As demonstrated on The Great British Bake Off (aka The Great British Baking Show), you can make a beautiful eight-strand braided challah, just like the pros. Follow these easy step-by-step instructions to make a bakery-worthy challah!
Why these instructions work
- Easy to follow instructions make braiding challah a breeze
- Foolproof recipe provided for the best Challah bread...ever!
I'm always on the lookout for interesting ways to braid Challah bread. Traditionally a challah is braided using three-, four-, or even six-strands, either oblong or round.
Now I've come across a method for plaiting challah with eight-strands from The Great British Bake Off (aka The Great British Baking Show), and it's a winner!
[Side note: in the US we braid, but in the UK they plait. Same process either way.]
Why is challah braided?
Used for Shabbat (the Jewish Sabbath), Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), or for special occasions, challah’s special shape holds traditional meanings.
The internet abounds with websites explaining the many different reasons why braiding challah as an oblong shape is used on the Sabbath and other special occasions.
Those reasons vary based on how observant the individual is. Some sites go deep into Jewish law (having to do with the rituals of the ancient temple). Others look to a more biblical meaning (representing manna from heaven). Still others go for a more secular meaning (creating a shaped bread that can be distinguished from ordinary bread, thus making it safe to eat for the Shabbat meal).
Let's leave this discussion to the experts and get back to baking.
Different types of challah braiding
Now that you have your challah dough ready, it's time to discuss how to shape it.
Let’s play with our food!
How to braid an 8-strand challah
For the following braiding sequence, number the strands of dough 1 to 8 from left to right. Every time you move any strand it will take the new number of its position in the row.
Place strand 8 under strand 7 and over strand 1 (photo 1). This is the only time you'll be doing this step.
Place strand 8 over strand 5 (photo 2).
Place strand 2 under strand 3 and over strand 8 (photo 3).
Place strand 1 over strand 4 (photo 4).
Place strand 7 under strand 6 and over strand 1 (photo 5).
Repeat steps 2 to 5, until all the dough is braided. The collage shows the next round of steps 2 through 5 (photo 6).
Remember, you're not doing Step 1 any more!
Step 7: Tuck the ends under
Tuck the ends of the loaf underneath on both ends to give a neat finish. Adjust the braid ends and sides with your hands to make everything even (photo 7).
Step 8: Let the dough rise
Let the shaped dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. You can preheat the oven to 350ºF during this time.
Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle on any desired toppings (photo 8).
Step 9: Bake the challah
Bake the dough for 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. When the loaf is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, remove it from the oven to cool (photo 9).
Questions asked and answered
Here are some questions you might have...
In a word, no. You can shape challah dough any way you want. Traditionally, braided challahs are used for the Jewish Sabbath or on holidays, but the dough can be used to make bread for french toast, buns and rolls, and is the basis for babka.
You can use any bread dough for braiding. The choice is yours.
Challah dough is an enriched dough (meaning eggs and a fat is added). Babka dough is also made with eggs, although usually milk and butter are used instead of water and oil. Also, babkas are usually filled with a sweet filling and coiled into a loaf pan, so they are sweeter than challah.
A beautiful challah expertly braided
This finished eight-strand challah looks beautiful, with a shiny exterior and a soft interior. Perfect for slicing or tearing.
Speaking of slicing, the eight-strand challah is higher than a three-strand braid, making it good for sandwiches. Even better, use it in making a french toast bread pudding.
Expand your challah braiding skills beyond the basic braid. You'll impress your family and friends, and you'll have the satisfaction you plaited like a pro with a challah bread worthy of a bakery!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!
I love to bake shaped bread, especially using sourdough starter discard. Here are some shaped bread recipes to try...
Love this recipe? Please leave a 5-star ⭐️ rating in the recipe card below ⬇️ and/or a comment further down the page.
I'd love to hear from you! Stay in touch on Facebook, Instagram, Pinterest, and please tag me using the hashtag #scotchandsconesblog. You can also sign up for my mailing list. I can't wait to see your creations!
Eight-Strand Braided Challah
- 1 recipe homemade challah dough
- 1 large egg, beaten
- 1 Tablespoon water
- Weigh the dough and portion out 8 equal pieces. Shape each piece into a long rope. Lay all the ropes side by side on a lightly floured surface and pinch them together at the top.
- For the following braiding sequence, number the strands of dough 1 to 8 from left to right. Every time you move any strand it will take the new number of its position in the row. Watch how to make the braid on the video.
- Place strand 8 under strand 7 and over strand 1. You're only going to do this step once.
- Place strand 8 over strand 5.
- Place strand 2 under strand 3 and over strand 8.
- Place strand 1 over strand 4.
- Place strand 7 under strand 6 and over strand 1.
- Repeat steps 4 to 7, until all the dough is braided.
- Tuck the ends of the loaf underneath on both ends to give a neat finish. Adjust the braid ends and sides with your hands to make everything even.
- Line a half baking sheet with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper. Transfer the shaped dough to the baking sheet, then cover with greased plastic wrap.
- Let the shaped dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. Preheat the oven to 350ºF.
- For the egg wash, whisk together the beaten egg with the water.
- Brush the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle on any desired toppings.
- Bake the dough for 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. When the loaf is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, remove it from the oven to cool.