(by Jen Rubin)
2 T. (2 packages) yeast
1 c. warm water
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 large egg yolk, lightly beaten
1/4 c. vegetable or canola oil
1/4 c. plus 1 overflowing t. sugar
approximately 4 c. flour
2 t. salt
extra flour for kneading (usually requires at least 1/2 c.)
extra oil for the bowl
egg wash (1 egg beaten with 1 t. milk)
butter for greasing the pan
In a large bowl, sprinkle the yeast over the warm water, stirring until it dissolves.
Add the egg, egg yolk, sugar, oil, salt, and flour.
Start out stirring with a spoon or spatula. Once it starts to firm up, move it to a counter, which has been cleaned and lightly floured.
Knead the dough for at least 8 minutes until it is firm.
Most likely you will need to add additional flour, 1/4 cup at a time, until the dough is smooth; you know the dough is ready when pushed with a finger, it feels firm and bounces back.
Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, turning to coat all sides with oil.
Cover with a towel and let rise until doubled in size, approximately 1 hour.
If it is cold in the house, put the bowl near a heat vent or on top of the oven.
It has risen enough if it returns to form when you poke it with a finger.
Punch down the dough, cover, and let rise for 15 minutes more.
Using about 3/4 of the dough, divide into 6 piles.
Roll each of the 6 piles into a ball.
Using the palms of both of your hands, roll each ball into a long strand, roughly the same length.
On a clean counter, lay the six strands side-by-side, pinching them at one end. (You can use some warm water to help the pinched ends stay together.)
Begin to braid: Think of the strands as legs numbered 1 to 6. Take strand 1 on the left and bring up to the right; it becomes an arm. Then take strand 6 on the right and bring it to the left to become another arm. Move strand 1 to the middle between strands 2 and 5. Then take strand 2 and move it where strand 1 had been. Move strand 6 to the middle of the strands. Keep repeating so the leg on the right moves up to become the arm on the left, the arm comes down to become a leg, then the leg on the left moves up to become the other arm, until the whole loaf is braided.
Butter a large baking sheet; optionally sprinkle the sheet with cornmeal.
Place the braid on the baking sheet, and tuck the ends under.
Use the additional dough to make small rolls.
Brush the braid and rolls with egg wash, and let rise for 15 minutes.
Add another coat of egg wash, and let rise for 15 minutes more.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
Bake the large challah for 30 minutes, checking at 20 minutes to make sure it’s not browning too quickly, and check the smaller rolls then too.
Rotate the baking sheet if the challah is browning unevenly.
Makes one large challah and a few rolls.
(Read Learning the Secrets, the story that accompanies this recipe.)