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Bread & Pastries/Challah is flat



I could certainly use your help with my challah.  I use the Zabars recipe (,def)
with a few modifications:
1)2 yolks plus 3 whole eggs,
2) an extra 1/4 cup of sugar and
3) 5c King Arthur Bread Flour

The yeast is SAF Gold, instant and I add it to 110 deg water with a tsp or so of sugar.  The dough formed is very sticky but it produces a challah that people rave about so I have stuck with this recipe.  Unfortunately it's not always as pretty as I want.

I knead with a kitchen aid and dough hook for 8-10 min., then the first (2hr.) rise in the oven which I maintain between about 90-110deg, Then punch down, a very brief knead (like 5 turns) and a 4 strand braid.  Because it is still so sticky, I have trouble rolling the strands but handle it minimally.  Onto a silpat and a second rise for 45min again at similar temps and covered w/ a towel.  Then convection bake at 375 for 35 min.  (Sometimes I skip the second rise and let it rise while baking)

I regularly get stretch mark areas between braids (a break?) where it seems to continue to rise while being baked, but also often get a bread that spreads laterally instead of rising up.  Can you please advise me where I am going wrong.  (I can send pictures)  Thank you!

Hi Gwen...

Ok...where do we start?!

1. Mixing instant yeast and 110 degree water is totally unnecessary. People have been doing that for years with no good reason and no good result. You are giving the yeast a meal it has not worked for and you are getting close to the temperature at which bacteria dies.

Just throw the instant yeast in with the rest of the will be fine!!!

2. You should develop good gluten strength in the mixer but don't over do it.

For the Kitchen aid I would mix all ingredients on one or two for 3 minutes then on 7 or 8 for 3 minutes.

2. Let the dough stand covered (bulk ferment# for two hours at around 76 degrees. After one hour, GENTLY degas. #press down with the palm of your hand )We don't  punch down dough...we degas :-#

3. At that point #after two hours at 76 degrees or so# we divide the dough into desired weights for shaping and, pre shape those pieces into rounds and let sit for 15 or 20 minutes to relax. #covered)

4. We roll out each piece into however many strands you design, shape the braided dough, and let proof for about 60-90 minutes at 76 degrees. You are proofing in the oven...waaaaaay too hot!

The dough is ready to bake when you press it with your finger and it springs back slowly. If it springs back quickly it is under proofed. If it doesn't spring back it's over proofed. The room temperature is the factor here.

Just before baking, egg wash 5:1 egg: water.

Bake at 380 degrees with no steam. Double pan so the bottoms don't burn. The tops of the braids will be a mahogany brown while the seam will be toast's done!!!

Now then...and if you like, I will send you my formula sheet in excel format and you can give that a whirl! My formula does call for a bit of high gluten flour, but using all KA all purpose is just fine!

You can email me at and I'll scoot it over to you.

Try some of these technique changes and get back to me.

Some tips for consistency:

1. get a kitchen scale. Use weight and not volume.
2. Think about dough temperature. You have the temperature of the room, the flour, the other ingredients, and you can achieve the proper dough temp by regulating the temperature of the liquid ingredient!!! This is consistency. White flour likes to ferment around 78 degrees. Yours is much too high!
3. Proof at whatever the temp in your room is and use the proofing test above to decide when the dough is ready to bake.

Let me know if there is anything above that is not clear!

Happy baking!


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Ralph Onesti


Anything to do with yeasted doughs: First off...Please do not include sensitive material and please do not set your question to "private". answers may benefit someone else with the same problem. Breads: sourdough, levain, rye, brioche, laminated doughs, French doughs, straight dough, enriched doughs, danish, etc.


I grew up in the pastry business in South Philadelphia many years ago. I trained with the best in bread baking artisan style loaves.

Bread Baker's Guild of America

Trained with the family in the family business, and award winning bread artisans

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