Traditionally eaten during Sabbath meals or Jewish holidays, there are many reasons to love the taste of challah that I think many non-Jewish today have challah as part of their bread consumption. I know that at least T and I do. The sweetness from the honey and egginess (if that word even exists) of the bread makes us go mmmmm. The braids hold the bread together and yet it's soft enough to tear a section of it with our hands, if not slicing it.
We had ours with butter and fig jam in the morning. In the afternoon, they would make a perfect deli-style sandwich. Perhaps if there are some of the slices left in a few days' time, we would use them to make french toast for breakfast since bread that is a few days old always make fantastic french toast. And with maple syrup and cinnamon, who can resist?
1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
4 tablespoons granulated white sugar
1 teaspoon salt
4 1/4 to 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup of warm milk (110-115 degrees F)
4 tablespoons olive oil + 1 teaspoon for greasing the bowl
1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 tablespoon honey
1 teaspoon olive oil
1. In the mixing bowl of the electric mixer, combine yeast, sugar, salt, and 1 cup of flour. Add in warm milk, 2 eggs, 4 tablespoons olive oil, honey, and vanilla. Measure the olive oil first using the tablespoon followed by the honey; the honey will slide out smoothly without sticking to the tablespoon. With the dough hook attachment, mix the ingredients under medium speed until combined while scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mixture will be a little clumpy at this point. Gradually add in the remaining flour 1/2 cup at a time while allowing the mixture to be almost well combined before adding the next batch of flour. Mix the dough until stiff.
2. Remove dough and place on a floured surface. Gently knead the dough for a few minutes with your hands. If the dough is sticky, add in a tablespoon of flour at a time just enough to prevent it from sticking to the surface or your hands. Continue kneading. Lightly press a finger onto the dough and it should bounce back. The dough is slightly firm dough which will make the braiding easier later on.
3. In a clean large bowl, grease the bottom and sides of the bowl with 1 teaspoon of olive oil. Put the dough into the mixing bowl and turn the dough once over so that the top will be coated with olive oil. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature for about 2 hours or until double in size.
4. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Gently press your fingers onto the dough inside the mixing bowl to deflate it. On a separate surface also lined with parchment paper, place the dough onto this surface. Divide the dough equally into 3 portions. Roll out each portion into a smooth and thick strip about 20 inches in length, with the ends of the strips a little thinner than the middle. Lay these ropes side-by-side but not touching on the lined baking sheet.
5. Braid the lower half of the ropes first, beginning in the middle of the ropes and working towards you. Alternately move the outside ropes over the center rope: left over, right over, left over, right over, until you come to the end. Rotate the baking sheet so that the unbraided section now faces you. This time, move the outside ropes under the center rope. Braid the ropes tightly without any space between the ropes as the dough will expand and rise when baking. Crimp both ends of the braided dough and tuck the ends under.
6. Cover the baking sheet loosely with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 minutes. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Meanwhile, prepare the glaze by whisking together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon olive oil. Gently brush the surface of the dough with a thick layer of the glaze. Place the dough in the oven and bake for 30 minutes or until the surface is golden brown and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom of the baking sheet. Transfer to a cooling rack. Let cool before slicing.