Challah is an amazing bread that's fluffy and rich, and can be used as a bread base for many other recipes. A UP Extra Virgin Olive Oil really does the trick to make this bread even more amazing!
1/4 Cup Extra Virgin Olive Oil
1 Cup lukewarm water
2 tsps active dry yeast or instant yeast
4 to 4 1/2 Cups all-purpose flour
1/4 Cup granulated sugar
2 teaspoons salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
Place the lukewarm water in a small bowl, sprinkle in the yeast and a healthy pinch of sugar. Stir to combine. Let it stand until there is a thin layer of frothiness on the top.
In a large bowl or bowl of a standing mixer, add 4 cups of flour, the sugar, and salt and whisk to combine.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and add the eggs, egg yolk, and oil. Whisk them together to form a slurry, pulling in as little of the dry ingredients as possible.
Pour the yeast mixture over the egg slurry. Mix everything together with a wooden spoon or spatula until the dough becomes difficult to mix.
With the hook attachment on your stand-mixer, knead on low for 6 to 8 minutes. (Or, on a floured work surface, knead the dough by hand for about 10 minutes.) If the dough still seems a bit wet and sticky, add flour a teaspoon at a time until it feels tacky, but no longer like bubblegum. When the dough is soft, smooth, and holds a ball shape, it is finished.
Let the dough rise in an oiled bowl and covered with plastic wrap in a warm spot. It can take 1 1/2 to 2 hours for it to double in size.
Once doubled, divide the dough into 3 or 6 equal pieces, depending on how many braids you want to make. Roll each piece of dough into a long rope about 16 inches long. If the ropes shrink while rolling, let them rest for 5 minutes to relax the gluten, and then try again.
Gather the ropes, as pictured above (or follow along with the video at the beginning of this recipe) and squeeze the ends together at the very top. If making a 3-braid, braid the ropes together as if you're braiding hair or yarn and squeeze the other ends together when complete.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, place the challah loaf on top and lightly sprinkle with flour. Cover it with a clean kitchen towel and let it rise in a warm spot until puffed and pillowy. This can take up to an hour, and will look like the picture below.
20 minutes before baking, place a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat to 350 degrees. When ready to bake, whisk the reserved egg white with 1 Tbsp water and brush it all over the challah. Get in the cracks and down the sides of the loaf.
Bake the challah for 30-35 minutes, rotating the sheet halfway during the bake time. Bake until it's deeply browned and it's 190 degrees in the very middle with a thermometer.
Let it cool on a cooling rack until it's slightly warm. Slice and eat!