Sourdough Challah Recipe

makes 1 large loaf  |  time: 20 hrs (about 8.5hrs on baking day)

Levain: (made the night before, for at least 12 hrs.)
35g ripe starter
80g warm filtered water
135g bread flour

Final Dough: 
fully fermented levain- shown above
60g warm water
3 lrg. eggs (plus 1 for glaze)
8g sea salt
55g vegetable oil
65g honey or sugar (I used sugar)
400g bread flour

DAY 1:
1. Levain: The night before, mix together your challah levain. Mix 35g of ripe starter, 80g warm filtered water, and 135g bread flour. Combine until the flour is completely combined with wet ingredients, cover and set in a warm area overnight. I like to use my oven with the light on, make sure it is not hot from previous baking.

DAY 2: 
2. Mixing: In a large bowl, beat together the 60g warm water, 3 eggs, 8g salt, 55g vegetable oil, 65g of honey/sugar until it is well combined. Starting with a wooden spoon, mix in all of the 400g bread flour, I like to finish mixing with my hand, I run my hand under water and hand mix everything at this point. When the mixture is a shaggy ball, mix in the levain and knead the dough until it is smooth, but no more than 10 minutes of mixing. This dough is very firm and should almost feel like modeling clay. If it's too firm add in 1-2 tbsp. of water or too wet add in 1-2 tbsp of flour. The dough should feel smooth and very firm but be easy to knead. 

3. Fermenting:
Place the dough in a bowl and cover. Let the dough ferment for 2 hours. It will probably not rise much at all, this is where the flavor begins to start!

4. Shaping and Proofing:
Line a large baking sheet with parchment and set aside. Transfer dough onto a clean, lightly floured surface and you will begin to divide your dough into equal parts. At this point decide how many strands you'd like to braid for your dough. Mine shown above is a 6 strand braid. An easy way to cut it into equal parts is to first cut it in half, then cut the halves in half...etc etc. and you can even use your scale if precision is your thing. :)

Here's a video to show you how to do a 6 strand:
A good tip is to use little pieces of paper and pin them on the end of each strand numbering each 1-6, that way you can keep track of which strand is which.  I also think it's important to pinch the ends and tuck them under, if not they can burn while baking and bake unevenly.

After it is shaped as desired, position them on the prepared sheets and cover them well with the plastic wrap. I didn't want my plastic wrap to stick to the proofing dough so I used a bigger piece and placed upside down cups on the sides of the dough for the plastic wrap to rest on. Let this proof for 5 hours, until it has tripled in size.

5. Baking: 
Preheat the oven to 350ºF, at the end of the proofing and prepare egg wash glaze. Beat 1 egg with a pinch of salt for glazing the breads.

When the loaf has tripled in size, brush it with the egg glaze, make sure to get into all the crevices. If you are baking a large loaf like I did, bake for 35-45 minutes, 20 minutes into the baking rotate the pan to get an even bake. If it is browning too much, tent it with foil. When the loaf is done remove from the oven, let it cool, take a picture and tag @sour__flour :) & lastly but most importantly ENJOY!!

I loved this bread for french toast the next day. I used the entire loaf for french toast and froze the slices we didn't eat, that way when the kids want a yummy breakfast I can easily put one in the toaster for them!

The 6 strand braid is a repetition.  Always have 2 outside strands and after crossing one over, bring the other side down in the middle. Then replace the empty side with the 2nd to the outside strand, and then bring the opposite down in the middle.  This feels ridiculous trying to write it out in words, so watch a video and then this drawing should help you to remember .


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