This easy Challah bread from Cook’s Illustrated is the perfect weekend project for every home cook with any experience level. Even though this iconic Eastern European bread can be found in most bakeries, nothing beats a good, homemade loaf of Challah straight from your oven.
Challah bread starts with a rich yeast dough, made with eggs and some sugar or honey. Some recipes even start with a sponge (don’t worry–not this one). The dough is easy to handle and, once it has risen, it gets divided in two portions–one double the size of the second. Then comes the fun part: we make two separate braids, one from each part of the dough forming a larger one and a smaller one. The smaller one is placed on top of the larger braid and the loaf is ready for the oven!
An egg-wash gives the loaf a beautiful, deep golden color. Challah breads can be shaped in many ways: from simple long loaves, to tall long loaves like this one, to round, four-strand bands. No matter how you choose to shape it, this is a delicious bread with soft, light and airy crumb. The effort of making your own challah is really worthwhile. Let’s not also forget that leftovers of this bread make the best French toast and the most tender bread pudding you could imagine!
- 3-3¼ cups unbleached AP flour (plus more for dusting work surface)
- ¼ cup of sugar
- 2¼ tsp. instant yeast (1 envelope)
- 1¼ tsp. salt
- 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
- 4 TBSP. butter, melted
- ½ cup warm water, plus 1 TBSP. (about 110°F)
- 1 large egg white (for wash)
- ---- poppy seeds and/or sesame seeds (optional)
- In a medium bowl, whisk together 3 cups of flour, sugar, yeast, and salt and set aside. Mix together 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and ½ cup of water in bowl of standing mixer fitted with dough hook. Add flour mixture to wet mixture and knead at low speed until dough ball forms, about 5 minutes, adding remaining ¼ cup flour, a little at a time, as needed to prevent dough from sticking. Whisk reserved egg white with the remaining 1 TBSP. of water in small bowl, cover and refrigerate.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled large bowl, turning dough over to coat with oil. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, 1½ to 2 hours. Gently press dough to deflate, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise again, until doubled in size, about 40 to 60 minutes.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured work surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one roughly half size of the other. (Small piece will weigh about 9oz. and larger piece about 18oz.). Divide large piece into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 16-inch-long rope. Line up ropes of dough side by side and pinch ends together. Take dough rope closest to you and lay it over center rope. Take dough rope on top and lay it over center rope. Repeat until ropes of dough are entirely braided, then pinch ends together. Place this larger braid on the prepared baking sheet. Divide smaller piece of dough into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into 16-inch-long rope (these ropes will be thiner). Braid together, pinching ends to seal.
- Brush some of the reserved egg wash on top of the large loaf and place small braid on top of the larger braid. Loosely drape loaf with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until loaf becomes puffy and increases in size by a third, about 30 to 45 minutes.
- Adjust oven rack to lower-middle position and heat oven to 375°F. Brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash and sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if using. Bake until loaf is golden brown and instant-read thermometer inserted into side of loaf reads 190°F., about 30 to 40 minutes. Place baking sheet on wire rack. Cool loaf completely before slicing.
Here are two other favorite braided bread recipes from the blog’s archives:
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