23 September 2013

Garlic Herb Challah Bread

Ever since my photography homework where I used peaches as subjects, I have been a little obsessed with food photography. And by a little I mean a lot. In fact, the little guy feels so neglected that when I was photographing this recipe he was calling out, "cheese, cheeeeese!" trying to get my attention.

But as I have been exploring this new found passion a hard reality has hit me. I'm not particularly good at cooking or baking. Opposite of most bloggers that start with a passion for food and then photography follows, my passion for photography is making encouraging me to learn a few things in the kitchen. (My husband will be happy!)

As I was perusing cookbooks this week, looking for something easy to try that would make a great photographic subject, I came across a bread recipe that caught my eye. 

This was a very brave undertaking for me because a) proofing yeast terrifies me, b) kneading bread (and always forgetting to take off my wedding ring) terrifies me, and c) I always get flour everywhere, always!

With that detailed foreword, let's get on to the recipe! And please keep in mind, I am a photographer first and a beginner bread maker second.

Garlic Herb Challah Bread
Adapted from: Better Homes and Gardens
Yield: 3 loaves 

1 3/4 cups warm water (105°F to 115°F)
1/4 cup honey
2 packages active dry yeast
4 eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup olive oil
1 Tablespoon salt
5 cloves garlic, minced, divided
2 teaspoons dried basil, crushed, divided
2 teaspoons dried rosemary, crushed, divided
2 teaspoons dried thyme, crushed, divided
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
3 Tablespoons butter, melted

1. With a wooden spoon, mix the warm water, honey, and packages of yeast in a large bowl. Allow the yeast mixture to proof for 10 minutes or until foamy.

2. Lightly beat the eggs in a small bowl and set aside. When the yeast mixture is ready, add beaten eggs, olive oil, salt, 4 cloves minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon each of dried basil, rosemary, and thyme.

3. Progressively add and stir in as much of the flour as you can. (The dough will pull away from the sides of the bowl and look ropey.)

4. Lightly flour your work surface and plop (yes, plop) your dough out of the bowl. Begin kneading in enough of the remaining flour to make a soft dough that is smooth and elastic. (About 5 to 7 minutes.)

5. Lightly grease a large glass bowl with olive oil. Shape the kneaded dough into a ball and place in bowl. Turn once to lightly cover dough with oil. Cover with a clean towel and let rise in a warm place until double in size (1 to 1 1/2 hours).

6. After 1 to 1 1/2 hours, check dough for readiness by pressing two fingers 1/2 inch into the center. If the indentations stay, punch your fist into the center of the dough until the edges pull in. If the dough is not ready, allow dough to continue rising.

7. Plop dough again onto your lightly floured surface and divide dough into three equal portions. Then divide those portions into three equal parts so you have nine total.

8. Roll each portion into a 24-inch-long rope. Take three ropes and lay them side by side and begin braiding. Repeat braiding three ropes at a time until you have three dough braids. Twist braids into three spiral loaves or leave flat to make long loaves. 

9. Spray three baking sheets with non-stick spray and allow each dough braid to rise on pans, covered in a warm place for about 30 minutes or until doubled.

10. Preheat oven to 350°F. Meanwhile, melt 3 Tablespoons butter in a small bowl. Then stir in 1 clove minced garlic, and 1 teaspoon each of dried basil, rosemary, and thyme. Brush butter herb mixture over each loaf.

11. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when lightly tapped. Immediately remove loaves from baking sheets onto wire racks to cool.

-Don't make my mistake and think you can start this recipe at 3:30pm and have it ready for dinner, especially if you are making it for the first time and taking photographs as you go.
-This bread is SO good right out of the oven, but if you don't eat all three loaves right away, they can be frozen.
-Nutritional information can be found here.


  1. Dear Jessica, You have done amazing cooking, photograph, and told us about tips and tricks I really appreciate.

  2. This bread comes out very dry. I recommend doing a traditional egg wash instead of just butter.


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