Challah is a type of egg bread that is prepared for the Jewish Sabbath and the Jewish New Year. This special bread is also widely known throughout Central and Eastern Europe.
Challah may look complicated to prepare but this beautiful bread can be easily made at home.
This recipe makes 1 large loaf but you may divide the dough in half to make two separate breads.
You may add raisins or any type of topping such as sesame seeds or poppy seeds.
2 packages (16 grams) active dry yeast
1 cup (250 ml) warm water
1/2 cup (125 grams) granulated sugar
3 large eggs, plus 1 egg, beaten and mixed with 50 ml of cold water for glaze
5 cups (780 grams) all-purpose flour
2 teaspoon Kosher salt
1/2 cup (125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 tablespoon sesame seeds or poppy seeds
1 cup raisins (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer, dissolve the yeast in the warm water and let it stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
Add the sugar, eggs, 4 1/2 cups (705 grams) of the flour, salt, butter, and raisins if using. Knead mixture on low speed, working in the remaining flour as necessary to keep the dough from being too sticky, until the dough is smooth and elastic about 5 -7 minutes.
Form the dough into a ball and transfer it to a large bowl. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and let the dough rise until it doubles in size, about 2 hours.
Place dough onto a clean floured work surface and punch down.
To make a 3-strand braid..cut the dough into 3 equal pieces. Using your palms, and starting in the center, elongate each piece by rolling it gently against the work surface until you have formed a rope as long as the prepared pan. Line the 3 strands in front of you horizontally and pinch the top ends. Start braiding the three strands as you would make a large hair braid, begin with the right strand, then the left. Repeat process until braid is complete.
To make a 4-strand braid..cut the dough into 4 equal pieces. Using your palms, and starting in the center, elongate each piece by rolling it gently against the work surface until you have formed a rope as long as the prepared pan. Line the 4 strands in front of you horizontally and pinch the top ends. Move second rope from left over rope on its right. Move far right rope over two ropes on the left. Move far left rope over two ropes on the right. Repeat process until braid is complete.
Cover loaf with a cloth and let it rise again until it doubles in size and is spongy to the touch, 45 – 60 minutes.
Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C). Brush the loaf with the beaten egg mixture and sprinkle with seeds, if using. Bake until golden brown and loaf sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, about 30-35 minutes. Let cool on rack.