The easiest way to make challah or challa, the Jewish egg enriched plaited bread, is in a stand mixer. It is so rewarding and even if you are not the best at plaiting bread your loaf will still turn out incredibly well. (We are not the best at plaiting but look at the challah in our photograph taken in our test kitchen – only a baker with a hardened heart would find fault with it!).
For the bread:
180ml full fat milk, warmed to blood heat
9g fast-acting dry yeast
50g caster sugar
2 large eggs at room temperature
1 large egg yolk
55ml vegetable oil
375g plain flour
1/2 teaspoon salt
To finish the bread:
1 egg yolk whisked, for glazing the bread
Sesame seeds for topping the bread
1. Place all the ingredients for the bread in a stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment. Set to a low speed, just until everything comes together, then turn the speed to medium and continue to let the machine knead the dough for 3 minutes or until the dough is smooth and shiny and elastic and forms around the dough hook. The dough should come clean from the bowl but there should be some sticky dough attached to the end of the bowl. Pour the dough into an oiled bowl, cover loosely with cling film and leave in a warm draught-free place to rise until doubled in size. This will take an hour and a half to two hours.
2. Turn the dough onto a floured board and cut into two pieces. Put one piece of dough back in the bowl and divide the piece of dough on the board in half. Roll each half into a long rope about 10-12 inches long. Lay one rope down on the board and put the second one on top of it to form a cross shape. To braid the loaf, bring one of the strands back over itself and continue to plait it. Fold in the end pieces and place the plait onto a large baking tray that you have lined with baking paper. Repeat with the second piece of dough and place on the baking tray, leaving space between them for them to rise. Oil two pieces of cling film and lay them loosely over the bread. Let the bread rise for 45-60 minutes or until doubled in size.
3. Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/Gas 4. When the bread has fully risen, remove the cling film and brush the bread with beaten egg, making sure to get it into every crevice. Sprinkle the challah with sesame seeds. Bake the challah for 20 to 25 minutes, until golden. Check after 20 minutes and if there are parts of the bread that have expanded and are not golden, brush these bald patches with egg yolk and continue baking for the last five minutes. Check if they are fully baked by tapping the bottom of each challah – they should sound hollow.