The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread (2022)

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I swore to myself that Challah bread could only be perfect if it came in a package. From a store.

When I baked it at home, I could never get it to resemble closely enough the texture and look these store brands consistently produced. It just wasn't possible. Nope. Nada.

Until now! This Challah Bread recipe is the absolute BEST. The bread bakes up the way it's supposed to with that airy, soft interior and golden brown crust. Hallelujah, my friends, hallelujah! I can report that another delicious bread, my Condensed Milk Bread recipe also fits into this category of fluffy, soft bread, and may be hard to eat just one slice.

The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread (1)

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The Best Recipe Resource

You've most likely read my posts about how I trust only a select few resources for solid, go-to recipes. One of these sources is Cook's Illustrated Magazine which is also home to America's Test Kitchen.

I rave about their magazine, their website and cookbooks.

Not only does ATK produce amazing and consistently good recipes, the authors and test kitchen staff explain the multitudes of tests they ran to produce such results as well as in-depth explanations as to why certain methods or ingredients work so well and others do not.

They also provide us readers with the ultimate, best recipe after concluding their tests. Works for me!

I love reading about all their tests and methods, I usually learn something(s) new, and benefit from a perfectly crafted recipe. (This is not sponsored in any way, I just love this publication and all that they do)

In addition, I secretly (well, not so secretly anymore!) would love to be a member of the Test Kitchen. How freaking cool would it be to test recipes every day and get paid for it?!

I know this isn't everyone's cup of tea, but for me, this would be a dream job.

The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread (2)

Holla for the Best Challah Recipe

Now, Cook's Illustrated has previously published a recipe for Challah that I've been using for years. I liked it. Didn't love it. But, it was the best one I could find.

Until.... they came out with their FAVORITE Challah recipe recently. And now it is definitely my favorite challah recipe, too!

(Video) How to Make Challah Bread | Best Challah Bread Recipe | Easy Challah Bread Recipe |

I mean, look at it! The rich golden crust. The perfectly soft and airy inside. It's just like the store-bought versions, only better.

Why? Well, because it's homemade, that's why! It fills my house with the most tantalizing aroma while it's baking and it delights my tummy with it's satisfying texture and taste.

Until now, I did not think this was possible. Thank you, ATK and Cook's Illustrated!

As you'll see in the recipe, one of the critical methods that ATK employs to produce their new favorite challah is an Asian method of creating a flour paste out of cooked flour and water called tangzhong.

This technique produces softer yeast breads - exactly what we want in a challah. I linked a quick article from King Arthur Flour about this method, how it works in bread recipes and why it's becoming so popular in the US.

Basically, it rocks in every way, creating a superior texture in soft breads and helping them stay fresh longer. Win win!

The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread (3)

Tips for Making This Recipe

  • Like most recipes for homemade bread, it's recommended that you weigh your dry ingredients. In this case, weigh the bread flour and the sugar (the other dry ingredients are in small measurements, too small to weigh). The cup measurements are provided in the recipe as well as the weights for convenience. However, a much better texture and chew will result from this challah bread recipe if you weigh your ingredients rather than measure them in cups. This is because weight is much more precise a measure so your proportions of dry to wet ingredients will be precise to produce the best result
  • Most bread recipes call for you to knead your bread on a well-floured surface. For this challah bread recipe, it is not recommended that you flour your kneading surface. This is because friction is needed to roll and braid the ropes of bread dough. Also, this is a stiff and dry dough, so adding additional flour will increase the dryness, resulting in a much drier and denser loaf of bread. Nope, we do not want that
  • When rolling out the 4 strands of dough for this challah recipe, taper the ends of all the ropes. This helps you create ends that are less bulky and more proportionate to the rest of the braid. Bulky ends may also require more baking time which could result in overbaking of the rest of your loaf
  • Rather than baking your challah bread on a single baking sheet, then nest two bakign sheets inside of one another to keep the bottom of the loaf from getting too dark or burnt
  • As difficult as it may be, follow the recipe instructions to allow the challah loaf to cool completely for at least 2 hours before slicing and eating. (Good luck with that one!)
The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread (4)

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How to Braid 4-Strand Challah Video (<1 Minute)

Looking for more delicious bread recipes? Give these a try:

  • Challah Rolls
  • Brioche Burger Buns
  • Pull-Apart Potato Rolls
  • Homemade English Muffin Sandwich Bread

The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread (9)

The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread

This Challah Bread recipe is the absolute BEST. The bread bakes up the way it's supposed to with that airy, soft interior and golden brown crust.

(Video) My Favorite Challah Bread Recipe! Very Easy to Make l Super Soft & Most Delicious!

Print Recipe Pin Recipe Rate Recipe

Prep Time: 30 minutes

Cook Time: 40 minutes

Proofing Time: 4 hours 50 minutes

Total Time: 6 hours

Course: All Recipes, Appetizer, Bread, Breakfast, Brunch, Side Dish, Sides, Snacks

Cuisine: Jewish

Servings: 1 loaf

Calories: 110kcal

US Customary - Metric

(Video) Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread Buns! Challah Dinner Rolls! Best Challah Bread Recipe!


Flour Paste (Tangzhong)

  • ½ cup water
  • 3 tablespoons bread flour

Challah Dough

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large egg yolks
  • ¼ cup water
  • 2 tablespoons vegetable oil
  • 2 ¾ cups bread flour
  • 1 ¼ teaspoons instant yeast or rapid-rise yeast
  • ¼ cup granulated sugar
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • vegetable oil spray

Egg Wash

US Customary - Metric


Make Flour Paste:

  • Whisk water and flour in bowl until no lumps remain.

  • Microwave, whisking every 20 seconds, until mixture thickens to stiff, smooth, pudding-like consistency that forms a mound when dropped from the end of a whisk into the bowl, about 40 to 80 seconds.

Make the Dough:

  • In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk the flour paste from Step 1, egg and yolks, water, and oil until well combined.

  • Add flour and yeast. Fit mixer with dough hook and mix on low speed until all flour is moistened, 3 to 4 minutes. Let stand for 20 minutes.

  • Add the sugar and salt to the bowl and mix on medium speed for 9 minutes (dough will be quite firm and dry).

  • Transfer dough to counter and lightly spray now-empty mixer bowl with vegetable oil spray. Knead the dough briefly to form a ball and return it to the oiled bowl. Lightly spray the dough with vegetable oil spray and cover the bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise until about doubled in volume, about 1 ½ hours.

    (Video) How to make soft and fluffy challah bread | The best and easy braiding bread recipe | Danish Living

  • Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper and nest in a second rimmed baking sheet to prevent the bottom of the bread from getting too browned or burnt.

  • Transfer the dough to a clean counter and press into an 8-inch square, expelling as much air as possible.

  • Cut the dough in half lengthwise to form 2 rectangles. Cut each rectangle in half lengthwise to form 4 equal strips of dough. Roll 1 strip of dough into a 16-inch rope. Continue rolling, tapering ends, until rope is 18 inches long. Repeat with remaining dough strips. Arrange ropes in plus-sign shape, with the end ends overlapping in the center by ½ inch. Firmly press the center of the plus sign in the center to seal the ropes to each other and to the counter.

Braid the Dough:

  • Lift the rope at 12 o’clock, bring over the center, and place in the 5 o’clock position. Lift the rope at 6 o’clock, bring over the center, and place in the 12 o’clock position. Lift the rope at 9 o’clock, bring over the center, and place in the 4 o’clock position. Life the rope at 3 o’clock and, working toward yourself, bring over the braid and place in the 8 o’clock position. Adjust ropes so they are at 12, 3, 6, and 9 o’clock positions.

  • Repeat these steps, working toward yourself, until you can no longer braid. The loaf will naturally list to one side. Pinch the ends of the rope together and tuck both ends under the braid. Carefully transfer the braid to the prepared baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise until the dough does not spring back fully when gently pressed with your knuckle, about 3 hours.

Make the Egg Wash:

  • 30 Minutes before baking, adjust oven rack to the middle position and preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Whisk together egg and salt. Brush the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds, if using.

  • Bake until the loaf is deep golden brown and registers at least 195 degrees F, 35 to 40 minutes. Let cool on baking sheet for 20 minutes. Transfer baked loaf to a wire rack and let cool completely before slicing, about 2 hours.



  • Bread can be stored at room temperature for 3-4 days. Refrigerate for up to 1 week
  • Slice bread before freezing and wrap tightly in plastic wrap. Store in freezer for up to 3 months
  • Recipe from Cook’s illustrated Magazine, May & June 2019


Calories: 110kcal | Carbohydrates: 17.4g | Protein: 3.5g | Fat: 2.9g | Saturated Fat: 1.5g | Cholesterol: 37mg | Sodium: 125.1mg | Fiber: 0.6g | Sugar: 2.6g

Did you make this recipe?Tag @kickassbaker on Instagram so I can see!

(Video) SUPER Soft, Light and Fluffy Challah Recipe/ 6 Strand Braid/ Getting the Family involved

The Best Soft and Fluffy Challah Bread (10)

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What makes bread more soft and fluffy? ›

Add sugar to soften the crumb

Sugar provides many of the properties that soft bread endures. It's a natural tenderizer and, importantly, it reduces water activity. With the addition of sugar, the bread will be softer and keep soft for longer. For quickly made bread, sugar is also useful to provide food for the yeast.

How do you keep challah bread soft? ›

If you plan to eat the challah within 2-7 days: Seal the challah in an air-tight ziplock or bread bag. Really make sure all the air has been pushed out so you can retain the moisture in the bread. Keep at room temperature for up to 7 days.

What is the secret to making fluffy bread? ›

Boost the fluffiness of your bread by using a dough enhancer like Vital Wheat Gluten. All it takes is a small amount of dough enhancer per loaf to create a much lighter and fluffier result.

What is the best flour for challah? ›

Make it whole wheat: While challah made with 100% whole wheat flour will be heavier than that made with all-purpose flour, it will still be soft and delicious. For best flavor, we recommend substituting white whole wheat flour for the all-purpose flour.

Does oil or butter make softer bread? ›

Baking with oil produces moist and tender baked goods.

Butter, on the other hand, is solid at room temp, and therefore baked goods made with it are (arguably) a tad more dry. Baked goods calling for oil are also extra tender because there is less opportunity to develop the gluten in the flour by overmixing the batter.

Why is my challah so dense? ›

Generally the reasons for a dense loaf are that the dough is too dry and/or inadequate gluten development.

Can you over knead challah? ›

If you have to, turn the mixer off and use your hands to work the dough a bit. By now the dough should have softened considerably. Total kneading time should not exceed 10-12 minutes.

Can I leave challah dough to rise overnight? ›

Cover with plastic wrap or a clean towel and let it rise in a warm place for 1-½ hours or until it has doubled in size. When dough has doubled, punch it down and turn it over in your bowl. At this point, you can either let it rise again on the counter or let it rise slowly in the fridge overnight.

How many times should challah rise? ›

Let It Rise Twice

The second rise should be after shaping the Challah, and takes about 45-60 minutes. Let the bread sit on the counter to rise at room temperature as you preheat your oven to 350F/180C. Once done, it's time to bake it.

Why is my bread not fluffy? ›

The flour could have too low a protein content, there could be too much salt in the bread recipe, you did not knead it or leave it to prove for long enough or you could have killed the yeast by leaving the dough to rise in a place that was too hot.

What does milk do to bread dough? ›

In the finished product, milk will make bread that has:
  1. Greater volume (improved capacity to retain gas)
  2. Darker crust (due to the lactose in the milk)
  3. Longer shelf life (due partly to the milk fat)
  4. Finer and more “cottony” grain.
  5. Better slicing due to the finer grain.

Can you over knead bread dough? ›

Bread Loaves made with over-kneaded dough commonly end up with a hard crust and dry interior. Often upon cutting, slices will crumble. If your perfect bread loaf turns into a crumbly mess, don't worry. The overworked dough will work great when used as croutons or breadcrumbs.

Can you refrigerate challah dough before baking? ›

Dough can stay in the fridge for up to 24 hours. I would not go past that. And at room temperature, there's no specific time for how long it'll take. An indication that your sugar is all used up is when your dough begins to smell extremely yeasty and it starts to fall.

How do you know when to stop kneading challah? ›

After kneading the dough for several minutes, press it with your finger. If the indentation stays, the dough still needs more work. If it springs back to its original shape, your dough is ready to rest.

Can you make challah dough the night before? ›

Refrigerate it overnight. When ready to bake, remove the dough from the fridge and let it come to room temperature. Braid it and let it do its second rise for 20 to 30 minutes before putting it in the oven. And there you have it, stress-free homemade challah to kick your weekend off right!

What does adding olive oil to bread dough do? ›

Yes - adding olive oil to sourdough bread will result in a softer crust and crumb. The oil as a lipid coats the flour and inhibits the gluten network resulting in a softer, tighter crumb and softer crust. This can be a desirable outcome if you do not like tough, chewy sourdough crusts.

What is the best oil to use when making bread? ›

Oil – I use canola or vegetable oil with this homemade white bread, but you can use a variety of other oils. No need to worry about the smoke point of the oil. Bread flour – While you can use all-purpose (plain) flour the very best bread use bread flour.

Should you put oil on bread before baking? ›

Step 2: Prep the Bread Dough

Butter or Olive Oil Brush: Brush softened butter or olive oil atop the loaf before baking to add flavor and color. Milk Bath: Brushing a loaf with milk before baking gives the baked bread a tender, golden crust. For a sweet bread recipe, sprinkle with sugar if desired.

How do I make my challah more airy? ›

Instead, Roll it out into long rectangular shapes with a rolling pin and slowly roll them into themselves to make one long strand. This allows for nice dough folds and creates a soft, airy texture inside of the challah.

What makes the bread soft? ›

Yeast ferments the sugar present in the dough into carbon dioxide. The CO2 released from the yeast fills the dough and increases its volume. Once, the bread has baked, the heat causes the bubbles to break and makes the bread light and fluffy.

How do I make my challah rise higher? ›

The Second Rise, Known as Proofing

This is the final rise after you have shaped your loaves, and is the last opportunity to develop flavor. Loosely cover your shaped challahs with plastic wrap, and allow them to rise until they have doubled in size. Again, the slower the rise, the more flavor your dough will develop.

How do you make homemade bread soft? ›

The first way to soften breads is to add fat somehow. Liquid fats are your best bet from sandwich breads or soft rolls. It could be as easy as replacing some if not all of the water in the recipe with whole milk. Be aware that this will also change how much the exterior will brown as well.

How do you tell if bread dough is kneaded enough? ›

The Poke Test – Give that ball of dough a firm poke with your finger. If the indentation fills back quickly, you're good to go. If it stays looking like a deep dimple, continue kneading.

How do you make challah strands smooth? ›

Challah Rolling Ropes | Challah Workshop Part 2 - YouTube

Do you have to braid challah bread? ›

A challah recipe does not require braiding for its flavour or to bake properly – but it does usually require braiding in order to be called challah.

What makes challah bread different? ›

Challah is a yeast bread that is enriched with eggs, similar to brioche. The biggest difference between the a challah bread dough and brioche dough is that brioche contains lot of butter while challah contains oil.

Why does my challah taste yeasty? ›

Too much sugar will make the yeast grow too fast or too much, and that (or just too much yeast) will result in a dough with an unpleasant, yeasty taste. Too long a rising time can also cause a yeasty taste, so be aware of the rising time specified in your recipe and start checking the dough just before this time is up.

How long do you put challah in the oven for? ›

Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the crust is a rich brown color and the internal temperature is between 190°F and 200°F on an instant-read thermometer. Remove the bread from the oven and place it on a rack to cool. Challah is best enjoyed fresh, but leftovers will keep for a few days in a sealed plastic bag.

How much vinegar do you put in bread dough? ›

Although it doesn't contain protein or fat it will still improve the structure and rise as an egg would. Mix 1 teaspoon of baking soda along with 1 tablespoon of vinegar to replace 1 whole egg. If your recipe calls for two or more eggs, just adjust the amount of baking soda and vinegar with the same ratio.

Does kneading bread make it lighter? ›

Additionally, kneading increases the temperature of the dough which makes the yeast ferment quicker. The yeast consumes the sugar in the flour and releases gases. These gases make the bread airy and less dense. In general, it may take you 10-20 minutes to knead your bread dough.

Why is my homemade bread so dry? ›

Too much flour makes dough too stiff to rise properly, creating a dry texture. A range of flour is always given in yeast bread recipes because flours vary in moisture content, reacting in different ways depending on the time of year, weather conditions, etc.

What happens if you add an extra egg to bread? ›

If you do add an extra egg to your dough, don't worry about it! Remove two tablespoons of water so it doesn't get too sticky and you'll be fine. Egg yolks contain fatty acids which make the breadcrumb soft and tender. If you add just egg yolks to a bread recipe it would be softer and have a richer flavour.

Does water or milk make better bread? ›

Water vs.

Milk changes bread recipes by producing a softer loaf, due to the milk fat content, which also gives bread a richer flavor. Bread made with milk browns more easily than bread made with water, as lactose or milk sugar will caramelize as it bakes.

What type of milk is best for baking bread? ›

In professional bakeries, whole milk is the standard for baked goods and most recipes for home bakers – unless otherwise specified – tend to assume that you will be using whole milk.

How long should you knead bread dough in a mixer? ›

Turn your mixer on low speed. Allow it to knead the dough for 3 minutes, or until it clings to the hook and cleans the sides of the bowl. Continue to knead the dough 3-4 minutes longer. You'll know your dough is kneaded enough when it feels smooth and elastic.

How long should bread be kneaded? ›

On a practical level, it takes up to 25 minutes—and some well-developed forearm muscles—to knead dough by hand, and just about 8 minutes to knead in the stand mixer with the dough hook. However, if you do not own a stand mixer, you can still mix dough by hand and make a good loaf of bread from most doughs.

Can I still knead dough after rising? ›

You can knead your dough very gently after its first rise in order to release excess gas and redistribute the yeast. However, it's not necessary to knead the dough at all if you already developed enough gluten before the first rise.

How long can you let dough rise before baking? ›

If you want to let you dough proof for longer, try bulk-fermenting it in a cooler place, but don't allow it to go longer than three hours or structure and flavor may be compromised. For the workhorse loaf, a bulk proof of approximately two hours gives us the optimal balance of flavor and texture.

Can I bake dough straight from the fridge? ›

Yes, you can bake dough straight from the refrigerator – it does not need to come to room temperature. The dough has no problems from being baked cold and will bake evenly when baked in a very hot oven. I've baked many loaves straight from the fridge with great results, and haven't noticed any problems.

Can I put bread dough in the fridge after it rises? ›

Most bread recipes have two rises, a first rise (also called bulk fermentation), and a second or final rise. You can chill your dough during either the first or second rise. Your yeast won't give you much love if it's asked to do both rises in the fridge, so it's best to do one or the other at room temperature.

Can you over knead bread dough by hand? ›

Over-kneaded dough will also tear easily; in under-kneaded dough this is because the gluten hasn't become elastic enough, but in over-kneaded dough, this means that the gluten is so tight that it has very little give. If you think you've over-kneaded the dough, try letting it rise a little longer before shaping it.

Can you open the oven when baking bread? ›

Opening the oven door before the crust hardens can make the bread collapse. You can open the door during the first 2 minutes of baking. This window is often used to spray water to create steam. After this, the oven should be kept closed for the next 15-20 minutes, or a few minutes after the bread has finished rising.

Why is my challah crumbly? ›

Your Bread Has Too Much Flour

Adding too much flour is one common mistake for beginning bakers. This produces dry bread with more crumbs. The key is to find a balance between the flour and liquid ingredients in your recipe.

Why does my challah pull apart? ›

The oven temperature is too high, resulting in a dry oven where the challah “grows” too fast. You can easily fix this by placing an oven thermometer in your oven to make sure it's calibrated correctly. The temperature of house, draft, and a temperature drop where you are rising the dough can also make a difference.

Do you slice challah bread? ›

Cutting creates less surface area than ripping, which means the challah stays fresh longer. Slicing preserves the integrity of any uneaten challah, which allows for the possibility of French toast in the morning. Finally, he insists that it's easier to maintain appropriate portion control with neatly cut slices.

What gives bread its soft texture? ›

Soft bread is soft because CO2 produced by yeast and water that gets turned to steam by the baking process gets trapped into pockets by a mesh of gluten, causing the dough to expand. The dough then solidifies, keeping its shape.

Does kneading dough make it softer? ›

2 – Kneading Your Dough for Long Enough

Keading your bread for long enough is also key to producing soft and well-risen bread every time.

What is the difference between bread flour and all purpose flour? ›

The main difference between bread flour and all-purpose flour is a matter of protein. Bread flour, which comes in white and whole wheat varieties, has a higher protein content than all-purpose, usually 11-13%. It's called “bread flour” because most bread requires higher amounts of protein to produce lots of gluten.

What does milk do to bread dough? ›

In the finished product, milk will make bread that has:
  1. Greater volume (improved capacity to retain gas)
  2. Darker crust (due to the lactose in the milk)
  3. Longer shelf life (due partly to the milk fat)
  4. Finer and more “cottony” grain.
  5. Better slicing due to the finer grain.

What makes dough soft and stretchy? ›

The more gluten, the more elastic, stretchy and strong the dough will be. Mixing gluten and water results in a dough that almost feels like rubber. Wheat flour contains 6 to 12 percent gluten, enough to provide a gluten network that holds the carbohydrates together.

What ingredient makes homemade bread moist? ›

Whole wheat flour and mostly whole grain ones absorb more liquid than other flours such as white flour. In whole wheat flour, the whole grain is used, the grain is rich in fiber that loves to trap water and therefore the flour will be able to retain more moisture.

What does egg do in bread? ›

Eggs are a rich source of protein that supplements gluten and binds dough together. This helps the bread rise and makes soft and fluffy bread. When baking, the inclusion of eggs increases browning in the bread or pastry. They add a characteristic, rich flavour and extend the shelf life of any baked product.

How do you tell if bread dough is kneaded enough? ›

The Dough Passes the Windowpane Test

Perhaps the best way to tell if your bread dough is properly kneaded is the windowpane test. To do this, tear off a chunk of dough and stretch it between your fingers. If the dough tears, you haven't developed enough gluten and it needs more kneading.

What happens if you knead dough too much? ›

Over-kneaded dough can become very hard to work with and produce a more flat and chewy bread. It's vital to stop mixing at the first signs of over-kneading, as a fully over-kneaded dough cannot be fixed.

How do you tell if your dough is over kneaded? ›

The first thing you will notice when you over knead a dough is that it will feel very dense and stiff. It will be hard to press the dough down and flatten it on the counter. It will also be hard to knead by hand and resist being re shaped. The dough will likely rip easily rather than stretch when pulled.


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