Go-to Challah Recipe
2 packages dry yeast
2/3 cup warm water
5 egg yolks
3 whole eggs
7 tbsp olive oil
1/4 cup honey (let it overflow so it's closer to 1/3 cup) + 2 tsp honey
2 tsp salt
4 1/2 cups flour
1 egg beaten for the egg wash
1. In a small bowl, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and 2 tsp honey. Within a few minutes, the yeast should become foamy and give off a sweet smell.
2. In a large bowl, combine the egg yolks and eggs, beat lightly. Then add olive oil, honey, salt, and yeast mixture. Whisk to combine.
3. Add 5 cups of flour all at once. The dough should be stiff but sticky. You can either do this in a standing mixer or by hand with a large wooden spoon.
4. Then turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic (adding more flour if needed) for about 6 minutes.
** If you find that the dough is too sticky (ie, you can't knead it without it ending up stuck to your hands and in between your fingers), you should add more flour. This is true if you come across the too-sticky issue any time you knead the dough throughout these directions **
5. Form a ball and place in a greased bowl (use roughly 1 tbsp of olive oil and cooking spray if needed), cover with plastic wrap. Let rise for 1 hour
6. Remove dough and knead for another few minutes. Re-grease bowl if needed, then return dough to bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for another hour.
7. Remove dough, knead briefly and divide into 4 or 6 pieces depending on how you want to braid the dough. I find the best way to divide the dough is with a long, sharp knife. If doing a simple 3-strand braid, create 2 separate challah loaves.
8. Place braided bread on baking sheet(s) with parchment. Cover with egg wash. Let rise for 45 minutes. After 30 minutes, preheat oven to 375.
9. Before placing in oven, repeat egg wash.
10. Bake for 20-40 minutes - it's best to bake them separately. Check the bread every 10 minutes to ensure it's not too dark. I've found that the bread needs to come out after 20 minutes -- then wrap with aluminum foil to slow the darkening.
Pairs Well With
So lately I've been devoting my free time to finding the perfect challah recipe. I did tons and tons of research, and started off with a sweeter challah version, but determined that I wanted more of a robust egg taste. Enter the Zabar's recipe -- but I wanted to retain some of the lessons learned from the Smitten Kitchen version. Hence we have something of a conglomerate of the two.
I would highly recommend reading over the Smitten Kitchen recipe (http://smittenkitchen.com/blog/2011/09/apple-and-honey-challah/) before beginning to get a feel (and some visuals) on how things should go (and look).
In my experience, the best surface for kneading dough is using one of those plastic baking mats (something like a Silpat)