A Pumpkin Challah is the perfect bread recipe to serve at your Thanksgiving dinner! If I had to choose a favorite bread, it would be rich, eggy challah.

Pumpkin Challah wrapped in a red napkin on a cutting board

I gave this classic egg bread a fall twist by braiding and baking a fabulous autumnal Challah Recipe.

Why You Must Make

  • This challah recipe is perfect for fall.
  • The additional pumpkin adds moisture and sweetness.
  • If you’ve never braided bread, this is your chance to practice. Even if it doesn’t look perfect, it will be delicious!

I finally faced and conquered the 6 strand braided challah, much in part to an on-line video tutorial by Joan Nathan. I can barely braid hair, so this was a huge coup.

I enlisted my daughter’s assistance and we both watched the video as I braided and repeated her instructions aloud. I hope the next time is easier! But the results were a spectacular loaf. I’d been curious after seeing a few bloggers share their pumpkin challah recipes this fall.  I wasn’t sold on challah full of autumn spices, as I wanted just the earthy sweetness of the pumpkin to shine through, so omitted the cinnamon et al.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is Challah, Hallah, Challa?

Challah is a traditional Jewish yeast bread served on the Sabbath, holidays, and other occasions. It’s rich from eggs and can be formed into many shapes, though braiding a loaf is classic.

What Makes Challah Different from Brioche?

Challah is made with oil instead of butter, but both are rich, soft, eggy breads.

Is Challah Healthy?

Challah has protein from the eggs in the dough and less saturated fat than brioche since there’s no butter in the recipe. Enriched flour and the pumpkin add some vitamins and minerals, but it’s still high in carbohydrates like most bread. So, it’s not exactly health food.

Pumpkin Challah slices on a wooden cutting board

Recipe Tips

  • If you’re worried about a strong pumpkin flavor, the bread has a nice subtle sweetness, but not an overt pumpkin flavor.
  • You can add warm spices like cinnamon to the dough, but this version is more versatile.
  • PRO-Tip: Don’t force your dough to rise. The ideal temperature to proof your bread dough ranges from 75-95°. A cooler, slower rise is preferred by many professional bread makers.
  • Use minimal flour when shaping your dough. You don’t want to add more flour to an already perfected recipe.
  • Use leftovers for french toast, which would be delicious topped with sauteed apples spiced with cinnamon.
  • PRO-Tip: Make sure your dough proofs to about triple its original size. If it doesn’t proof properly, the braids can come apart or the bread can be dense like a cake. It should be puffed like a marshmallow and will wobble as you move it.

I sent part of the loaf home with my oldest and he did not see much difference in flavor from regular challah. It may have been due to a massive amount of butter on his slice, but I was pleased it wasn’t too squashy. 

Pumpkin Challah on a cooling rack

Tips for Braiding Challah

  • Divide dough into 3 (or however many strands you want in your braid) equal parts. Use a scale if you don’t trust your ability to eyeball equal amounts.
  • Shape each dough ball into a log, then gently roll them into long strands. Do not stretch or you will see striations as your bread rises.
  • Line the 3 strands parallel on a floured work surface. If one strand is longer, place it in the middle. Leave a bit of space between the strands, an inch or so.
  • Pinch the 3 strands together at the top and tuck them under the loaf.
  • Braid as you would 3 strands of hair, then pinch and tuck under the opposite end when finished braiding.
  • After the bread is proofed, brush with an egg wash for a lovely sheen on the baked loaf. Sometimes, I will do a second egg wash after 20-25 minutes so that those nooks and crannies that were exposed as the bread rose, will also be glazed.
  • There are lots of on-line video tutorials for braiding bread. Check them out if you’re not sure how to braid a 3 stranded bread or if you want to try one of the other multi-strand options.

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Pumpkin Challah | An autumn twist on this classic braided loaf

Pumpkin Challah

Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 40 minutes
Total Time 1 hour 10 minutes
Yield 1 loaf

A fabulous 6 strand, pumpkin challah loaf adapted from The Shiska blog

Ingredients

  • 1 package active dry yeast (I prefer Red Star brand)
  • 1/2 cup lukewarm water, divided (approximately 110º)
  • 1 tablespoon plus 1 1/2 teaspoons sugar
  • 2 tablespoons whisked egg (half of one large egg)
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup canned pumpkin
  • 3 1/2-4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

Egg wash::

  • 1 egg yolk
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons water

Instructions

  1. Pour ¼ cup of the lukewarm water (about 110 degrees) into a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. Add the yeast and 1½ teaspoons of sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should bubble. Add the remaining ¼ cup lukewarm water to the bowl along with the rest of the sugar, egg, egg yolks, honey, oil and salt and whisk to combine. Mix in the brown sugar and pumpkin puree. Using the paddle attachment of your stand mixer, begin to add the flour slowly till the dough is smooth and elastic, not sticky. Mix on low for a couple minutes to knead the dough. You can also do this by hand by mixing in the flour with a wooden spoon, then kneading by hand.
  2. Grease a mixing bowl, then add the ball of dough. Twist it around to grease the bottom of the dough, then flip the dough over and cover with a damp towel. Place in your unheated oven and add a pan of hot water to one of the shelves. Let the dough rise for 2 hours, punching down at the 1 hour mark.
  3. Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto your floured work surface. Knead in some flour if the dough is sticky.
  4. Divide the dough into thirds and roll each into a long snake. Braid as desired. I have attached a video on my blog on how to make a more complicated 6-strand blog.
  5. Place the braided bread on a parchment lined baking sheet. Make the egg wash by whisking together the egg and water. Brush the loaf with the egg wash and let rest as you preheat the oven to 350º. Bake for 35-40 minutes total but turn the pan at the halfway mark. If the loaf is browning too quickly, tent with foil. Remove to cooling rack when bread is done (will sound hollow when you rap on the loaf). Serve when cool.

Notes

Total time does not reflect proofing times.

Nutrition Information:

Yield:

18

Serving Size:

1

Amount Per Serving: Calories: 443Total Fat: 3gSaturated Fat: 1gTrans Fat: 0gUnsaturated Fat: 2gCholesterol: 47mgSodium: 126mgCarbohydrates: 90gFiber: 3gSugar: 6gProtein: 12g

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