Karens Do-It-Ahead Challah

Makes 2 loaves

5 cups flour
1 Tbs. salt
4 Tbs. sugar
1 Tbs. instant yeast
1 1/2 cup melted butter or vegetable oil
1 1/4 cups warm water
3 eggs
1/2 cup flour
1 egg, beaten

Put the flour and salt in a large bowl, or in the bowl of an electric mixer. Stir with a wooden spoon or use the dough hook of the electric mixer. Make a well in the center, and add the sugar and yeast. Stir for 30 seconds. While continuing to stir or with the machine running, add the melted butter and the warm water. Add the eggs, one at a time, making sure each one is incorporated before adding the next. Knead for 15 minutes by hand or 5 minutes by machine, adding up to 1/2 cup more flour as needed.

Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover tightly with lightly oiled plastic wrap, and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, the dough should be doubled in size.

Punch down dough and knead for 10 minutes by hand or 5 minutes in the mixer.

Place the dough back in the bowl and allow to rise for a second time, again until doubled in bulk.

Punch down the dough, and knead by hand for 8 minutes or by mixer for 3 minutes. Put the dough back in the bowl and let rise for 20 minutes before you begin to shape it.

Turn the dough out onto a work surface and divide in half. Then divide each piece into 3 even balls. Roll out the balls into 6 strands, each about 9 inches long. Make 2 braids and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Beat the remaining egg well. Brush the loaves with the beaten egg. Let rise for 20 minutes, then bake in a preheated 350-degree oven for 30 to 40 minutes.

You may choose to freeze the dough at this point. You may defrost the dough either at room temperature or in the refrigerator. When dough has doubled in size, punch down dough, knead 8 minutes and let rise for 20 minutes before shaping.
(Rebecca Ets-Hokin)