I promise this challah with honey recipe is easier to make than you think. The end result is deliciously soft and tender eggy yeast bread.
We discovered the wonders of Challah a few months ago when we found our new church family. As part of the culmination of our worship service, they pass around a huge loaf of Challah and we each pull off a piece to enjoy. My family fell in instant love with this deliciously soft and tender eggy yeast bread, so y’all knew I was gonna have to make my own, right?
Challah isn’t complicated to make, nor is it fussy. It’s a fluffy bread perfect for family dinners, special occasions, and the Sabbath. In Jewish culture, challah with honey is typically made for Rosh Hashanah to signify a “sweet New Year.” I incorporate making this bread into my afternoon work whenever we need it, generally on Thursdays or Fridays so that we can have it for our special Friday night supper.
To make this Challah with honey recipe, you’re going to need warm water, yeast, honey, eggs, olive oil, sea salt, and bread flour. Then it’s just a matter of mixing, kneading, waiting for it to rise, twisting, waiting for it to rise again, and baking. It’s not quick, but I promise it’s an easy challah recipe. Once you give it a go and realize how straightforward the instructions are, I bet you’ll be hooked as I am!
How do you say Challah?
Pronounced “Ha-llah” with the “H” sound carrying a little “ech” to it.
It’s delicious toasted and everyone swears by it for French toast. I’m afraid up until today we haven’t made it past the “eat the warm loaf right out of the oven” phase so I snuck a few slices and made my son and me some French toast for lunch to test it out. Oh my goodness, now I see what all the fuss was about! Y’all were right, I do believe Challah makes the best french toast in the world.
Let’s get baking, shall we?
- Warm water
- Rapid rise yeast (I only use the Red Star brand).
- Kosher olive oil ( I use the Pompeian brand).
- Kosher or sea salt
- Bread flour
How to Make My Easy Challah With Honey Recipe
Now, don’t let this long list of instructions fool you as Challah is not complicated to make, nor is it fussy. I’m just detailing the instructions to make them as clear as possible.
Add the warm water and yeast to a bowl.
Mix that up well.
Add eggs and salt.
Add 4 cups of bread flour.
Stir up until it becomes stiff.
Add the remaining flour to the dough.
Sprinkle a clean surface with one cup of flour.
Turn dough out onto this and sprinkle more flour on top.
Knead with both hands for 10 minutes, adding more flour to spots that become too sticky to knead.
It will look like this.
Cover the Challah dough with a clean cloth and let it rise for 1.5 hours.
When the time is up, punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface.
Sprinkle a little more flour over the top and knead the dough for another 5 minutes.
Separate the dough into two portions.
Separate each portion into three smaller portions (this is for a three-strand braid).
Roll each portion into a rope.
It doesn’t matter how long the rope is as long as you make sure each of the ropes is about the same size.
Mine usually end up being 12 to 15 inches each.
Start to braid the dough.
Pinch together at the other end when done.
Place this carefully onto a greased baking sheet and repeat with the other loaf.
Spray the loaves lightly with cooking spray (preferably kosher olive oil) and cover loosely with cling wrap or waxed paper.
Then, cover all of this with a towel.
Set aside and allow to rise for about an hour.
Preheat oven to 375.
In a small bowl, beat egg and water together.
Uncover risen bread and brush with egg wash.
Place in oven and bake for 15 to 20 minutes.
Remove from oven and brush crevices on top of the bread with egg wash again.
Return to oven and bake for 20 to 25 minutes more or until the Challah bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
Allow it to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container or serving it warm.
- I recommend storing leftover challah in an airtight container at room temperature for a few days. How long it lasts will basically depend on where you live. I recommend serving warm, whether that’s reheating slices in the oven or toaster.
- You can also freeze bread for up to 3 months. Thaw at room temperature before serving.
Secrets to Successful Challah Bread
- The temperature of the water is very important when dealing with yeast. If your water is too hot, the yeast will die. If the water is too cold, the yeast will be reluctant to become active. Think “baby bath water” because that is the perfect temperature. It should be comfortably warm but not hot.
- To me, the brand of yeast absolutely does matter. This is in no way sponsored by any brand but I just want to tell you that I will not buy any yeast but Red Star. Other brands have always been a 50/50 success/fail rate at best for me but Red Star has never let me down. I buy it in a little jar and keep it in my freezer for extra freshness.
- Kneading enough is essential. This is where Southerners and others used to making biscuits tend to fall short because we know that over-kneading biscuits yield hockey pucks so we tend to stay on the gentle side in making yeast loaves of bread, too. However, the principle is the opposite in yeast bread. The more you knead yeast bread, the softer and fluffier it will be because it helps develop the gluten which forms the bonds that create that soft, chewy texture. Pay close attention to the number of minutes I knead the dough in this recipe – because I do. I set a timer and I don’t stop kneading until that timer goes off.
- Feel free to add a little more flour to this recipe if your dough is too sticky to work with. I use a little less in the initial dough because I end up incorporating a lot through the kneading process.
- For sweeter challah bread, add 2 teaspoons of vanilla extract with the other wet ingredients.
Does challah contain honey?
Yes, challah bread is a white and braided leavened bread typically made with eggs, yeast, flour, honey or sugar, and salt.
What is challah traditionally topped with?
Challah is traditionally brushed with honey.
What is the difference between challah and regular bread?
The main difference between challah and regular bread is that it’s pareve. In Jewish culture, this means it’s not made with dairy or milk. In this instance, it’s not made with butter or milk.
What is the best flour for challah?
While you can use all-purpose flour, the best flour is undoubtedly bread flour.
How can I make my challah moister?
If the dough ever feels too dry or crumbly, add a little bit more olive oil. It’s the magic ingredient to bring moisture and pliability back into the bread dough.
Should challah be cut or torn?
I recommend cutting the challah because it will stay fresher for longer and then you can make french toast in the morning!
Can I substitute honey for sugar in this challah recipe?
Yes, you can make challah with honey or sugar.
What can I add to my challah?
Here are some common recipe variations:
- Sprinkle the challah with sesame seeds or poppy seeds after adding the egg wash.
- Knead in up to 2 cups of raisins, dried cranberries, or slivered almonds during the first kneading.
- Those ropes? Yeah, you can also stuff them with diced apples before braiding them to make apple honey challah.
- Make orange challah bread.
Can you let challah rise overnight?
Yes, you can let the challah rise in the fridge overnight during the first rise.
How can I use leftover challah?
Here are a few great recipes that you can make with leftover challah, besides, ya know, toast or a sandwich!
- Banana French Toast With Pecans
- Overnight Stuffed French Toast
- Easy Bread Pudding or Old-Fashioned Bread Pudding Recipe
- Sausage Cornbread Stuffing
You might also enjoy these bread recipes:
- 2.5 cups warm water
- 1 tablespoon Red Star rapid-rise yeast
- 1/2 cup honey
- 3 eggs
- 4 tablespoons kosher olive oil (Pompeian)
- 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt
- 7 cups bread flour with an additional 1 to 2 cups for kneading
- 1 egg
- 2 tbsp water
- Place warm water in a large mixing bowl and sprinkle yeast over top. Stir and allow to sit for five minutes. After five minutes, if there are bubbles on top, proceed with the recipe. If there are no bubbles, wait until you can purchase new yeast.2.5 cups warm water, 1 tablespoon Red Star rapid-rise yeast
- To the active yeast mixture add honey, oil, eggs, and salt. Stir with a whisk until well combined. Add in 4 cups of flour and stir with a sturdy wooden spoon until mixed in.1/2 cup honey, 3 eggs, 4 tablespoons kosher olive oil (Pompeian), 1 tablespoon kosher or sea salt, 7 cups bread flour
- Add the remaining 3 cups of flour and stir until flour is incorporated and the dough is stiff.7 cups bread flour
- Sprinkle a clean surface with one cup of flour. Turn dough out onto this and sprinkle more flour on top. Knead with both hands for ten minutes, adding more flour to spots that become too sticky to knead. After ten minutes, place the dough in a bowl and cover it with a clean cloth. Allow it to rise for 1.5 hours.
- After 1.5 hours, punch down the dough and turn it out onto a floured surface. Sprinkle a little more flour over the top and knead the dough again for about five minutes.
- Separate the dough into two portions and then separate each portion into three smaller portions (this is for a three-strand braid). Roll each portion into a rope. It doesn't matter how long the rope is as long as you make sure each of the ropes is about the same size. Mine usually end up being 12-15 inches.
- Pinch three ropes together at one end and then braid them, pinching them together at the other end when done. Fold the ends under the loaf to hide them, leaving a pretty braided dough. Place this carefully onto a greased baking sheet and repeat with the other loaf.
- Spray the loaves lightly with cooking spray (preferably kosher olive oil) and cover loosely with cling wrap or waxed paper. Then, cover all of this with a towel. Set aside and allow to rise for about an hour.
- Preheat oven to 375. In a small bowl, beat egg and water together. Uncover risen bread and brush with egg wash. Place in oven and bake for 15-20 minutes. Remove from oven and brush crevices on top of the bread with egg wash again. Return to oven and bake for 20-25 more minutes, or until bread is dark golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.1 egg, 2 tbsp water
- Allow it to cool completely before storing it in an airtight container or serving it warm.
If you are interested in a little history about Challah Bread, check out this New York Times article detailing its background and how the recipe has evolved.