This Hanukkah, you deserve a no-fuss, show-stopper challah bread dough that won't let you down.
After all, it's been a year, so why not treat your family to homemade challah that requires little kneading and just some well-timed folding? With this step-by-step look at the process, and, perhaps a little more time on your hands, it's the perfect time to try something new and delicious.
The original recipe from food blogger Jessica Fechtor makes two loaves, but we cut it in half to produce one loaf perfect for smaller gatherings of celebration this week.
The challah will stay fresh on the counter for a few days if stored in a sealed bag and keeps well in the freezer if wrapped very well in plastic wrap and sealed in a freezer bag.
Yield: 1 loaf
2 cups (250 grams) bread flour
3/4 teaspoon instant dry yeast
1 teaspoon fine sea salt
1 egg plus one egg yolk, reserving the extra egg white in the fridge for glazing on day two.
6 tablespoons (95 grams) warm water
2 tablespoons, plus 2 teaspoons (37 grams) olive oil
2 tablespoons (42 grams) honey
Notes: many people sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds on top before baking, but I didn’t.
Mix the dry ingredients in one bowl and the wet ingredients in another, then mix the wet ingredients into the dry. Once mixed together, put the wet, sticky dough in a larger bowl and cover for 10 minutes, to let the yeast activate.
Once the dough is mixed and rested, uncover and grab one edge of the dough, lift it up and pull it over to the middle of the whole lump of dough. Continue doing this around the entire lump of dough, turning the bowl as you go for a total of eight folds. Then flip the whole lump of dough so the seams of the folds are facing down in the bowl. Re-cover and let sit at room temperature for 30 minutes. Repeat this process four more times. By the final fold, you should see small pockets of air in the dough, a sure sign of fermentation. Cover the bowl and let sit in the refrigerator overnight. Note: The dough will be very difficult to work with for the first few folds. I lightly wet my hands to make it a bit easier and also used a rubber bowl scraper to help lift the dough from the bowl.
When you take the dough out of the fridge, transfer it to a lightly floured surface. My dough was still very sticky at this point, so I used a silicone mat. Divide the dough into three relatively equal parts. If you want to be precise, use a kitchen scale to do this.
Roll each piece of dough into equal strands, about 1 foot long and 3/4-inch thick. Try to use as little extra flour as possible, but dust with flour when necessary to prevent sticking.
Pinch the three strands together at the top and braid them together. Pinch ends together at the bottom and carefully tuck them underneath to create a clean looking edge. You can do the same with the top of the braid, as well. Transfer to a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Let the dough rise again at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until the dough is visibly puffed up and bounces back slowly, if at all, when poked lightly with a finger.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Take the reserved egg white out of the fridge, and here is where I strayed again from the original recipe. For the glaze/egg wash, I mixed the egg white with a dollop of honey, a pinch of sugar, and a splash of water. Very exact, I know, but it was a last-minute decision. Brush the egg wash over the bread before baking, careful not to let too much drip down the sides. I did this and got a burnt edge around the bottom of my loaf. Bake for about 20 minutes on the middle rack, until the bread is golden and a toothpick comes out clean when inserted into the middle of the bread. If you want to use a thermometer, the loaf will be 190 degrees F when fully baked. Note: Check on your loaf about halfway through the baking time. If the bread is browning quickly, tent a piece of tin foil over it to prevent the glaze from burning.
It will be tough to resist, but let the challah fully cool on a rack before slicing. Once it is taken out of the oven it continues baking a bit, so it needs to rest.