Challah is about as easy as bread-making gets – at least in my book. It may just be psychological, but something about making bread with oil, as opposed to butter, just says “no problem” to me (the same way an oil-based chocolate cake seems infinitely easier than one made with butter. Really the only tricky part is the braiding, which I can honestly say that I am not very good at, and that it matters not at all. I call for instant yeast in my recipe, making it even that much easier to wrap your mind around homemade bread, as I prefer using it because it does not require warm water to activate, but instead can be combined with the recipe’s dry ingredients. This delightfully eggy, moist bread, will blow your mind if eaten warm with a slathering of salted butter. So, by all means have at it – the recipe makes two large loaves, allowing an ENTIRE one to be reserved for the weekend’s french toast. Pretty nice, right?
- 4 1/2 tsp instant yeast
- 1/2 cup granulated sugar
- 1 Tbsp table salt
- 4 cups all-purpose flour
- 3 1/2 cups bread flour
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 4 eggs, room temperature
- egg wash (made by whisking one egg and a splash of heavy cream, milk, or water)
- coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper
In the bowl of a stand mixer, fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the yeast, sugar, salt, and flours, and mix until incorporated. On medium-low speed, add the water, vegetable oil, and eggs, and continue to beat until a shaggy dough forms.
Remove the paddle, replace with the dough hook attachment, and on medium-high speed, continue to beat the dough until a smooth mass forms that comes off the sides of the bowl and sticks only a bit to the bottom, about 5 to 7 minutes.
Turn the dough out into a medium bowl that has been greased with oil or sprayed. Turn the dough ball over in the bowl to coat it in oil, cover the bowl with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise for about 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it has practically doubled in size.
Once the dough has doubled, grease the counter with cooking spray (or oil) and turn the dough out on to the sprayed surface. Knead the dough once or twice and divide it in two with a bench scraper, returning half to the bowl, and covering it in plastic wrap. Using a dough scraper, or sharp knife, divide the dough in three, and roll each piece into a long rope, about 12-inches each. Lay the ropes out so they are vertical to you, and attach the three ropes together at the top, by squeezing the ends farthest from you together. Begin braiding the three ropes together, pinching the ends closest to you together when you are done.
Your loaf will be quite long and skinny. As gently as you can, push the two ends of the loaf together to plump it up, as if you were fluffing a pillow, in an effort to make the loaf more short and squat (as opposed to long and skinny). See here for what this might look like.
Transfer the loaf to one side of a parchment-lined cookie sheet (leaving room for the other loaf), dust with flour, and cover with a piece of plastic wrap. Repeat with the second loaf and let both loaves rise about 30 to 45 minutes more. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the loaves with the egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt and freshly ground black pepper. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until golden brown and baked through – if you have a thermometer, the internal temp should be about 200 degrees, give or take.
Let cool hardly at all and spread with butter and enjoy.