This is my very favorite challah recipe. It manages to accomplish most of its rising in the refrigerator overnight, making it an ideal candidate for baking during the week. —Bria
Test Kitchen Notes
This was super easy to make and I love that it proofs overnight in the fridge. It's really hands-off, which for a novice bread baker is great! It baked up beautifully -- nice and high with a shiny, bronze crust and yellow eggy interior. It's got enough heft for French toast and is also good on its own. - Emily —The Editors
2 large loaves
active dry yeast (2 packages)
1 1/3 cups hot tap water
unsalted butter, softened
eggs at room temperature, plus one more at baking time
Combine 2 cups of flour with the yeast, sugar, and salt in large bowl and stir well. Add softened butter and stir again. It will not look at all combined – just a hugely shaggy mess.
Add the hot tap water and beat with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes until well mixed and elastic.
Add the eggs and 1 ½ cups more flour. Beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute or until thick and elastic.
If you are using a stand mixer, switch to a dough hook on low speed and gradually stir in enough of remaining flour with a to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of bowl. Alternatively, stir in the last bit of flour with a wooden spoon and turn the dough out onto a floured board.
Knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional flour as needed, until it is smooth, elastic, and passes the windowpane test. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning it over once to fully coat with oil. Cover with a tea towel and let raise for 20 minutes on the counter.
After 20 minutes, divide the dough into two even pieces. Set one piece aside and cover with the dish towel. Gently roll the first piece into a fat log and divide again into as many pieces as you want to braid (I favor a traditional six-part braid, but three or four pieces also work well). Roll each small piece into a snake, aiming for equal length and thickness. Pinch the ends of the snakes together and braid until you reach the other ends. Tuck both ends securely under the loaf.
Repeat with other half of the dough and set both loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. When you are ready to bake, remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them begin to come to room temperature while heating the oven to 365F.
Beat an egg in a small dish with splash of milk and gently brush over the loaves. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the loaves are a rich golden brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool on racks and tear to serve (do not slice).
Sandwich loaf alternative: replace half the flour with spelt flour. Press half of the dough into an 8x8 rectangle and roll into a thick log, pinching the seam when you are finished. Place seam-side down in a greased loaf pan, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours. Follow step 8 as written, taking care to turn the loaf from its pan promptly upon removing from the oven.