Round Challah with Dukkah

published Sep 15, 2022
Round Challah with Dukkah Recipe

This honey-sweetened challah bread gets topped with dukkah, a crunchy spice-tinged seed and nut blend that hails from Egypt and the Middle East.

Serves6 to 8

Prep35 minutes

Cook50 minutes

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Dukkah challah on parchment paper.
Credit: Photo: Chris Testani; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

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There’s nothing quite like the warm, yeasty smell of challah on a Friday night. It’s like a scented signal to slow down and shake off the burdens of the week as my family prepares for Shabbat and the weekend ahead. 

I didn’t grow up making challah at home, but since having kids of my own, I’ve made up for lost time, shaping braided loaves, first with my 10-year-old when they were little and now with my 4-year-old, who insists on pinching off a little ball of dough to fashion into challah to share with her baby dolls. 

Because I didn’t get a family recipe from which to start my challah journey, I’ve tried just about every recipe I could find — from King Arthur Flour to Molly Yeh to Cheryl Holbert of Nomad Bakery. I keep a Google Doc called “Challah Trials,” to which I add notes like “needs more salt” and “nice honey flavor” every time I try a new recipe.

This challah, with its crunchy topping and fluffy interior, is the result of many entries in the “Challah Trials” doc. It has both honey and sugar for sweetness, and it gets topped with a crunchy topping called dukkah. 

Credit: Photo: Chris Testani; Food Stylist: Jessie YuChen

What Is Dukkah?

Dukkah is an Egyptian and Middle Eastern seed and nut blend, tinged with spices like cumin and cardamom. It’s typically served with olive oil and bread for dipping, and recipes for dukkah can be as varied as the cooks who make it. Some include hazelnuts; some add cayenne for kick. My dukkah combines walnuts, almonds, pistachios, and sesame seeds with cumin, cardamom, and fennel with just a pinch of Aleppo pepper. It’s earthy and nutty with a bit of anisette flavor from the fennel, and you should absolutely use any that’s left over to make this dukkah-crusted chicken.

Although it adds a lovely crunch and depth of flavor, the dukkah is optional here. This challah is perfectly enjoyable without a topping, or with a sprinkling of poppy seeds or flaky sea salt. I like to serve it with butter and honey — especially during Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, during which bakers shape their challah into round loaves to symbolize the cycle of life as we prepare to embark on a new year.

How to Braid Challah

Because I didn’t have the experience of an all-knowing Bubbe to teach me how to shape a challah, I turned to the next-best thing: an internet tutorial. Tori Avey has an excellent visual guide to shaping a four-strand challah that I’ve bookmarked for continuous use. The basic idea is that you want to create a woven hashtag symbol with your four strands of dough, and then you cross the strand that’s on the bottom of each pair over its neighbor. (The pictures in the recipe below will help!) When you reach the end of the four pairs, you turn around and do the same thing in the opposite direction. This is one of those times when words only get us so far — you really have to get your hands on the dough to understand, but after a little practice it becomes much easier.

Round Challah with Dukkah Recipe

This honey-sweetened challah bread gets topped with dukkah, a crunchy spice-tinged seed and nut blend that hails from Egypt and the Middle East.

Prep time 35 minutes

Cook time 50 minutes

Serves 6 to 8

Nutritional Info

Ingredients

For the challah:

  • 3

    large eggs, divided

  • 3/4 cup

    warm water (about 110ºF)

  • 1 tablespoon

    active dry yeast

  • 2 tablespoons

    plus 1 teaspoon granulated sugar, divided

  • 1/3 cup

    vegetable oil

  • 2 tablespoons

    honey

  • 1 tablespoon

    kosher salt

  • 4 1/2 cups

    all-purpose flour

  • Cooking spray

  • 2 to 4 tablespoons

    dukkah (store-bought or recipe below)

  • Butter and honey, for serving

For the dukkah:

  • 1/2 cup

    walnut halves

  • 1/4 cup

    whole almonds

  • 1/4 cup

    shelled pistachios

  • 3 tablespoons

    white sesame seeds

  • 1 teaspoon

    cumin seeds

  • 1 teaspoon

    coriander seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    fennel seeds

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    aleppo pepper flakes or ground cayenne

  • 1/2 teaspoon

    kosher salt

Instructions

Show Images

Make the challah:

  1. Place 2 of the large eggs in the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk to combine, and let sit until room temperature.

  2. Place 3/4 cup warm water (about 110ºF) in a small bowl or liquid measuring cup. Sprinkle with 1 tablespoon active dry yeast and 1 teaspoon of the granulated sugar and stir until combined. Let sit until foamy, about 5 minutes.

  3. Add the yeast mixture, remaining 2 tablespoons granulated sugar, 1/3 cup vegetable oil, 2 tablespoons honey, and 1 tablespoon kosher salt to the beaten eggs and whisk to combine.

  4. Attach the dough hook and turn the mixer on to low speed. Slowly add 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour 1/2 cup at a time, and continue mixing until a soft dough forms, about 5 minutes total. Continue to mix on low speed until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes.

  5. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray or vegetable oil. Transfer the dough into the bowl. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until about doubled in volume, about 1 hour. (This is a good time to make the dukkah.)

  6. Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat. Remove the dough from the bowl and divide into 2 portions (about 1 pound, 3 ounces each) to create 2 braided, round challahs. Braid one portion at a time, keeping the second portion lightly covered with plastic wrap.

  7. Divide the first portion into 4 pieces (about 5 ounces each). Shape each piece into a long, cylindrical strand about 1 1/2-inches wide and 10-inches long.

  8. Arrange the 4 strands into a crosshatch pattern with the strands nestled next to each other where they cross in the center the following way: Arrange the horizontal strands over the vertical strands so that the top horizontal strand goes under the left vertical strand and over the right and the bottom horizontal strand goes over the left strand and under the right.

  9. Going forward, there will be 8 strands labeled 1 through 8, with 1 being the bottom left strand and the numbers going in a counterclockwise direction. (Step-by-step photos here.)

  10. Braid in a counterclockwise direction:

    • Lift strand #1 and cross it over strand #2, arranging it below strand #3.
    • Lift strand #3 and cross it over strand #4, placing it to the right of strand #5.
    • Lift strand #5 and cross it over strand #6, placing it above strand #7.
    • Lift strand #7 and cross it over strand #8, placing it to the left of strand #2.
  11. Now braid in the opposite direction (clockwise):

    • Lift strand #2 and cross it over strand #7, placing it below strand #8.
    • Lift strand #8 and cross it over strand #5, placing it to the left of strand #6.
    • Lift strand #6 and cross it over strand #3, placing it above strand #4.
    • Lift strand #4 and cross it over strand #1, placing it below strand #2.
  12. Take the end of one of the strands and pull it in a counterclockwise direction toward the next strand, twist together, and tuck under the challah. Going in a counterclockwise direction, repeat twisting the ends together in pairs and tucking under the challah. You should now have a braided round with no ends sticking out.

  13. Transfer to one half of the baking sheet and repeat braiding the second portion. Cover with a kitchen towel and let rise in a warm place until almost doubled in size, about 1 hour.

  14. About 20 minutes before the loaves are ready, arrange a rack in the middle of the oven and heat the oven to 350ºF. Beat the remaining 1 large egg in a small bowl with a fork until broken up.

  15. Uncover the loaves and brush with the egg wash. Sprinkle 1 to 2 tablespoons of the dukkah onto each loaf. Bake for 20 minutes. Rotate the baking sheet and bake until golden brown and an internal temperature of 190ºF, about 20 minutes more. Transfer the loaves to a wire rack and let cool for at least 1 hour before serving. Serve sliced with butter and honey.

Make the dukkah:

  1. Place 1/2 cup walnut halves, 1/4 cup whole almonds, and 1/4 cup shelled pistachios in a large frying pan over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for 3 minutes. Add 3 tablespoons white sesame seeds, 1 teaspoon cumin seeds, and 1 teaspoon coriander seeds, and toast until the sesame is golden brown and the mixture is fragrant, about 2 minutes more.

  2. Transfer to a food processor fitted with the blade attachment and let cool. Add 1/2 teaspoon fennel seeds, 1/2 teaspoon aleppo pepper flakes or ground cayenne, and 1/2 teaspoon kosher salt. Pulse until the mixture is the texture of coarse sand, about 30 (1-second) pulses.

Recipe Notes

Challah shaping options: Rather than braiding, you can shape the challah into a spiral. Divide the dough into 2 portions, then roll each piece into a cylindrical shape. Coil the dough like a snail, and tuck the ends under the loaf before brushing with egg wash. You can also shape each portion into a simple 3-strand braid instead.

Kneading by hand: If making bread by hand, stir the dough together and knead on a work surface until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 15 minutes.

Substitutions: Instead of dukkah, use an equal amount of any mix of seeds you prefer.

Make ahead: The dukkah can be made up to 2 weeks ahead and stored in an airtight container at cool room temperature. The challah can be made up to 1 day in advance. Wrap tightly in plastic wrap once cooled and store at room temperature.

Storage: Wrap the cooled challah in plastic wrap and store at room temperature for up to 3 days. To freeze challah, slice the loaf, and then double wrap with plastic wrap. Label and date, and freeze for up to 2 months. When ready to use, thaw at room temperature for a few hours. Then toast as you normally would.