This is the recipe I usually use for challa. I'm not a professional food blogger, so I'll spare you the life story. Some points I find helpful:
- Proofing in an oven dramatically speeds up the rise - from 90 minutes down to around 30. That is, if you oven has a bread proof or keep warm mode.
- The second rise (step 4; after all ingredients are added, but before baking) is optional. You can develop similar flavor by letting the sponge rise for extra time. As the recipe suggests at the bottom, you can even let the sponge (or the dough, if covered) rise in the fridge overnight to improve flavor.
- The recipe calls for one loaf, and suggests two as a variation. I suggest making three loaves - that makes a better serving size.
- The recipe calls for glazing twice - immediately after braiding, and just before baking. Once is plenty.
- The recipe suggests starting braids from the middle and working both ways. It's a little more difficult, but does yield much more symmetrical loaves.
- You can do either an egg or an oil wash - egg gives a shiny brown texture; oil has a matte color. If you use egg, you can decorate with poppy or sesame for extra crunch!
Without further ado:
(Bread Bible, pp 516)