Challah Bread is a braided sweet bread with a gorgeous golden brown crust and a soft, tender interior. Each soft, pillowy bite glistens with a honey-coated crust. Perfect for the holidays or an everyday treat. And it’s easy too!
Challa bread is certainly a masterpiece, from beautifully woven dough to its soft and pillowy bite. It is one of those bread that is pretty to look at and as delicious as its looks. See how inviting it is? Aah! Such a stunner, indeed!
And before you say, “Naaah! It’s too complicated to make.” As long as you have a stand mixer, you’ll be fine. Sit back, relax, and let the mixer do the job. Or you can knead it by hand and enjoy the little arm workout. 💪 I swear, you’ll enjoy the braiding part. 😉
What Is It?
What Is Challah Bread?
I’m all for celebrating. Rosh Hashanah is the Jewish New Year, and they know how to enjoy good food. But because the Jewish calendar is lunar instead of solar, like most of us are used to, it falls on a different date every year. However, it’s sometime in September.
Just like other New Year celebrations, there are certain traditions. For example, apples dipped in honey, pomegranates for a fruitful year, and a whole fish (head included). But my all-time favorite is the challah bread.
- Water – Room temperature or lukewarm-warm water will be most helpful to proof the yeast.
- Active Dry Yeast is an essential leavening agent in making bread because it makes it soft and light.
- Unsalted Butter – The rich buttery flavor enhances the overall taste and texture.
- Eggs – It binds the dough, gives moisture, and provides elasticity, making the bread soft and slightly chewy.
- Flour – The main bread ingredient is the base upon which all other ingredients rest. Yes, you can use an all-purpose gluten-free bread mixture.
- Egg Wash – Egg yolks and cream (or milk) on top make a nice golden brown color and shiny finish.
How to Make Challah Bread
Make the Challah Dough
- Proof – Combine lukewarm water and yeast and let it sit until dissolved (about 5 minutes). You may do so in a standing mixer if using any.
- Combine – Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe medium bowl, melt butter chunks, sugar, and salt in the microwave for about a minute. Stir until everything melts, until warm, not hot. Let the mixture cool slightly if it gets too hot because you don’t want it to kill your yeast or curdle your egg. Dump everything into the yeast mixture.
- Add Egg – Whisk the egg into the mixture. Mix well. (Photo 1)
- Add Flour – Add about 3 cups of flour and continue mixing by hand or using paddle dough. Add just enough flour to make a soft dough. (Photos 2-3)
- Knead – Turn your dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-7 minutes (more if necessary to get the right texture). Or you can use your stand mixer with a dough hook. (Photo 4)
- Rise – Lightly oil a bowl, put the dough in turn once to coat the dough. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1-2 hours or until doubled in size. Punch the dough down. (Photos 5-6)
Shape and Bake
- Divide – Remove dough onto a floured board or work surface. Divide the dough into 2 pieces, one about half the size of the other. The approximate weight for the larger ball of dough should be 18-19 ounces, and the smaller dough about 9 ounces. (Photos 7-8)
- Make Three Strands – Now divide the larger piece of dough into three equal strands. Stretch or roll the strands out into an even thickness until they become like ropes about 16 inches long.
- Braiding Challah – Line up the strands and pinch them together at one end. Braid the strands; take the left strand and cross it over the middle strand. Take the right strand, cross it over the middle strand, and repeat until you reach the end. Tightly pinch to seal the ends. (Photos 9-12)
- Transfer – Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and carefully transfer the braid. Repeat the exact same process with the smaller dough.
- Assemble – Brush egg white onto the larger braided dough, then carefully place the smaller braided dough on top. Make sure it sits well.
- Second Rise – Cover with a kitchen cloth and let rise until puffy, 30-45 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 350℉/177℃.
- Egg Wash – Whisk together egg yolks and cream, then gently brush the loaf with the egg wash. Be careful not to deflate the bread.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown. If the bread browns quickly, cover loosely with foil paper.
- Serve – Let it cool completely before slicing.
- Challah Rolls: You can divide the dough into small rolls instead of braiding them.
- Challah Pretzels: Try it with smaller strands and shape it into pretzels. Enjoy it dipped with homemade chocolate sauce.
- Challah Sandwich: Slice the bread and add your favorite sandwich spread or filling. You can enjoy it with cheese and smoked ham. Yum!
Tips and Tricks
- If you want to make a loaf for the New Year, simply stretch it a little longer. Then pull both ends towards each other to create a circle and squeeze the ends together to seal.
- Sprinkle your challah with sesame seeds or poppy seeds after brushing the loaf with the egg wash.
- Let your dough rest for 15-20 minutes before kneading it. That allows the flour to absorb liquid, making a softer, smoother dough.
- Brush the top of your finished challah with honey for a traditional treat.
Place the unbaked braided loaf in a baking pan the day before and cover it well with greased plastic wrap. Refrigerate it overnight. It will take longer to rise, but it will be fine.
Remove the dough from the refrigerator (still covered) the next day, and let it warm up while the oven preheats. Then bake according to the instructions.
Serving and Storage Instructions
While it can be tempting to dive in when it comes out of the oven, it’s best to let it cool before eating.
You can store leftover challah bread wrapped tightly in plastic at room temperature for 4-5 days. Most people say don’t put it in the fridge, and I agree. But you can freeze it in a freezer-safe bag (removing as much air as possible) for 3-6 months.
Let frozen challah come at room temperature and enjoy.
It’s ceremonial bread for the Jewish Sabbath and holy days, but challah bread brushed with honey is also a great dessert.
No words can best describe how utterly amazing this bread is. The dough is ultra-rich and slightly sweet, somewhere between a brioche and white bread. You can add cinnamon, Nutella, or chocolate chips if you want to bump up its flavor.
What to Serve With Challah Bread
A traditional Rosh Hashanah menu includes chicken soup, slow-roasted brisket, roasted root vegetables, and apple cake. Really, you only need to avoid bitter and vinegary foods to celebrate this holiday in style.
More Soul-Satisfying Bread Recipes to Try
Challah bread is full of spiritual meaning. Do you have a holiday tradition involving this fabulous bread? Please share them with me in the comments. ❤️
Watch How to Make It
[adthrive-in-post-video-player video-id=”WKH45Yhn” upload-date=”2019-04-16T22:34:04.000Z” name=”Challah Bread” description=”Challah Bread – braided loaf bread with a gorgeous golden brown exterior and a supple interior. A perfect holiday or Easter spread. Rich, slightly sweetened and easy to make, too!”]
This blog post was originally published in August 2019 and has been updated with additional tips, new photos, and a video.
- ¾ cup (177ml) water, at room temperature
- 1 envelope (about 2¼ teaspoons) active yeast
- 5 tablespoons (70g) unsalted butter , cut in chunks
- ¼ cup (50g) granulated sugar
- 1¼ teaspoons (7g) salt
- 3 large eggs, one egg separated (reserve egg white)
- 3¼-3½ cups (400g) all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
Egg Wash (Brushing Top)
- 2 large egg yolks
- 3 tablespoons (45ml) milk or cream
- Combine lukewarm water and yeast. Let it sit until dissolved (about 5 minutes). You may do so in a standing mixer.
- Meanwhile, in a microwave-safe medium bowl, add butter chunks, sugar, and salt, and microwave for about a minute. Stir until everything is melted – the mixture should be warm, not hot. Let it cool slightly if the mixture is hot. Dump everything into the yeast mixture. Whisk the egg into the mixture. Let it cool if it's too hot, let it cool to prevent eggs from curdling. Mix until ingredients are thoroughly combined.
- Add about 3 cups of flour and continue mixing by hand or using the dough paddle. Add in enough flour (if needed) to make a soft dough.
- Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 6-7 minutes or more if you want airy bread.
- Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough in oil. Cover loosely with a clean cloth and let it rise in a warm, draft-free place for 1-2 hours or until doubled. Punch the dough down.
- Dump the dough onto a floured board or work surface. Divide it into two pieces, one about half the size of the other. The approximate weight for the larger dough should be about 18-19 ounces and the smaller dough about 9 ounces.
- Now divide the larger piece of dough into three equal strands, and then stretch or roll them into an even thickness to an about 16-inch-long rope.
- Line up the strands and pinch them together at one end. Braid the strands, crossing the left strand over the middle strand. Then cross the right strand over the middle strand until the bread is completely braided. Tightly pinch to seal the end.
- Carefully transfer the braid to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Repeat the same process with the smaller dough.
- Brush egg white onto the larger braided dough, then carefully place the smaller braided dough on top of it. Make sure it sits well.
- Cover with a kitchen cloth and let rise until puffy, 30-45 minutes, depending on the weather.
- Preheat oven to 350℉/177℃.
- Whisk together egg yolks and cream, then gently brush the loaf with the egg wash because you don't want to deflate the bread.
- Bake in preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until the loaf is golden brown. If the bread browns quickly, cover it loosely cover with foil.
- Let it cool completely before slicing.
Tips & Notes:
- If you want to make a celebration round bread, simply stretch the loaf a little longer, pull both ends towards each other to create a circle, and squeeze the ends together to seal.
- To store challah bread, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature for 4-5 days.
- To make it ahead, place the unbaked braided loaf in a baking pan and cover it with greased plastic wrap. Place it then in the refrigerator overnight. The next day, remove the dough from the refrigerator (while still covered) and let it rise to room temperature for 60 minutes before baking it as instructed.
- Brush the loaf with an egg wash before sprinkling it with sesame or poppy seeds.
- Please remember that nutritional information is a rough estimate and can vary greatly based on the products used.