Are you wondering why I didn’t title this post “challah bread”? No? Well, let me tell you anyway because I learned this fun fact while doing my research for this recipe. Challah translates directly to “bread”. If I’d titled this “challah bread” it would be like saying, “Here, readers, is a recipe for bread bread.” See the issue? **end word nerd scene**
I have always loved challah for its rich, eggy flavor, golden color, and gorgeous sheen. I can now say I love it for how simple it is to make and how beautiful it looks. The braided loaf is one of those distinctive items I couldn’t help but feel pride in recreating. All throughout the process, I kept thinking things were going too well. (Have I mentioned I can sometimes be a type A worrywart?) I had visions of putting a beautifully plaited loaf into the oven only to find it had come unbraided as it rose and baked. I bet I checked on it three or four times. When the timer went off, I was so relieved to see an in-tact, shiny braid of challah waiting for me to dive into.
Fresh from the oven, it tasted every bit as good as the challah from my favorite bakery. When it cooled, it was equally delicious. The bonus? Challah french toast the next morning. Sooo good.
combination of recipes from Beantown Baker and Williams-Sonoma Baking Book
1 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F)
1 package active dry yeast (2 1/4 tsp.)
2 tsp. plus 1/4 c. sugar
1/4 c. vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
2 tsp. Kosher salt
4 to 4 1/4 c. all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1/2 c. raisins (optional)
1. Pour water into the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment. Sprinkle yeast and two tsp. sugar over the water. Wait one minute for it to begin dissolving.
2. Add oil into yeast and quickly mix to combine. Beat in two eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt.
3. Add in four cups of flour, one cup at a time. If dough looks too sticky, add up to 1/4 c. more. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
4. If using a stand mixer, change to the dough hook and knead on low until dough is smooth, about seven minutes. If working by hand, turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth.
5. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Alternately, have a separate bowl oiled and ready to go before beginning. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for one hour, until almost doubled in size. You may also let dough rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half hour.
6. Turn dough out on to a floured work surface. Knead in raisins, if using. Divide dough into three equal pieces. Join the three pieces at one end and tuck under. Braid the dough and tuck the other end under.
7. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaf. At this point, either freeze bread or let rise another hour.
8. If baking immediately, preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush egg wash over loaf again. If freezing, remove from freezer five hours before baking.
9. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. If using an instant read thermometer, take the bread out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees. Cool bread on a rack, if you can wait that long!