I would venture to say that winning a blue ribbon at the Minnesota State Fair for challah is akin to winning a medal at the Jewish Food Olympics. I have entered many times over the years, but this, this was my year. And for all the tweaking I’ve done, I’m quite pleased – this recipe is versatile, forgiving, and has a dense but tender crumb, keeping moist for several days. With just the right amount of honey, it bakes up as a handsome, lightly sweet loaf that I’m happy to share with my fellow Jewfolks in advance of Rosh Hashanah this year.
- 2 ½ cups all-purpose flour
- 2 ½ tsp rapid rise yeast
- 1 tsp sea salt
- 2 eggs for the bread, 1 for the egg wash
- 1/3 cup honey
- 3 tbsp vegetable oil
- ½ cup warm water
In the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Create a well and add the 2 eggs, honey, oil, and water. Mix until a shaggy dough comes together then switch to the dough hook. Knead until smooth, about 5 minutes. Add a little extra flour if needed, sparingly, so the dough feels cohesive, but still has a light stickiness to it.
Cover and let rise in a warm location until it’s doubled in size, about 2 hours. Punch down dough and knead gently. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface then divide the dough into the desired number of strands (a 4-strand braid looks particularly nice). Braid dough and place on a baking sheet. Cover and let rise again for about 30 minutes, until puffy.
Preheat oven to 350. Beat the remaining egg gently and brush the dough with the egg wash. Bake for 23-28 minutes, until golden brown or the bread has an internal temperature of 190 degrees. I personally like a deeply golden loaf, so I remove the bread and brush a second coat of egg wash on about 15 minutes in. Let cool completely on a wire rack before serving.