This classic challah recipe makes one large loaf perfect for everyday eating, but the mixture can easily be shaped into two smaller loaves for shabbat. See recipe tip below for details.
Place the flour in a large mixing bowl. Measure the sugar into the middle, the yeast on one side of the bowl, and the salt on the other side. Using your fingertips, rub the yeast and salt into the flour.
In a separate bowl, whisk together the oil, 1 whole egg and the egg yolk. Make a well in the middle of the flour and pour in the egg mixture, followed by 150ml/5¼fl oz tepid water (neither warm or cold).
Mix the flour and the liquid together, first with a fork, and then your hands to make a craggy dough.
Transfer the dough to a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook and knead on a medium setting for 10 minutes until the dough is smooth and quite elastic. Cover the bowl with cling film or a damp tea towel and leave to rest for 2 hours. The mixture should at least double in size.
Line a baking tray with baking paper and set aside. Tip the dough out onto a very lightly floured or oiled work surface (oil is better but difficult to scrub out of wooden work surfaces) and lightly knock back any air bubbles with the heel of your hand.
Divide the dough into 3 equal size pieces. Roll these into ropes at least 30cm/12in long. You can afford to be quite hands on with the dough. Pinch the 3 ropes together at the top and braid them together, pinching them together at the base. Tuck these ends under so they’re not visible, and transfer the loaf to the baking tray. Cover with cling film and leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
Pre-heat the oven to 200C/190C Fan/Gas 6.
Beat the remaining egg in a small bowl and brush the loaf generously with the egg wash. Once the oven is hot, brush again with a layer of egg wash and sprinkle the top of the loaf with poppy seeds, if using.
Bake for 30–35 minutes until the top is golden and when you tap the bottom of the challah it sounds hollow. Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.
To make two smaller loaves, divide the dough into 6 equal size pieces in stage 6 of the method, then fashion each ball into ropes roughly 15cm long. Keep an eye on the bread as it cooks, and start checking for doneness from 25 minutes as it will need slightly less time than just the one larger loaf.