Challah is a Jewish braided bread that is traditional to eat on Shabbat, the weekly day of rest that starts on Friday at sundown and goes until Saturday at sundown. Challah is one of my favorite breads of all time because it's eggy, soft and sweet. This version draws inspiration from a sandwich bread that my mom made when I was growing up; she would pour orange juice right into the dough! The result was just a hint of fruity citrus flavor that was delicious in both savory and sweet applications.
In a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the flour, sugar, yeast, orange zest and salt and whisk together. In a medium bowl, whisk together the water, orange juice, oil and 2 of the eggs.
Add the wet to the flour mixture; stir to combine. Knead, either by hand on a floured surface or with a dough hook on medium speed for 7 to 10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary (but resist any urge to add too much!), until you have a smooth and slightly sticky dough.
Transfer the dough to a large oiled bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature until doubled in size, about 2 hours. (Alternatively, chill the dough in the refrigerator overnight, then let stand at room temperature for 1 hour before shaping.)
Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Divide each into 3 logs and braid. Place on 2 baking sheets lined with parchment paper, spacing them evenly apart. Cover loosely and let rise 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the loaves with egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds. Bake until they are golden and have an internal temperature of 190 degrees F; begin checking for doneness at 18 minutes. Transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly and enjoy. (Challah is best eaten within 24 hours. After that it’s ok if you toast it or use it for French toast. It also freezes well!)