4-braid and 3-braid challah bread, respectively.
Color test: Close up of challah braid. If it's golden brown on the bumps and yellow on the inside, it's ready.
Sound test: Tap the bread when you take it out of the oven. If it sounds hollow, it's ready.
Challah bread is beautiful, and when you bake it, it feels like a celebration, no matter the day.
I will copy Peter Reinhart's text on challah:
"Challah, the braided Sabbath bread of Judaism, is a European celebratory loaf symbolic of God's goodness and bounty. The braids traditionally separate the loaf into twelve distinct sections representing the twelve tribes of Israel. The use of eggs in the bread was probably a way to use up excess egss before the strict Judaic Sabbath day of rest made it impossible to harvest the new eggs, as harvesting is one of many activities considered work in Orthodox Jewish communities."
Makes 1 large braided loaf, 2 smaller loaves, or 1 large double-braided celebratory loaf
4 cups unbleached bread flour
2 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 tsp salt
1 1/3 tsp instant yeast
2 Tbsp vegetable oil
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp water, at room temperature
2 egg whites, whisked until frothy, for egg wash
1. Stir together the flour, sugar, salt, and yeast in a mixing bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, eggs and yolks, and 3/4 cup plus 2 Tbsp water. Pour the egg mixture into the flour mixture. Mix with a spoon (or on low speed with the paddle attachment) until all the ingredients gather and form a ball. Add the remaining water, if needed.
2. Sprinkle flour on the counter, transfer the dough to the counter, and knead for about 10 minutes (or mix at medium-low speed for 6 minutes with the dough hook), sprinkling in more flour if needed to make a soft, supple, but not sticky dough. The dough should pass the windowpane test and register at about 80 F.
**I tried out this recipe twice, and both times I needed about 1 1/2 extra cups of flour, by the way.
3. Lightly oil a large bowl. Form the dough into a boule, and transfer into the bowl, rolling it around to coat it with oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Ferment for 1 hour at room temperature.
4. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 2 minutes to degas. Re-form it into a ball, return the ball to the bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and ferment for an additional hour. It should be at least 1 1/2 times its original size.
5. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide it into 6 pieces for 2 loaves. Form each of the pieces into a boule, cover them with a towel, and let them rest on the counter for 10 minutes.
6. Roll out the pieces into strands, each the same length, thicker in the middle and slightly tapered at the ends. Braid them using the 3- or 4-braid-method.
**I liked the 4-braid-method better. When I first braided them, the 3-strand-braid was much prettier, but after baking, the 4-strand had much more depth and looked more interesting. So, I recommend the 4-braid-method.
Line a sheet pan with baking parchment and transfer the loaves to the pan. Brush the loaves with the egg wash. Mist the loaves with spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap or place the pan in a food grade plastic bag.
7. Proof at room temperature from 60 to 75 minutes, or until the dough has grown 1 1/2 times its original size.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 F, with the oven rack on the middle shelf. Brush again with egg wash.
9. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the pan 180 degrees, and continue baking from 20 to 45 minutes, depending on the size of the loaf. The bread should be a rich golden brown.
**It took only 20 minutes for the bread to be done in my oven. Just make sure it's golden brown and that when you tap it it sounds hollow.
10. When done, transfer the bread to a rack and cool for at least 1 hour before slicing and serving.
I sold this bread to a certain costumer, and he paid me with eggs from his chickens! Here they are: