Challah like Whoa

There’s something about making your own bread that makes you feel like a bad ass pioneer.  It’s something about the smell of the yeast, the love (and anger) that goes into kneading the dough, the amount of time (and patience!) it takes for the dough to rest and rise, the smell of fresh bread baking, and then the tearing apart of some warm, delicious bread and shoving it in your mouth that is just so…so…homey.

I made the challah on Easter Sunday — thinking I’d be able to serve it with our ham dinner, but I severely misjudged the amount of time it takes.

The actual dough doesn’t take too long to make and mix, but it does have to sit twice, so it’s a great thing to do when you having chores around the house and are hanging around.

Doesn’t look like much here, but the braiding turns out beautifully and requires no real skill to make it look so good.

Hope everyone had a wonderful Easter!

Ingredients

  • 1 cup warm (115 degrees F to 120 degrees F) water
  • 2 (1/4-ounce) packages active dry yeast
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 3 extra-large eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk
  • 5 1/2 to 6 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon kosher salt
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) unsalted butter, diced, at room temperature
  • Vegetable oil
  • 1 extra-large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash
  1. Warm the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the dough hook by rinsing it with hot water. Pour the warm water into the bowl and mix in the yeast packets and sugar. Allow to sit for 5 minutes, until it starts to froth.  Frothing means the yeast is alive! 🙂
  2. Add the eggs and egg yolk and mix on low speed. With the mixer on low, gradually add 4 1/2 cups of the flour, scraping down the bowl as you go. With the mixer on low, add the salt and butter, then slowly add between 1 and 1 1/2 more cups of the flour, mixing on low for about 5 minutes and continuing to add a dusting of flour to the bowl but only enough so the dough doesn’t stick to the bottom of the bowl. The dough will be soft and a little sticky.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead it by hand for a full 2 minutes. Roll the dough into a ball and brush a large bowl with vegetable oil and place the dough in the bowl. Roll the dough around to cover it with oil, making sure the entire dough is covered with oil to prevent a crust from forming. Cover the bowl with a clean dry kitchen towel and allow to rise in a warm place for about 2 hours, until doubled in size.
  4. Punch the dough down lightly and turn it out onto an unfloured cutting board. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Line a sheet pan with parchment paper. Turn the first ball of dough smooth-side up and roll it into a cylinder. Roll the dough into a rope 16-18 inches long and lay it seam-side down on the parchment paper. Repeat for the other 3 balls of dough, laying them side by side on the parchment paper.
  5. To braid the dough, pile one end of the ropes on top of each other and pinch them together and under. With the pinched end away from you, take the far right rope and move it left over 2 ropes. Then take the far left rope and move it right over 2 ropes. Continue taking alternate ropes and laying them over 2 ropes until you’ve braided the entire bread. Pinch the ends together and fold them under. Cover the bread with a clean dry kitchen towel and allow it to sit in a warm place for 45 to 60 minutes, until doubled in size.
  6. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Place an oven rack in the lower third of the oven. Brush the bread thoroughly with the egg wash and bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the outside is browned and it sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. Place the challah on a baking rack and cool completely.

Recipe slightly adapted from Ina Garten’s recipe found here.

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