Challah

Tested & Perfected RecipesCookbook Recipe

With its rich, slightly sweet flavor, shiny golden crust, and pillowy interior, challah isn’t just for the Jewish holidays — it appeals to everyone, any time!

Challah

Challah is the bread of celebration in Jewish tradition, but I put it in the matzo ball soup and bagel category: it appeals to everyone. It’s a rich, slightly sweet loaf with a shiny, golden crust and pillowy-soft interior. But what makes it truly special is its distinctive braid, which symbolizes, among other things, the joining together of family and friends.

Rest assured, challah looks like far more trouble than it actually is. Think of it as a once-in-a-while baking therapy project. Kneading and braiding the dough, smelling the challah baking in the oven—it really is satisfying. And when the long braided loaf is presented at the dinner table, it is a sight to behold!

I owe much of the credit for this recipe to Nanci Hirschorn, one of my lovely readers, who has been perfecting her challah recipe for over thirty-five years. Thank you, Nanci, for all the pointers!

Heads up: this recipe makes one 16-in loaf. It’s huge! If you have leftovers, use it to make Challah French ToastBaked Apple French Toast, or Dark Chocolate Bread Pudding.

What you’ll need to make Challah

The recipe calls for instant or rapid rise yeast, which rises faster than regular active dry yeast and does not need to be dissolved in liquid. Once opened, yeast will keep in the refrigerator for three to six months. Yeast is sold in jars (as pictured) or individual packets. If you don’t do a lot of bread baking, it’s best to buy the packets; just note that the quantity required for this recipe (1 tablespoon) is more than one packet.

Be sure your eggs are room temperature; this dough is slow to rise and cold eggs will slow it down even further.

How To Make Challah

Step 1: Make The Dough

Begin by combining the lukewarm water, oil, honey, 2 of the eggs, and the egg yolk; whisk well and set aside.

whisked wet ingredients

In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, and salt.

flour, salt, and yeast in mixer

Mix to combine.

whisked flour, salt, and yeast

Add the liquid ingredients to the dry ingredients.

adding liquid ingredients to dry ingredients in mixer

Knead on medium-low speed until you have a sticky dough that clings to the bottom of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. The dough may seem too wet but have faith—it’s supposed to be.

kneaded sticky challah dough

Dust your hands generously with flour, then scrape the sticky, elastic dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour.

challah dough on floured countertop

Knead into a soft, smooth ball.

challah dough kneaded into a ball

Step 2: Let it Rise

Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl, flip it over once so the top is lightly oiled, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap.

dough in bowl ready to rise

Allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it’s puffy and doubled in size, 2 to 3 hours. Keep in mind that when baking yeast breads, rising times are only a guide. The temperature in your kitchen, the humidity level outdoors, and how you knead the dough will all affect the rising time.

challah dough after first rise

Step 3: Braid the Dough

If you have a little girl in your life, or were ever a summer camp counselor, you have an advantage with braiding challah. But even if not, I assure you it’s easy to do. There are dozens of methods, but I think this 4-strand braid is the easiest and the prettiest.

To begin, invert the risen dough onto a lightly floured work surface and dust with flour. It will deflate.

challah dough

Cut the dough into four even pieces. (If you want to be exact, each piece should weigh approximately 9 oz or 260 g.)

cut challah dough

Stretch and roll each piece into a rope about 20-inches long. Lay the ropes parallel to one another (vertically). Pinch them tightly together at the top, and then fan them out. If the ropes shrink a bit, just work them back into their original length.

four strands of challah dough

Begin by taking the strand farthest to the right and weave it toward the left through the other strands using this pattern: over, under, over.

starting challah braidstarting challah braidTake the strand furthest to the right and repeat the weaving pattern again: over, under, over. how to braid challah

how to braid challah

how to braid challah

Repeat this pattern, always starting with the strand farthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided.

how to braid challah

how to braid challah

Tuck the ends under the loaf to give it a finished look.

Step 4: Let the Braided Dough Rise

Carefully transfer the braided loaf to a parchment-lined 13 x 18-inch baking sheet. Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot until about 1.5 times the size, 1 to 2 hours. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. (Note that the loaf will continue to rise a bit in the oven.) In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg and brush the beaten egg generously over the risen dough. (Note: If you like, sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds onto the challah before putting it in the oven.)

Step 5: Bake

Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will prevent the bottom crust from browning too much. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is a rich brown color and the internal temperature is between 190°F and 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a rack to cool. Challah is best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers will keep for a few days in a sealed plastic bag.

Challah

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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Challah

With its rich, slightly sweet flavor, shiny golden crust, and pillowy interior, challah isn’t just for the Jewish holidays — it appeals to everyone, any time!

Servings: One 16-inch [40 cm] loaf

Ingredients

  • 3/4 cup lukewarm water
  • 6 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 6 tablespoons honey
  • 3 eggs, at room temperature
  • 1 egg yolk, at room temperature
  • 4-1/4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned into measuring cup and leveled-off, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tablespoon instant, quick- or rapid-rise yeast (see Note)
  • 2 teaspoons salt

Instructions

  1. In a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine the flour, yeast, and salt. Mix on low speed for 30 seconds to combine. In a separate bowl, combine the lukewarm water, oil, honey, 2 of the eggs, and the egg yolk. Add to the dry ingredients and knead on medium-low speed until you have a sticky dough that clings to the bottom of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. The dough may seem too wet but have faith—it’s supposed to be.
  2. Dust your hands generously with flour, then scrape the sticky, elastic dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour and knead briefly into a soft, smooth ball. Lightly grease a large bowl with oil or nonstick cooking spray. Place the dough in the bowl, flip it over once so the top is lightly oiled, and then cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Allow the dough to rise in a warm, draft-free spot until it's puffy and doubled in size, 2 to 3 hours.
  3. Invert the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and dust with flour. It will deflate. Cut the dough into four even 9-oz pieces, and then stretch and roll each piece into a rope about 20-inches long. Lay the ropes parallel to one another (vertically). Pinch them tightly together at the top, and then fan them out. If the ropes shrink a bit, just work them back into their original length.
  4. Begin by taking the strand farthest to the right and weave it toward the left through the other strands using this pattern: over, under, over. Take the strand furthest to the right and repeat the weaving pattern again: over, under, over. Repeat this pattern, always starting with the strand farthest to the right, until the whole loaf is braided. Tuck the ends under to give the loaf a finished look.
  5. Carefully transfer the braided loaf to a parchment-lined 13 x 18-inch baking sheet. Cover the loaf loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise in a warm, draft-free spot until about 1.5 times the size, 1 to 2 hours. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 350°F and set an oven rack in the middle position. (Note that the loaf will continue to rise significantly in the oven.)
  6. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg and brush the beaten egg generously over the risen dough. (Note: If you like, sprinkle poppy or sesame seeds onto the challah before putting it in the oven.) Place the baking sheet atop another baking sheet; this will prevent the bottom crust from browning too much. Bake for 25 to 35 minutes, until the crust is a rich brown color and the internal temperature is between 190°F and 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a rack to cool. Challah is best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers will keep for a few days in a sealed plastic bag.
  7. Note: Instant yeast is not the same as active dry yeast -- it rises faster and does not need to be dissolved in liquid. Any instant yeast will work, but use saf-instant brand yeast if you can find it—it’s ideal for challah and all other sweet bread dough. Note that the quantity required for this recipe (1 tablespoon) is more than one packet.
  8. Note: When baking yeast breads, rising times are only a guide; the temperature in your kitchen, the humidity level outdoors, and how you knead the dough will all affect the rising time.
  9. Make-Ahead Instructions: Prepare the loaf up to the point where it's braided and on the pan. Cover it with greased plastic wrap, and place it in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, remove the braided dough from the refrigerator and set it on the countertop (keep it covered). Let it come to room temperature and rise for about 1 hour before baking as directed.
  10. Freezer-Friendly Instructions: Challah can be baked, cooled, tightly wrapped, and frozen for up to 3 months. Allow it to thaw at room temperature for at least 3 hours before serving.

Nutrition Information

Powered by Edamam

  • Per serving (16 servings)
  • Serving size: 1 slice
  • Calories: 206
  • Fat: 7 g
  • Saturated fat: 1 g
  • Carbohydrates: 32 g
  • Sugar: 7 g
  • Fiber: 1 g
  • Protein: 5 g
  • Sodium: 126 mg
  • Cholesterol: 35 mg

This website is written and produced for informational purposes only. I am not a certified nutritionist and the nutritional data on this site has not been evaluated or approved by a nutritionist or the Food and Drug Administration. Nutritional information is offered as a courtesy and should not be construed as a guarantee. The data is calculated through an online nutritional calculator, Edamam.com. Although I do my best to provide accurate nutritional information, these figures should be considered estimates only. Varying factors such as product types or brands purchased, natural fluctuations in fresh produce, and the way ingredients are processed change the effective nutritional information in any given recipe. Furthermore, different online calculators provide different results depending on their own nutrition fact sources and algorithms. To obtain the most accurate nutritional information in a given recipe, you should calculate the nutritional information with the actual ingredients used in your recipe, using your preferred nutrition calculator.

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Reviews & Comments

  • Hi Jenn – if I use half whole wheat flour, do I need to change anything else? I’ve made your challah before and it’s amazing! Just ran out of white flour (oh the horror!) and trying to avoid going to the store. Thanks!

    • — Elizabeth on November 15, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Elizabeth, no need to make any adjustments if using half whole wheat flour. I do think the finished product will be a bit drier though.

      • — Jenn on November 19, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jen,

    Can this recipe be made into two round loafs?

    Thanks.

    • — Sylvia on October 28, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure. Baking time may be slightly less so keep a close eye on them. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on October 29, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn, I made this today and I would give the result six out of ten. The loaf looked exactly like the picture in your book, but it was not fluffy like a brioche, it was the consistency of a regular white loaf. I don’t think this is right is it?
    It seemed to go wrong at the dough stage, the dough was very clingy and stuck to the dough hooks, leaving a lot of dry mix in the bottom of the bowl. I pulled all the dough off the hooks and kneaded it by hand, but it was still very dry and I added some more water. Your recipe says that it will be very wet, so clearly something went wrong.
    I live in Canada and I know that my bread maker recommends using less flour if it is Canadian. Could this be the reason do you think? I used Robin Hood all purpose flour and I used a cup measure levelled off with a knife, so I’m confident I put in the amount of flour exactly as in the recipe.
    It tastes fine but it just seems to be the wrong consistency. I think I’ll use it to make the Baked apple French toast!

    • — Peter on October 19, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Peter, I do think that’s the cause — there is so much variation between different brands, even in the States. I use King Arthur for all my baking so if you can find that, I recommend it for best results. If not, I would try reducing the flour by 1/2 cup next time; you can always add more if the dough is too wet. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on October 20, 2019
      • Reply
  • Amazing aroma and texture. I was apprehensive about the braiding but your instructions made me realize it was quite simple. I am using most of the bread for your baked apple french toast. I definitely will be making challah again.

    • — Elizabeth on October 19, 2019
    • Reply
  • This was good, if a bit bland. I used active dry yeast (proofed it in the water) and it took about 2 hours for the first rise. I let it sit for 30 minutes for the second rise – shouldn’t have done it. It started growing side-wise – the braid became messy and the bread ended up very wide. My oldest son said this was great, since he likes bigger slices 🙂 However, I would have liked a tighter loaf. Still, my issue wasn’t with aesthetics. The bread tasted bland. I make a sweet bread (with walnut filling) that has some lemon and orange peel, besides some vanilla extract. I think this bread could benefit from some sort of flavor – just my thought. Thank you for sharing your wonderful recipes and ideas with your readers!

    • — Deniza on September 29, 2019
    • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Can you make this Gluten Free? If so, what flour do you recommend?
    Thanks!

    • — Sandy on September 29, 2019
    • Reply
    • I don’t recommend it, Sandy. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on September 30, 2019
      • Reply
  • Forgot 1 egg but it still came out delish! Thank you!

    • — Jennifer on September 28, 2019
    • Reply
  • My challah looked beautiful but the dough was so elastic that I felt like I was fighting with it. Can u please tell me what might have gone wrong

    • — Bryna on September 23, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Byrna, Did you use all-purpose flour?

      • — Jenn on September 23, 2019
      • Reply
  • Wow, Jenn! One month later of solid use of your site and I stumble on this …I used to make challah for my family as a girl, but it’s been years! I made it this weekend the day before company came. I used an Italian 00 flour and I kneaded by hand as I don’t have a stand mixer. I did get the yeast you said and it was a rainy day, so I had to rise it almost four hours the first time down here in the Southern Hemisphere. The dough was never wet for me or sticky. Anyway, took my time, followed your recipe precisely, baked it and wow!!! It was gorgeous! You’re recipes are so full-proof that I used this one for my first time entertaining two guests who are real “foodies”! It was a success. They remarked and remarked on the bread and said I could have simply served that for dinner! I am so excited to be making challah from scratch for my family now! Thank you!

    • — Steph on September 22, 2019
    • Reply
  • Great flavor and texture. Dough is easy to work and the finished loaf makes a beautiful centerpiece. Even better lightly toasted and I’ll bet it makes a great bread pudding but I doubt there will be leftovers!!

    • — Marilyn on September 21, 2019
    • Reply
  • Great recipe! Easy to make and excellent results. Thank you for another delicious recipe.

    • — Linda on September 20, 2019
    • Reply
  • I made Challah for the first time, it’s was delicious. Thank you Jenn.

    • — Angelica A. Gaona on September 20, 2019
    • Reply
  • How long do I knead the dough by hand after removing it from the mixer?

    • — Biff on September 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • hi Biff, Just until it forms a smooth ball — less than a minute. Hope that clarifies!

      • — Jenn on September 20, 2019
      • Reply
  • How long do I knead the dough by hand after removing it from the mixer?

    • — Kathy on September 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Kathy, Knead just until it forms a soft, smooth ball – it should only take a minute or so.

      • — Jenn on September 20, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn!
    I am attempting to make this beautiful challah. My dough was not wet or sticky at all while it was kneding in the mixer. Is there an error?
    Also, I know you recommend all purpose flour. What about bread flour? Would this make a difference? Thanks!

    • — Alana on September 20, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Alana, It could just be that you use a different brand of flour than I do, which can give you very different results (I use King Arthur). Or it could be the measuring. Did you use the spoon and level method to measure the flour? I know this seems nit-picky but it makes a big difference, especially in recipes that call for this much flour. That said, even if your dough is not sticky, it should still be fine; you’ll just need to add less flour when kneading by hand. I don’t recommend bread flour for challah — if you used it, that would definitely explain the difference in the dough.
      Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on September 20, 2019
      • Reply
  • Is there a way to make this for Rosh Hashanah as a round challah?

    • — Chad on September 19, 2019
    • Reply
    • Sure, Chad – this video tutorial shows how to braid a round challah with four strands.

      • — Jenn on September 19, 2019
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn:

    How long should I knead the dough? Thanks.

    • — Kathy on September 19, 2019
    • Reply
    • Hi Kathy, You’ll need to knead it on medium-low speed until you have a sticky dough that clings to the bottom of the bowl, 5 to 7 minutes. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 20, 2019
      • Reply
  • What about those of us who do not have mixers with kneading hooks? Can we make this recipe anyway? How?

    Thanks!

    • — Priya Morganstern on September 19, 2019
    • Reply
    • Yes, Priya, the dough will be sticky but you can knead it by hand. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 23, 2019
      • Reply
  • I have made this recipe several times and it is fabulous. I used my bread machine on the dough cycle to prepare the dough and complete the first rise. Took it out to shape the dough (don’t worry if braid isn’t perfect), complete the second rise, and bake. It’s as beautiful to look at as it is delicious to consume, a real showstopper! Leftovers are yummy lightly toasted, or better yet, made into French toast. 💙

    • — Liz Sullivan on September 19, 2019
    • Reply

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