Braided Flatbread Challah

An interviewer recently asked me, “what’s new in your pizza & flatbread book that you didn’t already cover in “Artisan Bread…” and in “Healthy Bread…”?  My answer:  A lot!  Like how ’bout this Braided Challah Flatbread that requires zero resting time before it goes into the oven?  Braided enriched loaves like these are integral parts of many holiday traditions– Finnish Pulla, Swedish St. Lucia’s Bread, Jewish Sabbath bread, and others.  So this busy holiday season, you can be ready with super-fast festive loaves like these.  Detailed photos ahead…First, mix up some challah dough from any of our books.  Alternatives include super-rich brioche, or even plain white or whole-grain dough (though those won’t yield traditional challah results).  For Scandinavian treats like Pulla or St. Lucia’s Bread, add 1 teaspoon ground cardamom and 1/2 teaspoon ground aniseed to the liquids when you mix the batch.  Our challah and brioche store in the fridge for for up to 5 days; after that, freeze in well-wrapped loaf-sized balls for up to two weeks.

Preheat the oven to 425 degrees F (220 degrees C).  If you have a stone in the oven, you need 20 to 30 minutes of pre-heat, but if not, 5 to 10 minutes is enough.  While the oven preheats, cut off a half-pound piece (orange-sized), form a ball, and roll out into a 1/8-inch thick rectangle:

You can make bigger ones, but the half-pound size is easier to get thin.  Now use a pizza wheel or a sharp knife to cut the rectangle into three long strips:

Lay the strips out on a greased baking sheet that’s been prepared with parchment, a silicone mat, butter, or oil.  Pinch one end together and start braiding, keeping the strips flat on the table.  Don’t twist them and don’t apply tension to the strands or it will bunch– you want it as flat as possible…

This is the big advantage over challah braided with “ropes” of dough.  Those thick ropes requires 80 or 90 minutes or resting time after braiding; otherwise the result is dense.  By keeping things very skinny, you can go straight to the oven after the braid is finished.  Continue braiding…

… then pinch the ends together, again, trying to keep the “pinch” flat.

Using a pastry brush, apply egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water)…

… and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds:

Immediately place into the oven and bake for about 25 minutes, or until golden brown.  Enjoy!

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35 thoughts on “Braided Flatbread Challah

  1. Oh yeah! I’m always on the lookout for 1/2 lb dough uses (esp for your brioche dough – delish!!)! This is the perfect recipe for me this weekend! My mother-in-law is coming and I wanted to make her something that would wow her!

    *must continue working…. must not go home to make bread….*

  2. I absolutely love this idea! The challah dough is probably my favorite, which makes this is even more appealing. Challah “breadsticks” – awesome!

  3. Interesting. And I have some whole wheat brioche dough that’s probably been in the freezer too long. Since it might not rise well, this is just great.

    Thanks for sharing.

  4. This looks wonderful – I am looking forward to baking some wonderful breads next week for my family gathering. I have a question for you – as I’m thinking about gift giving, I wonder, can breads like your caramel rolls from Artisan Bread in Five be prepared ahead of time and then frozen for gift giving? How would you recommend the recipients thaw before preparing? Thaw over night in the fridge, then rest, and bake as directed? thansk for your help!

  5. I have been saving up these questions for a while: At the bulk food store where I get my flour, they have “dough conditioners” in addition to “vital wheat gluten”. What are dough conditioners, and how might the use of them improve my recipe? I did google it, and it suggested it might provide a lighter rise, which sounds good.

    Second, do you have any plans to develop a recipe for “Salt rising” bread? I am in the south and countless people ask me if I know how to make that and I’ve never heard of it. I looked for a recipe and it seems a daunting task!


    1. Hi Beth,

      Does the conditioner say what it has in it? They often have some form of acid, maybe malt and a salt, plus other additives. They tend to promote dough strength and sometimes speed up the rising process. Depends what it has in it. Try adding a little to the dough and see what it does to it. When I have used it, the dough rises a lot more, so it may try to grow out of the bucket. Keep an eye on it.

      We have never played with a salt starter, but it sounds really interesting. Our whole premise is to reduce the work, time and stress of baking, so we would have to make sure that this method fit that bill.

      Thanks, Zoë

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. I will look at it more closely next time I am there. What is “dough strength”? That sounds like it will make it tough.

        Thanks for the reply.

      2. Hi Beth,

        It means the gluten is stronger, so it can trap more of the gas, which will actually make the loaf lighter.

        Thanks, Zoë

  6. I have been experimenting with lo carb bread
    and pizza. Do you have any suggestions for
    combinations of different types of flour with a reduced carbohydrate count.

    1. Hi Steve,

      You can add a small portion of soy flour and other bean flours to boost the protein content. If you add too much of these flours you will mess with the structure of the dough, due to the lack of gluten. You can also add vital wheat gluten to the dough, which replaces some of the structure, and adds even more protein.

      Thanks, Zoë

      1. Steve: The other thing is to stick to whole wheat– as in our second book ( Those have less carb than all-white flour recipes. But keep in mind, that bread is never truly a low carb food– grains are carbs. So you need to moderate your consumption if you want a low-carb diet. Jeff

  7. I just tasted a slice of the brioche recipe – WOW!! I’ve been making various of your recipes (Artisan Bread in 5 minutes a day) – but this is my first with the brioche. A pan of the Almond Bostock is in the oven now and smelling heavenly!

    I baked bread the “long” way for years and with good results but nothing like what I’m getting now. I haven’t bought bread in 6 months! I make English muffins, naan, pizza crust – all from my favorite combo of white-semolina and a bit of cornmeal.

    But had to comment on the brioche as it is a wonderful flavor – tastes so festive, the crumb is perfect and the crust tender but with a bit of crisp.

    Looking forward to trying the flatbread braids as well.

  8. Yes, I read the brioche post as well – Thank you!

    And the almond bostock – wonderful! What a beatiful and delicious AND simple pastry. I think I maybe had 12-15 minutes of actual “hands on” to make it :)!

  9. Hi Zoe and Jeff, I’m trying to use up my gluten free flours that I’ve collected. They are just sitting there, while I experiment with new recipes. I’m not gluten free, and I gave my gums away to a friend.

    The teff flour was pricey. If I add some vital wheat gluten, can I make “regular” rye breads from it? Or maybe I should just find a friend who will use them….

    Thanks. I started shredding papers on Nat’l Good Riddance Day, and I feel great getting rid of stuff!

  10. I made these for my neighbors at Christmas and had good comments coming back so today I made some more to donate for a silent auction. Thanks for the great idea!

  11. Hi Jeff and Zoe,
    At our house I’m often baking for just my husband and I – though sometimes I also bake for family and friends, – so I have some questions about leftovers, most specifically Challah and other richer doughs with eggs and honey. A week ago I made a batch of Challah dough and time got away from me – after seven days in the refrigerator, today I individually wrapped the remaining one pound sections and put them in the freeze – right after reading that I should freeze it if not used within five days (oops!).
    So was it too late to have frozen it? In other words, should I have frozen someextra challah dough immediately after making it? And if it is too late, should I throw out the dough now?
    Also, is there a way to make little “mini pastries” with small balls of leftover Challah dough, topped with various fruits, bits of brown sugar, butter and spices? If so, what temperature and how long would I bake these small pastries? I thought I had read about some kind ABin5 pastries from leftovers, but I couldn’t find the recipe or “guidelines” today, and my attempt to “wing it” didn’t work very well. The topping was nice, but the Challah was a bit leaden.
    Thanks for being there and for responding so timely and well to your readers and fellow baking enthusiastics!

    1. Vicki: There’s no real answer to your question. Five days was our best estimate, based on loss of rising power, and I suppose, there’s also a food safety issue. But eggs can probably stay 7 days in the fridge safely. If there’s a rotten egg smell, toss it. Strictly speaking, I’m sticking with 5 days max then throw it out.

      Don’t know why your pastries were leaden?? Still 350F, but shorter baking time– 10 to 15 minutes, depending on how small they are. Maybe try a longer resting time after you form them?

      1. Hi, Jeff. It appears that at our house we go from a houseful of hungry people, including kids and grandkids when they visit several times a week, to just my husband and I, so I am really going to have to monitor those leftovers for the quiet “between times,” which we also enjoy several times a week, just the two of us. And I’ll try to freeze dough early on, too. Thanks for the tip to try baking small pastries at 350 for 15 minutes. (I think my small pastry experiments were leaden because I over-handled the dough AND it was a bit too old; although smelled fine and tasted good.)
        Here’s a related question: What is the best way to store small quantities of leftover bread? In the refrigerator or insome kind of counter top bread box? Because when our kids or extended family and friends visit, we may eat lots of delicious bread, but we slow down when they’re goneand it’s just the two of us again.
        Thanks again for the talent, thought and effort you both put into sharing your revolutionary bread-making ideas and recipes.

  12. Please, i can’t find the recipe for this bread, can you show me where i could find it? Thanx and yes, the bread looks delicious, like it came just from the bakery store 🙂

  13. Hi Jeff and Zoe,
    Do you think if loaves of these flatbread braids were braided and stored in the fridge overnight, they would lose thier shape? Might the ropes melt into one another and become a blob?
    If it would retain their braids and shape, should they be removed from the fridge 12 hrs later and be put straight in the oven, or should I wait till they’re room temp?
    Thanks for all your advice and availability! 🙂

    1. Hi Eitan,

      You can do a refrigerator rise for the braid. I usually just take the loaf out and sit it on the counter while the oven is preheating and that tends to be enough.

      Thanks, Zoë

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