Orange Raisin Challah Recipe

This orange raisin challah is soft, fragrant, and slightly-sweet. It makes a lovely sandwich bread or base for French toast.

And it is the only challah recipe I will ever need.

The background and adaptation

In case it’s not obvious to you, my dear reader, I’m an East Coast Jew. I grew up on overstuffed deli sandwiches and kosher pickles, food-focused holidays, and guilt. Lots of guilt. And having lived in Seattle for almost 25 years, I have finally accepted that it’s impossible to find good bagels or Jewish breads unless you import them or make them yourself.

This orange raisin challah recipe is adapted from Peter Reinhart’s The Bread Baker’s Apprentice. I strongly recommend this bread cookbook for all levels of bread-baker.

Tips and tricks for making this orange raisin challah

Braiding challah is a great way to involve your kids in the kitchen. The pics here were my first try at a 5-strand braid, but you could do lots of things with this recipe. Divide it into two 3-strands for 9×5 loaf pans (greased first). Braid it into a round loaf. Go wild, and enjoy.

If you want more options, check out Jamie Geller’s Challah Workshop YouTube videos.

Update (March 2021): the pics and video below are kiddo doing the 5-strand braid from How to Make a 5-Braided Challah. Divide the strands into a group of 3 and a group of 2. Take the outside strand from the group of 3 and move to the inside of the group of 2 (now a group of 3). Repeat with the outside strand of the new group of 3, and continue braiding the challah this way. When you can braid no more, tuck the ends under the loaf.

a step in the braiding of the orange raisin challah
the second step in the braiding of the orange raisin challah
continued braiding of the orange raisin challah

The below pics show the challah braid before and after the final rise. It is in a Emile Henry ceramic bread loaf pan* to get a semi-uniform shape for sandwiches.

*I’ve got nothing to disclose here, but I wouldn’t object if someone wanted to send me some bakeware!

the braided orange raisin challah rising in a ceramic baker
the orange raisin challah after rising in the ceramic baker

FAQs about this orange raisin challah

Will this bread work for French toast?

YES. You can find my orange zest French toast here. Or, for French toast waffles. I cut thick slices (1/2 inch at least), and use the batter from Dorie Greenspan’s Waffles from morning to midnight. Her recipe includes 3 eggs, 1/4c heavy cream, 1 tbsp sugar, 1 tsp vanilla, a pinch of salt, and an optional 1/8 tsp cinnamon and/or 2 tsp orange zest.

Why isn’t challah made with butter like other enriched breads?

Challah is traditionally made with oil and not butter so that it can be eaten with either meat or dairy-based meals for folks who keep kosher.

Can you freeze challah?

Challah will keep well for a few days at room temperature wrapped in a plastic bag on the countertop. You can also freeze challah whole, or slice it and freeze the slices in a freezer bag. Never put bread in the refrigerator.

Why does it irk you so much when people say “challah bread”?

Challah *is* bread, so it is redundant to say “challah bread.” Someone who tries to give you a recipe for “challah bread” is someone who doesn’t understand what challah is.

Orange raisin challah

Course Breakfast
Prep Time 20 minutes
Cook Time 1 hour
Rising and Shaping Time 5 hours
Total Time 6 hours 20 minutes
Servings 12
Calories 221kcal
Author uglyducklingbakery

Equipment

  • Stand mixer

Ingredients

  • 4 cups (500grams) unbleached bread flour plus more as necessary
  • 2 tbsp granulated sugar
  • zests of 1 orange and 1/2 lemon
  • 1 ½ tsp instant yeast
  • 1 tsp salt
  • ¾ cup (177g) lukewarm water plus more as necessary
  • 2 eggs, whole
  • 2 eggs, separated whites reserved for egg wash
  • 2 tbsp canola, safflower, or other neutral-flavored vegetable oil
  • ½ cup raisins

Instructions

  • In a mixer bowl, combine flour, sugar, zests, yeast, and salt.
    4 cups (500grams) unbleached bread flour, 2 tbsp granulated sugar, zests of 1 orange and 1/2 lemon, 1 1/2 tsp instant yeast, 1 tsp salt
  • Measure out water in a large-ish (2 cup is ideal) measuring cup. Add eggs, egg yolks, and oil, and whisk lightly.
    3/4 cup (177g) lukewarm water, 2 eggs, whole, 2 eggs, separated, 2 tbsp canola, safflower, or other neutral-flavored vegetable 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 6 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. It should pass the windowpane test if you do that sort of thing.
  • Add raisins and mix on low speed until incorporated, about 1-2 minutes.
    1/2 cup raisins
  • 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, 1-2 hours (Rise #1 of 3).
  • Degas, re-form into a round, and again let rise until about doubled, 1-2 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 325F.
  • Right before baking, brush the loaf with the reserved egg whites (keep for one more brushing).
  • Bake on a middle shelf for 20 minutes. Brush one more time with reserved egg whites to ensure coverage of the entire loaf.
  • Continue baking until internal temperature is 190-195F, the crust is a rich caramel brown, and the bottom sounds hollow when thumped. This should take about 40-60 minutes in total, depending on the size of your loaves, use of pans, etc.
  • Cool for at least one hour if you can!

Nutrition

Calories: 221kcal | Carbohydrates: 38g | Protein: 7g | Fat: 5g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 2g | Monounsaturated Fat: 1g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 60mg | Sodium: 209mg | Potassium: 119mg | Fiber: 2g | Sugar: 2g | Vitamin A: 84IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 17mg | Iron: 1mg

What’s next?

If you like this raisin challah recipe, please leave a comment here. Or share a pic with me on Instagram.

Check out other breads for sandwiches like this sweet brown bread or honey wheat loaf.

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the baked orange raisin challah

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