It wasn't until I noticed the limp layers of leftovers sitting in the fridge this morning that I realized I do NOT have to settle! I put my foot down and set to researching. I headed over to my oh-so-trusty bigoven.com and threw challah into the search box. Of course I received ohhhh about a kajillion hits, ok 94 - same thing, but I wanted simplicity. Teach me how to bake a loaf and I'm a happy girl, and there it was - a simple, straight forward recipe that wasn't daunting at all. Thanks to Cyrano I had a game plan for tonight.
I was a little worried at first because my dough wasn't quite as supple as say a white bread might be so I thought it would create a dense bread. Also, even after 90 minutes my first rise fell short of doubling, which turned out just fine in the end but still had me biting my nails. In the end this recipe is a great go-to winner for challah. I know I'll be adding it to my personal recipe success 'cookbook'! So break out your dough hooks (or hands) and warm the oven, it's challah time!
Braided Challah (adapted from Cyrano at BigOven.com)
1 Tbsp rapid rise yeast
1/4 cup plus 1 Tbsp granulated sugar
1 C warm water
1/3 C canola oil
3 large eggs
2 tsp salt
5 C bread flour
In large bowl of stand mixer, dissolve the yeast and a pinch of sugar in 1 cup of warm water. Let stand for 10 minutes.
Whisk oil, eggs, 1/4 C sugar and salt into the yeast mixture. With the dough hook, gradually blend in the flour, adding more water if necessary. Combine until all ingredients hold together and dough is not sticky.
Continue kneading the dough at low speed for about 10 minutes, adding additional flour or water if needed, until dough forms a smooth ball (alternately, you can turn the dough out onto floured surface and knead by hand for about 15 minutes). Place the dough in an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover with a damp cloth and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 hour. Punch down, cover and let rise again for another 30-45 minutes.
Turn dough onto a floured board. Remove 1/3 of the dough and set aside. Cut the remaining 2/3 of the dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each piece into a rope about 1-1/2 inch thick and braid the 3 strands together, pinching the ends and tucking under to create an even shape. Divide remaining dough in 3 parts and braid; place the small braid on top of the large one. Place on a greased baking sheet; cover and let rise again for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 F. Beat the remaining egg with 1 Tbsp of sugar and a splash of water. With a pastry brush, brush challah well with the egg wash.
Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden brown, crusty and hollow sounding when tapped. Cool the loaves on a rack (but who are we kidding, mine lasted about the time it took me to run to the fridge and grab the butter!).