At age 12, intrigued by the idea of baking challah, I chose the simplest recipe I could find in our temple’s cookbook; my venture into yeast-based baking was a lot more fun than any science project at school! These days, I remain a challah-baking enthusiast, but now I rely on an important challah hack, thanks to ReformJudaism.org’s food editor, Tina Wasserman, and my sister, Jan.
Expert Challah Hacks
Let the dough rise in the refrigerator overnight, inside a plastic bag sprayed lightly inside with oil), then shape and bake it the next day. In the morning, simply take the dough out of the fridge and let it sit at room temperature for 30 minutes before shaping – or you can shape the dough right out of the refrigerator, place it on baking sheets and into a cold oven; then turn the oven on to 375°F. As the oven heats, the dough rises and goes into baking beautifully.
Another challah hack for fuss-free future Shabbats: Once the chilled dough is braided into small loaves –but before it’s baked – freeze several individual loaves. When you’re ready to use them, simply place the frozen challah on a lightly greased baking sheet and leave at room temperature for four to six hours before you bake.
Not sure how, exactly, to braid challah? Check out Wasserman’s step-by-step video, How to Braid Challah, to get started – and of course, before you break bread, be sure to say HaMotzi - Blessing Over Bread Before a Meal.
Below are a few of our best challah recipes, plus DIY videos and more. Here’s to inspiring your own venture into the world of baking challah!
- Homemade Challah: The secret ingredient? The addition of plain, low-fat yogurt guarantees a moist, crusty challah.
- Round Challah: Wasserman says this moist, cakelike challah is always a big hit at her annual Rosh HaShanah open house. (Not sure how to craft a round challah? Watch A Round Challah How-To to get started.)
- Food Processor Challah: In this easy recipe from a synagogue sisterhood in Louisville, KY, a food processor does most of the hard work for you.
- No-Knead Challah: This pareve recipe from a synagogue sisterhood in Indianapolis, IN, calls for refrigerating the dough before baking.
- Apple-Filled Star Challah: Guests will ooh and aah over this beautiful Rosh HaShanah challah, which tastes as good as it looks.
- Pumpkin Cranberry Spice Challah: For cinnamon spice lovers, this recipe combines a crusty, chewy texture with the fragrance and taste of pumpkin pie, perfectly fall-themed for eating in the sukkah and throughout the season.
- Cinnamon Apple Stuffed Challah: Food writer Amy Kritzer suggests serving this recipe with honey on Rosh HaShanah – but it’s delicious all year-round, too.
- Pumpkin Challah: Perfect for a crisp autumn Shabbat, this dough incorporates pumpkin pie spice and pumpkin purée.
- Raisin Challah: Have a sweet tooth? A synagpogue sisterhood in Buffalo, NY) adds honey and raisins to their challah dough.
- Shari's Apple-Filled Challah: A rich, moist, flavorful challah from Temple Israel Sisterhood (Canton, OH) incorporates apples into the dough before braiding.
- Chocolate Challah: Of this chocolate chip-studded bread, Rood-Ojalvo says, “I wanted a loaf that smelled heavenly even as it was baking and tasted decadent from the first bite.”
- Rainbow Challah: Rood-Ojalvo says of this recipe, which is perfect for Pride Shabbat or a celebration with children, “It is a feast for the eyes, as well as the Sabbath meal.”
- Pretzel Challah: Explaining this loaf’s popularity, Rood-Ojalvo explains, “The crunchy topping of salt crystals adds a special kick!“ Children also love this recipe shaped into smaller pretzel rolls.
- Vegan Challah: Blogger Lisa Dawn Angerame explains, “The key to delicious challah is kneading the dough.” Her six- ingredient challah can be made by hand or with a bread mixer.
Want to learn more about challah? Check out the following:
- Creating Torah from Challah and Challah from Torah: The challah artist behind a popular Instagram account explains her beautiful, edible craft.
- Why Is Challah so Beloved by the Jewish People? Rabbi Rifat Sonsino chronicles challah’s long history and how its meaning and function have changed over the centuries.
- If You Can Hear Me, Challah! Branden, a Jew-by-choice, writes about the way baking challah helps him feel tangibly connected to his Judaism.
And finally, don’t forget a challah cover! It’s traditional to place a decorative cover over the challah on your Shabbat table until you’re ready to bless and eat it. This simple but meaningful challah cover craft will leave young children feeling proud and accomplished.
If you like to cook, eat, and talk about food, sign up to receive “The Jewish Dish,” ReformJudaism.org’s monthly email full of recipes, fun food facts, holiday tidbits, and more – all with a Jewish twist. Delish!
Deborah Rood Goldman is a longtime member of the Garden City Jewish Center in Garden City, N.Y., and its former congregational president. She is a digital communications producer on the Union for Reform Judaism's marketing and communications team.