I used to go to a bakery that, amongst other things, specialized in baking challah. Challah is a rich egg bread that is made with oil and without butter or milk. It has a similar texture to brioche, very soft verging on flakey, and a very rich texture. Traditionally, the bread is eaten by Jewish people around the sabbath and on holidays and loaves are shaped in braids. Tradition aside, this is a fantastic bread all year round. It is moist, soft and fantastic for making sandwiches, french toast, bread pudding and all kinds of good things. It is also outstanding on its own.
Most challah loaves are plain, but sometimes they will have raisins or chocolate chips added in to make them a little bit sweeter and give them a dessert feel. After frequenting a bakery that made a great raisin challah as a kid, I am a big fan of challah with raisins and decided to make a few loaves this year for friends celebrating the Jewish high holidays. And, of course, I made a loaf for me to keep and eat.
The bread comes together easily and can be mixed by hand or with a dough hook in a stand mixer. The dough should be slightly sticky, so I’d recommend working with a mixer if you have one. Once your dough i made and has risen well, you can divide it down into three sections and braid them together. The braided dough will proof again before being baked, and the loaf will look fantastic when it is finished. This recipe makes a fairly large loaf, but it keeps very well for snacking, sandwiches and other uses when stored at room temperature for a couple of days.
Challah with Raisins
1 tsp sugar
1 cup warm (110F) water, divided
1 tbsp active dry yeast
1/2 cup oil
1 tbsp honey
2 large eggs
1/4 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
3 3/4 cups all purpose flour (and up to 1/4 cup extra for kneading)
2/3 cup raisins
1 egg white, beaten with 1 tsp water
Dissolve sugar and yeast in 1/2 cup warm water in a large mixing bowl. Let stand 10 minutes until mixture is foamy.
Add in oil, remaining water, oil, honey, eggs, sugar, salt and 2 cups of flour to the yeast mixture. Mix until dough comes together and is smooth. Gradually mix in remaining flour (if using a mixer, do this with the dough hook running on low speed) and mix until dough comes together into a ball and no longer sticks to the sides of the bowl. Mix in raisins. Let dough rest for 10 minutes.
If mixing by hand, sprinkle some of the additional flour onto a smooth surface and knead for 8-10 minutes, incorporating small amounts of flour as needed to prevent the dough from getting too sticky. Dough should be smooth, elastic and slightly sticky when finished. If mixing with a mixer, use the dough hook on a low speed to knead dough for 8-10 minutes.
Place dough into a lightly oiled bowl, cover it with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled, about 1 hour.
Place a piece of parchment paper on a baking sheet.
When dough has risen, flour your hands and gently remove dough from bowl onto a lightly floured surface. Gently deflate the dough. Cut dough into three even sections and gently stretch them out. Starting in the middle, braid them together (working from the center towards the ends for a more even appearance). Pinch the ends together and tuck underneath the dough.
Place loaf on prepared baking sheet. Brush very lightly with egg white. Preheat oven to 375F and let dough rise, covered loosely, for 35-40 minutes, until almost doubled.
Bake for 30 minutes, until deep golden brown.
Cool completely on a wire rack before slicing.
RosaSeptember 15, 2010
What a beautiful challah! That is one of my favorite breads.
The Blue-Eyed BakersSeptember 15, 2010
Goodness it’s gorgeous! We adore challah bread, it’s our favorite for French toast – but we’ve never tried it with raisins. Definitely going to!
BabetteBakesSeptember 15, 2010
What a lovely challah, a bakery here makes this as a sandwich loaf, perfect for tea sandwiches or french toast.
I’ve never made my own, but I will now!
NicoleSeptember 15, 2010
Sorry to be picky, but there’s a conflict between your write-up and your recipe. You wrote:
“made with oil and without butter or yeast”
but the recipe calls for yeast.
Other than this the recipe looks super and I might give it a try. I’ve had lots of success with your recipes before. Actually, I’m making a double batch of Snickerdoodle bars tonight.
SueSeptember 15, 2010
I LOVE challah bread! Yours is beautiful!
NicoleSeptember 15, 2010
Nicole – Sorry about that! It was just a typo. I meant to say that it doesn’t use butter or milk (i.e. is non dairy) – must have just had yeast on the brain while I was typing!
JessicaSeptember 15, 2010
This challah looks so fluffy and lovely! I am definitely inspired to give this recipe a try.
PriyaSeptember 16, 2010
Prefectly baked and gorgeous looking challah bread..
Liscio'sSeptember 16, 2010
Great-looking challah! Ever heard of Kamish bread? It’s more like a cookie- you can make it with raisins, chocolate chips… very easy to make.
joy the bakerSeptember 16, 2010
good lord! that bread is absolutely perfect!
NicoleSeptember 17, 2010
Lisa P – This bread will have a soft crust and won’t necessarily benefit from being baked on a baking stone in the same way that a more rustic bread would, so a regular baking sheet is usually the easiest way to go. That said, since the bread might get a bit hotter with a baking stone, it might need a bit less time in the oven. I’d check it with an instant read thermometer at about 25 minute (look for an internal temp of about 200F) just in case.
And you’re right on about leaving it to rise out of the oven then sliding it onto the baking stone to bake.
Good luck with your bread!
SidSeptember 17, 2010
Looks great – will it turn out the same if I leave the raisins out? My kids don’t like them….
But we love challah!!
ErinSeptember 17, 2010
Fung-ling SzetoSeptember 18, 2010
What a beautiful bread. I love challah with rasins.
Can I substitute all-purpose flour with bread flour or white wheat flour in making this challah?
NicoleSeptember 19, 2010
Fung-Ling – Yes, you can use bread flour in this recipe. I’ve never made white whole wheat challah, but I would only use part whole wheat and the bread flour so that it retains its nice, soft texture. You might be able to increase the whole grain flours, but I would start out with 1 or 1 1/2 cups of it at first.
EmmaSeptember 25, 2010
this worked so well!! thanks for a great recipe!
AshleyOctober 2, 2010
That is some seriously perfect looking bread!
PlumeOctober 16, 2010
I’ve just made this recipe and it’s wonderful, thank you!
I’ll probably post my photos and your link in my blog.
RachelMarch 3, 2011
I just made this bread.WOW! It’s pretty easy to make and tastes awesome.I made french toast with it and it was the best I’ve ever had.
chantalNovember 24, 2016
I have made this Challah about three times now and its great but I was wondering if other people have had to put a ton more flour to get it to not stick to the side like I have.