Pumpkin Challah

What a satisfying nod to “Pumpkin Everything” season this glossy challah bread is! Pumpkin puree enhances the slightly sweet, subtly spiced dough, assuring it a place of honor at any table. Seriously, it will steal the show!

And I have to tell you, Pumpkin Challah makes the ultimate French toast. Drizzle it with maple syrup and dig in.

You know I love to play with my food, right? I thought a 4-rope braid would be difficult to do, but it really wasn’t. There are lots of videos on the Internet, but you probably won’t need one. Here’s a nice tutorial from Baking Bites.

Basically, if you think of your ropes as always being numbered (starting from the left) 1,2,3, and 4, it will go like this:
1 over 3
2 over 3
4 over 2
Repeat until you run out of dough. Just remember: no matter what, #1 is always the rope on the left and #4 is always the rope on the right.

. . . and back to 1 over 3. Keep going until you run out of dough.

Pinch the ends and tuck under. Let rise under a damp cloth until doubled.

I’m going to get all wild and go for the 5 rope version next time. No guts, no glory!

Challah is a fairly rich dough, so it can take a little longer to rise than most recipes. Count on 90 minutes instead of the standard hour for each rise. Be patient; the wait is worth it.

Note: I kept this as simple as possible, but you might want to add raisins to the dough just before you put it in the bowl to rise. And, of course, poppy seeds or sesame seeds on the top before baking is traditional. I just wanted to see it in its shining glory, unadorned.

I cut back on the sugar a little for this recipe because my first try seemed sweet—like those lovely Hawaiian rolls. If that’s what you’re looking for, add an additional 1 tablespoon of sugar. I won’t tell!

Pumpkin Challah
Makes 1 large or 2 small loaves. Add raisins if you wish, or sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppy seeds before baking.
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • a pinch of sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 1 cup solid pack pumpkin
  • 2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
  • ¼ cup refined (no flavor) coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild cooking oil)
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
  • 1 tablespoon white sugar
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 1 teaspoon pumpkin pie spice
  1. In a small bowl, combine the warm water and sugar. Add yeast and let sit until frothy - about 5 minutes.
  2. In a large bowl (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine pumpkin, 2 eggs, and melted coconut oil.
  3. Add yeast mixture, flour, brown sugar, white sugar, salt, and pumpkin pie spice. Knead by machine for 5-6 minutes, or by hand on a floured surface for 7-8 minutes.The dough should be soft and slightly tacky. It may leave streaks on the side of the bowl, which is okay. If it's really sticky, add a little more flour.
  4. Place dough in greased bowl, turning once to coat the dough. It should feel pillowy soft. Cover and allow the dough to rise until doubled, 60-90 minutes.
  5. Punch dough down lightly, divide into 4 equal parts, and roll each into a 24-inch rope. (If making 2 smaller loaves, divide into 8 equal parts and roll each into a 14-inch rope.)
  6. Pinch the 4 ropes together at one end, separating each rope slightly. When you're braiding, remember that whichever rope is on the left is always #1, and whichever is on the right is always #4. Braid! (But not too tightly.)
  7. Put #1 over #3
  8. Put #2 over #3
  9. Put #4 over #2
  10. Repeat until finished. Pinch the ends together and tuck under.
  11. Place on parchment covered baking sheet, cover with damp cloth and allow bread to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
  12. Heat oven to 350 F.
  13. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah.
  14. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  15. Cool on a rack.

Add softened yeast to pumpkin mixture.

Mix in the dry ingredients and knead by machine for 5 -6 minutes (or by hand 7-8 minutes)

You’re going for a soft dough, so it’s okay if it doesn’t come cleanly away from the side of the bowl.

Put dough into greased bowl, turn to coat. Form into soft, pillowy ball and let rise until doubled.

Divide dough into 4 pieces (8 if you’re making 2 small loaves). Yes, I’m OCD. Yes, I’m weighing mine. You don’t have to!

Once braid has doubled, brush with egg yolk glaze and bake.

You can also opt for making 2 smaller loaves.

I have another version in mind, so you’ll probably see another challah recipe soon. If you’ve been following my blog, I’ll bet you can guess what flavor it will be. C’mon . . . let’s see those guesses!