Challah is a very straightforward bread to make. It is a simple dough that is enriched with eggs, oil and a small amount of honey for sweetness. This bread can be made from start to finish in the space of an afternoon.
The braiding is what makes a challah bread so impressive and it really is so easy to do. I include a link to a very helpful YouTube video that demonstrates how to do it. I recommend taking a couple of minutes watching this before attempting it. It will save you from overhandling your dough. The picture below is of my braided loaf before it was proofed.
Once proofed, a light brushing with an egg white glaze makes the the loaf golden brown and shiny. I baked it until it had an internal temperature of 208 degrees (tenting it for the last 10 minutes) and it was done perfectly.
A deep-gold, light-textured bread is perfect for french toast or grilled cheese sandwiches. The dough for this loaf is wonderfully smooth and supple, making it an ideal candidate for braiding. The simplest way to go is a three-strand braid; but feel free to try the slightly more complex six-strand braid, which makes a great presentation.
Stand Mixer with dough hook
113gramswater(1/2 cup) luke warm
74gramsvegetable oil(6 tablespoons)
482gramsunbleached all-purpose flour(4 cups)
1egg egg white(for glazing)
Dissolve the yeast
Place the water in a small bowl, sprinkle with the yeast and a pinch of sugar, and stir to combine. Let stand until you see a thin frothy layer across the top, 5 to 10 minutes.
Mix dry ingredients
Place 4 cups of the flour, sugar, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer and whisk to combine. (Alternatively, use a large bowl and knead by hand.)
Blend wet ingredients by hand
Make a well in the center of the flour and add the eggs, honey, and oil. Whisk to form a slurry, pulling in a little flour from the sides of the bowl.
Add the yeast to the mixing bowl. Using a wooden spoon or rubber spatula, combine the yeast, eggs, and flour until the dough begins to form.
Knead the dough
Knead the dough for 6 to 8 minutes. Fit a stand mixer with the hook attachment and knead on low speed for 6 to 8 minutes. (Alternatively, turn out the dough onto a floured work surface and knead by hand for about 10 minutes.) If the dough seems very sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. The dough has finished kneading when it is soft, smooth, and holds a ball-shape.
Let the kneaded dough rise until doubled
Place the dough in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and clean towel; place in a proofing oven or a warm, draft-free area. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Braid the dough
Divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you’d like to do. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink as you try to roll them, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten and then try again.
Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. If making a 3-stranded challah, braid the ropes together like braiding hair and squeeze the other ends together when complete. If making a 6-strand challah, see the recipe notes for directions.
Let the braided loaf rise
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Place the braided loaf on top and sprinkle with a little flour. Cover the loaf with lightly greased plastic wrap and clean kitchen towel. Let it rise as cool, room temperature until very puffy (90 minutes to 2 hours). Towards the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Make the glaze
Whisk together the egg and water. Brush the glaze over the risen loaf.
Bake the loaf
Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will insulate the bread's bottom crust, and keep it from browning too much. Put the challah in the lower third of the oven, and bake it for 20 minutes. If it's a deep golden brown, tent it loosely with aluminum foil. If it's not as brown as you like, check it again every 10 minutes.
Bake the loaf until it reaches an internal temperate of at least 200-205 degrees.
Remove the bread from the oven, and place it on a rack to cool.
Amount Per Serving
Calories 351Calories from Fat 99
% Daily Value*
Saturated Fat 8g50%
Vitamin A 59IU1%
* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2000 calorie diet.
Store any leftover bread, well wrapped in plastic, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.
Making a 6 strand braid:
Arrange all 6 ropes of dough parallel to each other. Pinch them together at the top. Now you will braid. The technique is “over two, under one, over two.” Pull the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, and then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest-left strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together and tuck them under the loaf.I used this YouTube video as a reference and recommend taking a look at the technique before you try it: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NQvZBwBJ5Uo