Baking homemade challah with kids is fun and educational…science, math, and playing with dough all combine to make a wonderful bonding experience.

Baking, science, and math

My daughters will attest to the fact that, during their “growing up years,” I didn’t stop asking them questions intended for them to think about science, math, vocabulary, etc, as we went about our day. Yup, I drove them crazy all right (I still do!). Best of all was when I baked with my girls…spending time together creating magic and yummy things for us to share as a family. I’d ask them questions as we cooked, and sometimes they would answer. Mostly though, the time together wasn’t just making food…it was making memories. Baking homemade challah combined all these aspects into a wonderful bonding experience.

When it comes to baking, especially baking with kids, making bread is an ideal platform from which to ask questions. There is so much to see and do, so many ways to teach and learn! First, you’ve got the wonderful aspects of science and math. When I would help my preschool students make challah (egg bread) every Friday, we would talk about “waking up and feeding the yeasties” while preparing the dough, and I’d talk about how yeast is actually a living organism that makes the bread rise. I’d ask them questions like “how many ¼ cups of water would go into 1 cup of water?” instilling in them the thought that math is something we use every day. Learning to be careful when measuring out the ingredients taught them patience and control, as did stirring the ingredients carefully and watching how the dough takes shape in the bowl.

 

Challah dough rising in a bowl
The yeasties woke up!

 

Then there’s the tactical, hands-on experience of shaping bread dough…these 3- and 4-year olds loved the feel of mashing and smashing the dough into whatever shape they chose. Some kids even allowed me to teach them how to braid a 3-strand loaf, pretty enough for any bakery. Then we would brush their creation with egg wash and (for those that wanted) sprinkle a little cinnamon sugar on top. I wish I had pictures of my students’ challahs, but alas, I do not (privacy issues…you understand). I’d make challah alongside theirs with the extra dough, so these were mine.

 

braided challah dough ready to be baked
Braided and ready for the oven

 

Finally, there’s the magic of seeing that, while a smooshy dough that smelled a little tangy went into the oven, what out came was bread…fluffy on the inside with a golden-brown crust on the outside. Amazing! While I would put the finished bread into a bag for the kids to take home, many couldn’t wait to show whoever was picking them up what they made…then eating it on the spot!

 

author's younger daughter eating round braided challah
A (slightly big) kid nomming on her challah sent from home (yes, that’s a word, as in nom, nom, nom…)

A time-tested, family-loved recipe

I’ve made challah for many years, for many occasions, in a variety of shapes. I’ve added chocolate chips or raisins to the dough, and have varied the toppings from the traditional sesame or poppy seeds to cinnamon sugar (the kids generally like that one!). Traditionally, challah is braided…a 3-strand braid is easiest, but you can find round challahs or other fancy shapes. I even learned to make a very professional looking 6-strand braid (you can modify the 6-strand to a 4-strand using the same technique).

Here’s my time- (and kid-) tested recipe for making homemade challah. Enjoy!

 

challah dough ingredients
Mix all these ingredients, add magic, and bread will pop out! (well, there may be a little more to it than that)
braiding challah dough
A standard 3-strand braid in work…and ready for the 2nd rising

 

challah dough 4-strand braids 2 shapes
Two 4-strand braided challahs, 2 shapes, ready to rest before going into the oven

 

two 4-strand braided challahs straight and round
Challah fresh out of the oven, both 4-strand braids, shaped 2 ways

 

Baking homemade challah satisfies that need (at least for me) of producing something that feeds my family’s soul as well as their hunger…something we took the time to create just for them, and making it together produces priceless memories. It’s also a way to observe the natural world in a microcosm. So set aside some time and bring the kids into the kitchen…let them help and learn along the way. Regardless of what comes out, it’s time together that’s not to be missed.

Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!

Tammy

Homemade Challah

Slightly sweet, eggy, and flavorful, homemade challah is easy to make...and you can shape it as you please
Prep Time15 mins
Resting Time4 hrs 45 mins
Total Time5 hrs
Course: Side Dish
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Baking with kids, Bread, Challah, Jewish New Year, Moms & Daughters, Rosh Hashanah, Shabbat
Servings: 16 slices
Calories: 150kcal
Author: Tammy Spencer, Scotch & Scones

Special Equipment

  • kitchen scale
  • stand mixer with dough hook attachment
  • half sheet baking pan
  • Silpat or parchment paper

Ingredients

Dough

  • 3-1/2 cups bread flour or all purpose flour (15 oz, 425g), plus more as needed
  • 1/4 cup sugar (1-3/4 oz, 50g)
  • 2 tsp yeast (1/4 oz, 9g)
  • 1-1/2 tsp kosher salt (1/3 oz, 9g)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup canola oil (2-1/4 oz, 60g)
  • 1/2-2/3 cup water (5 oz, 141g), warmed to 105-110ºF (see Recipe Notes)

Toppings

  • cinnamon sugar, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, as desired

Procedure

  • Mix all the ingredients in the order listed into the bowl of a stand mixer or in a bread machine set to the manual cycle. Knead the dough with a dough hook for about 5 minutes (see Recipe Notes for manual kneading)'
  • Place the dough in a covered, oiled bowl and let it rise 4 hours in a warm place (such as in the oven, turned off but with the light on) until it doubles in bulk. You can also let it rise in the refrigerator overnight. Let the dough come to room temperature if refrigerated (about an hour) before proceeding with the shaping.
  • Shape the dough however you’d like. Braiding is traditional...3-, 4-, and 6-strand braids are what you'll usually find, and sometimes you'll see round braided loaves (especially for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year).
  • Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash, then sprinkle on any desired toppings, such as cinnamon sugar, sesame seeds, or poppy seeds. Line a half baking sheet with a Silpat or parchment paper. Transfer shaped dough to baking sheet.
  • Let the shaped dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place (like that light-warmed oven). Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350ºF. If you’re letting your dough rise in the oven, you can let it stay there while the oven is heating (just make sure you start the baking timer once the oven has come to full temperature).
  • Bake the dough for 25-35 minutes, rotating halfway through the baking time, until golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.
  • Remove the finished loaf from the baking sheet and cool on a wire rack. slice (or tear), serve, and enjoy!

Recipe Notes

The amount of water will depend on the humidity of the day you’re baking. Start with the lesser amount and add 1 Tbsp as needed if the dough looks dry.
If you don't have a stand mixer or bread machine, mix the ingredients in a large bowl using a wooden spoon until it’s too stiff to stir, then turn out onto a floured surface and continue kneading until a smooth dough forms. Knead about 5 minutes more. If the dough seems too wet, add more flour, 1 Tbsp at a time, until the dough is slightly tacky.
Shaping challah: here are instructions for a 6-strand braided challah (a 4-strand braid is done the same way, minus 2 strands), and a 4-strand round challah. It's not hard...have at it!
Did you make this recipe? Please share your pictures with the world on your social media outlets, tag me at @scotch_scones (on Instagram, Pinterest, and Twitter) or @scotchandsconesblog (on Facebook), and use the hashtag #scotchandsconesblog. I can’t wait to see your creations!
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4 Comments

  1. Dianne Sanders July 28, 2017 at 8:47 am

    As usual very informative and entertaining , makes me wish I was in the kitchen with this family ?

    Reply
    1. Tammy July 28, 2017 at 10:07 am

      Thanks for your kind words, Dianne!

      Reply

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