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Four Strand Challah

I LOVE Challah, I guess it’s from my Jewish roots.  It’s great slathered with butter, jam or honey (or any combination of the three).  Challah french toast is awesome!  I started with all-purpose flour in this adaptation of a Williams-Sonoma recipe.  Next I’ll try using at least half white whole wheat flour.  I might have to add some vital wheat gluten to help the rise, we’ll see.  This is eggier than my Italian bread, more like a brioche, and it’s huge!  I am going to have to cut this in quarters and freeze 3/4 so that my husband and I can enjoy it without it spoiling.  Included with the recipe will be instructions on how to do the four strand braid.  It has a higher profile with the four strands and looks so much prettier!

Four Strand Challah-1 huge loaf

2 pkgs. or 5 t. active dry yeast

1 c. warm water (105-115 degrees F.)

1/2 c. sugar

3 lg. eggs, at room temp.

1 beaten egg or shine spray

5 c. all-purpose flour

1 heaping t. salt

1/2 c. (1 stick) sweet butter, softened

1 T. seeds, I used sesame (optional)

Dissolve yeast in warm water and let stand 5 minutes until foamy.  Add the sugar, eggs, 4 1/2 c. of the flour, salt and butter.  Either mix by hand until sticky and then knead on a floured surface or use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook (I used the mixer).  As you knead add as much of the last 1/2 c. flour as you need to  keep the dough from being too sticky while keeping the dough soft, smooth and elastic.  You should knead about 5-7 minutes, you can’t overknead so keep going until the dough feels soft, supple and silky!

Form into a ball and put in a greased bowl, covered, or rising bucket, in a warm, draft free place until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.  Line a sheet pan (rimless) with parchment or silpat. Punch dough down and place on work surface.  Divide in 4 equal pieces.  Roll each piece in a ball and then roll into a rope a little longer than the pan you’re putting it on.  Here’s how to braid:

1.  Place each rope parallel, vertically in front of you.

2.  Take the leftmost strand and pass it to the right UNDER the 2 strands adjacent to it, and then back to the left OVER 1 strand.

3.  Take the rightmost strand and pass it left UNDER the 2 strands adjacent to it (now braided), and then back right OVER 1 strand.

4. Repeat until you reach the ends of the ropes and then tuck the ends under.  Braid the other end in the same way until you reach the ends of the ropes and then

tuck that end under.

Place the loaf on the prepared pan, cover with a dry kitchen towel and let rise again in a warm draft free place until almost doubled.  About 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Position a rack in the lower third of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees F.  Brush the braid with the beaten egg or spray with shine spray and sprinkle on the seeds, if using. Bake until brown and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, internal temperature (taken from the side into the center of the loaf with an instant read thermometer) should read 190-200 degrees F.  About 30-35 minutes.  Transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.   Yummy!                                                                                                                                            Tips

1.Don’t be tempted to add too much extra flour while kneading, the dough gets less sticky as you knead.

2.To make sure the dough doesn’t dry out roll in oiled bowl or bucket so that the top gets oiled.  Cover when not working with the ropes of dough.

3. Invest in a rising bucket, the sides are marked so you can see when the dough is doubled.  They are cheap.

4. You can always braid 3 strands if you think the 4 strand is too difficult!  It will taste just as yummy!