Challah is a beautiful, braided egg bread traditionally served at the Shabbat meal and during most Jewish holiday feasts. Braiding the dough is really quite simple and a delightful way to finish a bread.
To braid challah:
- Prepare dough according to recipe. Divide the dough into 3 pieces on a floured surface. Cut one piece into thirds; roll each third into a 16-inch-long rope using your hands.
- Place the 3 ropes side by side and braid; pinch both ends to seal and place to one side on a large greased cookie sheet.
- Repeat with another piece of dough for the second loaf. Place alongside first loaf — at least 5 inches apart — on cookie sheet.
- Cut remaining piece of dough in half; cut each half into thirds. Roll each third into 17-inch ropes using hands.
- Place ropes side by side and braid; pinch both ends to seal.
- Carefully place braid on one of the braided loaves on the cookie sheet, stretching top braid if necessary. Tuck ends of top braid under bottom braid. Repeat with remaining dough.
- Cover braided loaves with clean kitchen towel. Let rise in warm place away from drafts per recipe or until doubled in bulk.
- Beat 1 tablespoon water into an egg yolk. Brush tops and sides of loaves with egg mixture.The egg wash gives challah its characteristic sheen.
- Bake according to recipe until bread is brown and loaves sound hollow when tapped with a finger.
At this point, there's only one more step to go and it's the easiest of all — slicing off a piece of your freshly baked bread and enjoying it with fresh butter or fruit preserves.