Serves a Crowd

Cool Rise Overnight Challah

April  9, 2010
4 Ratings
  • Serves 2 large loaves
Author Notes

This is my very favorite challah recipe. It manages to accomplish most of its rising in the refrigerator overnight, making it an ideal candidate for baking during the week. —Bria

Test Kitchen Notes

This was super easy to make and I love that it proofs overnight in the fridge. It's really hands-off, which for a novice bread baker is great! It baked up beautifully -- nice and high with a shiny, bronze crust and yellow eggy interior. It's got enough heft for French toast and is also good on its own. - Emily —The Editors

What You'll Need
  • 6-7 cups all-purpose flour
  • 4.5 teaspoons active dry yeast (2 packages)
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1.5 teaspoons salt
  • 1 1/3 cups hot tap water
  • 8 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened
  • 4 eggs at room temperature, plus one more at baking time
  • splash of milk
  • Oil for the bowl
  1. Combine 2 cups of flour with the yeast, sugar, and salt in large bowl and stir well. Add softened butter and stir again. It will not look at all combined – just a hugely shaggy mess.
  2. Add the hot tap water and beat with the paddle attachment of an electric mixer at medium speed for 2 minutes until well mixed and elastic.
  3. Add the eggs and 1 ½ cups more flour. Beat on medium-high speed for 1 minute or until thick and elastic.
  4. If you are using a stand mixer, switch to a dough hook on low speed and gradually stir in enough of remaining flour with a to make a soft dough that leaves the sides of bowl. Alternatively, stir in the last bit of flour with a wooden spoon and turn the dough out onto a floured board.
  5. Knead 5 to 10 minutes, adding additional flour as needed, until it is smooth, elastic, and passes the windowpane test. Place the dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, turning it over once to fully coat with oil. Cover with a tea towel and let raise for 20 minutes on the counter.
  6. After 20 minutes, divide the dough into two even pieces. Set one piece aside and cover with the dish towel. Gently roll the first piece into a fat log and divide again into as many pieces as you want to braid (I favor a traditional six-part braid, but three or four pieces also work well). Roll each small piece into a snake, aiming for equal length and thickness. Pinch the ends of the snakes together and braid until you reach the other ends. Tuck both ends securely under the loaf.
  7. Repeat with other half of the dough and set both loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and refrigerate for 2-24 hours. When you are ready to bake, remove the loaves from the refrigerator and let them begin to come to room temperature while heating the oven to 365F.
  8. Beat an egg in a small dish with splash of milk and gently brush over the loaves. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the loaves are a rich golden brown and sound hollow when thumped on the bottom. Cool on racks and tear to serve (do not slice).
  9. Sandwich loaf alternative: replace half the flour with spelt flour. Press half of the dough into an 8x8 rectangle and roll into a thick log, pinching the seam when you are finished. Place seam-side down in a greased loaf pan, cover, and place in the refrigerator for 2-24 hours. Follow step 8 as written, taking care to turn the loaf from its pan promptly upon removing from the oven.

See what other Food52ers are saying.

  • Hadas Becker
    Hadas Becker
  • Janneke Verheij
    Janneke Verheij
  • TheWimpyVegetarian
  • Bria
  • lastnightsdinner

21 Reviews

Lynn N. January 19, 2023
This recipe is amazing! I’ve made it several times and it always comes out well. It’s so nice to be able to shape it the night before, a lot of recipes have you shape the dough the next day. One question, after switching to the dough hook, can you knead it in the mixer or do you have to take it out and knead it by hand?
Harvey C. September 28, 2019
Please include weights for ingredients. Volumes are inexact and hard to work with.
Jessie G. January 12, 2019
I try to make challah every Friday but bc of the usual two rise, it takes a long time - which is hard when you are at the office all day! This recipe allowed me to make it the night before and then bake Friday. It’s good, though a little denser than others that I make. I also would add a little more salt and bake at 350 (vs 365) so it cooks more thoroughly inside without getting brown so quickly on the outside.
Joe April 30, 2017
This recipe ill-advisedly calls for 'hot tap water'.

In the United States, hot water drawn directly from the tap generally is not potable. From one city's department of health to another, one will learn that heat-friednly bacteria may grow in the boilers that heat the water, and these bacteria may make one ill, sometimes seriously ill.

Hence, municipal departments of health generally advise using cold tap water for drinking and eating which is then heated over the stove or in the oven to the desired temperature.

Please correct this recipe and the many others on this site that advise the use of substances that are known to make one ill and caution readers to avoid this danger.
Gavin March 11, 2016
I've seen some cool rise challah recipes from Zomick's that allow for as long as a two day rise in the fridge. If I make a standard batch of challah and allow it to rise in the fridge for two days, will it overproof?
Mary November 5, 2015
This seems really dense while making it before it's fridge rise, is it supposed to look like that?
Hadas B. July 17, 2013
This looks interesting and I'm going to try it, but why oh why would use butter and milk in Challah? In a traditional Jewish home challah is eaten on friday night with a meat meal and this would be impossible. Can I substitute oil for the butter?
Bria July 18, 2013
Indeed, this is not a parve recipe. We don't observe Kosher dietary restrictions in our home, so it's not a problem for us (and yes, we incorporate a small loaf of this bread into our Shabbat dinner every Friday night). However, if you need a parve challah, you might try using vegetable shortening in place of the butter. I haven't made this recipe with oil, so I can't comment on how well that would work, but I tend to stay away from substituting fats that take different forms at room temperature (i.e. butter is a solid at room temp, oil is a liquid at room temp, thus it's not a given that both will behave the same in a recipe). The splash of milk is of little consequence and can be easily eliminated.
Hadas B. July 18, 2013
Thanks so much for the suggestion of shortening instead of oil. I will try that. I guess old habist die hard. I kept kosher for years, although I don't now, but it is anathema to me to have a non-parve challah.
Tinab September 27, 2011
Am I missing something, how much hot tap water are you suppose to add in step 2 ?
Kristen M. September 27, 2011
Hi Tinab, we just updated the ingredients to include the hot water amount (1 1/3 cups), per Brita's comment below. So sorry for the oversight!
Tinab September 27, 2011
How much hot tap water are you suppose to add in step 2?
Janneke V. December 7, 2010
I'm trying this method at the moment, it's looks very interesting. I was just wandering what is the window pane test?
TheWimpyVegetarian December 3, 2010
I'm so glad I saw this! Challah is one of my favorite breads - I'm making this one for sure!
lpcooks September 19, 2010
I wanted to make challah for Yom Kippur and looked through a number of recipes. This one was so different and easy that I almost didn't make it because I had so many doubts. But the challah came out wonderful! I couldn't believe it. This is definitely the simplesty way to ensure perfect challah. THANK YOU!
Bria April 27, 2010
Yikes - I managed to leave out 1 1/3 cups hot tap water from the ingredients list. Add it in step 2.
Walker April 9, 2010
I forgot to post a link to some pictures I took when I made it before for Thanksgiving.
lastnightsdinner April 9, 2010
Those loaves are just lovely!
arielleclementine April 9, 2010
so so pretty :)
WinnieAb April 9, 2010
Gorgeous! I adore challah,
Walker April 9, 2010
This is a great recipe. My wife and I have made it twice now. We've used it to make rolls as well as loafs.

Makes for fantastic French Toast as well the following day.