For me, there’s nothing quite like warm, homemade bread. Every year my mom makes “Easter Bread” which is actually a raisin studded challah. She hands them out like breath mints to family and friends and our little loaf doesn’t last a day – toasted and spread with butter it’s achingly wonderful. Now, this isn’t her recipe (sorry, Mom) because I read this one and amazingly had every ingredient on hand. Easy, quicker than others I’ve seen, and more fun than other breads because you get to BRAID it!
Challah bread is Jewish in heritage – made for the Sabbath. It’s a richer bread since it’s made with eggs and it’s lightly sweetened. Perfect for snacking with butter or jelly, I won’t lie and tell you it’s healthy. It’s not terrible, it’s just not the kind of bread you want to make weekly and use for sandwiches. I made it on a Sunday and as I was making dinner, the bread was cooling on the counter. My husband came in and asked if I would stop cooking so he could just eat the bread for dinner. Embarrassingly, half the loaf was enjoyed before we went to bed that night. Though yeast breads seemingly take a long time to make, 95% of that time is “hands-off”. Make this on a weekend day when you’re in and out of the house; remember, at any point during the rise you can put it in the fridge. The cooler air will slow the rise but it will continue just fine.
Makes 1 loaf
America’s Test Kitchen
3 1/4 c. unbleached all purpose flour
1 envelope rapid rise yeast (2 1/4 tsp.) *
1/4 c. sugar
1 1/4 tsp. salt
2 eggs plus 1 egg separated (reserve the white for egg wash)
4 tbsp. unsalted butter, melted
1/2 c. room temperature water, plus 1 tbsp for egg wash
1 tsp. sesame or poppy seeds, optional
*If you only have Active dry yeast, do this – stir your yeast with the 1/2 c. warm water and let sit for five minutes. Add yeast/water when you would have added the water.
1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk 3 c. of the flour, yeast, sugar and salt. Set aside.
2. In bowl of standing mixer, whisk 2 eggs, egg yolk, melted butter, and 1/2 c. water. Set mixer on base and, with a dough hook attachment, add flour and knead at low speed until a ball of dough forms, about 5 minutes. Add remaining 1/4 c. flour, a tbsp. at a time, if necessary.
3. Grease a large mixing bowl lightly with nonstick spray and add turn dough to coat – cover tightly with plastic wrap and let sit at room temperature until doubled, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Don’t mind the tape – my sous chef stuck her finger through the plastic to taste the dough
4. Punch dough lightly to release air bubbles and re-cover; let sit for another 45 minutes.
5. Transfer dough to a lightly floured counter and divide into two pieces – 1 being half the size of other.
6. Divide larger ball into three pieces. Roll each ball into a 16 inch rope.
7. Lay the ropes side by side and pinch the three ends of one side together. Braid the dough and pinch the ends on the opposite side, tucking them under.
8. Next, divide smaller bowl into three 16 inch ropes and braid them together the same way you did the larger braid.
9. Mix remaining egg white and 1 tbsp. water together with a fork and using a spoon or pastry brush, moisten the top of the large braid with egg wash (reserve remaining egg wash).
10. Place the small braid on top. Cover and let rise about 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
11. Once finished the final rise, brush the whole loaf with remaining egg wash and sprinkle with seeds, if using.
12. Bake for 30-35 minutes or until golden brown. Let cool at least 30 minutes before slicing.