Challah Bread is a popular braided bread recipe made with a dough that’s enriched with eggs and honey. It is lightly sweet and makes the most incredible French toast and grilled cheeses!
While this recipe does take time, most of that is hands-off proofing time! Made with basic pantry staples, the dough itself is so easy to prepare.
This recipe originally appeared on Spend With Pennies where I am a contributor.
What is Challah Bread?
Challah is a braided bread that is extremely delicious thanks to the eggs and honey the dough is enriched with.
Made with pantry staples, this slightly sweet bread is braided and brushed with an egg wash before baking to a perfect golden brown color!
While it does take time to proof, this recipe takes little skill to make. The braiding is the hardest part, but I’ve shared a tip for doing that below!
This recipe does include a 1/2 cup of milk, making it more along the lines of an Easter Bread, but you can substitute water instead of you are looking for a traditional kosher recipe.
How To Make Challah Bread
This recipe works best with a stand mixer with a dough hook! You will also want a digital thermometer since you’re working with yeast and temperature is very important!
- Prep – Using a stand mixer, prepare the dough and transfer it to a greased bowl. Cover with a damp dishcloth to let the dough rise.
- Braid – On a lightly floured surface, make evenly sized dough strands and braid them together. Place bread on a greased baking sheet.
- Egg Wash – Brush with a prepared egg wash and let proof. Repeat once more.
- Bake – Brush with a final coat of egg wash and bake!
Grab the full printable recipe below.
How to Braid Challah
Braiding challah is the hardest part! To start, try a classic 3 strand braid. Once you have the hang of it try braiding in 4, 6, or even 8 strands for beautifully baked bread!
I recommend doing a YouTube search for braiding Challah bread for the number of strips you chose. It’s good to have a visual guide to follow for this part. I found this video really helpful.
- Divide the dough into equal portions (3, 4, 6, or 8 depending on what you have chosen).
- Roll into evenly sized strips by working from the center and rolling with your hands, tapering the dough at the ends.
- Secure one end of each dough strip together and braid.
Tips for the Perfect Loaf
While this dough is easy to prepare, there are a few helpful tips to remember for the perfect loaf every time!
- The bread does not rise like a traditional sandwich bread recipe. It should double in size but it will not expand over the top of a large bowl. The dough gets most of its rise in the second round of proofing after it has been braided.
- DO NOT skip the egg wash process. I know how tempting it might sound to just let it do the second proof all at once and just apply the egg wash right before baking, but the egg wash helps apply moisture to the dough which helps it rise and gives it the glossy topping Challah breads are known for!
- If you like Challah bread heavy on the egg flavor, add 1 additional egg yolk to this recipe with no additional changes.
Mix-Ins: Add up to 1 cup of raisins, currants, or other dried fruits to the dough. You can also add in a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon if desired. Just add it in with the eggs while preparing the dough!
Toppings: Top the bread with poppy seeds or sesame seeds after the final egg wash is applied and before baking, or leave it plain (which is perfect for French Toast).
How To Serve
Traditionally the bread is served almost as a pull-apart bread where each section of braid is it’s own piece. But you can also slice the loaf as well.
Challah bread is delicious on its own, and it’s even more when paired with honey butter or cinnamon butter.
How To Freeze Challah Bread
Prepare the dough through the braiding process (step 6) then place it on a baking sheet in the freezer until frozen. Then wrap with plastic wrap and aluminum foil until ready to use.
To use, remove it from the freezer, unwrap immediately and place it on a baking sheet. Plan for it to take 6 to 8 hours for it to fully rise. Then continue with the egg wash process and baking.
Challah bread can also be frozen after baking by allowing it to cool completely before wrapping and freezing.
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- 2 large egg whites leftover from the bread
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1 tablespoon honey
- Mix together the yeast, flour, and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment.
- With the mixer running on "stir" speed, pour in the water and milk. Then add in the honey, egg, egg yolks, and vegetable oil. Increase speed to medium and knead for 5 to 6 minutes until the dough completely pulls away from the bowl and is no longer sticky to the touch.
- Shape the dough into a ball and transfer to a large greased bowl and cover with a damp dishcloth and proof (rise) for 1 hour.
- Remove the dough from the bowl with the top right side up on a lightly floured surface. Pull the edges of the dough from 4 points, flip, and work in a circular motion on the counter to seal, then place back in the bowl. Cover the dough with the damp dishcloth again and proof for an additional hour.
- Remove from the bowl and evenly divide the dough into the number of braids you want, I like to use 4. Shape the dough into logs. Cover the dough logs with the damp dishcloth and let the rest for 20 minutes.
- Roll each log out into 1½-inch strips of dough, working from the center and rolling with your hands, tapering the dough at the ends. Secure one end of dough strips together and braid. Place bread on a greased baking sheet.
- Make egg wash with the leftover egg whites, water, and honey and brush it on the bread. Proof uncovered for 40 minutes.
- Apply another coat of the egg wash then proof for an additional 40 minutes.
- Apply a final coat of egg wash before baking and discard any leftover egg wash.
- Preheat the oven to 375°F and reduce it to 325°F as soon as you put the bread in the oven to bake. Bake for 20 minutes, then remove from the oven and place an aluminum foil tent over the top and bake for an additional 15 to 20 minutes.
- The bread should sound hollow when you tap on the top and the top should be golden brown when done. Fully baked challah bread should have an internal temperature of 190°F when checked with an instant-read kitchen thermometer. Let cool completely before cutting.
- To keep this recipe kosher, omit the milk and use extra water.
- To use dry active yeast, bloom it first by mixing it with the milk and water in a measuring cup and letting it activate for about 10 to 15 minutes. The liquid ingredients should be between 105°F and 115°F for proper blooming or it can kill the yeast.
- Additions: add 1 cup raisin or dried fruit into the dough in step 2 if desired. Or top with sesame or poppy seeds after the final egg wash (before baking). You can also add in a teaspoon or two of ground cinnamon if desired.
- You can freeze the Challah bread dough right after braiding (step 6). It will need about 6 to 8 hours to thaw and rise before baking.
- I recommend doing a YouTube search for braiding Challah bread for the number of strips you chose. It’s good to have a visual guide to follow for this part. I found this video really helpful.
The idea of proofing dough can be intimidating and even tricky, but really all you need is a warm draft-free area to place the dough. Here are some tips and tricks to be sure your dough properly proofs!
- The most common method is placing the dough in a greased bowl that’s been coated with nonstick cooking spray and cover it with a damp cloth.
- Some ovens have a “proof” setting so if yours does you can simply use that!
- You can create a dough-rising atmosphere by starting with a cold oven and placing the bowl of dough that’s covered with plastic wrap on the top shelf of your oven. Then place a bowl of boiling water on the bottom shelf, this will help warm the oven and allow the dough to rise!
- Another option is preheating your oven to the lowest temperature for five minutes and then shut it off. Then with the dough in an oven-safe bowl place it into the oven until it doubles in size.
- Use your crockpot! Fill it halfway with water on low heat and turn the lid upside down. Place a dishtowel on top of the lid and then place the bowl of dough onto it.