This pumpkin spice challah is subtly but definitively spiced with the signature blend of autumn, turning out right on the line between sweet and savory, so you can eat it along with a meal.
I know. Pumpkin Spice Season now starts risibly early, like late August, and its reach knows no reasonable bounds, sparing nothing from bagels (kosher) to mac & cheese (not kosher). I'm a swing voter on this matter, being, on the one hand, a fan of all things beta-carotene, and on the other, an eye-roller at seasonal creep, the tendency of American retail to put out bathing suits in February and school supplies in late June. The answer, America, is always: too soon. Let the record show: I'm all for pumpkin spice. Beginning in October.
Now that we've met the October threshold, let's talk about this pumpkin spice challah. It's discernibly pumpkin-flavored, with a delightful orange hue to match; and it's recognizably flavored with cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg, and clove, though, as with most flavored yeast doughs, the spices are far more subtly felt than it might be in cake or cookies. This is a challah you can eat along with a meal just like you would any other, although it's best spread with neutral to sweet toppings rather than full-on savory. Like, a turkey sandwich might not work for you. (Or maybe it would; I mean, we summarily slather what's essentially cranberry jam all over turkey. Please do report back.)
If you are looking for a truly savory pumpkin challah, I happen to have one that my family adores right over here. It's made a bit differently than this spiced version; this one has more eggs in it plus brown sugar, and doesn't require the shift in oven temperature (it just bakes at a straight 350F / 180C). You can leave out the spices for a plain pumpkin version of this one, though it'll be slightly sweeter than my savory pumpkin challah.
Making pumpkin spice challah
This recipe is similar to your standard-issue challah, though the pumpkin plus four whole eggs makes it wetter and a tad more persnickety to work with. You start off the dough by activating the yeast (you can also use instant here if you prefer, in the same way) in a mixture of the water with maple syrup and brown sugar. After the yeast is foamy, you add in the enrichments, then start kneading with half the flour. The rest of the flour goes in gradually, until you get a slack, soft dough, which will be stickier than regular challah dough. It shouldn't be impossible to work with, however, so add more flour—you may need up to a cup (125 g) more—until it climbs the dough hook like in the photo at top left. The finished dough, before rising, should be smooth and gently hold its shape, as in the photo above right. It will be easier to work with after it rises, too.
Braiding your pumpkin spice challah
You can braid your challah any way you like; for the amount of dough, 3 ("regular" braid), 4, or 5 strands work well. The instructions are not included in the recipe below, so please see the following how-to posts depending on what you'd like to make:
- How to Braid a 3-Strand Challah - excellent for beginners and those in a hurry.
- How to Braid a 4-Strand Challah - my personal favorite, a great next step (and what is pictured in the photos for this recipe).
- How to Braid a 5-Strand Challah - also beautiful, if a bit more involved.
- How to Weave a 5-Strand Challah - super easy and impressive.
Pumpkin Spice Challah
- Stand mixer fitted with a dough hook
- 8 cups flour - 900 g / 2 lbs
- 2 ¼ tsp 1 package active dry yeast
- ½ cup warm water
- ¼ cup brown sugar
- 2 Tbsp maple syrup
- 4 eggs
- 2 Tbsp oil
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 cup pumpkin purée
- 1 tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp nutmeg
- ¼ tsp allspice
- ⅛ tsp ginger
- ⅛ tsp cloves
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp water
Mix and rise the dough:
- In a stand mixer bowl, combine the water, brown sugar, maple syrup, and yeast. Whisk to combine, then leave to stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
- To the bowl, add the eggs, oil, salt, pumpkin, and spices. Add about half the flour (about 4 cups / 450 g) to the bowl. Fit the bowl onto the mixer and begin mixing at speed 2 using a dough hook.
- When the ingredients are mostly combined, begin to gradually add in the flour. Knead on speed 1 until a smooth, supple, but not too sticky dough forms. Add more flour as needed.
- Place the dough in a greased bowl. Cover tightly and leave to rise in a warm spot, 1-1 ½ hours.
Shape and bake:
- Preheat the oven to 350F. Line a sheet pan.
- Divide the dough into two parts. Subdivide each half into the number of strands you'd like to braid for each loaf (3-5 work well). Braid each loaf, cover with a kitchen towel, and leave to rise while the oven preheats, 20-30 minutes.
- Brush the challahs with egg wash using a silicone brush. Bake for 35-40 minutes, until golden and well risen.