Challah (or kitke, in South Africa) is the traditional braided bread served at Jewish holidays or Shabbat on Fridays. This is the classic three-strand version for one loaf, but the recipe doubles easily so you could make two and freeze one (or use it for French toast the next morning).
- 3 t dried yeast
- 1 cup warm water
- 85 g sugar
- 500 g flour
- 2 t salt
- 1 free-range egg
- 4 T olive oil
- beaten egg, for brushing
- sesame or poppy seeds, for sprinkling
1. Mix the yeast and warm water with a small pinch of the sugar and leave to activate until bubbly and foamy.
2. In a large bowl, whisk the flour, sugar and salt together, then make a well in the centre.
3. Combine the egg and oil in a jug, then add to the flour mixture. Stir to combine, then add the yeast and warm water.
4. Stir with a wooden spoon (or use a stand mixer with the dough hook attached) until a shaggy dough forms, then turn out onto a clean surface. If using a stand mixer, continue mixing with the dough hook.
5. Knead until a smooth, slightly tacky dough forms, ensuring all the flour is incorporated. Try to avoid adding more flour until the dough has come together, continue kneading for a few minutes. If the dough still feels very sticky after about 5 minutes of kneading, add small amounts of flour at a time until it’s no longer sticking to your fingers.
6. Once the dough is ready, place in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with clingwrap or a clean tea towel and leave to prove. You want the dough to roughly double in size, so the time will depend on how warm your kitchen is. Alternatively, pop the bowl in the fridge and leave to prove overnight.
7. When the dough has doubled, divide into three equal-sized balls and roll out into even sausages and braid into a traditional plait. Start by pressing the tops together, then by pull the outermost right piece in between the other two, then pull the left piece over and in between the two on the right. Repeat until all dough is braided and press the ends together again.
8. Place on a greased baking sheet and cover with greased clingwrap to rise again before baking. Preheat the oven to 180°C.
9. When the dough has risen again, brush with egg, sprinkle over the sesame or poppy seeds and bake for 30–45 minutes, or until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped. Remove from the baking sheet and leave to cool on a cooling rack.
Cook’s note: This recipe doubles well, so if you want to make two at a time, you could freeze the second loaf.
Photography: Jan Ras
Production: Abigail Donnelly
Food assistant: Bianca Strydom