Perfect for beginners, this is the classic, simple braid, the very same one you braided in your best friend's hair at sleepovers. It's intuitive and effective, making a beautiful loaf of challah that anyone can quickly master. This post includes a helpful diagram illustrating how to braid a 3-strand challah.
This post is part of my Complete Guide to Baking Challah.
Setting up to braid
As with any challah, you'll begin by dividing up your dough into equal sections, three in this case. The three will make up one loaf, and it'll get a lot bigger after rising and baking, so don't worry if your braid seems small. Roll each lump into a long strand that's a bit tapered at the edges (the length of the strands will depend on your recipe—see below for recipe ideas to get you started).
Lay the three ropes side by side, then bring the tapered ends together and press firmly ("shmush" is the technical term) to join them. Okay, you're ready to go. You should have three strands facing you, joined at the top.
A simple pattern: outer to center
The braiding principle for the 3-strand braid is that you take the strand on the right and move it over the center strand, then the strand on the left and move it over the center (or vice versa). You'll keep going like that until you run out of strand, then tuck the edges under the loaf. The working strand is the one that's kind of hanging out on its own, untwisted.
It'll look beautiful and impressive after an egg wash and a bake!