• 1 ½ TBS dry active yeast
• ½ cup + 2 TBS, +1/2 tsp sugar (divided)
• 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
• 4 ½ -5 cups bread flour
• 1½ TBS fine sea salt
• ¼ cup vegetable oil
• ¼ cup tomato paste
• 2 teaspoons dried basil
• 2 large eggs
For the Topping
• 1 whole egg
• 1 tsp water
For the dough: In a large bowl or stand mixer, place yeast, ½ tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Stir gently to mix. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
Once foamy, add 1 ½ cup flour, salt and ½ cup + 2 TBS sugar to the large bowl. Mix thoroughly.
In a small bowl, mix together the tomato paste, basil, oil and eggs until combined. Add to dough.
Add another 2 1/2 -3 cups of flour and mix thoroughly. Knead the remaining ½ cup flour into dough or until the dough pull away from the bottom of the bowl. Continue to knead for about 5 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise for 2-3 hrs.
Divide the dough into two sections and braid each section into the desired challah shape.
Place braided challah on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Allow the challah to rise another 30-45 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and the challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah. Preheat oven to 375 while the dough rises.
For the topping: In a small bowl, beat egg and water. Brush the egg wash liberally over challah. Top with additional dried basil if desired.
Bake 24-26 minutes or until the color is golden.