With a bit of practice, you'll find it's easy to create a braided challah loaf. For a basic challah recipe, search for challah in our recipe database.
After the dough has risen once, punch it down and scrape it out onto a clean work surface, then follow these steps to make a 4-strand braid.
Cut the dough into 4 equal pieces with a sharp knife or a bench scraper. Using your palms, and starting in the center and working outward, elongate 1 piece by rolling it gently against the work surface with even pressure until you have formed a rope as long as the parchment-lined pan. Repeat with the remaining 3 pieces.
Line up the 4 strands in front of you horizontally. Cross the strand farthest from you across the other 3 strands so that it is nearest you.
Cross the strand that is now next to it across the other 2 strands away from you. Position the outside strands so that they are away from the center ones, and position the center 2 strands perfectly horizontal.
Bring the strand nearest you down between the 2 horizontal strands.
Bring the strand farthest from you up and across to the opposite side. Again, bring the strand farthest from you down between the 2 straight strands. Bring the strand nearest you up and across to the opposite side.
Starting from the strand nearest you, repeat the braiding until you reach the ends of the ropes. Pinch them together at the top and at the bottom, and tuck the strands under at the ends. Then proceed as directed in the recipe.
Essentials of Baking, Cathy Burgett, Elinor Klivans & Lou Seibert Pappas, 2003, Oxmoor House, Williams-Sonoma