Make Ahead

Jessica Fechtor's Five-Fold Challah

September  9, 2015
16 Ratings
Photo by Bobbi Lin
  • Prep time 19 hours
  • Cook time 20 minutes
  • Makes two loaves
Author Notes

This all might sound like a lot to keep track of, but I am a person who has a special impatience, and even I found this to require very little of me—no more than a half hour of paying attention overall. Plus, all the timing prescriptions are flexible: "Sometimes I'm giving my kids a bath and I'll do one fold in 45 minutes, the next one in 20 minutes," Fechtor told me. She's even skipped the overnight rise in the fridge, adding a couple extra folds to compensate, then chilling only enough to make the dough easier to work with.

"I've played really fast and loose and it's always come out great." I too have forgotten to set my timer more than once and the bread has apparently not been the wiser. (Pro tip: Set all your folding reminders at once—as alarms on your phone, so you never forget to keep resetting the timer.)

Lately, Fechtor has taken to rolling out the chilled dough, speckling it with cinnamon, sugar, and raisins, then curling it up into a cinnamon swirl loaf (or braiding it into an even sweeter challah). "When the dough is so easy to work with, it just unlocks things," Fechtor told me. You could even apply this folding technique to your family's own challah recipe, or other breads, even Liège waffles and buttermilk biscuits (she has). "The moral of this story is to fold everything and everything will be awesome." Slightly adapted from Stir (Avery, 2015).
Genius Recipes

What You'll Need
  • Dry ingredients
  • 4 cups (500 grams) bread flour
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons instant dry yeast
  • 2 teaspoons fine sea salt
  • Wet ingredients + shaping
  • 2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk (save the extra white in a covered glass in the fridge for glazing later on)
  • 3/4 cup (190 grams) water
  • 1/3 cup (75 grams) olive oil
  • 1/4 cup (85 grams) honey
  • For sprinkling, before baking (optional): Sesame seeds, poppy seeds, flaxseeds, rolled oats, sunflower seeds, and/or pumpkin seeds
  1. Whisk together the dry ingredients in a large bowl, and the wet ingredients in a smaller bowl. Dump the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients and stir with a rubber spatula until a wet, sticky dough forms. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let sit for 10 minutes.
  2. Peel back the plastic. Grab an edge of the dough, lift it up, and fold it over itself to the center. Turn the bowl a bit and repeat around the entire lump of dough, grabbing an edge and folding it into the center, eight turns, grabs, and folds in all. Then flip the dough so that the folds and seams are on the bottom. Cover tightly again with the plastic, and let sit for 30 minutes.
  3. Repeat the all-around folding, flipping, covering, and resting four more times. (I keep track by drawing hash marks in permanent marker right on the plastic.) The dough flops more than it folds in the first round or two. Then, as the gluten develops, you’ll get proper folds. By the final fold, the dough will be wonderfully elastic, and you’ll be able to see and feel the small pockets of air within. Pull the plastic tight again over the bowl and refrigerate for 16 to 24 hours—any longer and you risk over-proofing.
  4. Cover a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and divide into six equal pieces. Roll into six strands, each about a foot long and 3/4 inch in diameter, dusting sparingly with flour when necessary to prevent sticking. (You’ll want to add as little extra flour as possible.)
  5. Form two three-strand braids, and transfer the loaves to the prepared pan. Cover with plastic and let proof at room temperature for 2 to 3 hours, until the dough is noticeably swollen and puffed and bounces back very slowly, if at all, when you poke it lightly with your finger.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375° F. Remove the plastic wrap from the loaves and brush with the reserved egg white. If you’d like, sprinkle with seeds. Poppy and sesame seeds are traditional challah toppings. Fechtor typically covers one with a combination of flaxseeds and rolled oats, and the other with sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds, though lately she's been opting for no seeds at all.
  7. Bake for about 20 minutes, until the bread is golden and gorgeous and a tester inserted into the center comes out clean. You can also check for doneness with a thermometer. The internal temperature of the loaves will be 190° F when fully baked.
  8. Transfer to racks and let cool.
  9. These loaves freeze very well: Wrap the cooled loaves in plastic wrap, then put them in zip-lock bags and freeze. Thaw directly in the bag on the counter, then remove the plastic and reheat in a warm oven. You won't be able to tell it's been frozen.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Katie Walsh Crespin
    Katie Walsh Crespin
  • Rosalind Paaswell
    Rosalind Paaswell
  • elaine
  • mdelgatty
  • Carla Louise
    Carla Louise
Genius Recipes

Recipe by: Genius Recipes

135 Reviews

Katie W. May 10, 2024
I have made this many times and I bake using weight measurements. I follow the recipe to the T and my dough is not wet; I actually have to add more water! Has anyone else followed the recipe using weight measurements? I used the King Arthur website conversion chart to check the volume vs weight measurements and the weight measurements are actually heavy, so it should be even wetter. Anyway, this recipe results in the fluffiest challah I ever made! I think the taste is a bit bland, so I add more salt and a up the honey to 1/3 cup. And i also increase the water. but this is my go to challah recipe now!
champs04 April 26, 2022
Does anyone know, if the challah could be filled with cheese ?
Katie W. May 10, 2024
in our community we can buy Guava challah and it is spectacular! To recreate it, i use the King Arthur Recipe for Harvest Apple Challah and substitute Guava paste. It is quite dense and sticky and delicious. To make cheese challah, I suspect you could lay some cheese inside the strands before braiding and it would be just fine.
Katie W. May 10, 2024
Actually, a sweet cheese and guava paste together would result in an amazing final challah. I live in South Florida and Guava and Cheese pastalitos are a staple in our bakeries!
Rosalind P. April 8, 2022
this is a long way to a question. I have been baking challah for many years, many different recipes. All of them produce a stiffer, less wet dough and are pretty easy to roll for braids or any other shape. This dough is much wetter. I'm used to that for "artisan" breads now, and have no trouble with the folding. (Hint; wet your hands. Magic.) I do have HUGE trouble dividing and rolling strands; they fight back any stretching and resting the dough does NOT work. So I usually give up and don't make a braided challah. I try to coil just one strand into a crown, but even that fights me, and I often end up with a beautifuly, golden, delicious just round loaf. Tastes like the egg-rich challah should. BUT; any hints for handling the dough to shape the loaves? Thanks!! (And did you know that "challah" can be any bread at all. It originally meant bread from which a small piece was removed -- called challah --, blessed and burned to replicate a ceremony at the ancient a temple in Jerusalem. It has only recently --19th c?-- come to mean the specific egg-rich dough we're used to.
Rosalind P. April 8, 2022
oops. Just saw that I wrote essentially the same comment when the recipe first appeared. Please excuse. I just plain forgot. And no one came up with an answer.
elaine February 10, 2022
Beautiful out of the oven and such a soft texture. Straightforward recipe and easy to switch up by adding raisins soaked in cider and cinnamon.
KirasOma December 5, 2021
Recipe was super easy to follow and finished product was delicious!
susan April 7, 2021
Will this work with half AP flour and half whole wheat flour?
Rosalind P. April 7, 2021
i did it with 1/3 white whole wheat. Start small?
karin.anderson.52 April 9, 2021
If you want to exchange more than 10% of the white flour with whole grain flour you will need to add more water - whole grain flour absorbs more liquid than AP flour.
Peter Reinhart's advice: increase water by 14 g/1/2 oz for every 57 g/2 oz whole grain flour you substitute for white flour.
susan April 16, 2021
Thank you!
Carroll April 3, 2021
This was my very first try at making Challah, this recipe could not have been easier and the bread is perfect, so light, so delicious! I only had to look up how to shape it as I had no clue, but found great visual steps at

Thank you!
RJM March 22, 2021
Granted, I'm only somewhat prolific as a baker, but this dough was unrepentant and unwieldy. I followed this recipe, letter perfectly, twice. Both times the dough is unmanageable. Shame on me for thinking a non-knead challah was possible.
Josho March 23, 2021
It IS possible. Look over the comments and reviews. Many people (including myself) are having wonderful results with it.

My only suggestion is to do the folding with a dough scraper. I found the dough incredibly sticky, much moreso than the recipe suggests. I could not even flip the dough ball upside-down as directed in Step 2 (and again in Step 3) until about the fourth folding was too sticky and soft to flip, it would stick to the sides of the bowl unmercifully. But by the end of the scraping-and-turning process, it was a great deal more workable and I didn't have any trouble at all when it came to the braiding.
Rosalind P. February 21, 2022
A little late with this answer: wet your hands to fold this very wet and sticky dough. Shake off the water. It works!
Andi January 29, 2021
LOVE THIS RECIPE!! Have tried so many challah recipes and this one is my gold standard. Its light and delicious and easy. Thank you Jessica!!!!
Andi January 29, 2021
LOVE THIS RECIPE!! Have tried so many challah recipes and tyhis one is my gold standard. Its light and delicious and easy. Thank you Jessica!!!!
Rosalind P. September 18, 2020
For me, the wet, sticky dough wasn't tough to deal with (learned how to deal with it with all that no-knead, very wet dough baking). What was more challenging for me was how much the dough resisted shaping. It had a mind of its own, shrinking back and resisting the stretching and rolling. Resting it intermittently didn't help all that much, but I finally won! I confess I used a modified pizza attack -- holding it up and letting it stretch just a bit with gravity. I wanted only one long rope because instead of braiding it I wanted a Rosh Hashana coiled crown. Definitely worth the struggle. :-)
mdelgatty September 17, 2020
I'm finding myself frequently concerned about the profligate use of non-renewable plastic wrap recommended in recipes here.
Rosalind P. September 17, 2020
I had the same thought -- and not just for this recipe. It's really not needed to cover the bowl -- any cover would work. As for wrapping, double bagging might work, and I reuse my freezer bags many times. And if plastic is used to wrap, it too can be reused. My family used to make fun of me for washing and reusing, but no more. Still, even less use is still only slightly better. Need to find even better ways.
artisanal September 19, 2020
I use and reuse and reuse and reuse produce bags from the grocery store. AND now that i'm making so much bread, you can buy "disposable" (I don't throw them out as I re-use them, too) shower caps, like the kind you get when you stay at a nice hotel except I bought them from Amazon, They're great for covering bowls, loaf pans, etc. when proofing bread.
mdelgatty September 19, 2020
You can also get stronger 'shower caps' that withstand washing better and will last even longer; I get mine at the dollar store. I remember my mother's using them long ago; what goes around, comes around!
Rosalind P. September 16, 2020
ToJessica: any advice on substituting white whole wheat or whole wheat pastry flour for about 1/3 of the bread flour? Would extra water be needed? (I'm thinking not, given the already high hydration, but asking your expert advice.)
Helene R. July 5, 2020
has anyone noticed that the gram measurements don't sink with the cups measurements?
karin.anderson.52 July 5, 2020
If you compare different volume/weight conversion tables, you will find that there are sometimes rather significant discrepancies (for example up to 20 grams (!) per cup of flour. If you use 4 cups for the recipe that could be a difference of 80 (!) grams. For that reason, I never bother with the volume measures, and go straight for the grams, assuming that professional bakers weigh their ingredients, anyway.
I made this bread several times, using the weight measurements. It‘s very nice.
Helene R. July 9, 2020
thanks so much!

Rhea September 17, 2020
I just mixed mine using the grams measure and I have a rather sticky dough with no structure. I'm popping it into the fridge now but don't expect to be able to roll into strands. guess I'll go back to the old way.
jksingh June 18, 2020
Hi there - anyone have tips on where to cut down time if this needs to be made in say, 16 hours total (inclusive of fridge time + post-fridge proving)?

I'm contemplating taking out of the fridge at 14 hours and letting it rise for another 2.
Josho June 12, 2020
Five stars!

All throughout the folding procedure, even at the last folding, the dough was incredibly sticky and I couldn't really do it by hand; I used a dough scraper, and that made it much easier.

For the crust, I use Everything Bagel seasoning, which gives the loaf a very gentle onion-garlic flavor. I sprinkle some of the seasoning on the parchment before putting the braided loaves on it to rise prior to baking; then I sprinkle on a good deal more after painting the risen loaves with the egg white.

For even more of that flavor, I sometimes add a couple of heaping tablespoons of Everything Bagel seasoning into the dry ingredients when making the dough. This gives the challah a stronger onion-garlic flavor.
Delia M. May 22, 2020
I have read through all the reviews/comments and I’ve never seen the answer to the question of whether or not you can use all purpose flour in this recipe despite its being asked several times.
Babs I. May 22, 2020
I have used organic AP when I didn’t have bread flour on hand. Slightly less rise, still pretty wonderful.
Christopher J. July 31, 2020
Yes you can. Might be a good idea to run it through a sieve first.
Carla L. April 16, 2020
I followed this recipe to the letter,but ended up with heavy,dry loaves! What could have gone wrong here? I refridgerated the dough overnight, let it rise again after shapjng cob loaves,for 21/2 hrs...... Iam puzzled!
Foodie71 April 15, 2020
This is my new favorite bread recipe!! Was stuck on Jim Lahey's no-knead, but this is SO delicious there is only half the first loaf left. Initially made it for French toast... well, maybe the NEXT batch. Weighed everything but still had to add more water - maybe my bread flour had been on store shelf for a while. My advice is to go with your gut - VERY forgiving dough. Will try adding raisins, cinnamon, different braiding techniques, but this is my new go-to recipe.
Nina April 14, 2020
Can you use all purpose flour instead of bread flour?