Two attempts at a sourdough challah - two lessons in humility

108 breads's picture
108 breads

Getting into experimenting with challah recipes, or rather ignoring the recipes and attempting a sourdough challah. So far, no luck, but lessons. Here are breads #43 and 44. At least one of those breads was edible. Depression was short lived as bread #45, the next challah, a whole wheat, turned out much better. To be shared at a later date.

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Maria Marini 2014 January 24

Hello Sheryl,


I've had very good results with the following sourdough challah recipe. My daughter likes the yeasted one better so I make that a lot more, but this is worth trying; my husband & I definitely prefer it. I found the recipe on the internet a few years ago, but can't remember where. I chose it because the ingredient list was very similar to my yeasted one.

Sourdough Challah


The morning of the day before baking feed the starter and leave up to 12 hours to ferment. That night (night before baking day) make the levain. In a bowl, mix together:

35 grams active firm starter, (refreshed 8 – 12 hours earlier)

80 grams warm water

Stir or knead to somewhat dissolve the starter in the water, then stir in:

135 grams bread flour

Knead this dough (it will be firm) until it is smooth. Weigh out 200 grams for use in this recipe and place it in a sealed container at least four times its volume (the remaining starter can be saved for the next time you bake). Let the levain ferment for 8 – 12 hours (overnight), until it has tripled in volume and is starting to flatten out and deflate.


Final Dough

In a large bowl, whisk together:

2 large eggs

55 grams vegetable oil

65 grams honey or sugar

5 grams salt

60 grams warm water

With a wooden spoon, mix in:

400 grams bread flour

Stir until a shaggy, sticky dough forms.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface, flatten it out a bit and put the fermented levain in the middle. Fold the dough around the levain to enclose it, then knead until the dough is smooth (no more than 10 minutes), adding more flour as needed if it is too sticky. The dough should feel smooth and firm yet still easy to knead.

Place the dough in a warm bowl (soak your mixing bowl in hot water while you are kneading – a glass or ceramic bowl will hold the heat better than metal) and cover it with plastic. Let it ferment in a warm place for 2 hours. It probably won’t rise much, if at all.

Divide the fermented dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces and roll them out into logs about 30cm long. Braid then tuck the ends under securely. Place the braid on a silicon or parchment-lined baking sheet and cover it lightly with oiled plastic. Proof in a warm place for about 5 hours, until about tripled in size (doubled is fine) and an indent remains in the dough when you poke it with your finger. Brush thoroughly with an egg wash (1 egg and 1 tbsp water) and bake in a preheated 350˚F (180*C) oven for 25 minutes. Turn the oven off and leave challah in the oven for a further 10 minutes, until deep brown and hollow-sounding when tapped on the bottom. Cool on a rack.

108 breads's picture
108 breads 2014 January 28

I have printed out the recipe. (I admit I like a piece of paper rather than a screen when I bake.) Later this week or next weekend I will try it. Thanks so much!

farinam's picture
farinam 2014 January 28

Hi Sheryl,

When I convert a recipe from yeast to sourdough, I work on replacing the specified yeast with my normal amount of sourdough and adjust the other wet and dry ingredients to compensate for the flour and water in the starter.  If the recipe specifies double yeast then I would do the same for the starter.

Obviously the rising times will be a lot longer for sourdough than for the yeast version.

Whilst this method is not infallible, repetition will often bring an improved result as you learn just how things work in the new environment.  A bit like when you first start baking bread.

Good luck with your projects.


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