Mama Living Abroad

Pumpkin Challah Bread

pumpkin challah on white cloth
pumpkin challah on white cloth

Challah is a bread that’s near and dear to my heart. So just about every Friday, I make Challah. Sure, I can buy loaves of Kosher Challah bread from our local supermarket. But there is nothing like a fresh loaf baked in your own kitchen. It fills the house with the most wonderful aroma and is truly a showstopper on any dinner table. Moreover, Challah is the bread of celebration in Jewish tradition; the braided bread holds a lot of symbolism. 

A Pumpkin Challah is the perfect bread to serve on the Jewish holiday of Sukkot, Thanksgiving, or any chilly autumn Friday night. 

You might think baking your Challah can be too much of a hassle, but baking Challah is a lot easier than it seems. Although the entire cooking process is longer, most of that is the hands-off proofing time. 

I highly recommend reviewing my tips and tricks; however, you can always jump to the recipe card at the bottom of the post. 

Ingredients Overview:

Before you start baking using this Pumpkin Challah Recipe, measure and prepare your ingredients so the cooking process will go smoothly and easily.

All-purpose flour: I use all-purpose flour, but you could use bread flour or a combination of bread and all-purpose. Remember that bread flour has a higher protein content and will give your bread more structure. I strongly recommend sifting the flour; it will result in a more delicate dough with a more significant volume.

Water: It’s best to use water between 100°F and 110°F (38°C- 43°C); it helps to activate the yeast. If you don’t have a thermometer, don’t overthink the water temperature. You want the water warm. Not hot. Not cold. Not freezing. Just warm. The proportion of water in bread dough corresponds to how hydrated, or wet, it is.

Yeast (active dry yeast ): Active dry yeast needs to be bloomed in liquid before being used to make dough. However, it is not necessary to bloom newly purchased yeast. Instead, they can be added directly to the dry ingredients.

It is not necessary to bloom newly purchased yeast. Instead, they can be added directly to the dry ingredients.

Eggs: Large eggs at room temperature.

Oil: Canola, vegetable, or Avocado oil can also work here.

Pumpkin purée: Use canned pumpkin, not fresh, for the best consistency. Don’t use canned “pumpkin pie filling”; it has added sweeteners and spices.

I Don’t Have a Mixer. Can I Knead Challah by Hand?

Absolutely!

There is no reason not to make Challah because you don’t have a mixer. Kneading by hand will yield wonderful results; it will just take a little more time. The advantage of using a mixer is saving (human) energy and multitasking while the mixer works. For making Challah, we will be using the hook attachment.

How to Make Pumpkin Challah Bread? 

Bloom the yeast: Subtract about ¼ cup of warm water called for in the recipe. Add one teaspoon of sugar and the yeast, and gently stir with a spoon. Allow the yeast to feed off the sugar and begin to bubble (If it doesn’t bubble after 5 minutes, your yeast may be expired) let it bloom for about 10 minutes. 

Prepare the flour: Sift the flour and measure 3 ½ cups (500 grams). Always measure flour AFTER sifting. 

Make the dough: In the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook, put flour and yeast (or in a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand) and mix/stir for one minute. Add sugar, oil, egg, and pumpkin purée, and mix for one minute. Gradually add water, I always like to start with 1/2 cup and add as needed to form a dough. Add the salt and knead for 2-3 minutes. If the dough hasn’t come together, add a few drops of water. The dough will smooth out during kneading. Scrap the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated, and knead for 8-10 minutes. Challah dough should be soft and stretchy.

If the dough feels sticky, grease it with a little bit of oil instead of adding more flour.

Let the dough rise: Place the dough into a greased bowl and cover it with a towel. Let it rise in a warm place until it has doubled in size. 

Braid the dough: Sprinkle a little bit of flour on your work surface. Divide the dough into 3 equal portions. Roll each of the dough portions out into a long rope. Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. Braid the ropes together like braiding hair and squeeze the ends together when complete.

Let the dough rise again: Place the loaf on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Cover loosely with a towel and let it rise for about an hour at room temperature.

Prepare your oven: Preheat your oven to 400°F/200°C.

Prepare to bake your Challah: Once the dough is proofed for the second time, brush the top of the loaf with egg wash and sprinkle pumpkin seeds and cinnamon. Bake the loaf for about 25 minutes or until golden brown. 

Let it cool before enjoying: Remove from the oven and allow it to cool completely.

💡Pro Tips

Weigh all your ingredients and get everything in order so you can follow the recipe exactly.

Mixing the dough: Scrap the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.

How much water to add?

Water: Because each flour is different, stored differently, and has different absorption capacities, the amount of liquid will almost always change. Even if you always use the same flour, it may be that the flour will absorb more liquid on different days. So, start with half a cup of water and add as needed gradually. The dough should be very soft but not sticky. Dough lacking in liquid will be stiffer and less comfortable to work with.

The first rise: About an hour and a half or until the dough doubles. But that figure can also change radically, especially if it’s particularly cold weather, which will then require a few hours for the dough to increase in size. In summer, it can be much shorter.

Shaping: It is essential to braid the loaf slightly loosely so the dough can rise.

Add-ons and variations: 

  • Add 1 teaspoon of pumpkin pie spice to the dough together with the salt. 
  • Use 4 tablespoons of honey instead of sugar.
  • Brush the Challah with 1 tablespoon of maple syrup mixed with one tablespoon of water instead of the egg wash. 

This Challah recipe is perfect for the fall season.

How to Store Challah?

Allow Challah to cool completely before storing it. Challah is always best when eaten within the same day of baking. Place in a plastic bag for up to 3 days. 

How to Freeze Challah? 

Challah freezes beautifully, and you can freeze a whole loaf or slices. If you are going to freeze your bread, do so on the first day when it is fresh.

Wrap the loaf tightly in two layers of plastic wrap before placing it in a large resealable freezer bag. Press out as much air as possible and stow it in the freezer for up to 3 months. 

To defrost, leave the bread out at room temperature. When it has thawed, remove the plastic wrap and rewrap it in foil. If you like your bread warm, pop it into the oven at 350°F/180°C for 10-15 minutes. 

Looking for More Challah Recipes? 

Round Spiral Challah

Raisin and Cinnamon Challah

The Only Challah Recipe You’ll Ever Need

Best Vegan (Eggless) Challah

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pumpkin challah on white cloth

Pumpkin Challah Bread

A Pumpkin Challah is the perfect bread to serve on the Jewish holiday of  Sukkot, Thanksgiving, or any chilly autumn Friday night.
Kosher, Pareve
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Course: Baked Goods
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: Jewish Traditional Food
Resting time about: 3 hours
Servings: 1 loaf

Ingredients

The dough:

  • 3 1/2 cups (500 grams) sifted all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon (10 grams) active dry yeast
  • 1 large egg at room temperature
  • 3/4 cup (170 grams) canned pumpkin purée
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) canola oil+ a little more for greasing
  • 1/4 cup (50 grams) granulated sugar
  • About 1 cup (240 ml) lukewarm water
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt

For the topping:

  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon of water
  • A handful of pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice

Instructions

Bloom the yeast:

  • Active dry yeast needs to be bloomed in liquid before being used to make dough. However, it is not necessary to bloom newly purchased yeast. Instead, they can be added directly to the dry ingredients.
  • Subtract about ¼ cup of warm water called for in the recipe. Add one teaspoon of sugar and the yeast, and gently stir with a spoon. Allow the yeast to feed off the sugar and begin to bubble (If it doesn't bubble after 5 minutes, your yeast may be expired) let it bloom for about 10 minutes. 

Make the dough:

  • Put the flour and the yeast mixture in the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook and mix/stir for one minute.
  • Add sugar, oil, egg, and pumpkin puree, and mix for one minute.
  • Very gradually add water (start with 1/2 cup) **read my tip about water in the notes**, and mix to form the dough.
  • Add the salt and knead for 8-12 minutes (it helps the gluten form and makes the dough elastic and with better structure).
  • Grease the dough with a little bit of oil, cover with a kitchen towel and let the dough rise until doubled (place the bowl somewhere warm).

Braid the dough:

  • Separate the dough into 3 equal pieces.
  • Roll each piece of dough into a long rope.
  • Gather the ropes and squeeze them together at the very top. Braid the ropes together like when braiding hair and squeeze the ends together when complete.
  • Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the Challah on it.
  • Place the pan somewhere warm, cover with a towel, and let it rise until puffed (about an hour).

Bake:

  • Heat the oven to 400°F/200°C. When ready to bake, whisk the egg with a tablespoon of water and brush it all over the Challah.
  • Sprinkle on pumpkin seeds and cinnamon.
  • Slide the Challah on its baking sheet into the oven and bake for 25 to 35 minutes. The Challah is done when it is deeply golden brown (registers 190°F/90°C in the very middle with an instant-read thermometer).
  • Let the Challah cool on a cooling rack. Enjoy!

Notes

Water: Because each flour is different, stored differently, and has different absorption capacities, the amount of liquid will almost always change. Even if you always make the same flour, it may be that on different days, the flour will absorb more liquid than before. So, start with half a cup of water and add as needed gradually. The dough should be very soft but not sticky. Dough that lacks liquid will be stiffer and much less comfortable to work with. The water temperature should be warm.

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Hi, I’m Rachel.

Welcome to my little corner of the internet! I’m happy you’re here. I am the food blogger behind “Mama Living Abroad.” In this space, I am sharing flavorful recipes that I love to make and have my family and friends approve.

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