Author Notes: This all might sound like a lot to keep track of, but I am a person who has a special impatience, and even I found this to require very little of me—no (…more) —Genius Recipes
Makes two loaves
4cups (500 grams) bread ﬂour
1 1/2teaspoons instant dry yeast
2teaspoons fine sea salt
Wet ingredients + shaping
2large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (save the extra white in a covered glass in the fridge for glazing later on)
3/4cup (190 grams) water
1/3cup (75 grams) olive oil
1/4cup (85 grams) honey
For sprinkling, before baking (optional): Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flaxseeds, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, and/or pumpkin seeds
Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Dump the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until a wet, sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.
Peel back the plastic. Grab an edge of the dough, lift it up, and fold it over itself to the center. Turn the bowl a bit and repeat around the entire lump of dough, grabbing an edge and folding it into the center, eight turns, grabs, and folds in all. Then flip the dough so that the folds and seams are on the bottom. Cover tightly again with the plastic, and let sit for 30 minutes.
Repeat the all-around folding, flipping, covering, and resting four more times. (I keep track by drawing hash marks in permanent marker right on the plastic.) The dough ﬂops more than it folds in the first round or two. Then, as the gluten develops, you’ll get proper folds. By the final fold, the dough will be wonderfully elastic, and you’ll be able to see and feel the small pockets of air within. Pull the plastic tight again over the bowl and refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours—any longer and you risk over-proofing.
Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into six equal pieces. Roll into six strands, each about a foot long and 3/4 inch in diameter, dusting sparingly with flour when necessary to prevent sticking. (You’ll want to add as little extra flour as possible.)
Form two three-strand braids, and transfer the loaves to the prepared pan. Cover with plastic and let proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until the dough is noticeably swollen and puffed and bounces back very slowly, if at all, when you poke it lightly with your finger.
Preheat the oven to 375° F. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaves and brush with the reserved egg white. If you’d like, sprinkle with seeds. Poppy and sesame seeds are traditional challah toppings. Fechtor typically covers one with a combination of flaxseeds and rolled oats, and the other with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, though lately she's been opting for no seeds at all.
Bake for about 20 minutes, until the bread is golden and gorgeous and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. You can also check for doneness with a thermometer. The internal temperature of the loaves will be 190° F when fully baked.
Transfer to racks and let cool.
These loaves freeze very well: Wrap the cooled loaves in plastic wrap, then put them in zip-lock bags and freeze. Thaw directly in the bag on the counter, then remove the plastic and reheat in a warm oven. You won't be able to tell it's been frozen.