Let’s get back to bread, because what’s better than bread, really?
This is a traditional challah, comfort and family and warmth braided in dough. The recipe makes two loaves, because you will need to eat it plain, and with butter, and in sandwiches, and as french toast with strawberries and cream cheese, and let’s face it, one loaf simply will not do.
1 1/2 cups very warm water
1 Tablespoon active dry yeast
5 egg yolks, + 1 for glaze
1 1/8 teaspoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup + a generous Tablespoon sugar
5 1/4-6 cups flour
Combine everything but the flour.
Add 5 cups of flour, stirring with a spoon after each cup is added, until eventually you need to get in there with your hands.
Knead the dough, adding more flour as necessary until you have a dough that is not sticky and is easy to work with.
Continue kneading for a few minutes.
Set the dough back in your bowl, cover it with a towel, and leave it to rise in a warm spot for 1 hour.
Divide the dough into two equal pieces.
Divide each of those pieces into three parts and roll each into a snake about 18 inches long. Keep the middles of the snakes a bit wider than the ends.
Line 2 baking sheets with silpats or parchment paper.
Lay 3 pieces of dough on each baking sheet, side by side, almost touching.
On each sheet, begin in the middle and braid towards yourself, then turn the baking sheet and braid from the middle towards yourself again, this time moving the outside snakes under the center one rather than over. At each end tuck the dough under. This will give you a neat braid.
Cover the loaves with a towel and put them back in your warm spot to rise for an hour.
About 45 minutes into that hour, preheat your oven to 350.
When the hour’s up, mix up one egg yolk with just a little bit of its white and brush that over both loaves.
Bake for 25-30 minutes – no longer. I find 28 minutes to be perfect, but it will depend on your oven. The crust should be soft and golden, the middle airy and not dry.
Alternatively, you can bake this in loaf pans, braided just as above.