Here is a bread that is as much a pleasure to look at as it is to eat. Check out that braiding! And the way it practically glows on the table! Slice yourself a piece and cherish the pillow-soft interior, simultaneously rich and slightly sweet. Challah is a bread that should be in everyone’s repertoire. For celebrating everything from Hanukkah to Sunday supper, challah is the just the bread for the job.
Challah = Enriched Yeast Dough
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 below) will bring the house down. For major celebrations, like 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.
What to Do with Leftover Challah
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.
For celebrations big and small, there is nothing better.
How To Make Challah Bread
Makes 1 loaf (about 20 slices)
What You Need
2 teaspoons active dry or instant yeast
Standing mixer (optional)
Making a 6-Stranded Challah Braid
The name of the game here is “over two, under one, over two.” Carry the right-most rope over the two ropes beside it, slip it under the middle rope, and then carry it over the last two ropes. Lay the rope down parallel to the other ropes; it is now the furthest-left strand. Repeat this pattern until you reach the end of the loaf. Try to make your braid as tight as possible. Your braid will start listing to the left as you go; it’s ok to lift it up and recenter the loaf if you need to. Once you reach the end, squeeze the ends of the ropes together and tuck them under the loaf.
At this point, your loaf is fairly long and skinny. If you’d like to make a celebration ring, stretch the loaf a little longer and pull the ends toward each other to create a circle. You can either squeeze the ends together, or if you’re feeling adventurous, braid them into a continuous circle.
If you’re making a regular loaf (as pictured), you need to “plump” it a little to tighten the ropes into more of a loaf shape. Place your left palm at the end of the braid and your right palm at the top, and gently push the two ends toward each other, just like plumping a pillow in slow motion. Then slip your fingers under the dough along either side and gently lift the dough while cupping it downwards. (This isn’t a vital step, so don’t worry if you’re not sure you did it correctly.)
• Substituting butter: If you don’t need to keep a kosher table, you can substitute melted butter for the oil in this recipe.