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Friday, February 25, 2011

Quick Challah

I often hear about how much time it takes to make challah. I used to believe the same, but thanks to a friend I learned just how quick it can be to make challah. I spend a bit less than 10 minutes on preparing the dough Friday morning and a bit less than 10 minutes getting the dough from the prep bowl onto a baking sheet shortly before Shabbat. The challah tastes good, but it isn't fancy.

Seriously, it would take me more time to buy challah! (Wish I knew that when I was first married. I would have extra dough in the bank account!) Here is my easy and quick method. The only downside to this challah in my opinion is that it doesn't freeze nicely. Some might consider not being able to take challah a downside, but I make double and triple batches often enough that I don't feel incomplete with a 5 cup recipe. We aren't huge bread eaters.

8 Minutes
1. Combine 1/4 cup of warm water with 2 1/2 teaspoons of yeast and approximately 1 tablespoon of sugar. I buy yeast in bulk, but believe that this equals one package of yeast. I combine all of this right in the Kitchen Aid mixing bowl. I'm told that yeast is best prepared in a glass bowl. But time is of the essence here.

2. Go do something else for about 5 minutes while the yeast gets bubbly.

3. Come back and add 1/4 cup sugar, approx 1/4 cup oil, 2.5 cups of whole wheat flour, 2.5 cups of white flour, and another 1 and 1/4 cups of water. I keep all my challah supplies in arm's reach of my Kitchen Aid.

4. Turn on Kitchen Aid mixer to a low setting and until a ball of dough forms. If a ball isn't forming readily, grab dough and push into a ball. I use this time to wipe the counter clean.

5. Put a (clean) shower cap on top of the Kitchen Aid. Leave in a warm place.

6. Go do whatever you need to do for many hours.

7 Minutes
7. Approximately 10 30 (corrected!) minutes before Shabbat, pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F, punch down challah and quickly shape dough (or have your kids shape the dough if you can afford extra time). Put in oven for 25 minutes. Go take a shower, set your table, or set your food up on the blech. Take challah out of oven and enjoy on Shabbat.

Shabbat Shalom all!

Updated for reader comments:
One reader sees I haven't added the time to wash the bowl. I tend to take care of this Saturday night. I'm dealing with a million other dishes anyways.

Another readers sees I have made no cost comparison. I don't even have a clue how much bakery or commercial challah costs anymore. When I stopped buying, it was already $3.50 a loaf. I'm told challah can be as much as $5 a loaf now.

If I'm smart, I can stock up on 5 lb. white flour for as low as a dollar (that deal hasn't come around in a while). But I can normally buy for $2.29 or lower. I can buy whole wheat flour for $2.99. A bag of white and a bag of whole wheat will last me for at least a month, often longer.

Never buy yeast at the grocery store. The jar is massively expensive. For right around $5 you can get yeast in bulk at Costco. There is enough for 9-12 months in that bag!

Sugar has gone up in price. Nevertheless, a bag will last a long time and you can normally buy sugar on sale for $1.99 for a shrinking bag. I think we are down to 4 lbs. now.

I buy oil in bulk size containers for around $4.99. This too lasts a long time.

One thing my readers might notice is that I can't tell you how much a recipe costs. This isn't due to lack of mathematical skill. But I might make a post on how I set a grocery budget and why I don't engage in calculating out the cost or this and that.


Abba's Rantings said...

"it would take me more time to buy challah!"

only if you make a special trip out to the bakery just to buy challah

" I would have extra dough in the bank account"


Orthonomics said...

Abba, you make a point there. For me if would be an extra trip because of my food stocking habits. I rarely go to the kosher store and bakery because I stock up and freeze for 2 months at a time. So buying challah weekly would be an extra trip.

Orthonomics said...

One can freeze challah of course. . . .

Given the price of gas as of this week, limiting trips is high on my priority list. Hence another reason not to make any unnecessary trips.

tesyaa said...

You didn't include time for washing the mixer bowl. Do you leave it for after Shabbos? (That's my least favorite part).

tdr said...

You forgot to include the relative prices of store bought loaves vs. buying a bag of flour. For anyone who is unconvinced of the virtue of baking your own.

These are approximately my numbers:
bag of flour not on sale = $2.80
large loaf of store-bought challah = $5.00
# of large loaves you can bake with 1 bag of flour = 8 (or more?)

Flavor of store-bought vs. homemade challah -- no comparison!

I've been baking bread for a long time and I don't think even traditional challah recipes are terribly time consuming. It probably takes me 15 minutes to make a large batch of dough and 5 or 10 minutes to shape the loaves. And that's if I braid it! Challah can rise for up to 24 hours in the fridge.

And while I'm on board with the idea of baking ahead, and it's good to be able to take challah, it really does take less time and energy to knead and braid 1 batch of challah (3 or 4 small loaves).

conservative scifi said...

Ever since my kids school switched challah suppliers to a bakery I don't like, I've been making my own challah at home with a bread machine my parents were going to through away. I set up the machine early Friday morning. Before I worked from home, I would get home, the machine would have finished its part, and I would braid the dough into challah and let it rise in a 100 degree oven for as long as possible, then bake at 350 for 30 minutes. (Now I can usually optimize the rising time at about 1 1/2 to 2 hours).

The price is much cheaper. Even when we were only paying $5 for two challot (and it is now $8 for two challot at their school), baking saves money.

I use 3 eggs, 6 cups flour, 9 tbsp sugar, 1/3 cup oil, 3 tbsp yeast, 2 1/4 tsp salt, and 1 1/4 cup water for two loaves. So if a dozen eggs costs $1.99, then 3 eggs are about $0.50. If a bag of flour is almost $3.00 and I am using about a 1/3 of the bag, that is another $1.00. For sugar, it is a tiny fraction of a bag, so probably on the order of $0.25 and salt is probably even less (on the order of 0.02). The yeast is fairly expensive, and it is probably as much as $1.00 in yeast. So my total cost is about $2.77 for two loaves, or a savings of $5.33 from buying it a my kids school (and it tastes better and much fresher).

conservative scifi said...

Oops, "through" should be throw and I forgot the oil, which is probably at least another $0.23, making my total cost closer to $3.00.

Orthonomics said...

Buy yeast in bulk!

Cheaper at Costco (a family member picks up for me once a year or so), but still super inexpensive at Amazon.

Store in the freezer to stay active.

Anonymous said...

Don't forget the cost of energy for the mixer/breadmaker and the oven and a few cents for water and washing the dishes/equipment used to make the Challah. (Can you tell that I read this after paying utility bills?) On the other hand, the smell of homebaked bread is priceless.

Ariella said...

The recipe I use doesn't even require yeast proofing. See
I've made it with whole wheat flour a few times, but it doesn't go over well with all family members. And I can assure you that the "white" whole wheat flour by Mishpacha still looks and tastes like whole wheat. The man who assured me my husband would not know the difference did not speak truth. The only way I could possibly pull it over is if I do something like only 25% whole wheat.

Staying Afloat said...

Ariella, I experimented with the ratio of the white whole wheat. I started with two parts white, one part whole wheat, and gradually swung it over to half and half.

We have noticed that we can't put the challah in the oven too close to Shabbos, or we'll forget about it in the rush. Time really is an issue for me with homemade challah.

If you buy yeast in bulk, does it not go bad eventually?

JS said...

There are lots of good reasons to make challah from scratch, but I don't think saving time and money is one of them.

abba's rantings said...


"You didn't include time for washing the mixer bowl"

i was going to make the same comment, but i then i wondered if perhaps her home is like mine, and cleaning up the kitchen is not her job. (yes, another reason i don't want home-baked challas :) )


"There are lots of good reasons to make challah from scratch, but I don't think saving time and money is one of them."

we only buy one challah a week and we don't make special trip for it, so it really isn't worth baking at home, but i imagine that people who buy a lot of challot it might make sense?


"smell of homebaked bread is priceless."

i was once in the bakery and a woman asked for an unbaked challah that she wanted to bake at home so her home would smell nice before shabbat (and impress the guests?)

Anonymous said...

I make my own challah every week. I buy a 5 pound bag of flour for $1.50 when it's on sale and I get about 5 challahs out of it. I get to do hafrashat challah and I usually give the extra challahs to women who had given birth recently.
I didn't have the luxury of doing this while I was working, but now that I am home with my kids I find the time and my family and guests love it.

Orthonomics said...

was going to make the same comment, but i then i wondered if perhaps her home is like mine, and cleaning up the kitchen is not her job.

If only. If it doesn't go in the dishwasher (Kitchen Aid is one of my few parve utensils), it is my responsibility. I will say that over the years, my husband hasn't taken on more chores. Ultimately, it is mine.

But seriously, how hard is it to put some water in the mixing bowl and deal with it after Shabbat along with other items that need washed like the kiddush cups?

Orthonomics said...

The time consuming dishes are all the china, even if the dishwasher deals with it for the most part! Just my opinion.

On the note of more people taking on more responsiblity, as my kids age, I do get more help from them too!

tesyaa said...

Keep the bulk yeast in the freezer and it will not go bad.

tesyaa said...

But seriously, how hard is it to put some water in the mixing bowl and deal with it after Shabbat along with other items that need washed like the kiddush cups?

Where do you put it for 25 hours that the water won't get spilled? A serious question. My kitchen is not small, yet it is still not overflowing with extra counter space.

Larry Lennhoff said...

I have essentially no baking experience. These directions appear to involve leaving the oven on for all of shabbat at 350. Is that correct or do you preheat the oven and then turn it off when you put the challah in 10 minutes before Shabbat?

Miami Al said...


You stick the Challah in, put the cook timer on your oven on, then hit the Shabbat Mode over so it cuts off without beeping or lights going on and off.

We're not that hard core. We either make it Thursday night or Friday morning, throw everything into the bread machine and start everything going. 90 minutes later, the dough is ready for shaping, takes 5-10 minutes. Let it rise while everyone eats breakfast, by the time dishes are removed from the table and kids are in cars for rides to school, it's risen, let let it cook in the oven for 20 minutes convection mode. Just have the house keeper bag it when it comes out, no muss, no fuss.

Orthonomics said...

tesyaa-At the back of my counter. No one has knocked it over yet.

Larry-My apologies. I can start my challah backing THIRTY minutes before candle lighting. Normally, I like to start an hour before. It takes my oven about 5 minutes to preheat and we make smaller loaves, so they bake nicely at 25 minutes. My last step before candle lighting it to pull them out of the oven. It beeps at me.

Bklynmom said...

Many kosher stores in Brooklyn sell yeast in bulk, at very good prices (unlike the majority of the items they sell). Perhaps kosher stores in other areas do as well.
While not braided, no-knead bread (directions available all over the internet) does not require a Kitchen Aid and takes very little time and effort to make, but does take a bit of planning. One batch makes one nice size loaf; I usually double the recipe but make it in two bowls so nothing else needs to be adjusted. It leaves two bowls to wash though.

Mara ~ Kosher on a Budget said...

Love this post! I am working on a post about the cost of making your own vs. buying. No doubt it is cheaper... not to mention better. (Of course, I'm lucky in that 9 out of 10 Shabbatot, my husband makes our challot. He's a much better braider than I am! FTR, I do the washing up of his dishes!)

Ariella said...

Making your own challah is undoubtedly cheaper. Bakery challah is $3 a loaf and more. Kineret frozen challahs -- even on sale -- are at least $1.50, and they are only 15 oz. I usually make the dough on Friday morning. If the day is long, I can make it around noon. But I like to be sure it would get done. I just can't see taking the chance of leaving it to bake so close to Shabbos. It is still completely fresh if it is baked 4 or 5 hours before. The bakery stuff you buy was likely baked on Thursday or even Wednesday morning.

tesyaa said...

Ariella & Orthonomics, neither of you is considering the fact that many mothers work, even on Friday. Sometimes working mothers are able to bake at other times in the week. But I find that even frum acquaintances who take it in stride that I work, are still surprised that I have to go to work on Friday.

Julie said...

Wait. You shape the challah and put it right into the oven? You don't let the challah rise after shaping it? How does your challah not end up a doughy mess?

tesyaa said...

Julie, I've done it both ways and it doesn't make a lot of difference, at least with my recipe. Also, if you're in a hurry, most doughs are OK if you let them rise for only one hour instead of 2. The longer rise gives more flavor, however.

Anonymous said...

Tesyaa, I'm a frum mom who works from home and works on Friday too. In the summer when Friday's are long I like to make the challah fresh, during the other times of the year I bake them on Wednesday or Thursday and freeze them as soon as they have cooled. They taste extremely fresh and delicious on Friday, especially if you warm them up in the oven or on the blech...

Julie said...


How much yeast is in your recipe (or alternatively, what is the liquid to flour ratio)? I still cannot figure out how challah that is given absolutely no time to rise before being put into a preheated oven would not end up with a doughy, unrisen center. The outside of the loaf would harden and keep the inner part of the dough from expanding.

Orthonomics said...

Ariella-I don't always put the challah in so close to Shabbat. But I can when I need to. I usually let my oldest deal with the dough after school and it takes a while. Come the earliest Shabbats of the year, I was running down to the wire with letting the kids help and it occured to me that I was able to spend 10 minutes on the front end and a little bit of time on the back end and still work and bill clients. Granted, I work from home.

Julie--No problem on the dough. We make smaller loaves which helps. I'd bake longer for larger loaves. Our loaves fit in the small rectangle size baking pan.

Julie said...

I know that I am being a little crazy beating this dead horse. But baking a loaf longer will not make it rise any better. Once you have killed the yeast, you have killed the yeast. The bread is not going to rise no matter how much longer you bake it. It will have a doughy center. (Not that there is anything wrong with that. Some people like dense, slightly doughy challah.)

You even admit that most of the time your daughter takes care of the challah, and she, by virtue of taking a while to deal with the dough, does give the dough a chance to rise.

tesyaa said...

I find that no matter what, they puff up in the oven. And yes, when I do bake it's usually on a Wednesday night (or even the previous Sunday) and they go in the freezer. I realize there's an added cost of wrapping them in foil :) but you can reuse the foil if you're bothered :)

As for the ratio, I use about 10 cups of flour and about 4 teaspoons (NOT tablespoons) of yeast. A lot of people use much more yeast than I do but I don't find it necessary.

Ariella said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

Julie, I think you're not giving the first rise enough credit. Sure, the dough deflates somewhat when you shape the loaves, but it doesn't deflate entirely.

Anonymous said...

My daughter actually taught me that once you shape the dough for challah, you can actually freeze the unbaked challah- no adjustment in yeast is needed. Since my husband and I are empty nesters, I make three challahs out of a bread machine recipe and freeze one or two of the challahs in plastic bags, and use them on other weeks. ( We supplement the lechem misneh with rolls or matzoh).
To bake a frozen challah, let it defrost and rise on a baking sheet ( cover with plastic wrap so it doesn't dry out) about 2-3 hours, depending on the temperature in your kitchen, brush with egg, sesame seeds etc, and bake as usual according to recipe directions. It is almost as good as freshly mixed... but you save yourself on cleanup. It tastes better than if you freeze the already baked challah.

Linda Socher said...

What if you don't have a Kitchenaid?

Linda in Hashmonaim

Orthonomics said...

Without a heavy duty mixer, it wouldn't be 15 minute challah.