Easy Sourdough Challah

published Sep 9, 2021
Sourdough Challah Recipe

Sourdough starter gives this challah both a pleasant tang and a slightly heartier (though still super fluffy) texture.

Makes1 loaf

Prep20 minutes

Cook35 minutes to 45 minutes

Jump to Recipe
We independently select these products—if you buy from one of our links, we may earn a commission. All prices were accurate at the time of publishing.
Sourdough Challah (a rich, braided, traditional Jewish bread) with poppy and sesame seeds on top. Half of the loaf is sliced and there is a ramekin of butter next to it.
Credit: Renae Wilson

Baking your own bread — especially homemade sourdough — can seem like an overwhelming task, but this recipe makes it easy with its simplistic approach. Beyond the ingredients (most, if not all, of which you likely already have), all you need is a sourdough starter and time. Start your dough the evening before for an overnight rise of eight to 12 hours (or up to 24 if proofing in the refrigerator). The following day, give yourself about four to six hours for shaping, rising, and baking.

While I of course offer timing suggestions, going by visual cues and feel are best when working with bread dough. This dough should be tacky, not sticky. If it feels too dry, add a little water; if it feels too wet, add a bit more flour. If your kitchen runs cool with little humidity, your bread may take a little longer to rise.

Sourdough Challah Versus Classic Challah

Challah is a Jewish ceremonious bread typically eaten during the holidays (excluding Passover). It’s made with flour, oil, yeast, egg, water and salt, and because there is fat in the dough, it’s considered an enriched dough. Yeast is typically used as the leavening agent in classic challah, but this recipe relies on sourdough starter to rise. The starter adds a slight and pleasant tang, which complements the fats in the bread. It also affects the texture of the bread. Rest assured that your loaf will still be pillowy and tender — the crumb will just be slightly denser than traditional challah.

Another difference in this recipe is the braiding. Challah is often formed into a six-strand braid, which can take some getting used to. I chose to do two (three-strand) braids twisted together for an intricate-looking, but far less difficult variation. 

What to Do with Leftovers

After your bread is baked, enjoy it fresh for up to four days. It’s delicious simply sliced, but below are some fun ways to reinvent the loaf.

Credit: Renae Wilson

Sourdough Challah Recipe

Sourdough starter gives this challah both a pleasant tang and a slightly heartier (though still super fluffy) texture.

Prep time 20 minutes

Cook time 35 minutes to 45 minutes

Makes 1 loaf

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

  • 1/3 cup

    warm water

  • 5 tablespoons

    olive oil

  • 3 tablespoons

    maple syrup

  • 2 teaspoons

    plus 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt, divided

  • 2

    large eggs

  • 3 1/2 cups

    bread flour, plus more for surface

  • 1/3 cup

    sourdough starter (100% hydration)

  • Cooking spray

  • 1

    large egg yolk

  • 1 to 2 tablespoons

    sesame seeds

Instructions

  1. Place 1/3 cup warm water, 5 tablespoons olive oil, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, 2 teaspoons of the kosher salt, and 2 large eggs in a stand mixer and mix with a fork until combined. Add 3 1/2 cups bread flour and 1/3 cup sourdough starter. Knead with the dough hook on medium-low speed (setting 3) until a shaggy dough forms, about 2 minutes.

  2. Scrape the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead by hand until the dough begins to smooth out and become tacky, 6 to 10 minutes. If the dough is too firm, add more water 1 tablespoon at a time until the dough kneads easily. If the dough is too wet, add more flour 1 tablespoon at a time.

  3. Lightly coat a large bowl with cooking spray. Add the dough and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place (like the inside of a turned off microwave) until the dough has nearly doubled in size, 8 to 12 hours.

  4. Dump the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead until it comes together. Divide the dough into 6 portions. Roll each piece from the center outwards with your hands into a 16-inch long rope. Braid 3 ropes together, then braid remaining 3 ropes together. Twist the 2 braids together, then tuck the ends under the loaf.

  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the loaf on top. Lightly coat a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking spray, then place over the loaf spray-side down. Let rise in a warm area until puffy and jiggly, 3 to 4 hours.

  6. Arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350℉. Meanwhile, place 1 large egg yolk, 1 tablespoon water, and the remaining 1/8 teaspoon kosher salt in a small bowl and whisk with a fork to combine. Brush the bread with the egg wash, then sprinkle with 1 to 2 tablespoons sesame seeds.

  7. Bake until the challah is golden brown, 35 to 45 minutes. If the challah is getting too dark, tent it with a sheet of aluminum foil. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature before slicing.

Recipe Notes

Topping substitutions: Challah bread is often garnished with sesame or poppy seeds, but feel free to use something a little different. Everything bagel seasoning is a great substitution.

Storage: Wrap the challah tightly in plastic wrap or store in a zip-top bag at room temperature for up to 4 days.