Parve, Shabbos, Technique

Don’t Ditch That Starter: Make This Flavorful Challah [Recipe]

Napkin covered challahs on table set for Shabbat

Those of us whose parents lived through the Depression, have an aversion to throwing away food. That makes it difficult if you’re into making sourdough bread. In order to keep a sourdough starter going, you throw some out and feed only a small portion each week. Otherwise, it would grow enormous and you’d never use it all.

Lucky for me, and my lucky family, I discovered a way to use all that starter that would otherwise be discarded. I mix it into my regular active dry-yeasted challah dough for flavor. The result is light as a feather (hence the name) but still has that hearty sourdough flavor.

This challah keeps very well, and of course, can be frozen.

Light as a Feather Challah

Yield: 2 16-inch by 6-inch by 4-inch high, 4-braid loaves (or four smaller)


  • 1 cup water
  • ½ cup old stiff starter
  • 6 cups flour
  • 5 teaspoons instant yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus ½ teaspoon salt
  • 5 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup oil
  • 1 egg, pinch salt, for glaze


  1. Mix water and starter in large mixing bowl. Let sit 30 minutes.
  2.  In separate bowl, mix flour and yeast, then stir in salt.
  3. Add eggs and honey to liquid ingredients, then add oil. Stir in flour. Mix with dough hook on low until moistened. Increase speed, knead 5 minutes or until dough is smooth and shiny. Add flour if necessary until the dough almost leaves the side of the bowl. Dough should be tacky.
  4. Place dough in large greased mixing bowl, grease top. Cover. Allow to double, 1 ½-2 hours.
  5. Push dough down to deflate, give two business letter turns, and let rise again, 45 minutes to 1 hour.
  6. Press dough gently to deflate. Give two business letter turns. Place in very large container and refrigerate covered, overnight.
  7. Divide dough into 4 pieces, let sit at room temperature for 20 minutes, roll into logs with tapered ends.
  8. Braid dough
  9. Make glaze: mix 1 egg with pinch of salt using fork.
  10. Brush glaze over challah and let rise about 1 hour.
  11. Preheat oven to 325◦ F.
  12. Glaze challahs again, making more glaze if necessary to thoroughly coat challahs. Sprinkle with poppy seeds.
  13. Bake 20 minutes. Turn and bake 10-15 minutes, tenting if tops brown too much. When done, skewer inserted in center of challah should come out clean. Cool on racks.


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