1 cup warm water
2 packets active dry yeast (1-1/2 tablespoons)
1 egg, lightly beaten
2 egg yolks, lightly beaten
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
4 to 4 1/2 cups bread flour
2 teaspoons salt
Vegetable oil, for coating bowl
1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and a pinch of salt, for egg wash
Poppy or sesame seeds, for topping (optional)
Cornmeal, for dusting baking pan
Reynold's Parchment Paper
In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and allow to soften.
Add the egg, egg yolks, oil, sugar, 4 cups of the flour, and the salt. Stir until the dough comes away from the sides of the bowl.
Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface and knead, adding more flour 1/4 cup at a time if the dough is sticky or very soft. The dough should be firm. Knead until the dough is smooth and elastic and the gluten is well developed (10 to 15 minutes). When you push down, the dough should feel firm and push back.
Transfer to an oiled bowl, turn to coat, and let rise, covered, until tripled in volume (30 to 40 minutes). When fully risen, an indentation made with a finger pushed down into the center of the dough should remain and not recede.
Punch down the dough, cut in half, cover loosely with a towel, and allow to rise for 15 minutes.
Punch down the dough again and, on a very lightly floured work surface, use your palms to roll the pieces into 2 ropes, at least 12 inches long.
Cut each rope into 6 equal pieces. Braid into 2 loaves, or make two 6-section pan challah.
Brush the loaves with the egg wash, using care to cover completely. Do not let excess egg drip into the crevices. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired.
If you are making the braided challah, transfer the challah to a cornmeal-dusted baking pan. For the 6-section pan challah, place the loaves in 2 well-greased 8 or 9-inch loaf pans. Place in a warm, draft-free area, preferably enclosed, and allow to rise until doubled in size.
Before sprinkling with the seeds, allow the egg wash to air-dry, then brush with egg wash a second time. This will give the bread its characteristic shine.
Preheat the oven to 350°F.
Bake loaves on the middle shelf of the oven until the loaves have a rich mahogany color and emit a hollow sound when tapped lightly on the bottom with your fingertips (approximately 35 minutes).
If the top of the loaf begins to brown excessively and the bottom is raw, cover the bread with a sheet of Reynold's Parchment Paper creased down the center to form a tent.
If there is a white line visible between the braids, continue baking until it disappears.
To test for doneness, press lightly between the braids on the highest part of the bread; it should be firm. If you feel the creases give when lightly pressed, continue baking until they firm up.
Let cool on a wire rack.
Challah keeps very well for several days in a plastic bag in a bread box. It can be frozen also be frozen, but defrost slowly (preferably wrapped, overnight in the refrigerator).
Pairs Well With
Adapted from "Secrets of a Jewish Baker" by George Greenstein. This was the first recipe I used to try my hand at challah. I just love this bread! It's great for almost anything you can think of to use bread for.