I used my friend J's recipe and a cardamom-cinnamon-sugar filling, but followed the technique for Smitten Kitchen's braided crown challah.
Here is how it looked before going in to the oven:
J’s Challah Recipe
(With Rapid-Rise yeast, I can start this dough as late as 2 ½ - 3 hours before dinnertime.)
1 cup water
2 packages Rapid-Rise yeast (1 packet yeast = 2 1/4 tsp)
4 cups flour
2 tablespoons wheat gluten flour
1 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup sugar or honey
1/4 cup oil
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 egg yolk, beaten, to brush over challot
cinnamon or cardamom and sugar (optional)
water in a spray bottle (optional)
sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
Proof the yeast in warm water and a drop of honey until bubbles form.
Preheat oven to 100 degrees and turn oven off when it hits this temperature.
Mix one cup of flour, wheat gluten flour, sugar or honey, oil, salt and eggs. Add more flour one cup at a time and knead until dough is no longer sticky. (This may take more or less flour than listed.)
Oil a large bowl, place dough in it, cover with a clean towel and let rise for 1 hour in warmed oven. Dough should double in size.
Divide dough in half. Divide each half into thirds. Form one third into a rope about 10 inches long and roll into a flat rectangle. Spray with water and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar mixture if using. Roll along long edge to make a rope with filling in the center. Repeat with additional two thirds. Braid three ropes together, pinch ends and tuck under to make a loaf. Repeat with remaining half of dough to make a second loaf. Place both loaves on a lined baking sheet and brush each loaf with beaten egg yolk. (If not using cinnamon-sugar mix, you may sprinkle the top each loaf with sesame or poppy seeds at this point.)
Preheat oven to 400 degrees while dough rises.
Bake for 15 minutes at 400 degrees. Reduce oven heat to 350 degrees and bake for additional 20 minutes or until loaves sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a baking rack and serve warm.