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.
Pumpkin Challah Bread 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.
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.
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*The full recipe is in the recipe card below
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.
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.
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.
Sugar and salt: Flavor.
I Don’t Have a Mixer. Can I Knead Challah by Hand?
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.
- Make the dough: The dough should be soft and stretchy but not at all sticky. It should also be resilient, easy to form into a tight ball, and, when risen, should be light, full of air, and soft like a foam pillow.
- Let the dough rise: Allow the dough to rise in a relatively warm environment for 90 minutes to two hours or until it doubles in size.
- Divide dough into pieces: You can weigh the pieces as you cut them to create even-sized strands that will rise uniformly. Make clean cuts with a scraper or a knife; do not rip apart.
- Shape the Challah: When shaping, the key is to flour the counter very lightly; you want the dough to stick a bit. When adding flour to the dough, sometimes less is more.
- Let the dough rise again. The second rise can take 40 to 90 minutes, depending on the room temperature.
- 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.
- 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.
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.
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.
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Pumpkin Challah Bread
- 3 and 1/2 cups (500g) sifted all-purpose flour plus a little more for dusting
- 1 Tablespoon (10g) active dry yeast
- 1 large egg at room temperature
- 3/4 cup (170g) canned pumpkin purée
- 1/4 cup (60ml) canola oil plus a little more for greasing
- 1/4 cup (50g) granulated sugar
- About 1 cup (240ml) lukewarm water you want the water warm. Not hot. Not cold. Not freezing. Just warm.
- 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
Bloom the yeast: (It is not necessary to bloom newly purchased yeast. Instead, they can be added directly to the dry ingredients)
Make the dough:
- In the bowl of a standing mixer with a dough hook, put flour, sugar, and yeast (or in a large mixing bowl if kneading by hand) and mix on a low speed for about a minute.
- Add sugar, oil, egg, and pumpkin puree, and mix for one minute.
- Slowly add water and mix to form the dough .*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 on different days, the flour will absorb more liquid than before. So, start with half a cup of water and gradually add enough until the dough is soft but not sticky.
- Add the salt and knead for 12-15 minutes (It helps the gluten form and the dough to be elastic with better structure). Scrap the sides of the bowl occasionally with a rubber spatula to ensure all ingredients are incorporated.
- Transfer dough to a lightly floured surface. Using floured hands, knead the dough for 3-5 minutes. You should have a smooth ball of dough. If the dough is sticky and hard to work with, add a tablespoon or two of flour.
- 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).
- 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 30 minutes. For precise assessment of their doneness, use an instant-read thermometer to measure their internal temperature- it should be around 190°F/90°C when done. Remove the pan from the oven.
- Cool challah in the pan for at least 10 minutes before transferring to a cooling rack until ready to slice and serve.