SAF Instant yeast can be purchased online. It is the same as rapid rise yeast, but different from active dry yeast that’s sold in supermarkets. Active dry yeast is an unreliable substitute for this recipe. If you do not have a stand mixer, scale the recipe down to two-thirds of the weight and make three loaves rather than four.
- 1650 grams (13¾ cups) bread flour
- 30 grams (5 teaspoons) fine sea salt
- 21 grams (3 envelopes) instant yeast
- 690 grams (3 cups) water or milk
- 360 grams (1 cup plus 1 tablespoon) honey
- 360 grams (3 sticks plus 2 teaspoons) soft butter or 360 grams (1½ cups plus 2 teaspoons) oil
- 225 grams eggs (about 4½ large eggs)
- Egg Wash
- 100 grams (2 large) egg
- 50 grams (2½) yolks of large eggs
- 50 grams (3 tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon) water
- 2 pinches salt
- 50 to 100 grams (2½–5 tablespoons) honey
- Poppy seeds, sesame seeds, fennel pollen, Maldon sea salt
- Combine flour, salt and instant yeast in large bowl. Mix well. Combine water or milk, honey and eggs into the bowl of a 6-quart stand mixer. If using oil (not butter), add it now. Pour dry ingredients over wet. If using butter (not oil), add it now. Using the dough hook attachment, mix for 2 to 3 minutes on lowest speed until all of the dough comes together. Scrape the bowl on the sides and bottom with a spatula or plastic bowl scraper, then mix on low speed for 2 more minutes. The dough will seem very wet, but don’t be tempted to add any more flour.
- Holding the bowl with your hands, turn the mixer to medium speed and mix aggressively until the dough detaches from the bottom of the bowl. This can take anywhere from 5 to 10 minutes. At this point, the dough will not feel as wet. Place the dough in a large metal bowl that has been coated with cooking spray or oil, and cover tightly with plastic wrap. Let rise for 45 to 60 minutes in a warm spot in the kitchen, or until the dough has doubled in size. Remove the plastic wrap, and punch the dough down. Reseal with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 more minutes.
- Meanwhile, make the egg wash by combining all ingredients and blending very well. Add enough honey until the egg wash is sweet (50 to 100 grams, based on your preference).
- Once the dough has finished rising, weigh the dough on a kitchen scale. To make 4 medium-sized loaves with 3 strands, divide the dough evenly into 12 strands. Using no flour to shape the strands, flatten each piece roughly into a rectangle. From top to bottom, roll and pinch the dough tightly, turning each rectangle into a fat strand. Repeat with all the pieces. Then invert the strands, flatten and repeat the shaping process. Now using a small amount of flour, roll each strand out until 30 to 35 centimeters (12 to 14 inches) long. Make sure each piece is even. Braid simply with three strands per loaf. Pinch and tuck the ends under the loaf.
- Place two loaves on a parchment-lined half sheet pan, brush lightly with egg wash, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for 30 to 45 minutes. Brush with egg wash a second time, and sprinkle with garnishes (generously with seeds, lightly with salt).
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (175 degrees Celsius). When oven is hot, place pans in the oven for 20 minutes, then brush with egg wash one final time. Rotate the trays in the oven and bake another 20 to 30 minutes, until a thermometer inserted into the middle of each challah reads 90 degrees Celsius (194 degrees Fahrenheit).
- Remove challah from oven, and carefully place on a wire rack to cool. Serve or freeze once cool. To serve a frozen loaf, let the bread thaw completely and heat in the oven for 15 minutes at 325 degrees Fahrenheit (163 degrees Celsius).
- Recipe first published by Vered Guttman on Haaretz.com