When you think of sourdough bread, you probably envision crusty artisan loaves with beautiful patterns scored into them. You may think of the crispy crust, the soft inside with large air pockets. This type of bread is very on trend right now and it can be a delicious bread, but that is not what sourdough is. Sourdough is not a type of bread. It is a way of leavening bread using the wild yeasts and bacteria that live in a culture colloquially known as a “sourdough starter”. Sourdough bread can be pizza, or pita, focaccia or pretzels, bagels or even challah!
Sourdough Challah is probably MORE traditional than today’s challah since commercial yeast has only been available for about 150 years! It will take more time than the challah you have made before but the dough can be braided, brushed with egg and sprinkled with seeds and baked in a pan or freeform like the challah dough you are used to.
This recipe is more similar to a “water challah” than a very sweet egg rich dough but unlike other water challahs will stay fresh for longer. The fermentation has a side benefit of making bread last longer! The acids created by the fermentation process act as natural “preservatives” keeping bread moist and fresh tasting for quite a bit longer than a bread made with the same ingredients risen with commercial yeast.
Note: the recipe uses weight in grams to measure the ingredients. It is a much more accurate way of baking and I find it easier as all I need is a scale and don’t need to search for all the different sizes of measuring cups and spoons.
Egg Free Sourdough Challah
240 grams of 100% hydration (equal parts flour and water by weight) sourdough starter (fed 8-12 hours previously)
600 grams of bread flour (may need to add up to 50 grams of additional flour)
276 grams water (at room temperature or up to 90 degrees, not warmer)
36 grams honey
50 grams oil
15 grams of salt
Knead with dough hook for about 3-4 minutes until dough comes together. Turn off mixer and let dough rest for 10 minutes. Continue kneading for 2-3 minutes until a smooth dough is formed. (add some additional flour if needed at this point, be careful not to add too much)
Let dough rise, covered with a piece of oil sprayed saran wrap, at room temperature until doubled. This will take anywhere from 6 to 10 hours depending on the room temperature and the strength of your sourdough starter.
*If you would like to let it rise overnight I recommend starting with cold water to slow things down a little and prevent it from over-rising.
When doubled shape your challahs! This recipe makes 2 challahs that are approximately 1 lb each. You can double, triple, quadruple (or more!) the recipe if you’d like. It also makes delicious rolls!
Cover shaped challahs loosely with oil sprayed plastic wrap and let rise approximately two hours until risen about 75%-80%
Brush with egg yolk mixed with a little sugar or honey and sprinkle with seeds if desired.
Bake at 375-400 until done. Exact temperature and time will depend on your oven and the size of the challahs you choose to make. The best gauge to know if your challah is baked through is if the internal temperature of the challah is at least 195 degrees on an instant read thermometer.
NOTE: Though you can start your own starter, cultivating the wild yeasts and bacteria in your environment, it can be a long process, taking up to 3-4 weeks to develop a strong enough starter to bake with. The best way to start with sourdough is to get some starter from a friend. All you need is a tiny amount as it will grow quickly in a few feedings.