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I’ve Been Making Challah for Decades, and This Streusel-Topped One Might Be My New Favorite

published Dec 12, 2019
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Credit: Image: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn

Popular kosher blogger Chanie Apfelbaum, of the Busy in Brooklyn blog, has been a welcome addition to the Jewish recipe world. Her first cookbook, Millennial Kosher, is very popular among kosher cooks of all ages. 

I’ve long been wanting to try Chanie’s recipes, but when it came time to choose contenders for Kitchn’s challah recipe showdown, I was torn on whether to include her challah. Because it uses honey rather than sugar as the primary sweetener, I wondered whether the outcome would be too different from the other recipes and therefore not a valid contender. 

But these creative twists on classic Jewish recipes are what Chanie is known for (case in point: poutine latkes), so I threw her into the mix. Boy, am I glad I did.

Credit: Images: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn

Making Chanie Apfelbaum’s Challah

Chanie’s recipe uses the classic method of proofing the yeast with water and sugar before adding the other ingredients. Once the yeast had bubbled, I whisked in the honey, salt, oil, and one egg. Once the liquids were mixed together, I added the flour in two parts. This recipe calls for high-gluten flour, which I interpreted as bread flour, so I used King Arthur bread flour. 

Chanie directs you to sift the flour because she says it makes the challah lighter. I have to admit that her challah was definitely lighter than the others, although in general I’m not big on sifting. I used all the flour in the 5-pound bag except for 1/4 cup.

Chanie’s recipe wasn’t specific about where and how to leave the dough to rise, so I did what I always do: I greased the bowl with my hands, rubbed more oil on top of the dough, added the dough to the bowl, and covered it with a dishtowel. I let it rise at room temperature for most of the time, but I placed the bowl on an open oven door with the oven on at 200°F for about 40 percent of the rising time. 

I then made the crumb topping — a simple mix of flour, sugar, oil, and vanilla — and sprinkled it over the challah. It was very easy to make, and extremely tasty. The recipe gives a range for the amount of oil (1/3 to 1/2 cup), and I ended up needing the full 1/2 cup to get the ingredients to mix together.

Because I made four very large challahs, I baked them for 42 minutes. (Smaller loaves would have baked for about 35 minutes, which is what Chanie recommends). As always, I recommend baking for a few minutes less than what is specified, check the loaf for doneness, and then add more time if needed.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

An Honest Review of Chanie Apfelbaum’s Challah

Despite her unique spin on challah dough, Chanie’s recipe creates a very classic-style challah, in the same ballpark as the other recipes in terms of look and texture, but with much more flavor. In fact, the texture of the baked challah was similar to my own challah recipe, which uses all sugar with just a tablespoon of honey.

This was the sweetest challah of the four contenders, although I still wouldn’t call it sweet. It had the perfect long, stringy texture when I pulled it apart, and the flavor was really good. I would make this one again, but without the sweet topping, which I think is unnecessary. In short, Chanie’s challah tasted to me how challah should taste and feel.

The one thing that surprised me about this recipe is that it uses five pounds of flour and only one egg (and Chanie even includes the option of omitting the egg if someone is allergic). But somehow, it all seems to work.

Credit: Paula Shoyer
Chanie Apfelbaum Challah

If You’re Making Chanie’s Challah, a Few Tips

1. Halve the recipe. Unless you want extra loaves to freeze to serve on other occasions, I would consider halving this recipe so it’s more manageable to mix (as it is, this recipe makes a huge amount of dough — enough for 6 to 8 loaves — so mixing it is quite a workout). You would still end up with three to four challahs.

2. Opt for a different topping. Chanie’s topping is tasty, but if you want to avoid the sugar, you can omit it and use sesame or poppy seeds instead (or, my personal favorite, everything bagel spice mix). The recipe makes a lot of topping, so halve or quarter the amounts listed, depending on how many sweet challahs you want. I prefer my challah toppings savory, but I’m told that many people enjoy the streusel-like topping.

Rating

  • Difficulty: 8/10
  • Taste and texture: 9/10
  • Appearance: 8/10 
  • Overall: 9/10
Credit: Image: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn