the other loaf. Gather 4 strands and roll them again to even thickness. Pinch the 4 strands together at the top. Follow the rule: “2nd to the top, 1st to the middle” as you braid from the right side to the left and back again. Watch this video for a visual.
    For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Place on the parchment lined paper and repeat with the second loaf of challah bread. Cover the challah with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap.
  • Put the shaped dough into your oven and turn the light on if your kitchen runs cold. Do not turn the oven on. This pseudo-proofing box will keep the dough warm enough (78-80 degrees F) as it proofs to rise and puff up, about 3-4 hours (this is very temperature dependent).
  • Once the dough is puffy, light and risen, take the dough out of the oven. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Make a simple egg wash by mixing an egg with a splash of water. Brush egg wash on top of the risen challah bread. Sprinkle with sesame seeds if desired.
  • Bake challah bread in a preheated oven for 35-40 minutes (the internal temperature of the bread should be 190 degrees). Let bread cool completely before slicing. Enjoy!

Notes

Levain: If you have 250 grams of ripe sourdough starter you want to use in place of the levain, you can do that. Read more about why I use a levain method here. If you prefer mixing the levain the night before and having it ready for you in the morning, mix together a 1:10:10 ratio (13 grams sourdough starter: 130 grams flour: 130 grams water). Let it sit overnight for about 12 hours.
Cold Bulk Fermentation: I find adding a cold bulk fermentation helps me space out the recipe to fit my schedule. I also prefer the flavor of the bread after undergoing a cold bulk fermentation. If you prefer, you can skip the cold bulk fermentation and immediately shape the bread after the bulk fermentation. It will still need to rise about 4- 5 hours before baking.
Keyword best homemade bread, braided bread, braided challah bread, challah bread, levain, natural levain, natural yeast, naturally leavened bread, naturally leavened sourdough, sourdough, sourdough bread, sourdough challah bread, sourdough homemade bread

Hi! I’m Amy. Sourdough lover and Kentucky based mama, sharing my best recipes and tips, one bake at a time. So glad you’re here!

Rating: 1 out of 5.

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One response to “Braided Sourdough Challah Bread”

  1. Kris Avatar
    Kris

    Yummmmm! 😍🥖

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I am a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed for me to earn fees by linking to Amazon.com. As an Amazon Associate, I earn a very small amount from qualifying purchases.

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