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Challah (Egg Bread)

Challah, or hallah, is a delicious bread with a deep brown crust and soft white crumb. Challah has become the best-loved egg bread in much of the United States. Baking challah at home is a joy because of its tantalizing aroma and wonderful fresh taste.

[Credit: PhotoDisc/Getty Images]
Credit: PhotoDisc/Getty Images

Preparation time: 30 minutes, plus 3 1/4 hours rising time

Cooking time: 40 minutes

Yield: 1 medium loaf (about 16 servings)

Keeping kosher: Pareve

1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons warm water (105 to 115 degrees F)

1 envelope dry yeast

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sugar

About 2 3/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (more, if needed)

6 tablespoons vegetable oil, plus a little for bowl and baking sheet

3 eggs

1 1/2 teaspoons salt

2 teaspoons sesame seeds or poppy seeds (optional)

  1. Pour 1/4 cup warm water into small bowl.

  2. Sprinkle yeast over water.

  3. Sprinkle 1 teaspoon sugar over yeast.

  4. Let stand until foamy, about 10 minutes.

    Stir if it’s not smooth at the end of 10 minutes.

  5. Sift 2 3/4 cups flour into a large bowl.

  6. Make a large deep well in center of flour.

  7. Add yeast mixture, remaining sugar, oil, 2 eggs, remaining water, and salt to well.

  8. With a wooden spoon, mix ingredients in well until blended.

  9. Begin mixing in flour with spoon.

  10. Mix with your hand when it becomes difficult with the spoon.

    Mix until ingredients come together as a dough. The dough should be soft and sticky.

  11. Knead the dough, adding flour by tablespoons if necessary to prevent excessive sticking, until dough is smooth and feels elastic, about 7 minutes.

    To knead, push the dough away from you against the work surface with the palm of your hand. Turn dough and fold the top third down toward you. Repeat.

  12. Oil a large bowl.

  13. Put dough in oiled bowl and turn dough over to oil all surfaces.

  14. Cover with warm, slightly damp towel or plastic wrap.

  15. Let rise in warm draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 1/4 hours.

  16. Remove dough with rubber spatula to work surface.

  17. Knead dough again, this time lightly.

  18. Clean bowl to remove any bits of dough.

  19. Return dough to bowl, cover, and let rise again until doubled, about 1 hour.

  20. Lightly oil baking sheet.

  21. Knead the dough lightly on work surface.

    Flour it lightly only if the dough sticks.

  22. Shape dough in a rough log and cut in 3 equal parts.

  23. Knead one part briefly and shape in log.

  24. Roll back and forth firmly on working surface, pressing with your hands and elongating log from center to edges as you roll.

    You want to form a smooth rope about 20 inches long and 3/4 inch wide.

  25. Taper rope slightly at ends.

  26. Repeat Steps 23 through 25 with other two parts of dough.

  27. Put ropes of dough side by side, with one end of each closer to you.

  28. Cover the far end of the rope on your right side with end of center rope and then with end of left rope. Press to join.

  29. Bring left rope over center one.

  30. Continue bringing outer ropes alternately over center one, braiding tightly.

  31. Pinch each end and tuck them underneath.

  32. Set braided bread carefully on oiled baking sheet.

  33. Cover shaped loaf with a warm, slightly damp towel.

  34. Let rise until nearly doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  35. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

  36. Beat remaining egg in a small bowl with a pinch of salt.

  37. Brush loaf gently with beaten egg and sprinkle with seeds.

  38. Bake challah about 40 minutes, or until top and bottom of bread are firm and bread sounds hollow when tapped on bottom.

  39. Carefully transfer bread to rack and cool.

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