Years ago I used to make Challah and give it away as gifts every year around Hanukkah, but as people started eating less carbs and going gluten free, I stopped making it because no one wanted a loaf :(
One of the strange side effects of staying home during Covid 19 times is that suddenly everyone is baking bread, eating bread, and sharing bread :)
So after baking several other breads, like focaccia, and organic honey whole wheat, it was time to revisit my challah recipe. I've taken changed it from the recipes I followed so much that I will share my version at the end of this post. My version requires FOUR rises, so unless you start early in the morning, start your process the day before you plan to bake your loaf.
This is how the dough should look after the THIRD rise.
This is after you braid and allow to rise for the FOURTH and last time, after brushing thoroughly with the egg white wash. I chose to braid two strands and place one on top of the other for added height (using egg white wash as glue between the braids before the rise), but you can do one big braid or a round braid. Here are some braiding designs/techniques for both simple and complex designs.
The best part is always having leftovers for french toast the next day :)
3 - 3 1/4 cups (15-16 ounces) All-Purpose Flour
1 envelope or 2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
1 1/4 tsp sea salt
3 large eggs
4 tbsp (2 ounces) unsalted melted butter
1/2 cup warm water
Whisk together flour, yeast, sugar and salt.
If you have a stand mixer with a dough hook,you can use that to mix the following, but you may beat by vigorously hand, 2 whole eggs and one egg yolk (reserve the extra white to use as a wash for later), melted butter, and 1/2 cup of warm water (body temperature). If using a mixer, add the flour mixture and gradually increase speed to medium, beating until dough forms on hook, then knead for 5 minutes, adding more flour if dough becomes too sticky. If you are mixing by hand beat vigorously until a dough forms around whisk, then knead vigorously for 15-20 minutes, adding more flour if too sticky to knead.
Oil a large bowl and place dough in it, covered with plastic wrap for at least an hour or until doubled. Punch down, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise again for at least another hour. Punch down once more and allow to rise once more either overnight in the fridge or on a counter away from sunlight for at least an hour.
Punch down your dough once more and form into whatever shape you wish either on a silicone baking mat or in a pan. Brush generously with the reserved egg white mixed with 1 tbsp water and allow to rise one last time for at least 30 minutes - 1 hour.
Heat oven to 375, make sure your rack in in lower third of oven so center of loaf is about in the middle of the oven. Bake for 15 minutes, check the top for browning and if already brown, lower the heat to 350 for another 20-40 minutes until internal temperature is 190 Fahrenheit (your loaf shape will determine the time it takes to brown and bake).
Allow to cool on wire rack before slicing :)