Challah, like most bread, is fairly straightforward — flour, yeast, water, eggs, and maybe a few other ingredients, depending on your recipe. But as we’ve seen with the recent trend for fancily adorned focaccia, that’s what makes it the perfect canvas for decoration.
Israeli baker Erez Komarovsky is known for breads that take things to the next level, ones that incorporate seasonal, hyperlocal ingredients into otherwise simple recipes — like challah woven with fresh vegetables, herbs, and flowers and bursting with unexpected flavors. A challah with green stems poking out of the braid may be unconventional; but as with focaccia, if there’s a time to get creative and adventurous with at-home bread baking, now’s definitely it.
As part of our Eater at Home series, Arielle Mamiye, the culinary director of the Jewish Food Society, took over Eater’s Instagram to demo an herby, floral challah inspired by Komarovsky. Grab your scallions, lavender, and chive blossoms (or whatever herbs and greens you have in the fridge) and give the recipe below a try.
Jewish Food Society’s Erez Komarovsky-Inspired Challah
Makes 2 challahs
8 cups bread flour
1 ½ ounces (3 tablespoons plus 2 teaspoons) fresh yeast or 1 tablespoon plus 1 ¾ teaspoons active dry yeast
2 cups water
2 tablespoons + 2 teaspoons cane or granulated sugar
1 whole egg
1 egg yolk
⅔ cup + 1 teaspoon sunflower oil or any neutral oil
1 tablespoon + 2 teaspoons kosher salt
About 6 to 8 sprigs of fresh dill
For the garnish:
6 sprigs of lavender
12 to 15 fresh rose petals
4 to 6 chives with blossoms
For the egg wash:
1 whole egg
¼ teaspoon kosher salt
1 teaspoon water
Place the flour into a large bowl. Crumble the fresh yeast into the flour and mix well; if using active dry yeast, whisk the yeast into the 2 cups of water in a separate bowl and add the yeast and water mixture into the flour. Place the sugar, whole egg, 1 egg yolk and the sunflower oil into the flour. Mix the ingredients by hand or with a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook until they just come together to form a dough. Add the salt and mix the dough until it is smooth and uniform, about 8 minutes.
Grease the surface of a clean mixing bowl with 1 teaspoon of sunflower oil. Place the dough into the bowl. Lightly cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and let it rest for 1 hour. Flip the dough in the bowl, so that the top of the dough is now on the bottom of the bowl and let it proof for another 45 minutes, covered.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Divide the dough into 6 equal pieces and roll each piece into a round ball. Place the 6 dough balls onto a lightly floured surface, gently cover the dough balls with plastic wrap and let them proof for another 20 minutes.
Roll each dough ball into a log with tapered edges, about 12 to 14 inches long. Place each log with the seam side down on the counter. Take 3 logs and place them vertically parallel to each other in front of you. Line the 1 scallion and 1 long sprig of dill vertically along each log. Braid the 3 logs into a 3-strand braided challah, making sure to keep the scallions and dill intertwined in the braid. Repeat with the remaining dough logs, scallions and dill braiding another challah with the remaining 3 logs.
Decorate the finished braid with lavender, chives, and rose petals, then transfer each challah onto a parchment paper-lined baking sheet. Gently cover with a kitchen towel and let the challahs proof for 1 more hour.
Preheat the oven to 355 degrees.
Beat 1 egg with 1 teaspoon of water and ¼ teaspoon of salt to make an egg wash. Remove the towels from the challahs. Brush each challah with the egg wash.
Transfer the challahs into the oven and bake for about 27 to 30 minutes until golden brown, rotating the baking sheets halfway through.
Serve warm with a side of tahini and/or olive oil.