Bread Basics: In Praise of Challah
Challah for me is the easiest bread to cook. I have made it many, many, many times over and as of yet it has never failed me. Perhaps this is because the fluffy, crusty little loaf holds a place so near to my heart: I hover around the dough and oven salivating, wide-eyed and preventing culinary catastrophes, though I prefer to think it is one of the simplest yeast breads to make.
This braided bread is traditionally served on Jewish Sabbath day, and even though I am not religious, it always represented close friends, lots of smiles, and piles and piles of good food. A loaf of challah has never survived more than one day in my house. Ever.
Like a brioche, challah is a rich egg-bread. Some recipes call for milk as well, though I have never made it that way and the majority have seeds (poppy or sesame) to be sprinkled on top-while I am in favor of a course salt. Everyone has their own tastes, but the important thing is not the particulars here it is joy that only fresh home-cooked bread can produce.
I have always used the recipe from The Joy of Cooking, because that was the first I learnt how to use and now I am addicted. Their directions on braiding can be a bit complicated though so I suggest just sticking with the three-strand braid, which is just as simple as braiding hair.