I always think of challah as Eastern European brioche. It’s a wonderful golden egg-and-butter bread with a texture only slightly tighter then brioche. Braided challah was very popular at our house back in Russia and I like to keep this tradition and make some weekends and holidays extra special by baking challah myself.
- For The Dough:
- 1 1/2 tbsp. yeast
- 2 c. milk
- 1/4 c. sugar
- 1 tbsp. honey
- 5-6 c. unbleached all-purpose flour, or bread flour
- 1 tsp. salt
- 3 tbsp. butter, melted
- 2 eggs
- For Brushing:
- 1 egg
- poppy seeds or sesame seeds
Warm the milk (98° F). Whisk the yeast into a few tbsp. of the milk. Add a pinch of sugar and let rest until the yeast has dissolved and is creamy about 5 minutes.
Pour the yeast mixture in the bowl of the mixer. Attach the dough roller to the Ankarsrum mixer and run on the lowest speed. Add the rest of the milk, sugar, salt, honey, butter, and eggs. When the mixture is combined, add the flour. Knead the dough for about 5 minutes on medium-low, until smooth, soft and elastic.
Form the dough into the ball and transfer it to the mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and kitchen towel. Let the dough rise at room temperature for about 1 hour or until doubled in volume. When the dough is fully risen, deflate it, cover as before, and let it rise one more time for about 45 minutes.
Divide the dough into two pieces, and then divide each of those pieces into three pieces. Roll the pieces into long, narrow rolls. Make a braid with three rolls and carefully press the roll together at the end of the braid. Repeat one more time. Let the braids rise on the greased sheet for 30 minutes, covered with a kitchen towel.
Preheat the oven to 375° F.
Brush the tops and sides of challahs with a beaten egg. Dust them with the seeds of your choice.
Bake the challahs for about 40-45 minutes or until the loaves are golden and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Let cool before slicing.
Once cut, challah should be kept in a plastic bag; it will keep for two days and then make excellent French toast. For longer storage, wrap the bread airtight and freeze for up to one month. Thaw, still wrapped, at room temperature.