"The braided challah, which is made with eggs, is the Jewish Sabbath‑and‑holiday bread. It is surrounded by folklore and tradition and loaded with symbolism. On festive occasions a blessing is said over two loaves, symbolizing the two portions of the manna that was distributed on Fridays to the children of Israel during their Exodus from Egypt." —Claudia Roden, The Book of Jewish Food: An Odyssey from Samarkand to New York
You may substitute poppy seeds for the sesame seeds if you prefer.
- 1 Teaspoon sugar
- 1 Cup warm water
- 1 Tablespoon dry yeast
- 1/2 Cup oil
- 1/4 Cup sugar
- 2 Teaspoons salt
- 2 eggs
- 4 Cups all-purpose flour
- 2 Tablespoons sesame seeds
- 1 egg yolk, beaten
Dissolve the teaspoon of sugar in half a cup of the warm water in a large mixing bowl. Sprinkle yeast on top and let stand for 10 minutes. Stir to dissolve.
Add the oil, remaining water, 1/4 cup sugar, salt, eggs, and half the flour. Beat well. Stir in remaining flour. Dough should be sticky. Cover dough and let rest for 10 minutes. Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 10 minutes, adding more flour as needed.
Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Set aside in a warm place until dough doubles in size, approximately 30 minutes.
Punch dough down, then divide it into 3 equal parts. Shape each part into a strand and press the strands together at one end. Place on a lightly greased baking sheet.
Braid the strands together: Grasp the rightmost strand and pass it over the center strand so that it falls to the left of that strand. Then take the far left strand and pass it over the center strand so that it falls to the right. Repeat these 2 steps until you come to the ends of the strands.
Press the ends together.
Set braided dough aside in a warm place until it doubles in size, approximately 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350°F.
Brush dough with beaten egg yolk and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake for 45 minutes, or until golden brown.