There's something special about Challah, with its heftier chewy and slightly eggy flavor. There's not one thing this bread can't do, too: it makes amazing french toast, great regular toast, a perfect sandwich be it filled with peanut butter, tuna, or cheese. The dough is not hard at all to make, and you will be absolutely delighted with yourself when you pull the beautiful loaf out of the oven. Plus, your house will smell A M A Z I N G as it does for all baking bread.
This recipe will yield 2 large loaves. This gives you some options. Invite some friends over and share. Give a loaf to a friend. Or once cool, slice the loaf, slide the slices into a freezer bag, and then, when you want a slice, you can take one at a time. Slide the frozen slice into your toaster, schmear on a little jam, and you'll be happy you made that second loaf!
If you don't like raisins, skip it. You can also halve the amount and only put it in one loaf. Or use your favorite dried fruit. I've made this with dried tart cherries (snipped), apricots, chopped dates, ... sky is the limit.
And yes, this is not the first Challah I have shared with you. I love my other option, too, but this one has a slightly chewier ... chew and maybe right now it might be my favorite.
Note: This loaf calls for bread flour. You can definitely make it without, but the extra gluten will help create that chew and also add to the rise of the dough while baking. If you don't have any on hand, I have a secret for you: You can produce similar results by adding vital wheat gluten to your recipe along with your all-purpose flour. Generally, you'll add 1 T vital wheat gluten to 2 - 3 cups of flour. To learn more about preferments for doughs: https://www.chainbaker.com/preferments/
Yield: 2 large loaf
2 teaspoons active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups/338 grams all purpose flour
1/3 cup/110 grams honey
1/3 cup/110 grams extra virgin olive oil
2 large egg yolk, at room temperature
4 large eggs, at room temperature, plus 1 beaten egg, for egg wash
6 cups/810 grams bread flour, plus more for kneading the dough Note: Depending on the humidity, you might need up to one additional cup)
22 grams kosher salt (about 1 tablespoon Diamond Crystal or 1½ teaspoons Morton coarse kosher salt)
1 cup/144 grams golden raisins (optional)
Poppy or sesame seeds, for sprinkling (optional)
Make the preferment:
In the bowl of your mixer (or another large bowl), combine the yeast and ¼ cup warm tap water (100 to 110 degrees), and whisk until the yeast is dissolved. Add another ½ cup room temperature water and the 1 1/4 cup bread flour, and stir with a flexible spatula or bowl scraper until you have a smooth, pasty mixture with no dry spots. It should look like a thick batter.
Scrape the mixture into the center of the bowl and cover tightly. Let the preferment sit at room temperature until it’s nearly tripled in size, extremely bubbly across the surface, and jiggles on the verge of collapsing when the bowl is shaken, 1 to 2 hours (depending on the room's temperature).
Mix the dough:
Add to the large bowl with the preferment: honey, olive oil, the yolk and 2 whole eggs, mixing on low with the dough hook. Once mostly combined, add the bread flour and salt. Use a flexible spatula or bowl scraper, make sure to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate the preferment, until a shaggy dough comes together. Click the motor up one notch, and let the machine keep going, watching the dough. If it sticks to the bottom and looks gooey, add another 1/4 cup flour. Continue mixing, and watching, adding 1/4 cup of flour at a time as needed until the dough is shiny, and stays in one mass, rather than sticking along the bottom of the bowl. This can take upon to 10 minutes so be patient.
Once the dough is well-kneaded, drizzle a little more olive oil down the sides of the bowl, scoop the dough and flip it to coat both sides. Cover the bowl well with a lid or plastic, and let the dough sit in a warm spot until it’s doubled in size, 1 to 2 hours (again, depending on the room's temperature).
If making a raisin-studded challah, place the raisins in a medium bowl and cover with boiling water. Cover the bowl and let the raisins soak until they’re plumped and softened, 15 to 20 minutes. Drain the raisins, pat them dry, and set aside.
Shape the dough:
Once the dough has double in size, you can shape. Line a baking pan with parchment; set aside. Scoop the dough out onto a lightly floured counter, and knead to dispel the air. Cut the dough into two pieces. Set one half aside, and cut the other into two more pieces. Roll each half into a longish length (2 or so feet long), and roll into a long tube. If adding raisins, scatter the raisins over the rolled length, and then roll them into the long tube.
Pinch the ends of the tubes together and loosely twist the strands together. Once twisted, slowly coil the twist into a round, tucking the end underneath. Transfer the coil to a parchment-lined sheet pan. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
Loosely cover the dough with some lightly oiled plastic wrap, and let it rise at room temperature until it’s doubled in size, extremely puffy, and springs back but holds a slight indentation when poked gently with a wet finger, another 1½ to 2 hours (but possibly longer, again depending on room's temperature). The dough is easy to underproof, so, if you’re unsure, err on the side of over-proofing. Alternatively, before proofing, you can refrigerate the dough overnight, but omit the egg wash and make sure it’s covered (plastic should cover it loosely but be sealed around the pan so the dough doesn't dry out). Loaves that have sat in the fridge over night will take longer to proof, closer to 2 hours.
Once your loaf has achieved its proof (doubled in size), heat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake the loaf:
Uncover the challah and brush with egg wash. Sprinkle the loaf with poppy or sesame seeds (if using) and bake until the loaf is shiny and burnished, an instant-read thermometer registers 190 degrees when inserted into the center, and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom, 35 to 40 minutes. Let the challah cool completely on the baking sheet.