If you need a reason to bake chocolate chip challah, hey, it's Tu b'Av! Tu b'Av is a minor day on the Hebrew calendar that's like a chilled-out Jewish Valentine's Day. Conversely, if you need a reason not to bake it every week, tell your kids, "Sure, we can have chocolate chip challah! For Tu beAv." I have tested this strategy and it is effective up to six years old. Be advised that your results may vary. Of course, Tu b'Av doesn't always line up with Shabbat, so we fudge a little and have our chocolate chip challah on the closest Shabbat.
Over the years I've tried getting the chocolate chips into the challah using various methods. For even chip distribution (and concomitantly reduced instances of "my sibling's slice has more chocolate chips"), I like kneading mini chips into the dough during the initial mixing. When the dough has formed a ball, is no longer tacky, and climbing up your dough hook, add in the chocolate chips. Mix for a few seconds with the dough hook, then flour your hands, turn out the dough, and knead in those chips by hand. If you'd like a bit chocolate, add it in as you're kneading. That's it, let the dough rise and shape it as usual. (I have a detailed walk-through in my Perfect Challah post.)
Otherwise, the dough is standard challah dough; it's just a matter of folding the chips in at the optimal time. The recipe I'm including here is based on my standard challah recipe, halved so that it makes one chocolatey loaf.
If you've got any leftovers, they make for extra treat-y French toast.
Chocolate Chip Challah (parve)
- Stand mixer fitted with dough hook attachment (see notes for hand mixing)
Activate the yeast:
- Place the sugar in a glass measuring cup. Add the warm water to the measuring cup - warm, meaning it's comfortable to touch with your finger.
- Stir to combine the sugar and water (the sugar won't dissolve entirely). Add the yeast to the bowl and stir again.
- Set aside for 5-10 minutes to allow the yeast to get foamy.
Mix the dough:
- To your stand mixer bowl, add the flour. Add the foamy yeast mixture from the measuring cup to the mixer bowl, then the eggs, oil, and salt.
- Fit the bowl onto the stand mixer with the dough hook and set it on "stir" (the lowest setting). Continue mixing until the ingredients are well combined.
- Once the dough has started coming together, turn up the speed to 2 and let the machine knead the dough for 10 minutes. Check every few minutes to see if the dough is too wet (like a cake batter) or too dry (crumbly or thumping loudly around the bowl). The consistency of the dough will change significantly as the machine kneads it.
- If the dough is too wet, add more flour to the mixer bowl, a tablespoon at a time. If the dough is too dry, add more water, also a tablespoon at a time (it doesn't need to be warm).
- When the dough is supple and no longer sticky, add the mini chocolate chips. Mix with the dough hook on the lowest speed for about 30 seconds. The chips won't be evenly distributed yet.
- With floured hands, turn out the dough onto your work surface and knead by hand until the chocolate chips are embedded in the dough and look well distributed. You can add more chocolate chips if you like and knead them in.
Leave the dough to rise:
- When the dough is supple but not sticky and holds the indentation of your finger when you poke it, it is ready to proof (rise). Cover tightly with cling / beeswax wrap or a bowl lid and leave in a warm part of your kitchen, such as the inside of your (turned-off) oven.
- The dough will rise slowly, but should be puffed and noticeably bigger after about 2 hours rise time, up to about 5 hours.
Shape and proof:
- Preheat the oven to 350°F / 180°C. Line one light-colored baking sheet with parchment or a silicone baking mat.
- Turn out the proofed dough onto a lightly floured surface. Using a bench scraper or a sharp knife, divide the dough in half (for two loaves; for kiddush-sized, see note below).
- Set aside the half you're not working on, then further subdivide the portion in front of you. For a three-strand loaf, cut it into three roughly equal pieces using the bench scraper or knife.
- Roll each of the three lumps of dough into a rope about 1" / 2.5cm thick and 12" / 30cm long and tapered at the ends.
- Lay the three ropes side by side, then bring the tapered ends together and press firmly to join.
- Braid (plait) the rope by bringing the right-hand strand over the middle - the rightmost strand has now become the new middle strand. Next, bring the left-hand strand over this new middle strand. Repeat until you get to the end of the braid.
- Join the ends of the strands together at the bottom and tuck firmly under. Transfer loaves onto the prepared baking sheet, cover with a clean kitchen towel, and leave to proof (rise in its final shape) for half an hour or so.
Bake the challahs:
- In a small bowl, scramble an egg with a teaspoon of water. Brush over the challah. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired.
- Bake the challah for about 35 minutes, until golden and well risen.