Novice bread makers can rejoice with this challah recipe as it is relatively quick (for bread – not for millennial standards of quickness!) and visually stunning. The end result is a fluffy, eggy challah, the leftovers of which make the perfect bread for French toasting or pudding-izing. Definitely try not to overbake the loaf by checking the bottom of the loaf frequently and rotating the sheet from front-to-back at least once during baking (in fact I have it on good authority that underbaking challah is not at all frowned upon).
BA’s Best: Challah
Taken directly from BA’s Best arsenal
Makes 2 20-inch loaves
2 8-gr packets traditional active dry yeast (~4 ½ tsp)
¾ cup + 2 tsp white sugar, divided
2 large eggs, beaten + 2 large egg yolks
4 ¾ tsp kosher salt
½ cup shortening, melted + more for greasing
7 cups all-purpose flour, measured correctly + more for dusting
Sesame seeds, for sprinkling
Combine the yeast, 2 tsp sugar, and ¼ cup warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer (or just a large bowl if doing by hand) and give it a couple of quick stirs. Let sit until foamy, ~10 minutes. If this doesn’t happen, you got a bad batch of yeast and need to start again. While the yeast proofs, whisk together the 2 whole eggs (not the 2 yolks), salt, melted shortening, remaining ¾ cup sugar, and 2 cups warm water in a medium bowl. Pour the egg mixture into the stand mixer/bowl containing the proofed yeast along with 7 cups flour. Using the dough hook attachment (or not – see next sentence), knead the dough on medium speed until the dough is smooth, elastic, very sticky, and pulling away from the sides of the bowl, ~10 minutes. If doing by hand, stir the ingredients together as dictated using a large wooden spoon, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hands, lightly dusting with flour as needed to avoid excessive stickiness. Grease a large bowl with shortening and transfer the kneaded dough to it. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit in a warm, draft-free spot until doubled in size, ~1 ½ - 2 hours.
Line a VERY large baking sheet (or 2 smaller baking sheets) with parchment paper or silicon mat(s). Once risen, split the dough into 2 equal pieces. Divide each lump into 3 even pieces and, working 1 “loaf” at a time, roll each piece into a 17-inch long rope (1 loaf = 3 ropes). Line the ropes up vertically on the prepared baking sheet(s) and pinch them together at 1 end. Braid the ropes together, keeping the braiding as tight as you can without stretching out the dough too much, and pinch at the other end. Fold the pinched ends under to smooth and round them out. Repeat the rolling and braiding process with the remaining 3 pieces of dough. Let the challah loaves sit uncovered in a warm, draft-free spot for another hour or so, until ~1 ½ times larger.
While the loaves rise, preheat the oven to 325 degrees F. Beat the egg yolks with 2 tbsp water in a small bowl. If using 2 baking sheets, work with 1 loaf at a time when baking. Brush the loaf(s) with the egg wash and sprinkle copiously with sesame seeds. Bake for 15 minutes, then increase the temperature to 425 degrees F and bake until browned on top but not burnt on the bottom! This will range based on how hot your oven runs, but you can start checking at ~10 minutes (mine was good at ~12 minutes) and keep checking every few minutes. It helps to rotate the baking sheet from front-to-back at least once since the back of the oven tends to be hotter than the front. Let the bread cool on the baking sheet. If you are baking 1 loaf at a time, reduce the oven temperature back down to 325 degrees F and leave the oven door open for ~10 seconds to drop the temperature back down. Repeat the egg wash and baking process for the 2nd loaf. Serve the challah sliced warm, with glistening pats of butter and a deep craving for white carbs.