Challah

Tested & Perfected Recipes Cookbook 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

Photo by Alexandra Grablewski (Chronicle Books, 2018)

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. 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

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

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: Active dry yeast may be used instead of instant/rapid-rise yeast, however, the dough will take longer to rise.
  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

  • Luv all of your recipes. Getting ready to retire and will have more time to cook and bake. If u take requests please consider developing a recipe for pretzel challah. Charlotte

    • — Charlotte Goldin on October 22, 2021
    • Reply
    • 👍

      • — Jenn on October 22, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn,
    Any tips for making this gluten free? Typically, I just substitute gluten free flour for the regular, but checking in advance if you think there’s anything more specific than that I should do.
    Thank you and I love your recipes!
    Patricia

    • — Patricia on October 7, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Patricia, So glad you like the recipes! Unfortunately, I don’t think this one will work very well with gluten-free flour. While it may work, I’m doubtful, and it’s a lot of time to put in for a lot of unpredictability. Sorry!

      • — Jenn on October 7, 2021
      • Reply
  • I dont have a stand mixer or bread machine, all I have is a hand mixer. Can I make the challah completely by hand?

    • — Tiana on September 25, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Tiana, It’s fine to make it by hand. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 26, 2021
      • Reply
  • I followed this recipe almost exactly. The only thing I changed was I made two smaller loaves made the same way with the four braids. The texture was great but I just don’t think it is the sweetness I am looking for. I was first introduced to challah when I was 16 at my first job at a Jewish bagel place. I got to take home all the leftovers I could eat, it was great.

    • — Justine Camp on September 20, 2021
    • Reply
  • I hadn’t made a challah in decades, but it was just like getting back on that bicycle. Followed the recipe exactly, though we live at 3,500′ elevation and my yeast wasn’t the freshest. First rise was only 1hr 45min and the second rise was only 45 minutes. Watch the dough, not the clock ! Crust was beautiful, sliced easily and left overs the next morning toasted to perfection with crispy crust with pillow soft inside. Used regular all-purpose flour, used the dough hook in my mixer, hand kneaded for a few minutes ( just cause I like to do that).

    • — Sarah on September 8, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi
    I made this recipe for tonight’s rosh hashanah dinner. I’ve tried at least a dozen different recipes over the last eight years or so, and this was the best challah I ever made.
    I did make some changes. I used three whole eggs and one egg yolk in the dough. Used milk and melted butter in place of water and oil. The dough was too wet and sticky, so I added flour a tablespoon or two at a time till the consistency felt right. I Kneaded in the stand mixer for about 7 minutes, till the dough pulled away from the bowl and made a ball on the dough hook.
    I cut the dough into three equal pieces (used a scale) and made three ropes long enough to make a circle on my large pizza stone. I braided the ropes, attached the two ends, and placed the circle on a piece of parchment paper on the stone. I oiled plastic wrap and laid it on top, then slid the stone into the frig for overnight.
    Next morning I took the stone out of the frig and left it on the counter to come to room temp and finish the second rise. Preheated oven to 350, put challah in to bake. 30 minutes, 190 degrees internal temp.
    Mixed approx 3 tablespoons honey with one tablespoon boiling water. Brushed it over the challah.
    This challah was tender and complex, slightly sweet, absolutely the best I’ve ever eaten! Loved

    • — Jo Ann Lewis on September 6, 2021
    • Reply
  • Hi I plan on trying this recipe tomorrow. Can I use avocado oil instead of vegetable oil?

    • — Deborah on September 5, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure, that should be fine. Enjoy!

      • — Jenn on September 6, 2021
      • Reply
  • Can you tell me how I could make 2 round loaves from this recipe? Thank you.

    • — Grandma on September 2, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi, that’s possible. You may want to watch a video on how to create a braided round challah. This one looks doable and gives a few options. Bake time for the 2 challahs should be about the same as indicated in the recipe if not a bit shorter. Hope that helps!

      • — Jenn on September 3, 2021
      • Reply
  • Hi Jenn
    I love this recipe and make it weekly

    In preparation for the holidays I’d like to make the challah in advance. Can this recipe be frozen before it is baked? Or should I just bake as normal and then freeze?

    • — Lesley on August 31, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Lesley, While I think you could freeze the dough, I typically make and bake the challah and then freeze it. Please LMK how it turns out if you try it. Happy holidays!

      • — Jenn on September 5, 2021
      • Reply
  • Jennifer, Can I halve this recipe?

    • — Charlotte on August 29, 2021
    • Reply
    • Sure — the bake time may be a bit shorter so keep a close eye on it. Hope you enjoy!

      • — Jenn on August 30, 2021
      • Reply
      • Hi Jen,

        I’ve made this recipe several times now and it’s always delicious, but the definition of my braids is never as good as yours! Can you suggest a technique to help me achieve better definition in the final loaf?

        • — Megan on September 1, 2021
        • Reply
        • Hi Megan, Glad you like this! Do you braid the bread fairly tightly? That will help to give you more definition.

          • — Jenn on September 13, 2021
          • Reply
  • Delicious!!!!!!
    Can I make it into 2 smaller loaves?
    Proof times and bake times?
    Thank you in advance

    • — Debbie on August 17, 2021
    • Reply
    • Hi Debbie, So glad to hear you enjoyed it! Yes, you can divide the dough into two smaller loaves. The proof time would be the same and the baking time should also be about the same if not just a tiny bit shorter. Just keep a close eye on them. Hope that helps! 😊

      • — Jenn on August 17, 2021
      • Reply

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