If you’re looking for a recipe that will blow the socks off any guest, then these challah buns are it! They’re look so intricate and beautiful, but they’re not as hard as they may seem. Plus they’re delicious! I’ve made these several times now and they never fail to get compliments.
These challah buns are perfect for sandwiches as well as dinner rolls for any meal. Or, if you’re me, you may just eat them on their own (they’re that good). The ingredient that takes these buns to a whole new level is cardamom. I know it sounds strange, but trust me, it makes them irresistible.
You may be reading this recipe and think it’s super difficult: it involves yeast (which can be finicky) and you may be worried about forming the shape. But I am here to tell you that I can do it, so can you, because I am not the world’s best baker (or even like… the best baker in my household).
What is Challah?
Challah is a special bread with Jewish origin that usually eaten at special events like Shabbat or Jewish holidays. To keep kosher, you can’t eat meat and dairy together, so challah does not include butter. It is yellow in color due to the eggs and differs from brioche in that brioche is far richer (because it has butter).
Challah is a braided bread loaf, so for these buns I used a simpler braiding method. So if you’re looking to make a full on braided challah loaf, then these buns will be a good introduction for you.
Challah Buns Ingredients
- Yeast: Like most bread, this recipe uses one standard packet (7g) of active, dry yeast. I have only used this recipe with active, dry yeast so I can’t speak to how it would turn out if you used another kind.
- Water: This is what you mix your yeast in to activate it.
- Sugar & Honey: The recipe calls for white granulated sugar as well as honey. I love natural sweeteners but I don’t find these quite sweet enough without a bit of white sugar. So I compromised… and used both. It’s the perfect amount of sweetness and I wouldn’t change a thing.
- Salt: As with most baking recipes, the salt really helps bring out all the other flavors.
- Flour: This is our binding! I used all-purpose flour.
- Eggs: You use two eggs in the recipe and then use one for the egg wash right before they go into the oven.
- Oil: Oil’s function in baking is mostly keeping your baked good moist and also helps keep it fluffy. I like to use vegetable oil since it’s neutral (and also relatively cheap).
- Cardamom: You may be thinking this is totally out of place in this recipe, but I am here to tell you to not skip it because it makes it so much better. Trust me.
How to Make Challah Buns
The first thing you’ll need to do is activate your yeast. Do this by adding water that is at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit to a bowl with a small amount of sugar and your yeast. Whisk it well and then cover with a kitchen towel for about 5 minutes, until foamy. If your mixture doesn’t foam after 5 minutes, your yeast is likely dead or your water isn’t the right temperature (too hot or too cold).
Once foamy, attach the dough hook to your stand mixer and then into the bowl add your honey, oil, eggs, sugar, salt, cardamom and half of the flour. Mix it on low for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides if needed. Add the rest of the flour and continue to beat on low for a few more minutes.
The dough will look sticky and that’s ok. You’ll add up a 1/4 cup more flour as you knead it. Your environment will greatly affect how much flour you need for this recipe so it’s best to add as you’re kneading to get the perfect consistency.
Knead the dough for 7-10 minutes, adding flour as you need it. At the end, the dough should be smooth and slightly sticky, but you should be able to remove your hand from it and have it be almost entirely clean. Put it in a clean, oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel for 1 1/2 hours.
After 1 1/2 hours, your dough will have doubled in size and it’s ready to cut it and start forming the buns.
I find the less flour you use when forming the buns the easier it is to get traction to roll them effectively. So use it if you need it, but try to use it sparingly. First you’re going to divide your dough into eight equal parts. I find it easiest to divide into four and then divide each of those pieces again.
Take one eighth of the dough, then cut that in half and roll them into long ropes, about 12 inches in length.
Then at the top, attach the two ropes by pressing them together.
Twist the strands together to create a twisted rope.
Then, you will roll your twisted rope like a snail. See the below photo. When you get to the end, tuck it under the roll and gently press to connect it to the bottom.
Your challah bun should look like the below picture:
As I form the challah buns, I like to immediately add them to a baking tray with parchment paper. When all are formed, cover with a kitchen towel and proof for 35 minutes.
Now you’re ready for the egg wash! Whisk one teaspoon of water and one egg together until you see no more whites of the egg. Brush the challah buns with the egg wash using a pastry brush or, if you don’t have one, your fingers. Bake the challah buns for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.
You can store these buns in an airtight container or a ziplock bag for up to four days for maximum freshness, but ultimately up to one week.
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- 1 cup warm water
- 1 packet active dry yeast (7g)
- 1/4 cup white, granulated sugar, plus 2 teaspoons, divided
- 2 teaspoons salt
- 2 tablespoons honey
- 4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus up to 1/4 cup more
- 3 eggs, divided one is for the egg wash
- 1/4 cup oil
- pinch cardamom (literal pinch, far less than 1/8 teaspoon)
- Combine warm water (at least 110 degrees Fahrenheit up to 120), with 2 teaspoons of sugar and the yeast. Cover with a kitchen towel for 5 minutes until foamy.
- Add the salt, honey, oil, eggs, sugar, cardamom and 2 cups of the flour. Using the paddle attachment on your stand mixer, beat the mixture on low for 1-2 minutes, scraping down the sides if needed. Add the remaining 2 1/2 cups flour and continue to beat for a few more minutes.
- The dough will look sticky (and it is) so cover your workspace generously with flour, coat your (very dry) hands with flour and start kneading the dough for 7-10 minutes, adding flour as you need it. You may need to add up to 1/4 cup more flour. When done, your dough should be smooth and quite tacky, but should no longer stick to your hands.
- Put the dough in a clean, oiled bowl, cover with a kitchen towel and set aside in a warm environment for 1 1/2 hours (90 minutes). If your house is particularly cold, you may want to put it in the oven around 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Once the first proof is done, remove the dough from the bowl and cut it into 8 equal parts. More detailed instructions with photos on how to form the challah buns are in the post above, but here is the gist. Take one eighth of the dough and cut it in half. Roll each piece into a rope around 12 inches long. Attach the dough at the top, twist the strands together, then roll it up like a snail. Set on a baking sheet with parchment paper. Once you've formed all buns, cover with a kitchen towel and proof an additional 35 minutes. While this is proofing, you can preheat your oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.
- Finally, mix together your final egg and one teaspoon of water. Whisk well until no white is left. Then brush your buns with the egg wash using a pastry brush, or your fingers if you don't have one. Bake your challah buns (uncovered) for 20-25 minutes until golden brown.