Pumpkin Cranberry Spice Challah

Jan Rood-Ojalvo
Recipe by
Jan Rood-Ojalvo

For cinnamon spice lovers, this bread combines the crusty, chewy texture of challah with the delicious fragrance and taste of pumpkin pie. The house smells wonderful as it bakes. After I played with the recipe for the first time, my husband Steve asked me to make this challah every Shabbat.

8 cups of flour
1 1/2 cup pumpkin puree (or mashed sweet potato or butternut squash)
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 packages (2 scant tablespoons) dry yeast
1/4 cup sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon cloves
2 teaspoons ground ginger
2 cups dried cranberries
About 3 cups lukewarm water
1 egg
  1. In an electric mixer with a dough hook (or by hand), blend flour, yeast, sugar, salt, cinnamon, cloves, ginger, and cranberries.
  2. With mixer on, gradually add pumpkin, melted butter and water, checking to be sure dough does not get too sticky. Add water or flour, as needed, until dough forms a ball. Knead until smooth and elastic.
  3. Place dough in greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel until doubled in size, about 1 hour. 
  4. Punch down dough and divide into four pieces for 4 medium challahs, or two pieces for 2 large loaves. Divide each piece into three sections, roll into ropes and braid, pinching the ends tightly. Place two medium challahs several inches apart on a greased baking sheet. Larger loaves should use separate pans. 
  5. Brush with egg yolk beaten with 1 teaspoon of water for a shiny golden crust.
  6. Let rise until almost doubled, about 30 minutes for medium loaves, 40 minutes for large loaves. 
  7. Place in preheated 375°F degree oven. Bake until crusty and golden brown, about 30 min for medium loaves, 45 min for large loaves. Bottom should be deep brown and sound hollow when tapped. Remove onto cooling rack. 

Jan's Baking Tips

After years of baking, I have developed my own technique of mixing the dough through step 2 above, then dividing it into two or four pieces, placing each in a plastic bag (coated inside with baking spray), and putting the bags immediately into the refrigerator (for baking in a day or two) or freezer (for saving). When ready to bake, I shape the dough right out of the refrigerator, place in a cold oven and turn it on to 375°F. As the oven is heating, the dough rises and then goes into baking beautifully.

Jan Rood-Ojalvo has longstanding ties to Congregation M'kor Shalom and the Katz JCC, both in Cherry Hill, NJ. Jan, who lives with her husband Steve in Haddonfield, NJ, loves baking, traveling, opera, and staying in touch with her six children – and two granddaughters.