The original recipe from America’s Test Kitchen states that this dough will be “stiffer and drier than most.” In my experience that is a big understatement. If you’re like me you will find yourself with a dough like dried-out Play-Doh that doesn’t want to come together, you’ll check your measurements about five times and even look for other copies of this recipe in other sources in case there was a misprint. You’ll think there is no way this can result in a soft bread. But have faith: it does work, somehow, and is fantastic!


Flour Paste

  • 4 ounces water
  • 3 tablespoons (24g) bread flour


  • 1 large egg plus 2 large yolks room temperature
  • 2.5 - 3 ounces water room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 15⅛ ounces bread flour
  • 1¼ teaspoons instant or rapid-rise yeast
  • 1¾ ounces sugar
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 1 large egg beaten with 1 tablespoon water and pinch table salt
  • 1 tablespoon sesame or poppy seeds optional


  1. Make flour paste: Whisk water and flour in small bowl until smooth. Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture stiffens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency that forms a mound when dropped from end of whisk into bowl, 40 to 80 seconds. [This generally takes 40 seconds for me.]
  2. Make dough: Whisk flour paste, egg and yolks, water, and oil in bowl of stand mixer until smooth. Add flour and yeast. Fit mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 3-4 minutes. Let rest for 20 minutes.
  3. Add sugar and salt and mix on medium speed for 9 minutes, until smooth and elastic (dough will be quite firm and dry). Transfer dough to clean counter and knead by hand to form smooth, round ball, about 30 seconds.
  4. First rise: place dough seam side down in lightly greased large bowl or container, cover with plastic wrap, and let dough rise until doubled in volume, about 1½ hours.
  5. Deflate dough and cut into three equal sections; mine were 256g each. Braid tightly and place into buttered loaf pan.
  6. Cover lightly with oiled plastic wrap and let rise for 40-45 minutes until puffy.
  7. Bake for around 35 minutes, covering with foil around the 15-20 minute mark once the top starts browning. Internal temperature should be 190°-200°F when done.
  8. Remove bread from pan immediately and let cool on rack.


7 April 2023: I made this bread for the first time, experimenting with making it in a 9” x 5” loaf pan instead of on a sheet pan. Aside from the very strange dough (see above) it was fun and turned out very well. It was also my first time using the tangzhong method, which I have always wanted to try. The kneading step required a lot longer than 9 minutes for me, perhaps because I was running the mixer slowly to keep it from overheating. Even so I had to remove it a few times and knead by hand to let the mixer cool down. It took nearly 20 minutes of back-and-forth between machine and hand-kneading to get the dough to an elastic stage. The first rise took 1½ hours (perhaps about 10 minutes more) in the oven with the light on. After shaping into a tight braid and putting the loaf into a buttered 9” x 5” pan, it rose for another 40 minutes until it just crowned the top of the pan. I brushed it with egg wash and baked on rack 2 for 36 minutes, topping with foil after 20 minutes. I removed it from the pan immediately.

9 April 2023: I tried this again, this time with an overnight rise. I began making the dough yesterday at 5:00pm. The first rise was from 6:15-7:45pm. I shaped the loaf and put it into the refrigerator at 8:00pm. This morning, we removed it from the fridge at 7:30am. Let rise and warm up on the counter for 2 hours, and then baked about 38 minutes at 350°F. This loaf did not rise as much as the one we made on Friday. Next time I will probably cover it with foil a few minutes earlier, since it still seems to brown a bit more after adding the foil. This time we tried putting it into the bag while still warm. This softens the crust but we are not yet sure what it does to the crumb.

15, 21, 24 April 2023: I seem to have settled on a slight variation. I now mix the yeast into 14 ounces of flour, and reserve one ounce to be added into the dough as it is mixing/kneading. I use 3 ounces of water because 2 ounces just didn’t seem like enough and made the dough too dry for the mixer to work. I mix on speed 2 for about 10 minutes, adding in most of the last ounce of flour toward the end (saving some for hand-kneading). I scrape the bowl and form the dough into a ball, and then knead using the mixer for another 5-7 minutes or so. Then I remove it and hand-knead on the counter for 4-5 minutes to bring it all together.

3 June 2023: I made this today, on a very hot and humid day. I reduced the water added to the bulk of the flour to 2.5 ounces, and this worked out very well. All of the other ingredients and amounts remained the same. I did let the proof after braiding go for about 1 hour, 10 minutes in an attempt to keep the braid from opening up too much once it hit the hot oven. This worked very well! After baking, as we have been doing, I covered it with a light tea towel.

2 December 2023: made the challah today with 2.5 ounces of water mixed in with the bulk of the flour. I used 1 tsp. of instant yeast and ¼ tsp. active dry yeast. The first rise was 1.5 hours in the oven with the light on. The second rise was also 1.5 hours, until very puffy (took out of the oven at around 50 minutes to let the oven preheat, and finished the rise on the counter).