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Hearty Holiday Challah by Heidi Hedeker

Hearty Holiday Challah by Heidi Hedeker

By: Terra Brockman (Read Bio)

Hearty Holiday Challah by Heidi Hedeker
Heidi Hedeker, certified master baker and a pastry chef instructor with Kendall College, provided Janie's Mill with this great recipe and step-by-step photos, including how to shape a 6-strand challah -- it's actually easier than it looks!


For the Sponge:

Final dough formula:

  • Water or milk (cool ) 8 oz
  • Salt ¼ oz
  • Oil 4 oz
  • Honey 2 oz
  • Sugar 2 oz
  • Yolks 12 yolks (or I use 5 whole eggs)
  • Janie’s Mill Turkey Red heirloom flour 1 pound
  • Janie’s Mill High Protein bread flour 12 oz
  • Raisins (optional) 6 oz

for the Egg Wash:
  • Egg 1 egg (2 oz)
  • Water 1 oz (2 tbsp.)


For the Sponge:

  • Combine the sponge ingredients to make a thick paste.

  • Allow the sponge to ferment for 1 hour under a dusting of flour (this allows you to see its expansion). It should double in volume.

    For the Final Dough: Add the remaining ingredients to the sponge in the bowl of a stand mixer. Mix for one minute until fully incorporated. Turn out onto counter, rest, stretch and fold twice during the following bulk fermentation hour.

    Bulk Fermentation: Ferment dough for 1 hour at room temperature.

    Divide: Scale at 24 oz for large challah, 18 oz for small challah.

    Shape: Braid as desired. Place on paper lined pans. Egg wash.

    Proof: Proof until slightly bloated and your finger should leave an indentation on the surface of the loaf when pressed. 60 – 90 minutes.

    Bake: Egg wash a second time, before baking. This will give more shine to the final bread and also help the challah loaves expand more fully in the oven. Bake in an oven with some steam at 365 for 25-40 minutes, until done.


Heidi’s Tips for a Hearty Challah using Turkey Red and High Protein flours

  • Because challah is an enriched dough with extra sweeteners and fat, the yeast has a really hard time activating. So you’ll do much better if you start by making a sponge starter to activate the yeast before mixing the dough. Sponge starters are often used in enriched doughs such as challah or brioche. Think of the sponge as an incubator for your yeast, a comfy place where it’s fed and kept warm to get a strong start.

  • Most sponge starters take only 1-3 hours before being mixed into the dough. They are usually liquid base, rather than dough base (as in the biga or pate fermentee) to allow for quicker growth of the yeast. When ready to use, a risen sponge starter with a dough base looks mounded, with a crackled crown of flour from the yeast expanding underneath the surface, and slightly collapsed.

  • In the recipe below, I’ve adjusted my usual challah recipe for using Turkey Red by incorporating a sponge starter. I use a mixture of High Protein flour and Turkey Red flour because 100% Turkey Red would not have the elasticity Challah needs for its best expansion.

Here's a recipe for Chernowitzer Challah from the late Lotte Langmann using our Sifted Artisan and/or High-Protein flours.

Posted on December 01 2022