People often ask for my challah recipe, at which point I explain it’s not the recipe itself that is the key, it’s really some of the other steps, including some of the gear that I use that makes my challah so good.
Some of my tips?
Feed your yeast – make sure to add 1 tsp sugar to your yeast and lukewarm water mixture to help move it along, thus “feeding your yeast.” When the yeast-water mixture is foamy and bubbling on top you will know its ready,
Double the rise – always let your challah rise twice! Let it rise once for 2-4 hours, punching down as needed. Then braid your challah and let it rise again before baking for a super fluffy result.
My dear friend Danielle, a trained pastry chef, was always telling me I NEEDED a scale. And you know what – she was right. A digital scale for baking is really essential and I don’t know how I ever survived without it. You might be asking…why would I use this for challah!? I am not good at eye-balling dough so that it is the same amount in each strand, each loaf or when I make individual challah rolls. Measuring your dough will ensure more even distribution and an all-around better-looking loaf!
A silpat, although perhaps a pricey investment since I recommend buying 2, is well worth the upfront cost. You know when the bottom of your bread gets slightly burned, but the inside and top is perfect? Well a silpat will make sure that doesn’t happen. And you can use it for much more than challah – it’s ideal for cookies as well.
My next suggestion has many applications beyond just challah – a dough scraper is a great tool to have for baking in general. But why for challah? I love using the scraper to cut the dough into clean pieces as I am dividing it up. And perhaps even more exciting than cutting is how easy a scraper makes clean-up since you can use it to collect all the bits of dough and flour off your counter or work surface.
Lastly, I recommend a good non-silicone pastry brush in order to apply your egg wash. I have also used silicone pastry brushes, but I simple prefer the non-silicone variety. I also use pastry brushes like these when making scones, pies and a variety of cookies.