I keep saying that I’m not a great baker. It’s still true, but this bread is really straightforward and fun to make.
Typically made during Jewish holidays, Challah is a representation of the manna that fell from the heavens in the Exodus, and is usually made in a double batch to make 12 strands, each to represent the 12 tribes of Israel. Tasty history!
There are a few variations of how to braid Challah. You can braid it with three strands, or six. You can also make straight loaves, round loaves, rolls, and also form a triumph circle.
Challah is a super soft and slightly sweet bread that’s great for every occasion and especially good for french toast. I usually cook breakfast during the weekends and I can personally attest to that claim. I cut some slices the night before and let them get stale overnight which made them good for soaking in an egg wash. ‘Twas perfection.
One thing to keep in mind when handling bread is to not feel the need to be gentle with it. After braiding, you’re going to let it rise, so anything that gets overly squished will just puff up again. Don’t be scared, yo!
Yields 1 loaf
From The Kitchn
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 cup lukewarm water
4-4 1/2 cups (565-620 grams) bread flour
1/4 cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserve white for egg wash)
1/4 cup vegetable oil
In a stand mixer, combine water, yeast, oil, eggs, and yolk in bowl and blend together. In a medium bowl, combine 4 cups of flour, sugar, and salt; whisk together. Attach dough hook and slowly add dry ingredients to yeast mixture. Keep the mixer going at a medium low speed until dough begins to clean itself from the sides of the bowl, about 2 minutes.
On a well floured surface, turn out the dough and knead the dough by hand for 10 minutes. If the dough is sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky. The dough shouldn’t be sticking to the counter like bubblegum. The dough is finished kneading when it’s soft, smooth, and holds a ball shape.
Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place somewhere warm and allow to rise for an hour and a half, or until it has doubled in volume.
Turn out the dough and cut into 3 or 6 equal pieces. Roll out each piece into a 16 inch rope, about 1 inch thick. Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. If making a three-stranded loaf, braid the ropes together as usual. If making a six-strand loaf, take the right most strand and move it over two, under one, and over two again so that it is now the left most strand. Keeping a tight braid, continue this pattern until the end. Pinch and tuck the ends under the loaf. Gently push the ends of the bread together to slightly plump it up.
Transfer loaf to baking pan with parchment. Lightly dust loaf with flour, cover with clean dishcloth, and let it rise for about an hour, or until loaf is puffed and pillowy.
About 20 minutes before baking, preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When ready to bake, brush the loaf with reserved egg white. Be sure get in all the crevices and down the sides of the loaf.
Bake for 30-35 minutes, rotating the pan halfway through baking. Loaf will be a deep brown. Let the bread cool on a wire rack until it’s warm.