Makes: 1 large loaf
Time: At least 3 hours, largely unattended
The traditional Sabbath bread of European Jews is rich, eggy, and very, very tender. There is enough dough to make a festive braided loaf, which is easy to make and fun to shape. However, unless you have a large food processor (one with at least an 11-cup workbowl), you will have to make this by hand or with a standing mixer. Leftover Challah makes excellent French toast or can be used in bread pudding. Recipe from How to Cook Everything.
5 cups (scant 11/2 pounds) all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
2 teaspoons salt
2 teaspoons instant yeast
A few threads saffron (optional)
1 tablespoon honey or sugar
3 eggs plus 1 yolk
11/3 cups water or milk, warmed to about 70°F if you’re working by hand
Neutral oil, like grapeseed or corn, or softened butter for the bowl and pan
1 tablespoon poppy seeds
Coarse salt (optional)
1. Put the flour in a food processor. Add the salt, the yeast, and the saffron if you’re using it and process for 5 seconds. With the machine running, add the sweetener, whole eggs, and most of the water or milk through the feed tube. Process for about 30 seconds, then remove the cover. The dough should be in a well-defined, barely sticky, easy-to-handle ball. If it is too dry, add water or milk 1 tablespoon at a time and process for 5 or 10 seconds after each addition. If it is too wet, which is unlikely, add another tablespoon or two of flour and process briefly. Knead for a minute or so by hand.
2. Grease a large bowl with oil or butter. Shape the dough into a rough ball, put it in the bowl, and cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel. Let rise for at least 11/2 hours, until nearly doubled in bulk. Deflate the ball and cut it into 3 equal pieces; shape them into balls and let them rest on a lightly floured surface for about 15 minutes, covered. Roll each of the balls into a rope about 14 inches long and 1 inch thick. Braid them on a lightly greased baking sheet. Cover and let rest for 30 minutes while you heat the oven.
3. Heat the oven to 375°F. Beat the egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and brush the top of the loaf with this mixture; sprinkle with poppy seeds and, if you like, a little coarse salt, then put in the oven. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, or until the bottom of the loaf sounds hollow when you tap it or the internal temperature is about 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Cool on a wire rack before slicing. Best eaten within a day (store in wax paper if necessary).