Hillman Family Challah Bread

This recipe came to Buying Director Simone via her daughter, who got it—as lore goes—from a rabbi’s wife. Over time, every member of her family adapted the recipe to land on a technique that results in a soft loaf with a gorgeous golden crust. It is now a regular part of Simone’s repertoire, which is fortunate for her co-workers, who enjoy snacking on it any time she brings one with her to the office. We asked Simone, who is dextrous enough to make it by hand, if she could adapt it for the Ankarsrum stand mixer. She did, because this machine is gentle enough to keep the risk of overmixing very low. This generous recipe makes three loaves. Like Simone, you’ll want to share it. It helps that the Ankarsrum’s stainless steel bowl fits up to 5kg of dough. 

Makes 3 large or 6 small loaves


30g (1 oz) fresh yeast (or 10g instant dry yeast)
114g (4 oz) sugar
483g (17 fl oz) warm water (36.5 to 40.5°C)
1.134kg (2.5 lb) flour (Marriage's Strong White Canadian Flour is ideal)
1 tablespoon salt
1 large egg, beaten, plus another for egg wash
120ml (1/2 cup) neutral (rapeseed or vegetable) oil
Poppy or sesame seeds, for sprinkling


  1. In a small bowl, blend the fresh yeast with a tablespoon of the sugar until it turns into a liquid. (If using instant dry yeast, it will not turn liquid, so just keep going.) Add all of the 483g (17 fl oz) warm water and 1 tablespoon of the flour. Cover and leave for 20 minutes. Think of this as your 'starter'
  2. Set up the Ankarsrum stand mixer with the stainless steel bowl, dough roller attachment, and dough knife
  3. Add the remaining sugar, flour and salt in the stainless steel bowl of the Ankarsrum stand mixer and mix. Add the beaten egg and neutral oil. Set the mixer to the lowest speed. Gradually add the yeast-water starter as the mixer is running on low. Once all the starter is added, mix at medium speed for 10 minutes. Do not be tempted to add more water!
  4. Cover the stainless steel bowl with the white proofing lid and leave to rise until doubled in volume, about 1 to 1.5 hours
  5. Knock back the dough and divide into three equal portions for three large loaves, or six equal portions for six small loaves. Cover the remaining loaves with a tea towel as you shape each loaf
  6. You'll be making a four-braid challah bread loaf, three times for large and six times for small. Pictured below is step-by-step instructions on how to braid a challah loaf with four strands: 

    Divide the portion of the dough you are working with into four equal pieces. Take each small piece and roll it into long strands measuring about 40cm, so you have four equally long and thick strands. Pinch the ends of the strands together to start the braid

    Cross the right- and left-most strands, so they have now switched places. You only do this horizontal criss-cross once, and do not repeat it

    Move the strand furthest to the left directly over the strand to its right, so it is now second from the left. Then, move the third strand over the two to its left, so it is now the left-most strand

    Next, move the right-most strand over the strand directly to its left. Then move the second strand over the two towards its right, so it is now the right-most strand

    Next, move the strand furthest to the left over the strand directly to its right. Then, move the third strand over the two strands to its left, so it is now the left-most strand

    Repeat: Right-most strand goes over the strand directly to its left, and the second strand goes over the two strands to its right, so it is now the right-most strand

    Repeat these movements until you reach the end of the loaf and pinch the ends together, as you did at the beginning. Leave under a tea towel as you braid the two other loaves
  7. Place the loaves on baking trays and leave to rise until doubled, 45 minutes to an hour. Preheat the oven to 190°C/170°C fan.
  8. Make an egg wash by beating an egg; brush the loaves with it. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for 27 mins, until golden at the top. Let it cool completely before slicing

BK Tips

  • This bread is best enjoyed warm. To re-heat, place in an oven set to 180°C/160°C fan for 10 minutes

  • Challah, especially if it's a few days old, makes for excellent French toast or bread pudding (it may not last that long, though...)