Does This Bakery-Style Challah Live Up to Its Promise? We Baked It to Find Out.
When it comes to Jewish baking, Marcy Goldman is truly an expert. Many years ago, when I was a practicing lawyer and only baking occasionally, I turned to her recipes almost exclusively (I consulted her cookbook A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking before every single Jewish holiday). She’s also famous for her caramel matzoh crunch.
Needless to say, it was a no-brainer to include Marcy’s challah recipe as a contender in our challah recipe showdown. Marcy calls her challah “commercial bakery-style challah,” as it’s meant to resemble the ones sold at Jewish bakeries: a little denser and a little sweeter than most homemade challahs, and particularly great for toasting. I baked a loaf myself to see if I agreed.
Get the recipe: Marcy Goldman’s Challah
Making Marcy’s Commercial-Style Challah
I began Marcy’s recipe by proofing the yeast with just water — no sugar — which I typically add to stimulate the yeast. After a few minutes had passed, despite the fact that the yeast and water hadn’t bubbled to my satisfaction, I added in one cup of the bread flour as instructed. But the dough rose well and I needn’t have worried.
I then added salt, sugar, three eggs and one egg yolk, oil, and some of the remaining flour and began kneading. At this point you’re also instructed to add yellow food coloring (a nod to the bakery-style theme), but I chose to omit it — I figured most people aren’t seeking yellow bread from homemade loaves, and I also wanted to better compare the look of the challah with the other three recipes I was battling off.
But back to the dough. Marcy’s recipe calls for 6 to 8 cups of flour, with instructions on adding flour until the dough is soft. I used 7 cups total. When it was ready, I let the dough rise, covered in plastic wrap, for 45 minutes.
The recipe then asks you to braid the loaves, coat them with nonstick cooking spray, and cover with plastic until almost doubled in size. Mine were nicely risen after 40 minutes, so at that point I glazed them with egg wash, sprinkled with sesame seeds, and popped them into the oven. I baked the loaves for 35 minutes, which was the lower end of Marcy’s range.
An Honest Review of Marcy Goldman’s Challah
Marcy’s challah was soft and a bit stringy, so it had a decent texture, but not quite as much stringiness as I like. The flavor, unfortunately, was just too plain, and not what I like from a challah. The overall look of the loaves was dull and didn’t have the sheen that challahs typically have, which I attribute to the step of spraying the loaves with oil before the second rise.
The challah was pretty simple to make, although Marcy instructs you to make the dough in a stand mixer and use the dough hook to knead it, which I did, but I had to keep turning off the machine to scrape down the hook, as the dough was very dense.
I’m not particularly convinced these were any more “bakery-style” than the other loaves I tested, although I did omit the food coloring. They certainly weren’t sweeter than other loaves. They did, however, have a deeply browned crust, which is one of the bakery-style qualities Marcy mentions in her description of the recipe.
If You’re Making Marcy Goldman’s Challah, A Few Tips
1. Start with 7 cups of flour. Marcy provides a range for the flour (6 to 8 cups). She asks you to add 1 cup early on, then add 2/3 of the remaining flour in the early stages of mixing. At this point, however, you don’t know how much total you’re using, so I recommend starting with 7 cups. You’ll add 1 cup at the beginning, 4 cups when you start mixing, and can add the remaining 2 cups as needed.
2. Let the dough rise for 60 minutes in its first rise. I let the dough rise for 45 minutes as instructed, but next time I would let it rise for 60 minutes, as my dough was dense and hard to roll out after just 45.
3. Don’t spray the loaves with oil. This technique left me with dull, rather than shiny, loaves. Next time, I’ll leave the braided challahs uncovered for the second rise, as I typically do, and just glaze with egg wash.
- Difficulty: 8/10
- Taste and texture: 5/10
- Appearance: 7/10
- Overall: 7/10