This light and tender braided challah bread is both beautiful and delicious!
Challah is perhaps my favorite homemade bread to bake, though I only seem to make it for special occasions. I learned how to make it in culinary school and I’ve been hooked ever since. I mean, have you ever seen a more gorgeous loaf of bread?
This challah bread is so soft and tender, with a rich and slightly sweet flavor. It’s a wonderful— and stunning— accompaniment to a nice meal, but Challah also works really well for french toast, bread pudding, and even sandwiches.
If baking a loaf of bread like this makes you nervous, relax! Even though it looks super fancy, it’s not necessarily any more difficult than other bread recipes. I first shared this braided Challah recipe in 2009, but today I’m giving it a complete overhaul with more information and resources. The recipe is exactly the same though, it’s tried and true!
What is Challah Bread?
Challah (pronounced holla) is an “enriched yeast bread”, which means it has a higher fat and sugar content than other yeast breads. It’s made with eggs, butter, honey, bread flour, yeast, salt, and water.
It’s traditionally a part of Jewish cuisine, typically served on special occasions like Sabbath and other major Jewish holidays.
Why do you braid Challah Bread?
Because Challah is made with extra butter and eggs, the dough is very soft and doesn’t hold its shape well. Braiding the challah gives it structure during proofing and baking. You can also bake it in a loaf pan, but braiding is more traditional (and much prettier!).
You can do a simple three-strand braid (as I’ve done here) or a four, five or six-strand braid, and even a round braided challah loaf if you’d like. Follow the links for very helpful online video tutorials that will walk you through how to make each of these shapes. Don’t be intimidated, it really is quite easy!
Can Challah Bread be made ahead?
Absolutely! Freshly baked bread always tastes the best, so here are a few tips for doing the work ahead of time:
- Let the braided loaf rise in the fridge overnight. When ready to bake, let it come to room temperature first.
- Freeze unbaked braided loaf for up to 1 month or more. Make sure that it’s double-wrapped in plastic. When ready to bake, let thaw in the fridge overnight, then let it come to room temperature and rise before sliding into the oven.
- Freeze baked braided loaf for up to 1 month of more. You can freeze the whole loaf or a few slices. Again, make sure that it’s double-wrapped in plastic. To thaw and serve, unwrap and heat in a 325°F oven for 20-25 minutes for the full loaf, or 5 minutes for a slice. Do not let the bread thaw at room temperature or it could actually cause it to go stale.
Bread baking tips
Just in case you need a little extra help baking a successful loaf of bread, here are a few resources:
- What is bread flour?
- How do you know when bread is done baking?
- Tips for rising and proofing bread dough
- Will yeast dough rise in the fridge?
- Why do you punch down risen yeast dough?
- Tips for storing yeast
You might like these other Challah recipes
- Challah Rolls — just like this bread, only in single-serving portions!
- Cinnamon-Walnut Stuffed Challah Bread
- Mini Chocolate Chip Challah Buns
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Note: this recipe was originally published February 2009.
Braided Challah Bread
- ½ cup unsalted butter (113 grams), melted
- ¾ cup honey (255 grams)
- 1 cup water (250 ml)
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 5-6 cups bread flour (600-720 grams), divided
- 1 envelope active dry yeast (2 ¼ teaspoons)
- 4 large eggs
- 1 egg , for egg wash
- Melt butter in a small saucepan over low heat. Add honey and water and heat to 120-130°F, or until very warm but not too hot to the touch.
- Add 3 cups of the flour, salt and yeast to the bowl of a stand mixer. Add butter mixture and eggs and mix until it forms a very wet dough.
- With the mixer fitted with a dough hook on medium speed, add the remaining flour 1/4 cup at a time. You may not need all 6 cups of the flour, or you may need more. Use only enough dough to achieve a dough that is moist and sticky, but does not actually stick and come off on your hands when handled.
- Knead the dough until smooth and elastic, another few minutes more.
- Place dough in lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
- Punch down dough and divide into 6 equal portions. On a clean un-floured surface, roll each portion into rope-like pieces approximately 18 inches long. Work with 3 ropes at a time to braid into two loaves, pinching and tucking the ends under.
- Place dough on parchment paper lined sheet pans. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled again, about 45 minutes.
- Whisk together egg and brush onto loaves. Bake at 350°F until loaves are golden brown and sound hollow when thumped, approximately 40 minutes. Cool completely before slicing.