We convinced our coworker Melissa to share her family’s famous challah recipe, which her mom makes every Friday night. It’s definitely a labor of love (it proofs for 3½ hours total), but it’s actually a great bread for novices, as the dough is pretty forgiving and the result is seriously impressive. This makes two loaves, but any leftovers make excellent French toast.
1. In a medium bowl, mix together 2 tablespoons sugar, yeast, and warm water. Mix well, cover with a dish towel, and set aside to proof.
2. In a large bowl, whisk together 6 cups flour, remaining sugar, and kosher salt.
3. Make a well in the center and pour in the oil, 2 beaten eggs, remaining ⅓ cup warm water, and the yeast mixture. Use your hands to mix into a wet ball, then pour onto a floured board.
4. Knead the mixture for 10 minutes or so, adding more flour as needed (we add about ½ cup a couple of tablespoons at a time), until the dough is satiny and elastic. Don’t cut this step—kneading until the dough is super smooth is essential.
5. Transfer the dough to a large, olive-oil-greased mixing bowl and cover with a dish towel. Place in a warm spot and let rest for 1½ hours.
6. Punch down the dough with your fist, cover again, and let rest for another hour.
7. Turn the dough out onto a board and shape into 6 even logs (about 12 inches long and 2 inches wide). Starting at the top, braid the challah into 2 loaves, tucking the ends underneath the loaf.
8. Transfer to 2 parchment-paper-lined baking sheets, cover with dish towels, and let rest 1 more hour.
9. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Brush each loaf with egg white and bake in the oven for about 35 minutes, until the crust is golden and firm to the touch.
Originally featured in Souped-Up Latkes and 3 Other Takes on Hanukkah Classics