Learn to braid a straight six strand braided challah for celebrations (or french toast). Straight challahs are served at many Jewish celebrations. The flat method for braiding has an easy to remember pattern. These beautiful challahs will look like they came straight from a bakery with either method you choose!Adapted from Mandylicious
Portion out 6 equal pieces of dough, cutting it with a bench scraper or knife (for the best accuracy, weigh the dough with a kitchen scale). Shape each piece into a long rope. Lay all the ropes side by side on a lightly floured surface and pinch them together at the top.
For a straight challah
Take the topmost right strand and place it on the opposite side. You're only going to do this step once.
Take the second from the top left strand and place it on the opposite side. Take the topmost left strand and place it in the middle of the four remaining strands. This is the first step of the repeating pattern.
Take the second from the top right strand and place it on the opposite side. Take the topmost right strand and place it in the middle of the four remaining strands. This is the second step of the repeating pattern.
Repeat steps 2 and 3 until all the dough is braided.
Tuck the ends of the loaf underneath on both ends to give a neat finish. Adjust the braid ends and sides with your hands to make everything even.
For a flat challah
Take the rightmost strand and jump it over the next 2 strands, under the 3rd strand, and over the next 2 strands.
Repeat with the new rightmost strand, and continue the pattern until all the dough is braided. Pinch the leftover ends together and tuck under the loaf.
Rest and bake the challah
Line a half sheet baking pan with a Silpat silicone mat or parchment paper. Transfer the shaped dough to the baking pan, then cover with greased plastic wrap.
Let the shaped dough rise for 45 minutes in a warm place. Preheat the oven to 350 °F.
For the egg wash, whisk together the beaten egg with the water. Brush the dough with the egg wash, then sprinkle on any desired toppings.
Bake the dough for 25 to 35 minutes, rotating the pan front to back halfway through the baking time. When the loaf is golden brown and it sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom (or reads 190 °F on a digital thermometer), remove it from the oven and cool on a wire rack.
Slice (or tear), serve, and enjoy!
Challah will last for several days on the counter in an airtight container, and freezes beautifully.
For more braiding inspiration, check out the instructions for braiding challahs with 3-strands, 4-strands (2 ways, straight and round), or 8-strands. Have a go!
Toppings are a personal preference and are totally optional. Sesame seeds and poppy seeds are common, and cinnamon sugar (1 teaspoon cinnamon mixed with 1 tablespoon granulated sugar) is a fun alternative. You can also go savory with spice mixes like za'atar. Get creative or leave it plain, your choice.Four-strand braids use the same technique as the six-strand braid. It’s just you have to make sure when you place the strand in the middle, you have one strand on either side instead of two.Pay special attention to pinching the ends of the strands together and tucking them under the finished braid. Sometimes despite your best efforts, the ends will come apart while the challah is baking. I call these lobster claws, and while the challah won't look quite as neat, it will still taste fantastic.