It's the holidays, the time to bake for friends and family. And no one in my family ever served a flawless six-braided elaborate challah on Hanukah. Challah is supposed to be homemade. It should look homemade. This loaf signifies continuity. And, to achieve that, all you need is a spiral.
What follows is our step-by-step guide to making a soft, slightly sweet challah. Tapered braids look best, especially when sprinkled with sesame seeds. But do what you would like. Poppy seeds and raisins are likewise welcome. My family sometimes adds walnuts and guava paste to the mix.
Making something truly unique -- albeit imperfect -- is the best part of baking bread at home. So, go ahead. Get crazy with your challah.
Recipe adapted from a wide-range of notes and advice from family, friends, and cookbooks (particularly by the great Peter Reinhart).
Note: When baking bread, recipes shouldn't be set in stone. Some days, you'll need more water. On other occasions, you'll need more flour. So, shape the dough by hand and get a sense of how it feels. Let that be your guide.
4 cups all purpose flour, preferably King Arthur Unbleached All Purpose Flour
3 - 4 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 1/3 teaspoon instant yeast
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 organic eggs, slightly beaten
2 organic egg yolks, slightly beaten
3/4 -1 cup water, at room temperature
2 organic egg yolks
3 large bowls