My Favorite Challah

I make challah almost every week. This recipe comes from many years of practice. Leftovers are great for French toast, and the dough is phenomenal for making cinnamon rolls too. Shabbat Shalom!
  1. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Turn it off after it reaches temperature, so that when it's time for the dough to rise, the oven will be warm, but not hot.
  2. Lightly flour (or line with parchment paper) a baking sheet and set it aside.
  3. In a large mixing bowl, whisk a packet of yeast with a pinch of sugar into 2/3 cup warm water, and let sit to activate, 3-4 minutes (it will become foamy).
  4. Whisk in 1/4 cup sugar, 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, 2 eggs, and 1 1/2 teaspoons of salt. Continue whisking until completely incorporated.
  5. Slowly add 4 cups all-purpose flour (you can also use half all-purpose and half whole wheat flour), stirring as you go. Eventually, you should have a soft, rich dough.
  6. Flour a smooth, clean surface (like a countertop or large cutting board) and turn the dough out onto it.
  7. Knead the dough for 8-10 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Form it into a large ball.
  8. Clean the dough debris out of the bowl you mixed it in, and pour about 2 tbsp olive oil into it.
  9. Place the dough in the oiled bowl and roll it around to make sure it is completely covered with oil.
  10. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and place in the warm (but not hot) oven.
  11. Let the dough rise for 1 hour, or until roughly doubled in size.
  12. Time to weave the challah. I alternate between the @toriavey approach (http://bit.ly/1Digunv and the Beth Ami Hebrew School (what up @rebeccalou and @jgmosko) approach, braiding it like hair, tucking in the messy ends as necessary.
  13. Transfer the braided challah to the prepared baking sheet.
  14. In a small bowl, whisk one egg with 3 tbsp water.
  15. Use a pastry brush to brush the dough with a bit of the egg wash, then return the braided challah to the warm oven. Let rise for another 45 minutes (save the egg wash, you'll need it again shortly).
  16. Once it has risen, paint the challah with more of the egg wash, then sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired. Set aside (out of the oven) briefly.
  17. Preheat the oven to 375.
  18. Bake the challah for 30-35 minutes, or until golden-brown, and hollow-sounding when rapped gently on its bottom