Challah Bread

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Challah bread is a traditional egg bread for the Jewish Sabbath. It's braided and topped with poppy seeds for a beautiful presentation.

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Prep Time:
30 mins
Cook Time:
40 mins
Additional Time:
2 hrs 30 mins
Total Time:
3 hrs 40 mins
Servings:
30
Yield:
2 braided loaves

Challah is an ancient Jewish bread that's had its share of internet fame (remember the rainbow everything fad? Or the mind-bending twelve-strand braided bread?). The basic blueprint has stayed the same: A rich, slightly sweet bread made with flour, eggs, oil, yeast, and honey. Whether you stick to the classic, top with poppy or sesame seeds, add golden raisins, shape it, stuff it, or swirl it, challah is one of the best (and easiest) breads to make at home.

Read on to learn all about challah, from its symbolism in Judaism to how to braid, freeze, and use it (besides tearing big pieces right from the loaf).

What Is Challah Bread?

braided challah bread
Rochelle

Challah bread is a white, leavened, braided bread with Ashkenazi Jewish origins. It's typically made with eggs, yeast, flour, honey (or sugar), and salt.

Challah Symbolism In Judaism

Challah is a staple of every Jewish table on the sabbath — Friday evening to Saturday evening — and many Jewish holidays like Hanukkah and Yom Kippur (it's often the first food eaten to break the fast). Challah bread is also part of many important Jewish rituals, from weddings to funerals and nearly every occasion in between.The way the challah is braided or shaped also has its own meaning in Judaism. A three-stand brand symbolizes truth, peace, and justice. A braid with twelve "humps" represents the twelve tribes of Israel. Round or spiral-shaped challahs are eaten during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, as a symbol of the cycle of the seasons.

Challah vs. Brioche

Both types of bread have lots of eggs and are known for their richness. The big difference here is butter. In a brioche, lots and lots of butter is incorporated into the dough. Challah is made without butter so it can be pareve (PAR-reve), or kosher in a meal that includes meat (Jews who keep kosher don't mix meat and dairy in the same meal).

How to Make Challah

two loaves of braided challah bread side by side
merx

You'll find the full, step-by-step recipe below — but here's a brief overview of what you can expect when you make challah bread at home:

1. Activate the yeast.
2. Make the dough.
3. Turn out and knead the dough.
4. Let the dough rise.
5. Roll and braid the dough according to the below directions.
6. Let the dough rise again.
7. Add an egg wash and sprinkle with poppy seeds.
8. Bake the challah bread until golden brown.

How to Braid Challah

Once your dough has risen, divide into three equal pieces and gently roll into 11/2-inch-thick ropes with the palms of your hands (the ropes should be about the same length). Pinch the ropes together at one end and braid fairly tightly. Pinch the opposite ends together. Tuck the ends underneath the loaf.

How to Store Challah

Place your challah in a resealable bag and press out all the air before sealing. Freeze for up to three months or leave on your counter to enjoy all week. The oil and the extra eggs in challah bread help it stay soft longer than other loaves. And when it starts to go stale, it's time for bread pudding or French toast!

How to Use Challah

Challah can absorb lots of liquid without falling apart, making it perfect for a custardy bread pudding, French toast, or even your Thanksgiving stuffing. Use challah in simple sandwiches (peanut butter and jelly is a fave) but skip it for sandwiches that need something sturdier, like a grilled cheese or a sandwich with lots of heavy fillings.

Allrecipes Community Tips and Praise

"This was a great easy to follow recipe," says reviewer jen. Delicious and quite true to Brooklyn bakery Challah bread!".

"My first time making challah and this was so easy to follow. It turned out great! Very eggy and a little sweet, like a dense Hawaiian bread," user Vanessa Armand wrote.

"For the longest time I thought Challah was just too hard to make," says user Freshjiven. "This recipe came out perfectly! I can now confidently serve homemade Challah bread to my family!"

Editorial contributions by Hannah Klinger

Ingredients

  • 2 ½ cups warm water (110 degrees F/45 degrees C)

  • 1 tablespoon active dry yeast

  • ½ cup honey

  • 4 tablespoons vegetable oil

  • 3 eggs, divided

  • 1 tablespoon salt

  • 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

  • 1 tablespoon poppy seeds (Optional)

Directions

  1. Pour warm water into a large bowl; sprinkle yeast over water. Let stand until yeast softens and begins to form a creamy foam, about 5 minutes.

  2. Beat in honey, oil, 2 eggs, and salt. Add flour, 1 cup at a time, beating after each addition until dough has pulled together; turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and elastic. Place dough in a large, lightly-oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with a towel and let rise in a warm place until doubled in volume, about 1 1/2 hours.

  3. Punch down dough and turn onto a lightly floured surface. Divide in half and knead each half for 5 minutes or so, adding flour as needed to keep it from getting sticky. Divide each half into thirds and roll into a long snake about 1 1/2 inches in diameter. Pinch the ends of the three snakes together firmly and braid from middle. Either leave as a braid or form into a round braided loaf by bringing ends together, curving the braid into a circle, and pinching ends together. Grease two baking trays and place the finished braid or round on each. Cover with a towel and let rise for about 1 hour.

  4. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F (190 degrees C). Beat the remaining egg and brush a generous amount over each braid; sprinkle with poppy seeds.

  5. Bake in preheated oven until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Cool on a wire rack for at least one hour before slicing.

    looking at a loaf of Challah sliced, with a full one behind it
    Dotdash Meredith Food Studios

Tips

Try adding 1 cup of raisins or golden raisins to the dough before shaping the loaves into round braids for Rosh Hashanah.

Nutrition Facts (per serving)

165 Calories
3g Fat
30g Carbs
4g Protein
Nutrition Facts
Servings Per Recipe 30
Calories 165
% Daily Value *
Total Fat 3g 4%
Saturated Fat 1g 3%
Cholesterol 19mg 6%
Sodium 241mg 10%
Total Carbohydrate 30g 11%
Dietary Fiber 1g 4%
Total Sugars 5g
Protein 4g
Calcium 13mg 1%
Iron 2mg 10%
Potassium 56mg 1%

* Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

** Nutrient information is not available for all ingredients. Amount is based on available nutrient data.

(-) Information is not currently available for this nutrient. If you are following a medically restrictive diet, please consult your doctor or registered dietitian before preparing this recipe for personal consumption.

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