Rich, sweet challah recipe, adapted from Cook’s Illustrated.
For the tangzhong paste
- ½ C water
- 3 Tbsp bread flour
- 1 large egg plus 2 large yolks
- ¼ C water
- 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
- 2 ¾ C (15⅛ oz) bread flour
- 1 ¼ tsp instant yeast
- ¼ C (1¾ oz) sugar
- 1 tsp table salt
- 1 Tbsp sesame or poppy seeds, optional
- 1 large egg
- Pinch salt
Make the dough
- Stir together the ingredients for the paste in a microwave-safe bowl until there are no lumps.
- Cook the paste mixture in the microwave in 20-second intervals, whisking between cooks, until the mixture is thick, like slightly-stiff cream of wheat or pudding.
- In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the oil, egg, egg yolks, flour paste, and remaining water.
- Change the mixer attachment out for the dough hook.
- Add the remaining flour and the yeast. Mix together until all the flour is moistened.
- Let the dough sit, covered, for 20 minutes to hydrate and autolyze. (Use a timer to keep track of the time.)
- Add the sugar and salt and knead the dough for nine minutes at medium speed.
- Remove the dough and grease the inside of the bowl with oil or nonstick spray. Put the dough back in, cover the bowl, and let the dough rise at 85°F (29°C) until doubled in volume, about 90 minutes.
Braid the bread
- Turn the bread out on a countertop. Do not flour the countertop! You need the friction of the bare counter to help keep the strands in place while braiding.
- Divide the dough into four equal parts and roll them all out into strands about 14–16 inches long.
- Pinch all four strands together at one end and number the positions, 1–4.
- Cross strand 4 over strand 2.
- Cross strand 1 over strand 3.
- Cross strand 2 over strand 3.
- Repeat the pattern until you run out of dough. Pinch the strands together and tuck them under the loaf.
- Place the loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet and cover it loosely with plastic wrap that has been oiled on the contact side.
- Set the loaf aside to proof in a place that is as close to 85°F (29°C) as possible.
- Allow the loaf to rise until it no longer springs back easily or fully when poked, about 2–3 hours.
- When the bread is done proofing, or nearly so, preheat your oven to 350°F (177°C).
- Make the egg wash by beating together the egg, the pinch of salt, and a teaspoon of water.
- Brush the egg wash onto the surface of the loaf. If you are using the sesame or poppy seeds, sprinkle them on now.
- Place the loaf in the oven and bake.
- After 35 minutes of baking, check the internal temperature of the loaf with your Thermapen ONE. If the lowest temp you see is 195–200°F (91–93°C), the bread is done.
- Let the bread cool before slicing, then serve and enjoy!