I don’t bake a lot of bread because I view the process as being too time consuming. In reality, the manual labor required is relatively minimal. It’s just the proofing of the dough that makes it feel like forever. I also have to plan well in advance, so yeasted breads are not typically spur of the moment baking decisions.
I was really pleased with how these loaves of challah turned out. I was admittedly very skeptical at first, especially after I braided the loaves (BTW not bad, right?) and prepped them for the third and final rise. At the time, it seemed like a lot of work for two measly loaves. But, I was shocked that the loaves nearly doubled in size. I almost didn’t have room on this over-sized baking sheet!
I found the hardest part of the braiding to be keeping a consistent size and finishing it. As you can see, the loaves are bigger at the end of the braid than at the beginning, mostly because it became much more challenging to braid with less and less dough.
The challah was delicious. We ended up using only one loaf for a Hannukah dinner, then most attendees took slices of other loaf home. The next day, it made for an incredible challah french toast.
Based on this recipe, which makes two loaves.
3 3/4 tsp. (1 1/2 packages, 11 g) active dry yeast
1 tbsp. (13 g) granulated sugar
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup olive oil + more for greasing bowl
5 large eggs
1/2 cup (100 g) granulated sugar
1 tbsp. (14 g) table salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups (1000 to 1063 g) all-purpose flour
1/2 cup raisins (~70 g) per challah, plumped in hot water and drained (optional)
Poppy or sesame seeds (for sprinkling)
- In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in water, then set aside for ~5 minutes until foamy.
- Whisk oil into the yeast, then beat in 4 eggs one at a time with the remaining 1/2 cup of sugar and salt.
- Gradually add the flour until dough begins to hold together, then turn dough onto a floured surface to knead until smooth.
- Clean and grease bowl, then return dough to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place (oven warmed to 150 degrees then turned off) for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
- Punch dough down, cover, and let rise again in a warm place for another 30 minutes.
- If using raisins, knead into dough, before forming two loaves.
- Separate each loaf into 6 balls, then roll each ball into strands 12″ long and 1 1/2″ wide.
- For each loaf, place 6 strands in a row, parallel to each other, then pinch tops of strands together.
- Move the outer right strand over the next two strands, then take the second strand from the left over to the far right.
- Move the outer left strand over the next two strands, then take the second strand from the right over to the far left.
- Continue steps #9 and #10 until all strands are braided, then tuck ends underneath.
- Place braided loaves at least 2″ apart on a greased baking sheet.
- Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves, then let loaves rise in a warm place for 1 hour.
- Heat oven to 375 degrees.
- Brush loaves with egg again, then sprinkle with seeds if desired.
- Bake in middle of oven for 30-40 minutes, or until golden (instant read thermometer to 190 degrees), and cool on a wire rack.