May 27, 2012

Sesame & Vanilla Sugar Challah (Daring Bakers' Challenge)

Sesame and Vanilla Sugar Challah

It's time for the May's Daring Bakers' Challenge post!  I'm really enjoying these challenges.  They force me to bake things I'm not familiar with, and both challenges have yielded really tasty results.

May’s Daring Bakers’ Challenge was pretty twisted – Ruth from The Crafts of Mommyhood challenged us to make challah! Using recipes from all over, and tips from “A Taste of Challah,” by Tamar Ansh, she encouraged us to bake beautifully braided breads.

Challah is a celebratory Jewish bread, and can be braided with three, four, or six strands of bread.  While deciding how many braids to try, I had a brief flashback to the summer I unsuccessfully attempted to learn to french braid hair.  That summer taught me one thing: braiding is not a great strength of mine.  Therefore, for this challenge, I stuck with the three strand braids.  Maybe someday I'll get brave and try four or six.  I decided to try two flavor variations - sesame, and vanilla sugar.

Sesame Challah (left) and Vanilla Sugar Challah (right)

The sesame challah was my favorite.  For each of the three strands, I first rolled them out, brushed them with a little sesame oil, and sprinkled on sesame seeds.  Then, I rolled the dough into a strand for braiding.  The challah was soft, and the sesame flavor came through really nicely.  I was hoping to get a bit more of a visual effect with ribbons of sesame visible in the cut bread.  I think the sesame seeds are just too light - the bands of sesame seeds are there, they are just too close to the color of the bread, and don't stand out.

For my second loaf, I decided to lace it with homemade vanilla sugar. I made this by grinding a vanilla bean into some sugar.  It smells amazing - I can't wait to use it in other projects.  I rolled the vanilla sugar challah out much like the sesame loaf, but  I brushed the dough with butter and sprinkled on vanilla sugar instead.  I think the addition of butter changed how this bread baked quite a bit.  It didn't keep its shape as well as the sesame challah, and spread out horizontally while in the oven.  I guess oil and butter don't act the same - I really should look into why this is.

The vanilla sugar challah was nice and sweet and vanilla-y.  I enjoyed it with a cup of coffee.  Yum.

My Kitchenaid was once again very helpful with this baking project.   As I mentioned before, I like baking with my hands as much as possible.  However, she offered to knead the dough for me, and it was hot, and I was tired, and I couldn't resist.  Sigh...oh well.

I'm excited to see what the June challenge will be! 

Sesame Challah

From Tammy’s Recipes.  Makes enough for two loaves.

1 ½ cups warm water, separated
1 tablespoon sugar
2 tablespoons dry active yeast
½ cup honey
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
4 large eggs
1 ½ teaspoons salt
5 cups all-purpose flour, plus more as needed (up to 8 or 9 cups total)

Ingredients for Sesame Challah
2 teaspoons sesame oil
2 teaspoons vegetable oil
3 tablespoons sesame seeds (approximate)

Ingredients for Vanilla Sugar Challah
3 tablespoons melted butter
3 tablespoons vanilla sugar (approximate)

  1. In mixer bowl/large mixing bowl combine ½ cup warm water, sugar and yeast. Allow to proof approximately 5 minutes until foamy.
  2. To the yeast mixture add the remaining water, honey, oil, eggs, salt and 5 cups of flour. Knead (by hand or with your mixer’s dough hook) until smooth, adding flour as needed. Knead for approximately 10 minutes.
  3. Transfer dough to a clean, oiled bowl, turn to coat or add a bit more oil on top. Cover bowl with a kitchen/tea towel. Leave to rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 ½ hours.
  4. Punch down the dough, divide it into two sections. Use one half to make each loaf.
  5. Split the dough in three (if making a three-strand braid).  Roll out each section in a long oval.  Brush with oil or butter and sprinkle with sesame seeds or vanilla sugar.  Starting at the long end of the oval, roll the dough into a long strand and pinch the seam.  Once you have three strands, braid them.
  6. Place loaves on parchment lined or greased baking sheets, cover with a towel, allow to rise 30 minutes.
  7. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.
  8. Brush tops loaves with egg wash. (Sprinkle with sesame seeds or vanilla sugar if desired.)
  9. Bake loaves 30-40 minutes until done.
  10. Cool on wire racks.


  1. Beautiful loaves! I also made it with sesame sprinkled on top but your clicks are SO good, I suck at taking pictures :(.

    1. Thanks! I've really only tried to get better at photography in the last couple months, and it's quite difficult. A couple of these have a little bit of a focus issue in my opinion. I find a lot of food bloggers post helpful hints about photography, like and

      I visited your blog, and I think your pictures look good! I'm really impressed that you tried all of the braiding types!

    2. Thanx Lura for visiting my space and sweet comment :D.
      Will definitely check out the blogs on phototgraphy.
      Thanx once again.

  2. Beautiful challah, unfortunatelly at my home everything was kneadeed by hand... tough work.. ;)
    Pozdrawiam, Anula.

    1. Yes, this is how I usually do it. The kitchenaid is so tempting, and I caved this time.

  3. I loved the seasame challah but I didn't think of brushing it with seasame oil! Great idea! I too, did a similar bread to your vanilla sugar. Mine didn't hold as well in the oven either - I didn't realise it was because of the butter. Thanks!

  4. your loaves look perfect! great job :)

  5. Lovely photos! My mouth is watering at the thought of a vanilla sugar-filled challah... Yum!


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