Round Challah is a traditional sweet bread, served on the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, to symbolize the cycle of life and a sweet new year.
A few years ago, I was blown away by my cousin Carla’s homemade honey and raisin challah at our holiday celebration.
Orna and Sam with Cousin Carla
You probably already know that I have a thing for bread. I also have a major thing for challah. And topped with cinnamon sugar?! You’ve got to be kidding me!
But how could I possibly make this incredible loaf myself?
Carla agreed to come over the next day and show me how it was done—removing the fear factor, and sparking my love for baking any kind of bread.
Well, truthfully, I have a bit of a love-hate relationship with yeast, which is why I’ve included step-by-step details, so that even if you’ve never used yeast before, you can do this! And most importantly, enjoy the process. The instructions below are for kneading in a stand mixer, or you can just do it the old fashioned way, with some elbow grease.
On her next visit from Vancouver, Carla surprised me with my very own copy of The New Food Processor Bible, by Norene Gilletz, where she found this wonderful recipe.
Both of these kind, generous bakers have inspired and encouraged me, and I hope to do the same for you!
A special thank you goes out to Norene and friends in Norene’s Kitchen on Facebook for answering all my questions! Carla’s always getting on my back to be more “relaxed” and just enjoy cooking—but I’m sure that if I have all these questions and issues, someone out there does too, so here’s hoping that I’m making the process a little easier and less daunting.
There’s no sweeter way to bring in the New Year than breaking fresh, homemade Challah with your family.
Chag Sameach from our family to yours.
What you will need
Bubbled up yeast
Make a well in the flour
Add the oil, eggs, water, salt, honey, and yeast mixture
Mix with the paddle attachment until combined and smooth
Knead with the dough hook for about 8 minutes; the dough should be soft and slightly sticky
Place in a large, oiled bowl, turning once to grease the top
Cover and place in a warm, draught-free place to rise for 1 – 2 1/2 hours until doubled in size (or refrigerate overnight)
Dough has doubled in size when you lightly poke two fingers into it and the indent doesn’t come right back out
Roll into a long rope, about 32 inches long
Taper the ends a little, making the middle a little fatter
Coil up loosely like a snail
Transfer to prepared baking sheet; tuck end under and pinch to secure
Cover loosely and set in a warm place for about one hour until doubled in size
Brush gently all over with egg wash
Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar
Bake 30 – 40 minutes until golden brown; an instant read thermometer should register 190 degrees F
Cover loosely with foil if browning too quickly
Transfer parchment immediately to wire rack to cool completely
- Instant Read Thermometer
- Silicon Pastry Brush
- Parchment Sheets
- Cuisinart 5 1/2 Quart Stand Mixer
- Roul’Pat Baking Mat
The New Food Processor Bible, by Norene Gilletz
The Bread Bible, by Rose Levy Beranbaum
- 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 7g active dry yeast (1/4 oz packet Fleischmann's Active Dry Yeast)
- 1/3 cup vegetable oil
- 1 teaspoon vegetable oil for greasing bowl
- 1/4 - 1/2 cup warm water
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 large eggs, at room temperature
- 3 cups bread flour, plus more if needed
- 1 egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water for glaze
- cinnamon sugar: 2 tablespoons sugar mixed with 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 3/4 cup raisins (optional)
- Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- Stir yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar into 1/4 cup warm water—like very warm bath water; 100 - 110 degrees F on an instant read thermometer. Set aside for 8 - 10 minutes until foamy.
- Meanwhile, put 3 cups of flour in the bowl of your stand mixer, and make a well in the center. Add oil, eggs, honey, salt, and 1/4 cup lukewarm water. (Have an additional 1/4 cup of lukewarm water standing by.) Add yeast mixture and mix on the lowest speed with the paddle attachment until combined and smooth.
- Scrape the paddle and the bowl and change to the dough hook. The dough should be soft and a little sticky. If the dough is too dry and the flour isn't getting incorporated, add a little more warm water. If the dough is too wet and sticky and doesn't form a ball that cleans the sides of the bowl, add a tablespoon more flour at a time until fully incorporated. Don't add too much flour or your dough will be heavy. Scrape the dough from the bottom of the bowl as needed.
- Once the dough forms a loose ball around the hook, increase speed (Cuisinart #3) and knead for about 8 minutes, until smooth and elastic. Knead in the raisins, 1/4 cup at a time, until evenly distributed.
- Pour about a teaspoon of oil into a large bowl and wipe with a paper towel to distribute evenly.
- Remove dough from mixing bowl and fold over to form a ball. If necessary, knead the dough a couple of times on the counter to smooth it out. Place in the greased bowl and turn once to oil the top.
- Cover tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm, draught-free place for 1 - 2 hours until doubled in size; you can tell by lightly poking 2 fingers into it and it doesn't spring right back.
- Punch down the dough by plunging your fist into the center, and then fold the outside edges into the middle to get rid of all the air.
- Using your hands, roll on the counter into one long, thick rope; about 32 inches long. Hold one end in one hand and gently pull and stretch the other end to help it reach the desired length. Taper the ends a little, making it fatter in the middle.
- Coil up loosely like a snail, starting from the center and working outwards and place on prepared baking sheet. Tuck the end under and pinch to secure. Push down to flatten a little if the middle is too tall.
- Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise till doubled, about one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
- Brush all over gently with egg lightly beaten with 1 teaspoon water. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar.
- Bake for about 30 - 40 minutes until golden brown; it should sound hollow when you tap it lightly. An instant read thermometer should register 190 degrees F.
- Check after about 20 minutes and if browning too quickly, cover loosely with foil.
- Transfer parchment immediately to a wire rack to cool.
- For plain challah, use 2 1/2 tablespoons of honey instead of 3 and omit the raisins and cinnamon sugar. Brush with the egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds if desired before baking.
- You can use All-Purpose Flour, but bread flour has a higher protein content that gives a chewy texture.
- You can rise the dough in the refrigerator for 3 hours or overnight; it will keep up to 3 days before shaping and baking. Let it sit at room temperature (75 - 85 degrees) for 1 - 2 hours before shaping.
- If you're busy, you can refrigerate the dough, or shaped loaf, at any time to slow down the rising process. Let it stand at room temperature for 30 minutes before proceeding with the recipe.
- Underbake by about 5 minutes. After it has cooled completely, wrap tightly in plastic wrap and place in a freezer ziplock bag, sucking out excess air with a straw.
- Defrost at room temperature for several hours and then finish baking it for 10 - 15 minutes at 350 degrees F.