Six-braided Loaves

There’s nothing quite like pulling a warm loaf of rich white bread out of the oven, and when it’s a six-braided loaf, it’s art as well as food.

This is a challah (ḵä-lə or ˈhä-lə) dough, used traditionally for the Jewish Sabbath or holidays, and it’s surprisingly quick and easy once you know the technique.

6-7 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
5 teaspoons yeast
2 cups warm water

1 egg, beaten
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt

1 egg, beaten
poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

You can just put everything except the glaze in your bread mixer and mix it together, but I like to combine 2 cups of flour, plus the sugar, yeast, and warm water and leave it for about half an hour to get bubbly. Then I add 4 more cups of flour, egg, oil, and salt. If the dough is too sticky, add a little more and mix again. My rule of thumb is to touch the dough for ten seconds and if any comes off on your finger, add more and mix again until it’s nice and smooth but not tough.

Put some oil in a large bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Turn it to coat with oil and set in a warm place to rise. I put mine in the oven and leave the light on. It usually takes about an hour to rise. Then pull it out, divide in two, and make two loaves. Here’s a demonstration from Maya Sprague.

After braiding, it’s traditional to raise and bake on a tray, but I like to put it into a loaf pan. Once it’s risen, brush on the beaten egg white and sprinkle on the seeds if you like and bake in a preheated oven for 25-30 minutes at 350°.

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