Classic Challah Bread
It’s always good to have a challah bread recipe tucked in your back pocket — not only for Shabbat and holidays, but also for out-of-the-blue cravings and the cozy afternoon baking projects with the family. The test kitchen kiddos are always in for making challah: they’re masterful dough punchers, braiders, and egg-wash painters. And they love delivering loaves to friends, family, and neighbors. A warm challah is such a hug in these pandemical times.
This is a great recipe for would-be bread makers because the dough is very supple and workable. The trick there is to resist the urge to add a bunch of flour to it. Initially, it mixes up pretty wet, so it will feel softer and tackier than other breads you’ve made — but after the first rise, you’ll find it’s silky-smooth and easy to braid.
We start the dough with a half a cup of honey, so the baked bread has a wonderful flavor: all the tang of the yeast, the nutty flour, and the honey’s light sweetness. It’s an egg bread, and it has an irresistible, pillowy-soft texture. The braid that makes challah so nice for pulling apart and passing at Shabbat meals, also makes it a fantastic snack, especially with a pat of salty sweet cream butter. If you have any leftovers, slice them up and use them to make French toast. You’ll never go back to loaf bread.
Yield: 1 loaf
½ cup honey, divided
1 cup hot water (about 110°)
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
¾ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing bowl
3 large Gelson’s eggs, divided
2 ½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 cups bread flour
2 tsp kosher salt
Poppy seeds, for garnish
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine 1 tablespoon of the honey, hot water, and yeast. Stir together by hand, then let stand for a few minutes until foamy.
Add the remaining honey, oil, and 2 eggs, and use the dough hook attachment on medium speed to combine.
On low speed, gradually add the flours and salt. Raise the speed to medium and mix until a silky, soft dough forms, 3 to 5 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a greased medium bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for about 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Meanwhile, in a small bowl, lightly beat the remaining egg. Spray a rimmed baking sheet with cooking spray.
Punch the dough down, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface, and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Popping any air bubbles, stretch and roll each piece of dough into a 12”-long strand.
Transfer the dough strands to the baking sheet. Braid the strands, tucking the ends in at each end of the loaf. Brush the loaf with egg wash and let it rise for 30 minutes.
When you’re ready to bake the bread, preheat the oven to 350°.
Brush the loaf once again with the egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds, and bake for 20 minutes.
Brush any dry spots on the loaf with egg wash and continue baking for another 20 to 25 minutes, or until golden brown and an instant-read thermometer inserted in the center reads 190°.
Cool for 5 minutes and serve warm. Once completely cooled, the loaf can be stored at room temperature in plastic wrap for up to 3 days.