I made this bread for the first time at Culinary School a few years ago and it has been one my favorite thing to make ever since. It is very beautiful and really easy to make.
Funny story, the first time I made this a fellow student and I tag-teamed it. The first try we thought we had done something wrong because it was taking so long to rise. We thought we used dead yeast so my friend tried to help the situation by kneading in more yeast about 45 min into the first rise. That obviously didn't work. The second try we got all the way to the braid but we thought we killed the yeast because we put it in too hot of a spot to raise (but really we didn't wait long enough for it to rise). We FINALLY succeeded the third time by just waiting patiently for the full time like the recipe says. Every time I make Challah I think of all those times we failed and I laugh. If at first you don't succeed try try again, especially in the case of Challah because the end product will be worth it!
Here is a little bit of history about Challah (HAL-la). It is a traditional bread originating from Jewish Sabbath and holiday celebrations. They eat 2 Challah loaves at each of the 3 Sabbath meals and during the holidays. It is to commemorate the manna that fell from heaven for the children of Israel as they wandered in the wilderness. (If this is what manna tasted like I would have been one happy Israelite camper!)
This year I made some on Christmas Day for my family, while it was baking I decided to take a little nap...when I woke there was nothing but a crust left!
Here is the recipe:
Honey (3oz) 6 TB
Salt 1 1/2 tsp
Bread flour (14oz) 2-3 C
Yeast 1 TB
Water, hot (2oz) 4TB
Water, warm (5oz) 1/2 C
Butter, melted (2oz) 4TB
1. Stir together the honey, salt and (4oz) 1/2 C flour in a mixer bowl. Dissolve the yeast in the hot water. Add the yeast mixture, the warm water, eggs and butter to the mixer bowl. Stir till smooth.
2. Using a dough hook, knead the dough on medium speed, adding the remaining flour a little at a time until smooth and elastic (5 min). Add more flour if the dough seems too sticky.
3. Let dough rise until doubled (45 min-1 hour)
4. Punch down the dough and divide into 3 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a long strip about one inch in diameter and about 12 inches long. Lay these strips side by side and pinch the tops together. At this point move onto a grease cookie sheet to continue braiding. Tuck both ends under themselves for a nice finish.
5. Let the loaf rise until doubled (45 min)
6. Brush with egg wash before putting it in the oven at 350 for 40 min. (convection ovens about 300 for 30 min)
Recipe from my culinary textbook "On Cooking".