I love challah. Good, rich, egg bread, so versatile, so delicious. Smear it with butter and eat the whole damn loaf hot out of the oven, my goodness, that's heaven.
Not being an MOT myself, I used to make the mistake of calling it "challah bread." Missus c, who is, had to straighten me out: "That's redundant. It's just 'challah'."
I can be taught.
So here's the recipe I used, based on Peter Reinhart's from The Bread Baker's Apprentice:
4 Cups bread flour
2 Tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 Tablespoons vegetable oil
2 eggs, slightly beaten
2 egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 to 1-1/4 cups water
2 egg whites whipped until frothy, for egg wash
sesame or poppy seeds for garnish
-Stir flour, sugar, salt together in large bowl. In another bowl, activate yeast in 1 cup of water. When bubbly, add eggs, egg yolks, oil, whisk, then add to flour mixture. Add remaining water slowly if the mixture is too dry.
-Turn dough out onto floured surface and knead for 10 minutes or so, then form dough into a ball and lightly oil, cover and let rise for one hour.
-Remove dough, punch down, knead for two or three minutes, then return to bowl and let rise for another hour.
-This is where it gets a little complicated: remove dough from bowl and divide into six equal pieces, rolling them out into long ropes for braiding. I'd only ever made a three-strand challah before, so this was something I had to occasionally stop and unbraid and re-braid because damn, this is complicated.
Here's the tutorial I used:
I don't mind saying this braiding kicked my ass. I had to stop and go back and try to figure out which strand went where more than a few times. In the end, I kind of just crammed all the strands underneath and said thank the Noodle that's over. But it looks pretty, no?
Once the braiding is done, brush the loaf with the egg white wash, put it on some lightly -oiled parchment paper on a baking sheet and let proof for an hour, until almost doubled in size.
One more egg white wash once it's done proofing, then sprinkle liberally with poppy or sesame seeds, then into a 350 degree oven for around 35-40 minutes.
Cool for an hour before slicing or serving. Leftovers make otherworldly French toast.
Happy baking, Groupthink!