I LOVE challah! I mean, does anyone out there NOT love challah? What I’ve found from a lifetime of eating challah on Shabbat is that everyone has their own favorite texture and flavor: light and fluffy, egg-free, sweet with a cinnamon crumble, garlic oil brushed on top, raisins or chocolate chips mixed right in to the dough and more! I prefer a sweet and dense challah that is not only delicious on it’s own or dipped in hummus, but can also be used for the perfect bread pudding and french toast. One type of challah that I never ever tasted growing up was chocolate challah and I recently got to wondering why??? Why???? So I figured I would just have to make my own chocolate challah, using my Savtah’s recipe as a base, to see for myself if there’s an actual reason why no one is making chocolate challah or if we’ve all just been neglecting cocoa powder. Well, the cocoa powder has come out in full swing and I don’t think I can ever turn back! Sure, I’ll still enjoy plain old regular challah (especially my moms) but I will always be dreaming of chocolate.
makes 2 large braided or pull-apart challahs
1 package active dry yeast
1 overflowing tsp white sugar
1/4 cup warm water
4 cups bread flour
1/3 cup white sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup cocoa powder
1 egg (+1 egg for brushing on dough)
1 tsp salt
1 cup warm water
1 cup mini chocolate chips
I started with the yeast mixture to give it a few minutes to rise. For the water, make sure you have a nice warm temperature. If it’s too hot or too cold, the yeast won’t rise. So I poured the warm water in to a measuring cup, sprinkled with the sugar and yeast and stirred once. I left the yeast alone and after 5 minutes, there was a layer of thick foam on top of the water that looked like coffee foam. At this point, the yeast was ready! If your yeast does not create this layer of foam, stir again and give it a few more minutes. If the yeast is still inactive, don’t use it! Just try again with a new bowl of water, sugar and yeast. Without that foam, your dough will not rise.
In my stand mixer, I added the yeast mixture, bread flour, sugar, oil, 1 egg and salt. No specific order to this. Just throw it all in to the mixer and start mixing on low with a dough hook. Make sure you mix on low or the flour will end up all over your face instead of inside the challah dough. While the mixer was going, I slowly poured in the warm water. After a minute, I scrape down the sides of the bowl then let the dough hook do it’s job kneading for 5 minutes.
I placed the dough, which was soft and flexible but not too sticky, in a large bowl prepared with cooking spray so the dough wouldn’t stick while rising. I covered the dough with a towel and placed in a warm spot in my kitchen for an hour and a half to rise. Unlike most challah recipes I’ve made in the past, this dough did not rise very much during that time and I was a little worried but I kept on going with the process in hopes that everything would work out. So just note that your dough will not double in size! I think it’s the extra weight from the cocoa powder.
I punched down the dough then covered again with the towel and let it rise for another hour. At this point, the dough had risen a bit more but was still not huge! But I could tell that the dough had air pockets and was fluffy so I knew it was ready to work with. I poured the dough out on to a lightly floured surface.
Since I wanted to make pull-apart challah, I cut the dough in to a bunch of smaller pieces. You can see the air pockets in the dough when you cut in to it!
Before doing anything else with the dough, I added chocolate chips to each piece! I placed mini chocolate chips on the flat side then folded the dough over once without overworking it.
For pull-apart challah, you can either roll each piece of dough in to a ball or you can tie knots like I do. Just roll out a piece of dough like a log then just twist in to a knot like you would do with a regular rope.
I placed the knots in my adorable orange polka dot paper baking pans, prepared with cooking spray, and brushed egg on top. You can use whatever shaped pan you want for the challah. For the larger pull-apart challah I made in a round pan, I sprinkled on some of the delicious Trader Joe’s sugar, chocolate, and coffee bean mixture. Chocolate challah with chocolate chips mixed in and chocolate sugar sprinkled on top? Yes please! I let the dough rise for 30 minutes.
I baked the challah at 350 degrees F for 25 minutes. Since the chocolate dough is already brown, it is hard to tell when the challah has browned so you will have to rely on the timer for this one. If you are making a large braided challah, the dough will need at least another 5 minutes in the oven.
My house smelled like chocolate cake while the challah baked in the oven so I wasn’t sure what to expect from the flavor. I was pleasantly surprised that the challah still tasted like challah but with a kick of cocoa. And the chocolate chips certainly added to that delicious chocolaty goodness. The challah was dense and sweet and I couldn’t get enough of it!