4 cups (500 grams) bread flour (people swear by King Arthur, so that's what I use)
Light rye challah (great with chicken soup): substitute 1 cup of bread flour with dark rye flour, mix 2T caraway seeds into dough
Truly Edible Whole Wheat Challah: substitute 50-100% bread flour with King Arthur White Whole Wheat flour — this is the spring harvest and is much lighter than regular fall harvest whole wheat
Egg wash 1 large egg, may be diluted slightly with a teaspoon of milk or water
Whisk the yeast and the 1 teaspoon honey into warm water, and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy.
Mix the wet ingredients with a whisk, then add the salt and flour.
Mix everything together with the handle of a wooden spoon until the dough starts to come together.
Turn the mixture out onto a lightly floured counter, and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until smooth and elastic dough is formed. (Or use a no-knead approach described under Rising.)
Transfer the dough to an olive oil coated bowl), cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.
Rising There are a lot of ways to do this.
My favorite approach eliminates kneading (even though I really like to knead dough) and saves a lot of time fussing with the dough on Friday. On Thursday night I do the first 3 steps, above, cover the bowl, and let it sit on the counter over night. In the morning the bowl is full of light, fluffy dough, ready to be braided.
Some folks mix their dough the night before and let it rise in the refrigerator over night, allowing it at least an hour on the counter to come back to room temperature before braiding the next day.
If I'm kneading and letting the dough rise conventionally (steps 4 & 5 above) I like to punch the dough down after the first rise and then give it a second hour of rising before braiding, and a shorter rise after braiding. Some give challah a long rise after braiding. That's okay for a firm dough, but a softer dough may lose it's shape.
Braid I prefer a 6-braid challah for the way it sits up tall as compared with flatter 3-braid versions.
Divide dough into 6 equal portions. (Keep portions covered when not working on them directly.)
The dough may resist elongating to its full length all at once, so just roll each chunk of dough on a minimally floured surface to elongate it some, and allow each piece to rest before rolling further into equal ropes of 18-24 inches.