What is the best way to freeze and defrost challah?
This is a great question. Before freezing, I recommend completely cooling the challah so that the hot, steamy bottom won’t freeze with accumulated moisture, which will make the underside of the bread soggy. When your challahs come out of the oven all hot and beautiful, immediately release them from their trays and lay them to cool on a wire rack. You can even use an extra rack from your oven — just lay it down on your countertop. This way, as the challah is cooling, it will cool on both the bottom and the top. When you leave challahs to cool in their pans, the bottoms of the challahs collect moisture from the heat within them and then the bottoms become soft and often somewhat mushy.
Once completely cooled, the loaves must be packaged as airtightly as possible. While many people wrap their challah in multiple layers of aluminum foil, I prefer plastic freezer bags. Foil is both bulky and expensive. Place your cooled challahs directly in heavy duty, large-size, thick freezer bags. Remove the air from the bag and seal the bag with tape before storing it in a good deep freezer. When well wrapped in airtight freezer bags and placed in a good freezer, challahs can last for two months or more, if necessary.
To defrost, remove your challahs from the freezer about five hours before they will be served and let’s them come to room temperature.
For those who like warm challah, simply lay the defrosted loaves on top of a hot pot of soup or chulent. Or, heat up your oven for 20 minutes, turn it off, and place the challahs, wrapped in aluminum foil inside the oven until serving . Using aluminum foil in this step is important to prevent the bread’s crust from hardening or browning slightly.
Although I’ve been asked this many times, I personally do not recommend braiding and freezing uncooked challahs. To me, I think that challahs taste best when they rise and bake in the same day. I’d rather spend the time to bake them all and then freeze them finished, knowing they came out great and are all ready for use.