Molly Yeh's Braided Challah Is Made Softer With Mashed Potatoes

Challah is the show stopping bread that mesmerizes with its twisting, braided appearance, and divinely fluffy texture. A classic accompaniment to Rosh Hashanah feasts, the honey-sweetened and egg yolk-enriched bread works as a symbol of a sweet Jewish new year. Though it's a well-loved element of the Jewish celebration, the ultimate challah recipe can be intimidating to try for the first-time baker. Luckily, Food Network's Molly Yeh, a trusted expert in baking, has been working on a foolproof recipe that pulls out all the stops for a perfect loaf of challah. Her main secret to success? Incorporating mashed potatoes into the mix.

If you're wondering what potatoes are doing in sweet bread, you might take a look at the wonders of potato bread. For traditional potato bread, the starch in the spuds helps retain moisture, making for the most tender, fluffiest bread possible. It works similar magic in Yeh's challah, enriching the texture while its mild taste completely fades into the background. As an added bonus, Yeh uses the leftover potato cooking water in the recipe, which helps double up on the starchiness. So how should you go about adding mashed potatoes to your next batch of challah?

An unexpected addition to a classic bread

For Yeh, she begins by boiling 8 ounces of peeled, cubed potatoes in a pot of water. After cooking until tender, she reserves about ½ cup of the cooking water on the side and mashes the potatoes to a fine consistency for easy, smooth mixing. Before using the reserved potato water to bloom the yeast, she allows it to cool down to about 105 degrees Fahrenheit (if the water is too hot, it will kill your yeast). Once the yeast starts to foam it gets mixed together with the dry ingredients, eggs, and the mashed potatoes. From there, the recipe follows the standard routine for challah, with a long generous rise and delicate shaping process. 

Once you take a bite of this challah, you'll note that the familiar honeyed flavor is still present but with a heightened and loftier texture. The mashed potatoes and potato cooking water make all the starchy difference, and you'll be hard-pressed not to rely on this spud hack the next time you make a braided challah.