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I Tried Molly Yeh’s Classic Challah Recipe (& Here’s What I Thought)

published Dec 10, 2019
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Credit: Image: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn

Over the past several years, Molly Yeh has built a name for herself with her popular recipe blog, two cookbooks, and Food Network series Girl Meets Farm. Prior to this challah, I hadn’t tried any of Molly’s recipes, but I was eager to do so — I’ve always been intrigued by the way she incorporates her Jewish, Chinese, and Midwest influences into her cooking. She also, of course, has a huge following, and I wanted to be a part of it.

I included Molly’s challah recipe, which was originally published in her cookbook Molly on the Range, as part of my search for the very best classic challah. Here’s what happened when I baked a loaf in my kitchen.

Get the recipe: Molly Yeh’s Challah

Credit: Images: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn

How to Make Molly Yeh’s Challah

You’ll begin by proofing the yeast — mixing it with warm water and a pinch of sugar — in a medium bowl (although I used a 2-cup measuring cup as I always do), then combining the dry ingredients (flour, salt, and sugar) in a larger bowl. Molly’s recipe calls for all-purpose rather than bread flour, which I was initially suspicious about, but after polling several friends, I learned only about half of them use bread flour in their challahs, and the other half use all-purpose.

You’ll then whisk together eggs, oil, and additional sweetener (sugar, honey, or molasses) in a third bowl. I opted for honey to level the playing field with the other recipes I was testing, one of which is sweetened with honey. At this point, I was frustrated that I’d already dirtied three bowls, but I appreciated that the ingredients were all well-mixed.

You’re then instructed to add the yeast and egg mixtures to the dry ingredients and stir to combine. I found it hard to mix with a wooden spoon, so I pretty quickly began using my hands. You’ll knead until a smooth dough forms, adding flour as necessary.

Credit: Paula Shoyer
Molly Yeh Challah

After the first rise (about 1 3/4 hours), Molly directs you to cut the strands for braiding from a patted-down rectangle of dough. This was a very effective method — it was easy to get the strands even (often my strands are thinner in parts, resulting in an uneven loaf), and I didn’t need to flour my hands or the dough to shape the loaf. The result was very long strands that created a very long challah, so I placed it diagonally across the sheet pan. I had never used this technique to cut strands before, but I certainly will moving forward. You’ll let the braided loaf rise until puffy — about 30 minutes.

After brushing on a glaze of egg yolk and sugar, you’ll sprinkle the top with sea salt — something I also hadn’t done before but ended up really liking. Then into the oven it goes.

Credit: Joe Lingeman

My Honest Review of Molly Yeh’s Challah

I judge every challah I eat by its stringiness (stringy = good), and unfortunately, Molly’s challah wasn’t stringy at all. Instead, it was very dense, almost like a pound cake. Taste-wise, it was pretty neutral — there was nothing not to like about it, but I would have preferred more flavor. 

Making the challah was reasonably easy until I got to the kneading part, which proved difficult. I also didn’t like that the recipe gave a range for the amount of flour, with no instructions of how to know which amount to use.

Unfortunately, the challah didn’t end up as pretty as I had hoped — the center separated, so the golden-glazed sides surrounded a very white/yellow center. I did, however, like the taste of the glaze. And, as I mentioned before, I was very into Molly’s method for creating the dough strands for braiding.

Credit: Paula Shoyer
Molly Yeh Challah

If You’re Making Molly Yeh’s Challah, a Few Tips

1. Double the recipe, or divide the dough to braid two loaves. Molly’s challah recipe only yields one loaf, but ideally all challah recipes should create two loaves because of the custom to say the blessing over two loaves on Friday nights. Simply double Molly’s recipe or make two smaller loaves.

2. Opt for a stand mixer. Because the dough was very dense, it took a long time to knead it by hand. Next time, I would definitely use my stand mixer and dough hook.

3. Grease your measuring spoon. If you rub oil onto your measuring spoon before measuring the honey, the honey will slide right off, and the full amount will go into the bowl.

4. Bake for longer than instructed, if necessary. Molly’s recipe asks you to bake the challah until it registers 190°F, but my loaf reached that temperature long before the dough was fully baked (the center still looked doughy). Mine needed 31 minutes total.

Rating:

  • Difficulty: 9/10
  • Taste and texture: 6/10
  • Appearance: 6/10 
  • Overall: 7/10
Credit: Image: Joe Lingeman; Design: The Kitchn