I adore baking bread and am always amazed that with a few simple ingredients, you can go from something that resembles paste to creating something so utterly delicious. Kneading dough is also the perfect way to get out your aggressions, though not that I have any.
Growing up in my predominantly Jewish neighborhood in Miami, one bread favorite was always Challah. It’s essentially bread rich with eggs and served at high holidays. Though to me, it’s perfect anytime of year. It’s also the first bread that I learned to bake. I let it rise twice for long periods of time which yields fluffier dough. It also turns out a gigantic loaf of bread. My finished bread (pictured below) measured in at a whopping 15” x 7”. You may want to divide this up into two smaller loaves. I used a 3-strand braiding technique, much like braiding hair but this type of loaf also turns out really pretty when using a 5 or 6 stranded braiding technique. Artisan Bread Baking has excellent tutorials on bread braiding techniques. Hope you enjoy making this as much as I do! Enjoy.
1 ¼ c warm water (295 ml)
1 yeast packet (1 ½ t or 9g)
2 Tbl. Honey (about 40 ml)
2 Tbl. Sunflower oil (about 40 ml)
1 t salt
4 cups all-purpose flour (500g) (plus more for kneading and dusting)
1 egg white + ½ t water for egg wash
Pour yeast into a bowl. Add warm water (110 F / 45 c) and honey. Sir and allow to sit for 10 minutes, until the mixture becomes frothy.
Add oil, eggs and salt and blend well. Gradually stir in the flour a little at a time until incorporated.
Turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead, incorporating more dough as necessary. Knead dough until it is no longer sticky and is quite elastic - usually around 10 minutes.
Put the dough into an oiled bowl and cover with a damp cloth. Place the bowl in a warm, dry place and let sit until it has risen double in size, about 1 1/2 hours.
Punch dough down and knead slightly to release any air. Divide the dough into 3 pieces and roll each piece out into a snake shape.
To braid the 3 stranded method: Place each piece along side one another, folding the right piece over to the left and the left piece over to the right at the top (photo 1). Lift up the center piece and bring the left piece over to the right to start braiding as though braiding hair. Keep braiding until you reach the end. Tuck the left piece over the right and the right piece over the left as in the beginning.
Place the braided bread onto an oiled baking sheet. Cover with the damp cloth and let sit for a ½ hour until risen. (* This second rising really adds dimension, air and girth to the loaf)
Create the egg wash by mixing a teaspoon of water with an egg yolk. Brush onto the bread making sure to reach the crevices. (* You can also use an egg yolk mixed with water for the wash. It creates a darker, more golden crust. I personally just prefer the egg white)
Bake the loaf in a 375F (190c) preheated oven for about 40 minutes until golden brown. When it is fully cooked, the loaf should sound hollow when tapped. Allow to cool before serving.