Challah is well-suited for novice bread bakers. There’s no starter to feed, the kneading can be done in a stand mixer, and a loaf can be made from start to finish in an afternoon.
The daunting part is the braiding. In my opinion, you need to weave at least four strands to make an impressively lofty loaf, but it’s dizzying to keep track of each rope when they’re aligned next to one another.
I was fortunate enough to pick up some pro tips for braiding while developing my own recipe for challah, and I’m happy to share them here. One is an unconventional, brilliantly simple method for plaiting an oblong loaf, which I learned from veteran challah baker Michael Lombardo, the owner of Rosenfeld’s Bagels in Newton, Mass. The other is a classic approach to weaving a traditional round challah for Rosh Hashanah taught to me by Andrew Janjigian, a professional baker and my former test kitchen colleague.