THE KITCHN: Challah is for baking at home
A six-stranded challah. (Emma Christensen / January 23, 2013)
At its root, 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.
The real magic comes in braiding the loaf. Even a simple three-stranded braid is impressive, though a four- or six-stranded braid (as shown in the photo) will bring the house down. For major celebrations, such as the Jewish high holidays, you can also coil the long braided loaf into a circle. A simple brushing of egg white is all you need to make that loaf shiny and magnificent.
We all know that leftover challah should go directly into a frying pan to make French toast. I also love it in bread puddings and even for sandwiches. It might sound a little strange, but challah piled high with thin-cut roast beef is pure heaven.
Makes 1 loaf (about 20 slices)
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
1 cup (8 ounces) lukewarm water
4 to 4 1/2 cups (20-22 ounces) all-purpose flour
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) white granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk (reserve the white for the egg wash)
1/4 cup (2 ounces) neutral-flavored vegetable oil (see note)
Standing mixer (optional)
Large mixing bowl
Bench scraper or sharp knife