Challah is a sweet bread, served on the Jewish sabbath. But we certainly don’t have to wait for sundown on Friday to eat the bread. We can enjoy it anytime or topped with your favorite butter and jam. It’s terrific for toasting, too, and, of course, it makes the most delicious French toast. Challah is a very straightforward bread to make. The dough is enriched with eggs and oil, while a few tablespoons of sugar add some sweetness. It doesn't require any fussy techniques and can be made from start to finish in the space of an afternoon.
You won’t need a bread machine for this Challah recipe. The dough is extremely easy to work with and you can knead it entirely by hand.
This was my very first time making bread (except for quick breads like banana bread). For a novice at baking bread, this Challah turned out perfect. The dough is really easy to work with. Plus, you’ll have a great time braiding the bread! *There is a video at the end of the recipe for braiding your bread if you need more help*
Ingredients for two 12- to 15-inch loaves
1 1/3 cups warm spring water
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/3 cup organic cane sugar
3 tablespoons organic olive oil
1 tablespoon kosher salt
3 large organic eggs, beaten
5 cups organic all-purpose flour (plus a little more for dusting the work-surface)
Egg wash: 1 well-beaten egg
Optional toppings: poppy seeds or sesame seeds
1. In a one-quart measure or a medium bowl, dissolve the yeast in 1 1/3 cups of warm water. Let the yeast sit until it slightly foams, about 5 minutes. Then whisk in the sugar, olive oil, salt, and 3 beaten eggs.
2. Pour the flour into a large bowl, add the yeast mixture, and stir with a spoon until all ingredients are thoroughly combined. Then pour the dough onto your lightly-floured work surface, and knead it 50 times. Let rest for 2 minutes to relax the gluten, and then continue kneading for 25 more strokes. The dough is done when it no longer sticks to your work surface, and when its surface appears smooth. Wash out and dry the bowl, and then coat it with a thin layer of grease.
3. Form the dough into a ball, set it in the greased bowl, and cover with plastic wrap. Let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume - about 2 hours. Punch down and let rise again until nearly double - about 1 hour.
4. Deflate the dough, then cut it in half. Return one half to the bowl. Cut the other half into 3 or 4 equal pieces. Using your hands, roll each segment into a 12-15-inch strand. Place the strands parallel to each other, and then pinch their tips together to seal. Take the strand farthest to the right, flip it over the second strand, under the third strand, and over the fourth. Repeat this procedure until the entire loaf is braided, always starting with the strand farthest to the right. Pinch the lower ends together, and then gently transfer the braided bread to a greased baking sheet. Repeat the braiding for the remaining dough. Place the loaves 2 inches apart on a greased baking sheet.
5. Brush the loaves with a beaten egg, and then set them in a warm place to rise until nearly double — 30-45 minutes. Then give the loaves a second coating of egg wash, and sprinkle the tops with the optional poppy or sesame seeds.