Challah

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Braiding strands of dough into a loaf isn’t difficult, as long as you have the right kind of dough to work with. This Challah dough, enriched with egg and oil, is perfect for the job: a firm dough that is just the right consistency for rolling into strands and braiding, and firm enough to hold its shape on rising. And don’t worry, there are full instructions for the braiding!

Prep 45 Minutes Plus Overnight Proving and 2 Hours Proving
Bake 30 Minutes
Oven 190°C (Fan)/210°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7 then 160°C (Fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4

Ingredients

Bread

  • 490 g (1 lb oz) strong white bread flour
  • 40 g ( oz) sugar
  • 2 egg yolks, large
  • 1 egg, large
  • 40 ml/37 g ( fl oz/ oz) vegetable oil
  • 160 ml/160 g ( fl oz/ oz) water, cold
  • tsp salt
  • tsp fast action yeast
  • Oil for greasing

Glaze

  • 1 egg, beaten

Equipment

  • Large baking sheet
  • Pastry brush

Method

  1. Place all the bread ingredients into a large bowl and combine to form a rough dough. Turn out onto the work surface and knead for 8 minutes, stretching and folding the dough. The dough will be firm and you’ll need to use a bit more effort than usual to knead it effectively.

  2. Transfer the smooth (though still a little tight) dough to a lightly oiled bowl. Cover with cling film (plastic wrap) and allow to rise overnight in the fridge.

  3. The next morning remove the dough from the fridge: it will have almost doubled in size overnight. Turn it out onto the work surface and split it into 6 equal portions.

  4. Working with one piece at a time, flatten the dough out and then fold the edges in to the centre, and flip it over so that the seam sits underneath. Shape it into a rough ball by placing your hand over the top, then bend your fingers around to form a sort of cage over the dough. Lightly turn the dough in your hand by rotating it with your fingertips and it will soon be a ball shape.

  5. Take a ball of dough and roll it between your palm and the work surface to start to elongate it. You won’t get far before it feels impossible and it keeps shrinking back in size – about 10cm (4in). Set it aside at this point and shape another portion.

  6. By the time you’ve shaped each ball, the first portion of dough will have relaxed enough to roll out once more. Roll it again between your palm and the work surface to elongate the strand. When the dough starts springing back again set it to one side and work through the other five strands.

  7. Keep going in this manner and eventually you will be rolling the strand between both hands and the work surface, moving your hands outwards to stretch the dough. You’re aiming for a length of around 40cm (15¾in) with slightly tapered ends. The thickest part of the strand in the middle should be about 2cm (¾in) wide.

  8. Once all six strands are rolled out to the same size and length it’s time for the braiding. Make sure you’ve enough space to work in. We’ll do it together, one step at a time. Line up the six strands as follows: One horizontally to the left, one horizontally to the right – we’ll call these arms. Two legs point down to the left, two legs down to the right leaving a space in the middle. All the strands should sit side by side at a centre point at the top. Pinch together the strands at the centre point to secure them together, press the dough down onto the work surface to stick it there.

  9. Move arm 1 from the left down into the middle of the legs. Move arm 2 across to replace arm 1.

  10. Leg 1 on the far left moves up to form the arm on the right.

  11. Now it’s just a case of repeating the following movements until you reach the ends of the strands:

    Arm 1 to the middle of the legs.

    Far right leg moves up to replace Arm 1.

    Arm 2 to the middle of the legs.

    Far left leg moves up to replace Arm 2.

  12. It gets a little tricky as the strands get short. Braid until you can braid no more, pinch together the dough at the end and fold underneath to neaten it up. Release the dough at the top of the braid where it was secured to the surface and fold that underneath the loaf too. There – aren’t you proud?

  13. Transfer the braid to a baking sheet lined with baking (parchment) paper, cover with a clean dish towel and allow to rise for 2 hours. Preheat the oven to 190ºC (fan)/210°C/425°F/Gas Mark 7.

  14. Double glaze the risen braid with beaten egg: this will give it its characteristic shine. Bake in the preheated oven for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 160ºC (fan)/180°C/350°F/Gas Mark 4 and bake for a further 20 minutes. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

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