Clover Honey Challah

Baking Spree! 
Day Four
Looking for a homemade bread that can be the star of a springtime brunch?  Honey-sweetened, egg-rich, feather-light challah steals the show.

No-knead challah dough just stirs together in a bowl. You let it rise on the kitchen counter until it reaches the top of the bowl.  Then you divide this floppy dough into three parts, roll each part into a long strand, and braid the strands together.  Challah made with no-knead dough is more rustic in appearance. You don’t get the tight braiding.  But the flavor—and the ease of preparation—makes this a keeper.

With a bowl of this made-ahead, versatile dough on hand, you’ll be ready halfway there to yeasty breads, rolls, and coffee cakes.
A Danish dough whisk features a mitten-shaped metal mixing end on a wooden handle and makes short work of mixing any dough. Measuring is an important step to assure that your bread turns out, so follow the directions exactly.

No-Knead Clover Honey Dough
Adapted from Heartland: The Cookbook.
Makes 2 large braided loaves
2 tablespoon instant or bread machine yeast
1 ½ tablespoons fine kosher salt
6 1/2 cups bread flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup clover or other amber honey     
¼ cup vegetable oil, such as canola    
2 large eggs
Warm water (around 100°F)      
1. Spoon the flour into a measuring cup, level with a knife or your finger, then dump the flour into a 16-cup mixing bowl.
2. Add the yeast and salt to the flour. Stir together with a wooden spoon or Danish dough whisk. Mix the honey, vegetable oil, and the eggs together in the 4-cup measuring cup. Add enough hot water to reach the 4-cup mark and stir together. Pour the honey mixture into the flour mixture, stir to combine, then beat 40 strokes, scraping the bottom and the sides of the bowl, until the dough forms a lumpy, sticky mass.

3. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature (72°F)  for 2 hours or until the dough has risen about 2 inches under the rim of the bowl and has a sponge-like appearance.

4. Use that day or place the dough, covered with plastic wrap, in the refrigerator for up to 3 days before baking. If you like, write the date on the plastic wrap so you know the “bake-by” date for your dough.

Clover Honey Challah Loaf
Light, tender challah, a bread served on the Jewish Shabbat and Rosh Hashanah, is made without dairy products, so it can be served with a meal containing meat to follow kosher dietary rules. In major metropolitan areas, many bakeries make challah a weekend staple. No matter your religious preference, this airy, tender bread is as easy to eat as it is to make. Challah can also be wrapped well and frozen for up to 3 months.
Makes 2 braided loaves to serve 24
1 recipe prepared No-Knead Clover Honey Dough (above)
Unbleached, all-purpose flour for dusting
1 large egg mixed with 1 tbsp water for egg wash
Sesame or poppy seeds for sprinkling, optional
1. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
2. To form the loaf, transfer half the dough to a floured surface. Working the dough as little as possible and adding flour as necessary, use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large rectangle, dusting with flour as necessary. Fold the dough in half, turn a quarter turn and roll out again. Repeat three more times. With your hands, form the dough into a cylinder. With a dough scraper, divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Transfer the dough portions to a floured surface and dust very lightly with flour. Flour your hands. Working the dough as little as possible and adding flour as necessary, roll each portion into a 16-inch long rope. Lay the ropes out vertically, parallel to each other and close, but not touching, on a floured surface. Braid the three ropes together snugly, starting from the top. Lift each rope and pass it over or under one of the others in sequence. Tuck the ends under to form an oblong loaf about 14 inches long. Carefully transfer the loaf to the prepared baking sheet. Repeat the process with the remaining dough.

3. Cover with a tea towel and let rest at room temperature for 40 minutes. The dough will not rise very much.  It will do that in the oven.

4. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Carefully brush the loaf with egg wash. Sprinkle with optional sesame or poppy seeds. 

5. Bake for 40 to 42 minutes or until the crust is a shiny, medium brown and an instant read thermometer inserted in the center of the loaf registers at least 190°F. Transfer to a rack to cool. 
Tip:  Leftover challah (as if!) makes excellent French toast or bread pudding.