February Baking Challenge: Valentine’s Challah

So our February theme of the GCBS Season 1 gang was a Valentine’s bake. I’ve gone for a multi-cultural mashup with a Valentine’s day Challah woven into a Julehjerte , which is a traditional Scandinavian Christmas decoration which happens to be shaped like a heart and so works Valentine’s day too! Julehjerte are super easy to make (with paper!) and are traditionally red and white. So I wanted to use red and white dough. I hate using food coloring so I made my red(ish) dough by adding roasted beets. The recipe is based on the Smitten Kitchen “best challah” adjusted with tips from my mate the Litibaker.

I’ve split the recipe into 2. One for the “white” dough and one for the “red” dough. Adding the pureed beets obviously adds some additional moisture to the red dough and it’s hard to work out how much. My beet puree weighed 160g and I worked on the assumption that 50% of that was water and reduced the water in the dough accordingly. However, the red dough was still wetter and so I think it is more like 60% but you may have to judge for yourself. My beets were some we had roasted and frozen a few months ago.

Valentine Challah

I was pretty happy with this for a first try. I worked out the braiding method on the fly and had to re-do it a couple of times so I think I rather over-handled it so it ended up with a bit of a bulge on one side. Like a valentine’s aneurysm!


Active dry yeast 2 x 6 grams
Granulated sugar 2 x 1 tsp
 Water (white dough)  210 ml
 Water (red dough)  130 ml *
 Pureed roasted beets  160 grams
Olive oil 2 x 60 ml
Salt 2 x 2 tsp
Egg yolks 8
All purpose flour 2 x 375g
Wholewheat flour 2 x 125g
Granulated sugar 2 x 50g

So the we just happened to have roasted beets in our freezer. If you don’t have them on hand,  peel about 3 smallish or 2 mediumish beets and roast them at 400F / 200C until tender – about 30 minutes depending on size. Then let them cool completely.

The beets then need to be pureed in a blender until as smooth as you can get. I weighed out the beets at 160g which seems about right. You are aiming for 210ml of water in each dough so I assumed 50% water in the beets and reduced the water in one of them to 130ml.


Pureeing beets

Set up two large bowls. Add water yeast and the smaller amount of sugar to both bowls and wait until foaming nicely (about 5 mins).

Add the beets to the bowl with the smaller amount of water and mix in the olive oil and salt to both and whisk together well.

Whisking the valentine doughs

Whisk 4 egg yolks into each of the bowls along with the larger amounts of sugar.

Add the flour a little at a time (this is important). Start by whisking, then switch to a spoon and finally your hands. I did one of the doughs at a time. You may not need all of the flour.  You are aiming for a soft elastic dough.

Once you have two similar feeling dough balls, oil them and place them in oiled bowls, cover and let rise for at least an hour (doubled in size).

Punch them down and leave them to rise again for about another half an hour.

Turn out the doughs and roll into rounded oblongs about 6 or 7 inches wide. Fold them over in half to make two kind of “tombstone” shaped dough pieces. Roll them again to about 3/4 inch thickness.

Doughs for Valentines Challah


Shaping the Challah

You should have a couple of long pieces with a semicircular end and a flatish end. With a sharp knife cut equal length parallel lines from the flat end to make 6 equal width strips attached to the semicircular tops. My daughter says they looked like a couple of octopuses!

Now the shaping … bear with me! Lay the white octopus over the red octopus so the tentacles overlap at right angles. The heads of the octopuses will form the two upper lobes of the heart. Fold back the white tentacles over the white octopus head and fold back the red tentacles. Now lay every other white tentacle back down and put down the first red tentacle down over them. Lets call the white tentacles you laid down group A and the others group B. Fold the group A tentacles back and lay the group B tentacles down. Then lay the next red tentacle down. Keep doing this, alternating group A and B until all the red tentacles are done.

Weaving the Valentine Challah

Trim any excess off the tentacles (I had a lot of red left and no white – enough to make a couple of little extra buns). tuck any loose ends under. Brush with egg yolks.

Valentine Challah ready for the oven

Set the loaf aside and preheat the oven to 400F.

Bake the load for 15 minutes then turn the oven down to 375F and bake for a further 15-20. I overbaked mine a bit.

Valentine Challah Slice Shot



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