- 3 to 3 1/4 cups (15 to 16 1/4 ounces) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
- 1 envelope (2 1/4 teaspoons) instant yeast
- 1/4 cup (1 3/4 ounces) sugar
- 1 1/4 teaspoons salt
- 3 large eggs, one egg separated (reserve the white for the egg wash)
- 4 tablespoons (2 ounces) unsalted butter, melted
- 1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon water, at room temperature
In a medium bowl whisk together the flour, yeast, sugar, and salt.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, mix together the 2 whole eggs and 1 egg yolk, melted butter, and 1/2 cup of the water until combined. Gradually add the flour mixture. Increase the speed to medium and mix until the dough comes together. Knead for about 5 minutes, or until the dough is smooth and elastic, adding up to a 1/4 cup more flour if the dough is too wet and sticky. Mix the egg white and the remaining 1 tablespoon of water and cover and refrigerate until ready to use.
Shape the dough into an even ball and place in a lightly oiled ball. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours. Gently press down on the dough to deflate it then cover with plastic and let rise until doubled again, about 40 to 60 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a floured work surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one about half the size of the other (the small piece should weigh about 9 ounces, the larger should weigh about 18 ounces). Divide the large piece into 3 equal portions. Roll each portion into a 16-inch long rope. Line up the ropes and pinch them together at one end. Braid the rope pieces, pinching the other end together to seal the braid. Place the braid on a parchment or silicone mat-lined baking sheet. Repeat the exact steps with the remaining 3 smaller pieces of dough. Brush egg wash onto the large braid then carefully place the smaller braid on top. Loosely drape the loaf with plastic wrap and let rise until puffy, 30 to 45 minutes.
Meanwhile, adjust an oven rack to the lower-middle position and preheat to 375°F. Brush the loaf with the remaining egg wash. Bake for 30 to 40 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown and registers an internal temperature of 190°F with an instant read thermometer. Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.