These Challah Buns are the delightful cousins of my beloved orange raisin challah with a little more fun and whimsy. With their slightly sweet taste and pillowy texture, you can serve these challah rolls with your favorite burgers, sandwiches, soup or salad.
Though it takes a bit of time to make this challah bun recipe, it’s hard to beat the aroma and flavor of freshly baked bread. So make these challah buns, and prepare to indulge in the perfect blend of tradition, taste, and pure delight.
Challah is an enriched bread similar to brioche that is braided or twisted. Traditional challah uses oil instead of butter so it can be eaten with both dairy- and meat-containing meals.
This challah bun recipe uses a slightly greater amount of yeast than many of the other Ugly Duckling Bakery sandwich breads like this pretzel bread loaf or the house favorite sweet brown bread. In general, you can use more yeast and shorter rise times if your bread gets its flavor from herbs, cheese, or citrus, as is the case with this recipe.
It’s easiest to zest oranges and other citrus using a microplane grater. Scrub the fruit, then zest only until you remove the top layer of fruit and oil. Stop before you get to the pith, which can be bitter.
Recipe tips and tricks
Step by step
Step 1: combine the flour, sugar, zest, yeast, and salt in your mixing bowl.
Step 2: Measure out the water in a large measuring cup – a 2 cup Pyrex measuring cup works great here. This way you can whisk the water with the eggs and oil without dirtying another bowl.
Making the dough
Step 3: Panel #1 below shows the wet challah bun dough after the dough is just combined. Knead the dough, ideally in a stand mixer, until it is soft and supple (Panel #2), adding small amounts of additional flour as necessary to keep the dough from sticking.
Step 4: Shape the dough into a ball (Panel #3) and allow it to rise for the first time. This can be done at room temperature or overnight in the refrigerator.
The next panels show the dough after the first rise (Panel #4), after being de-gassed and shaped into a round again (Panel #5), and the second rise (Panel #6).
Step 5: Divide the dough. The whole dough should weigh about 2 pounds or 32 ounces. For large rolls, divide the dough into eight four-ounce balls. For challah hamburger buns, divide the dough into 12, each about two and two-thirds ounces. A kitchen scale can be helpful here.
Step 6: Keep the balls of dough covered with a clean kitchen towel while you work. Take one ball at a time and roll it out into a log about 10 to 12 inches long. If you find that your dough is very springy, give that one a rest and move on to the next dough ball.
This is a great time to involve kids, since it’s a bit like rolling play dough.
Step 7: To knot your challah bun, cross one end over the other (Panel #1). Take the end that is underneath the other and insert it down into the center of the bun (Panel #2). Wrap the top end over the outside of the bun (Panel #3), flip the challah bun over (Panel #4) and pinch the loose ends together (Panel #5). Flip the bun right side up and, gently cup the challah bun under your palm, and roll it in circles against the countertop to round it (Panel #6).
Final rise and baking
Step 8: Place the knotted challah buns on a baking sheet lined with a silicone mat or parchment paper (Panel #1, below) and let them rise for the third time (Panel #2). Right before baking, brush them with a couple of thin layers of egg wash and sprinkle on some poppy seeds or sesame seeds (Panel #3).
An egg wash with egg whites only will give a shine but minimal color. If you want your challah buns to be darker, you can use a whole egg and save those egg whites for homemade granola or macaroons. You can see the difference in color between an egg wash with a whole egg (the cover photo) and egg wash just with egg whites (the large seeded challah rolls in Panel #4.
Do a second egg wash after the challah buns have baked for a few minutes and had their oven spring.
Bake until the internal temperature of your challah buns is 190 to 195°F, the crust is a rich caramel brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped. This should take about 40 to 60 minutes in total, depending on the size of your buns. Cool for at least one hour before serving.
How to serve these challah buns
Challah starts with the letter “chet”, a letter we don’t have in the English alphabet. It’s described as a gutteral h, which you can hear here. That chet is the same letter and sound as in rugelach and Chanukkah.
Challah itself means bread, so you should never call it “challah bread.” That’s redundant, just like chai tea or pita bread.
Officially, there is no difference. Call them what you will. And on those nights you can’t sleep, you can read what the U.S. Food and Drug Administration has to say on the matter.
To store challah buns, allow them to cool completely, then place them in an airtight container or plastic bag. They can be stored at room temperature for 3 to 5 days. Do not put bread in the refrigerator, or it will dry out.
Yes, challah freezes well for three months or so. Thaw frozen buns at room temperature or briefly warm them in an oven or toaster before serving. If you want to make these buns into sandwiches, I recommend slicing them in half prior to freezing.
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- Stand mixer
- 4 cups (500 grams) unbleached bread flour plus more as necessary
- 2 tablespoons granulated sugar
- 1½ teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 teaspoon orange zest
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ¾ cup (177 grams) lukewarm water plus more as necessary
- 2 whole eggs
- 2 egg yolks whites reserved for the egg wash (see note)
- 2 tablespoons canola, safflower, or other neutral oil
- poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping if desired
- In a mixer bowl, combine the flour, sugar, zest, yeast, and salt.4 cups (500 grams) unbleached bread flour, 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1½ teaspoons instant yeast, 1 teaspoon orange zest, 1 teaspoon salt
- Measure out the water in a large (2 cup is ideal) measuring cup. Add the eggs and oil, and whisk lightly.¾ cup (177 grams) lukewarm water, 2 whole eggs, 2 egg yolks, 2 tablespoons canola, safflower, or other neutral oil
- Add the wet ingredients to the mixing bowl, and mix on low speed using the paddle attachment until combined.
- Switch to the hook attachment and mix on medium speed for 8 minutes, adding small amounts of water or flour as necessary to get the dough to clear the sides of the bowl. The final dough should be soft and not sticky at all.
- Form the dough into a round, lightly oil a bowl (I use the same mixing bowl), cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm, draft-free place until about doubled, 1 to 2 hours (Rise #1 of 3).
- Degas, re-form into a round, and again let rise until about doubled, 1 to 2 hours (Rise #2 of 3)
- Shape the dough (see text for some suggestions) and let rise until doubled again (Rise #3 of 3).
- At least 30 minutes prior to baking, preheat the oven to 325°F.
- Right before baking, brush the loaf with the reserved egg whites (keep for one more brushing). Top with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, if using.poppy seeds or sesame seeds for topping
- Bake on a middle shelf for 20 minutes. Brush one more time with reserved egg wash to ensure coverage of the entire loaf.
- Continue baking until internal temperature is 190 to 195°F, the crust is a rich caramel brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped. This should take about 40 to 60 minutes in total, depending on the size of your buns.
- Cool for at least one hour.
This recipe for challah buns was originally created for the reddit 52 weeks of baking challenge (Week 39: Buns or biscuits) and posted October 4, 2021. It was last updated May 29, 2023.
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