CHALLAH // braided egg bread recipe
Full disclosure: I took this picture over the summer. After baking this bread with more than a little help from my mom. BUT I totally was responsible for the braiding, so that counts for something, right?

My family isn't huge on long-standing traditions (probably a relic from my mom growing up Catholic and my dad growing up Jewish), but if I had to point to a newly-minted family tradition from my parents, it would definitely be this bread.


This is a bit of a special occasion bread -- I'm pretty sure my parents make it every New Year's, and I made a couple of less-photogenic loaves for Easter. But it's also perfect if you have a bit of time on your hands on a weekend afternoon, because it's so good and the kneading and braiding process is basically free therapy.


BRAIDED CHALLAH

Makes two loaves


INGREDIENTS:

1/4 cup warm water
1 package active yeast (this recipe is for regular yeast, see note below if you use quick-rise yeast)
3 eggs
Milk (add to two eggs to make 2 cups total)
2 tbs melted butter
2 tsp salt
2 tbs sugar
6-6 1/2 cups flour


INSTRUCTIONS:


1. Dissolve yeast in water in a large bowl.  

2. Break two eggs into a 2-cup measuring cup and pour in milk to make 2 cups. Beat the mixture together, then add to the yeast mixture. 

3. Add butter, salt, and sugar to mixture and blend.


4. Stir in five cups of flour one cup at the time, each time stirring until smooth and elastic.


5. Sprinkle flour on a board or counter. Place the dough on the board and keep a sprinkle of flour on it as you knead -- it shouldn't be so sticky that half of it ends up on your hands! Knead dough until non-sticky, smooth, and satiny, adding flour as needed.  


6. Put dough in greased bowl, turning to grease fully. Cover the bowl with a damp cloth and set in warm place. Let the dough rise until almost doubled (about 1 1/2 hours).  


7. Test the dough by inserting two fingers 1/2 inch into dough -- if indentations remain, the dough is ready. Punch dough down and squeeze out bubbles.  


8. Divide the ball of dough into six equal parts and roll each small ball into a strand. Braid three strands together and fold the ends under, pinching to help them stick together. Repeat with the remaining three strands.


9. Place both braided loaves on a greased baking sheet and cover with a damp towel. Let rise until almost doubled (about 45 minutes).


10. Crack an egg into a bowl and beat until mixed. With a brush (or simply a folded paper towel) spread the egg mixture over the top of each loaf of bread -- this will give the loaves their shiny, golden crust, so I like to be thorough and get into the braids' crevasses.


11.  Bake in 375 oven for 25-30 minutes, then serve fresh and hot! The bread will last for another few days (or less depending on how much self control you have), especially if wrapped in tin foil and refrigerated.


FAVORITE TOPPINGS: hummus, aoili, jam, a piece of cheese and slice of tomato, or just straight up eat a hunk of bread plain -- my favorite snack!


NOTE: For quick rise yeast (which seems to work equally well), follow the directions on the yeast packet to modify the recipe. In general, you'll mix the yeast with the dry ingredients and then add in the warmed-up liquid ingredients (add the eggs to at room temperature). You'll then give the dough a shorter first rising time (ten minutes or so) and then continue with the recipe. 

xo Diana
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