Discover the irresistible taste of challah bread with this easy-to-make recipe. Made with honey and enriched with eggs, this soft, flavorful, and stunning-looking braided bread is the perfect addition to any meal or celebration.
What is challah bread?
Challah bread is a delicious and traditional Jewish bread that is typically served on the Sabbath and other Jewish holidays.
This bread is famous for its braided shape, which is created by weaving together several strands of dough. Each strand has its own meaning, depending on how many strands are in the loaf. Three strands loaf will symbolize justice, peace, and truth, while a six-strand loaf will symbolize the 6 days of the week except for the Sabbath.
Challah is also beloved for its rich and slightly sweet flavor from sugar and honey, as well as its soft and fluffy texture that comes from the dough being enriched with eggs and vegetable oil. It can be enjoyed on its own, with traditional dishes, or for sandwiches and French toast.
What is the difference between challah and brioche?
Apart from the shape and the origin, the key difference is their ingredients. Challah is typically enriched with eggs and vegetable oil, while Brioche bread gets its unique flavor and texture from a large amount of butter.
Ingredients you will need
Flour – You can use bread flour, white spelt flour, or all-purpose flour to make this braided challah recipe.
Yeast – I use instant yeast. However, the same amount (7g) of active dry yeast or 14g of fresh yeast will work as well in this easy challah recipe. Read the labels to learn how to activate these two yeasts correctly.
Water – The water should be lukewarm so the yeast will activate and the dough will rise well.
Eggs – I use one large whole egg and two egg yolks to make this braided bread extra flavorful.
Honey – There are quite a few variations of challah bread out there and one of them is with honey. I like the idea of honey in bread because it provides not only sweetness but flavor as well.
Sugar – You can use white granulated sugar.
Salt – Never skip the salt when you bake!
Oil – You can use any odorless vegetable oil in this challah bread recipe. Canola oil or sunflower seed oil will be a perfect choice, but other types of oil will work too. Extra mild olive oil or refined coconut oil should be fine to use.
Weigh all ingredients using a digital kitchen scale, not cups. I know that I sound like a broken record, but I truly believe that properly-weighed ingredients get you halfway to success in baking – especially when we talk about bread.
Use egg whites to make an egg wash and other recipes. I don’t like wasting food, so I use one of the egg whites to brush the loaf before baking it and two more egg whites to make these Meringue cookies.
Tin your challah bread with foil during baking. You will notice that your bread will turn golden brown after 15 minutes in the oven. To prevent over-browning, cover it loosely with a piece of foil and continue baking.
Rotate the baking sheet. For even browning, rotate the baking sheet after 15 minutes in the oven.
Step by step directions
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment, whisk together all dry ingredients.
2. Add all wet ingredients and knead on medium-low for 4 minutes or until an initial dough has formed.
3. Then, knead on medium for 12-15 minutes or until the dough passes a windowpane test.
4. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; leave to proof for 1 hour.
5. Punch the challah dough down and remove onto a lightly floured surface.
6. Split into 3 even parts and roll them into thick 15” (38cm) ropes.
7. Braid them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pinch the ends on both sides and tuck under the loaf to secure.
8. Cover with oiled plastic wrap to avoid sticking and a kitchen towel; leave to proof for 30-40 minutes.
9. Preheat the oven to 200C (390F) and make an egg wash using one egg white and 1 tablespoon of water.
10. Brush the loaf with the egg wash and bake for 15 minutes. Then, rotate the baking sheet and loosely cover the loaf with a piece of foil to prevent over-browning. Bake for 10-15 extra minutes.
11. Remove from the oven and let cool down until just warm before serving.
Add toppings. After brushing with egg wash, sprinkle on some sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or flaky sea salt.
Make challah buns. You absolutely don’t have to braid the challah loaf. Instead, you can make buns that are easy to serve to a large crowd of people.
Saffron. Add grounded saffron strands to lukewarm water and let them bloom for a few minutes before adding the mixture to the dry ingredients. Saffron will give the bread a vibrant yellow color and an amazing flavor.
What to do with leftovers
If your bread is on the verge of going stale, there are a few things you can do to avoid throwing it away.
The easiest way to make it fresh again (to a certain point, of course) is just to reheat it a little bit in a microwave. 10 seconds will be enough to make your bread soft and fresh again.
If reheating is not an option, this bread is perfect for toasting or making French toast. Or you can cut the leftovers into cubes (season with salt and herbs if desired) and dry them in the oven at a low temperature to make croutons!
Wrap the bread in plastic wrap and store it at room temperature for up to one week.
Wrap the leftovers in plastic wrap and then in a piece of foil and freeze for 2 months. Thaw in the fridge overnight; briefly reheat in the microwave or oven before serving.
Yes, you can make the dough one day ahead and leave it to proof in the fridge overnight. The next day, punch down the dough, split it into 3 pieces, and braid your loaf.
You can replace oil with the same amount of unsalted butter.
Yes, you can replace water with the same amount of milk.
More related recipes
- Digital kitchen scale
- Stand mixer with a dough hook attachment or hand mixer with hook attachments and a large mixing bowl
- Parchment paper
- 500 g bread flour
- 7 g instant yeast
- 200 ml water lukewarm
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 3 egg yolks use one egg white and 1 tablespoon water to make an egg wash
- 1 teaspoon honey
- 35 g sugar
- 2 teaspoon salt
- 50 ml vegetable oil
- In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment (or use a hand mixer with hook attachments and a bowl), whisk together all dry ingredients.
- Add all wet ingredients and mix on medium-low for 4 minutes or until an initial dough has formed.
- Switch to medium speed and knead for 12-15 minutes or until you can stretch a small piece of the dough into a square, creating a film thin enough for light to pass through (windowpane test). The dough won’t be that sticky anymore and will look hydrated, silky, and smooth.
- Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel; leave to proof for 1 hour in a warm, draft-free place.
- When the dough has doubled in volume, punch it down and remove onto a lightly floured surface.
- Split in 3 even parts and roll them into thick 15” (38cm) ropes.
- Braid them on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Pinch the ends on both sides and tuck under the loaf to secure.
- Cover with oiled plastic wrap to avoid sticking and a kitchen towel; leave to proof for 30-40 minutes or until doubled in volume and jiggly.
- Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 200C (390F) and make an egg wash by whisking together one egg white with 1 tablespoon of water.
- Brush the loaf with the egg wash and bake for 15 minutes. Then, rotate the baking sheet and loosely cover the loaf with a piece of foil to prevent over-browning. Bake for 10-15 extra minutes or until it’s golden brown and sounds hollow if you tap on top of the bread with the tips of your fingers.
- Remove from the oven and let cool down until just warm before serving.