Challah is characterized as an enriched bread because it contains fat from eggs and butter. It's easy to make but requires extra time to rise between steps because the fat slows down the yeast. I like how the unusual flavor of saffron straddles sweet and savory in this loaf, reflecting challah's unique status in both sweet and savory applications.
Rise and Rest Time2hrs20mins
Cuisine: American, Jewish
Keyword: bread, challah, dutch oven, saffron
Author: Chef Sara Furcini
1 1/2tspactive dry yeast
Pinch saffron threads
4tbsp(1/2 stick) unsalted buttermelted
3 1/2cupsall-purpose flourplus more for dusting and kneading
Mix, knead, and rise. In a medium bowl, stir together the warm water, sugar, yeast, and saffron. Let the mixture sit for 15 minutes, until it looks frothy, an indication the yeast is active. Incorporate 2 eggs, the egg yolk, melted butter, and salt into the yeast mixture, mixing well. Gradually add the flour, mixing as you go to form a soft, sticky dough. Dust a work surface with flour and transfer the dough to the prepared surface. Knead the dough for about 10 minutes, gradually adding up to 1 additional cup of flour if needed, until you have a smooth, elastic dough. Coat a medium bowl with olive oil, then set the dough inside and turn it to coat in the oil. Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until doubled in size.
Second rise. Turn and fold the dough. Re-cover the bowl and let rise for 1 hour more, again allowing the dough to double in size.
Preheat the oven and braid the bread. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Divide the dough into 3 equal pieces to make a braid. Roll each piece into a 2-by-20-inch rope. Pinch the ropes at the top and braid the dough, weaving the strands together to form the loaf. Line a Dutch oven with parchment paper and set the braided loaf inside, curving the loaf to fit the shape of your Dutch oven. Cover the pot with the lid and let the dough rest for 20 minutes, until doubled in size.
Bake the bread. Remove the lid and place the pot on the middle rack. Bake for 40 minutes, until the internal temperature of the bread is between 190°F and 205°F--the outside of the bread will be light brown and have a hollow sound when tapped. In a small bowl, whisk the remaining egg and water to create an egg wash. Brush the bread with the egg wash and bake for 5 to 10 minutes more. Let the bread cool completely before slicing. Store the loaf at room temperature, wrapped in plastic wrap or aluminum foil, for up to 2 days, or slice and freeze in sealable plastic bags for up to 1 month.