This traditional challah bread features a simple enriched yeast dough twisted into a stunning braid and baked until perfectly soft and chewy.
Homemade bread lovers, listen up! It’s the perfect day to make a stunning loaf of challah.
If you’ve always wanted to try your hand at this traditional Jewish bread, you’re in the right place. We’re going through ALL the challah details today and showing you how to make the perfect loaf.
It’s almost unreal how perfect this bread bakes up given the simple everyday ingredients. I’m convinced the braid adds some magic to the dough.
We’re talking perfect golden exterior, picture-perfect soft and fluffy texture inside and 100% one of those breads you end up digging into straight from the oven.
This Challah features…
- A rich and incredibly soft texture
- Perfectly golden and crusty exterior with toasty sesame seeds
- A lovely braided shape that’s much easier to form than it looks
Making the Challah
(scroll down to the bottom of the post for the full recipe)
Ingredients You Will Need
- Warm water
- Active dry yeast
- Kosher salt
- Bread flour
- Sesame seeds or poppyseeds
What is Challah?
Challah is an enriched yeast bread from Jewish origin that is typically served as a bread side dish on special holidays and Sabbath gatherings.
This bread is very similar to brioche in texture and richness, but the classic trait that sets challah apart is its signature braided shape. The braid may look complicated at first glance, but we walk you through each and every step!
Tips for Perfect Challah
- Measure flour correctly – we use the spoon-and-level technique for measuring flour as this will prevent over-measuring your flour. Use a spoon to scoop flour into the measuring cup, then level with the back of a knife.
- Use water at 110F degrees – we recommend temping the water to ensure it’s not over 110F. If you use water that is too warm, it will kill the yeast and your dough will not rise.
- Knead dough properly – this step is where we develop the gluten in our dough which is crucial for forming the structure of the rolls. You can knead by hand or use your stand mixer with the dough hook attachment.
- Allow dough to rise until doubled – turn the dough into a clean greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and allow to rise until doubled in size, about 1 to 1-1/2 hours.
- Let dough rise in a warm place – yeast dough loves warm environments for rising. We recommend 75F-80F for a rising environment in your kitchen.
- Divide dough into 4 even pieces for braiding – for optimal accuracy, we recommend weighing dough pieces to ensure they are all the same size.
- Dust dough ropes with flour – this will help keep the ropes from sticking together while you’re braiding.
- Refer to picture tutorial for braiding – follow the pictures below for extra visual help braiding your bread!
Basically, to construct the braid you will first move the middle right dough rope (picture 5) all the way across to the left. Now move the far right rope (picture 6) to the center of the ropes. Now repeat this to the right by moving the middle left rope across to the right (picture 7) and move the far left rope to the center of the ropes (picture 8) Continue this left and right motion of braiding til you reach the end of the dough ropes.
How To Use Challah
Challah is a very multi-purpose bread that has a variety of uses! Traditionally, challah is served as a side dish alongside Jewish meals, but there’s many other ways you can use it as well.
The texture of challah is very similar to brioche in texture making it ideal for French toast or breakfast casseroles. It also makes for amazing grilled cheese or panini!
Storing and Freezing Challah
We prefer enjoying this bread fresh from the oven if possible because you just can’t beat the texture! However, if needed this bread may be stored in an airtight container at room temperature up to 3 days.
To freeze bread, cool completely, wrap well, and freeze up to 2 months. If possible, we recommend freezing bread the same day you baked it to preserve freshness.
To serve bread from frozen, allow to thaw completely on countertop then reheat at 350F 10-15 minutes before serving.
This challah will quickly become a keeper yeast bread recipe in your house! It’s just really hard to beat the rich flavor and perfectly soft and chewy textures.
Trust me, zero self control exists around this beautiful loaf especially if you’re digging into it warm!
Save this recipe using the ‘save to recipe box’ button below. If you make it, please let us know! Leave a comment + star rating below, or take a photo and tag it on Instagram with #wholeandheavenlyoven.
Watch this bread made step-by-step on Google web stories.
More yeast bread projects to try next!
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- 1 cup warm water (110F)
- 2-1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 4 large eggs, divided
- 1/4 cup honey
- 2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 4-1/2 to 5 cups bread flour (spooned and leveled)
- 1 tablespoon sesame seeds or poppyseeds, optional
- Place warm water in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook OR a large bowl. Dissolve yeast in water and let stand 5 minutes until foamy.
- Reserve 1 egg white from eggs for egg wash later. Place remaining eggs in a small bowl and lightly beat until smooth.
- Mix honey, beaten eggs, and salt into yeast mixture until smooth. Add 4-1/2 cups flour to bowl and mix on low speed OR with a wooden spoon if making dough by hand until dough pulls away from sides of bowl, about 2 minutes of mixing (if dough seems a bit wet, add additional flour by the tablespoon until dough pulls away from sides of bowl)
- If making dough in stand mixer, knead dough in mixer on low speed 5-7 minutes until dough is stretchy and elastic. If making dough by hand, turn dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand until dough is stretchy and elastic, about 10 minutes of kneading.
- Place dough in a greased bowl, turning once to grease top. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place at room temperature 1 to 1-1/2 hours until dough is doubled in size.
- Line a large sheet pan with parchment paper. Punch risen dough down and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide dough into 4 pieces and roll each piece into an 18-inch rope. Lightly dust dough ropes with additional flour to prevent sticking.
- Pinch ends of ropes together and begin braiding bread (refer to picture tutorial in blog post) Pinch ends of braid together and fold underneath loaf. Carefully transfer braided bread to prepared sheet pan.
- In a small bowl, whisk reserved egg white with 1 tablespoon water until smooth. Brush bread with egg wash and top with sesame seeds or poppyseeds if using. Allow bread to rise in a warm place at room temperature 1 to 1-1/2 hours until doubled in size.
- Preheat oven to 375F. Bake bread at 375F 30-35 minutes until bread is golden brown. Allow bread to cool on a wire cooling rack before slicing and serving. Enjoy!
This post was updated with new recipe adjustments and photos on 11/30/23.