Rum Raisin Cinnamon Challah
What Is Challah?
Challah is a braided bread that is traditionally served at Jewish celebrations. In terms of shape, challah can be either oblong or round. All challahs are braided, but the number of strands can vary. Some are made with 12 strands to symbolize the 12 tribes of Israel, but I have seen them made with three, four, five, six, or seven strands, as well. For simplicity, this particular challah recipe is a three-strand bread.
Most challah breads do not contain dairy; this allows them to be served with meat in a household that follows Jewish dietary laws (kashrut). The recipe I'm sharing with you here, however, contains butter. Given that people of all faiths enjoy challah and many Jews do not keep kosher, I thought it was worthwhile to share.
A Note About This Recipe
Do not let the number of steps in this recipe deter you. It is by far the most popular bread I make and worth the effort. It will quickly become a household favorite. Remember, I use quick-rising yeast for this recipe. If you use regular yeast, you will need to extend your rising times, so let the dough sit until it doubles in size.
I divide this dough into two or three loaves, depending on the number of people I want to serve. You can wrap the dough in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for up to two days, but I like it best the day it is made. I usually add the cinnamon sugar mix and raisins the day I actually bake the bread. You will probably not use all the cinnamon sugar mix, and there will be more than enough for two large breads. Use it generously if you like large swirls of cinnamon throughout the bread.
If there is any bread left over for the next day, wrap the bread tightly in foil, and put it in a sealable bag. Warm it up, or use it to make outstanding French toast.
Pro Tip: Measuring Spoons and Sticky Substances
Do not forget to spray your measuring spoon with nonstick spray; it is a terrific trick for getting the honey off your spoon with minimal effort.
- Kitchen scale
- Standing mixmaster with dough hook
- Pastry brush
- Rolling pin
For the dough:
- 2 cups water
- 2/3 cup powdered milk
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 6 tablespoons butter, cut into chunks
- 3 large eggs
- 1 tablespoon quick-rising yeast
- 8 1/2 cups unbleached flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- Nonstick spray as needed
- Eggwash egg plus 1 teaspoon water
For the filling:
- 1/4 cup golden raisins
- 2 tablespoons rum
- 1/3 cup sugar
- 1 tablespoon cinnamon
- Combine the dry milk and water. Add it to a small pot with the butter chunks and honey. Cook over a low flame until the butter is completely melted. Stir occasionally.
- Remove from the heat, and pour the mixture into the bowl of your mixmaster. Put the bowl on a cool, damp dishcloth and allow the mixture to cool sightly. Then add the yeast to the bowl. (Test it with your finger, it should feel on the hotter side of warm (about 95°F), but not scalding to kill the yeast.)
- Add the three eggs to the yeast mixture, and stir them with a fork until they are well combined.
- Add 8 cups of flour and mix the dough on a medium speed with the dough hook until just combined. Add the last of the flour and the salt. Mix for three minutes. If the dough seems sticky, add additional flour until it forms a ball that is not sticky.
- Remove the dough, and knead on a lightly floured piece of parchment for about two minutes. Spray the interior of the bowl with nonstick spray, and return it to the bowl. Cover it with a damp dish towel, and let it stand for 30 minutes or until doubled.
- Add the golden raisins to a small cup, and mix them with the rum. Let the raisins stand while the dough rises.
- Punch down the dough, and let it stand five minutes. Weigh the dough on a kitchen scale. Divide it in half, if you want two large loaves. Take one half ot the dough, and weigh it into three equal pieces.
- Sprinkle flour on a piece of parchment, and roll each piece of dough slightly thicker than 1/8 of an inch (it should be thick enough to lift easily). Combine the cinnamon and sugar, and sprinkle it generously over the dough (3 or more tablespoons). Sprinkle some of the rum-soaked raisins on top. Using the longer side, roll the dough into a thin jelly roll and carefully seal the sides when done. Repeat the process for all three dough pieces.
- Braid the dough.
- Tighten any loosening strands near the top of the bread. Then pull two or three sections slightly apart. (You are not unbraiding the dough, but you are putting some extra cinnamon in a few crevices.) Pour a small amount (1/2 teaspoon) of cinnamon sugar mix in the opening. Seal up each opening.
- Put the challah on a parchment lined baking sheet that is lightly sprayed with nonstick spray, and cover it with a damp dish towel.
- Let the dough rise for about 25 minutes, and preheat the oven to 350.
- Brush the challah with eggwash, and bake it for 30-35 minutes or until the top appears golden brown.
Rolling the Cinnamon and Rum-Soaked Raisins Into the Dough
Braiding the Bread
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© 2020 Abby Slutsky