Holiday Feature

Festive Challah

Makes 1 large loaf


Festive Challah Challah is the traditional Jewish egg bread served on the Sabbath. Here, the addition of saffron gives it a deeper golden hue.


About 5 cups (25 oz/ 780 g) all-purpose (plain) flour
1/4 cup (2 oz/ 60 g) sugar
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon powdered saffron
1-1/4 cups (10 fl oz/ 315 ml) warm water
   (125 degrees F/ 52 degrees C)
6 tablespoons (3 oz/ 90 g) unsalted butter,
   at room temperature
3 eggs
1 tablespoon milk
1 tablespoon sesame seeds


In the bowl of a heavy-duty mixer fitted with the dough hook, combine 1-1/2 cups (7-1/2 oz/235 g) of the flour, the sugar, yeast, salt and saffron. Add the water and beat on medium-high speed until well mixed. Beat in the butter and 2 of the eggs. Then beat in about 3 cups (15 oz/ 470 g) more flour to make a dough that is semisoft and no longer sticky. Or, to make the dough by hand, combine the ingredients as directed in a bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until the dough pulls away from the sides.

Transfer the dough to a floured work surface and knead, adding flour as needed to prevent sticking, until smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Gather the dough into a ball, place in a large bowl greased with butter, turn to coat with the butter and cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel. Place in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1-1/2 hours.

Punch down the dough and transfer to a lightly floured work surface. Knead until smooth, about 3 minutes. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Using your palms, roll each portion into a rope 20 inches (50 cm) long. Butter a baking sheet. Braid the ropes together and transfer the braid to the baking sheet, tucking the ends under. Cover with the kitchen towel and let rise in a warm, draft-free area until doubled in volume, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, position a rack in the middle of an oven and preheat to 350 degrees F (180 degrees C). In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg with the milk until blended. Brush evenly over the braid. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds. Bake until the bread is golden brown and sounds hollow when thumped on the bottom, about 55 minutes. Let cool on a rack.

Recipe from:

Williams-Sonoma Kitchen Library: Holiday Baking
by Jeanne Thiel Kelley
Photographs by Allan Rosenberg
$17.95 (hardcover)
Time-Life Books
ISBN: 0-7835-0308-3
Recipe reprinted by permission.


Global Holiday Pageant

The Hanukkah Table

Jewish Recipes Guide


This page created December 1998; modified November 2006