Have you been intimidated by the pretty challah? Not any more. Today, I share with you the easiest three-braid challah bread recipe you will ever make. This recipe uses just six ingredients, which are regular pantry staples and the process is surprisingly simple and easy.
In a large bowl, combine warm water, yeast, honey, oil, and eggs – combine well with a whisk.
Then, add the flour – combine well with a fork.
Transfer to a well-floured work board and knead for 5 minutes until, smooth, soft and springs back. (see video)
Make a ball and place in an oiled bowl.
Cover and let rise for 60 to 90 minutes or until double in volume.
Shape the loaf.
Transfer to a un-floured work-surface.
Divide the dough into 2 for 2 loaves.
Then, divide each into 3 portions. They need to be approximately the same weight.
Form each into a ball. If necessary, let rest for 5 to 10 minutes.
Roll each piece with a rolling pin on a un-floured work surface.
Then roll like a jelly roll into a rope (see video) – This will give us a beautiful texture for the loaf.
Braiding the challah - 3 strands
Place all three ropes in such a way that they intersect each other in the center.
Then, braid one half from the center down – flip over and braid the second half as shown in the video.
This braid is similar to braiding your hair - starting from the middle in towards the ends makes it easier, prettier and less complicated.
Cover and let proof for 30 to 45 minutes.
A half-hour before baking, preheat the oven at 170 C / 340 F.
Brush the challah with beaten egg.
Bake each for 20 to 25 minutes until you have a nice golden brown (the internal temperature of about 195 F ).
Remove and let cool on a wire rack for 5 minutes.
Then, cover with a clean kitchen cloth to keep it soft.
Tips for making the perfect homemade challah bread
Measure all ingredients ahead of time, so you don't forget anything at the last minute.
For accuracy, use a weight measure for the ingredients because every cup of flour can weigh differently depending on how you fill it.
The liquid (milk or water) must be warm (not hot) - about 110F. If the liquid is too hot, it will kill the yeast. Similarly, if the liquid is too cold, it will not activate the yeast.
Though instant dry yeast has a long shelf life, it can get ruined. Always check the expiry date on the yeast. If unsure, combine the yeast with water/milk, sugar/honey, and oil/butter from the recipe and let stand 5 minutes. If it gets foamy the yeast is good to go. If not, it's best to buy fresh yeast or check the temperature of the milk.
Keep salt away from yeast as it can kill the yeast. I like to combine salt with the flour then add the yeast mixture.
A soft loose well-hydrated dough is not necessarily a bad thing. Often, it will give you a soft puffy bread. So, don't be tempted to add more flour than mentioned in the recipe.
Kneading is key to making good bread. While kneading by hand can be therapeutic, using a stand mixer is easier and quicker.
Leave the dough at room temperature to rise until double in volume. While not recommended, when in haste, you can place it in a warm (30 C / 75 F- not hotter) oven this will expedite the rise.
Bread does not have to be time-consuming. You can leave the dough in the fridge to rise for a few hours (even overnight) while you go about your chores. A slow rise will give more flavor to the bread.
Always preheat the oven for at least 10 minutes before you place bread in or the low temperature will spread the dough too much.