A few months ago I had the idea of sourdough challah. I have been really into sourdough recently (in part because once you have the starter it is honestly easier than making bread totally from scratch). When I searched the internet for a recipe for it that would tell me how much yeast to add or not add and other proportions I came up short. I was shocked how few people were making sourdough challah so I decided to experiment on my own.
Before you begin I suggest reading my post on my classic challah which gives some intro tips and tricks for making the best challah. I based my sourdough challah on that recipe with a few changes. The loaves come out looking the same as long as you adjust the yeast.
Why make sourdough challah? I guess first, why not? It saves yeast. It also adds a subtle flavor that I appreciate.
The first time I made the sourdough challah I made some major mistakes. I used the same amount of yeast I usually do because I was concerned the yeast I was using was dead and wouldn’t work as well. As a result the challah came out super puffy and the consistency was more like store-bought challah. The second time the consistency was perfect.
Sourdough Tips and Notes:
- As with all my sourdough recipes the amount of sourdough you add is really flexible.
- Generally the night before I make anything with sourdough I mix one cup flour and one cup cold water with the sourdough starter. I then pour the amount of sourdough starter that was in the jar before back into the jar. I cover it lightly with the lid and place a light covering over the bowl that has the sourdough discard I will use in recipes the next morning.
- 1 cup active sourdough discard (read notes above)
- ¾ tablespoon instant yeast
- ½ cup plus 1 tbsp brown sugar (alternatively: honey, agave, plain sugar)
- 1 ¾ cups lukewarm water
- ½ cup light olive oil
- 5 large eggs plus 1 additional for egg wash
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 8-9 cups bread flour (see tips in my classic challah recipe linked above for explanation and subsitutions)
- Optional: toppings or stuffings of your choice such as chocolate chips, raisins, or Everything but the Bagel
- Whisk sourdough starter, instant yeast, and one tablespoon brown sugar in lukewarm water until dissolved. This can be done easily by hand, however, it is easiest if you use the bowl of a stand mixer as the mixer is very helpful for later steps.
- Add oil, continuing to whisk.
- Add 5 eggs, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar, alternating between eggs and continuing to whisk.
- Using the dough hook on your kitchen aid, or a wooden spoon if you do not have a stand mixer, gradually add flour. Keep the mixer on low speed and add one cup at a time to reduce mess. If you are using vital gluten, add it at this time as well. Add enough flour so the dough is no longer sticky and does not easily take more flour (see photos and tips on classic challah post).
- Continue kneading for several minutes until smooth either with the dough hook or by hand.
- Remove the dough ball from the bowl, grease the bowl, and return the dough. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size. The time this takes depends on the temperature and humidity in your room. It should, however, be at least an hour and a half or two.
- Once the challah has doubled in size punch down and allow to rise for another forty-five minutes.
- Divide challah dough and braid challah to the desired shape. Four and six-strand loaves are both pretty. If you are using stuffings such as chocolate chips flatten the strands after forming them, add the chocolate chips, and pinch the sides up (see photo on classic challah post).
- Preheat oven to 375°.
- Allow challah to rise for another hour.
- Crack and scramble the final egg in a bowl and brush it on your loaves. If you are using a topping (such as everything but the bagel spice) sprinkle on now.
- Bake in the oven for 30-35 minutes, depending on the loaf size and your desired doneness. At that point you can poke the challah to make sure it is baked inside.
- Turn the oven to broil and allow the tops to brown for an additional 2-5 minutes. Monitor to make sure the tops do not burn.
- Remove from oven and allow to cool.