Whole Wheat Raisin Challah

Whole Wheat Raisin Challah. Photo: Michael Kahn

Margi Lenga Kahn


  • Heaping ½ c. raisins, black or gold, soaked in ½ c. hot water for 30 minutes and drained (reserve water, if using).
  • 1 c. milk, almond milk or water (You can use the soaking water after draining the raisins and add enough other liquid of your choice to equal the 1 c. needed.)
  • 2 tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, coconut oil or vegetable oil, plus additional for oiling bowl or storage bag
  • 2 tbsp. honey (or coconut nectar honey) or granulated sugar
  • 2½  tsp. active dry yeast or 2¼ tsp. instant yeast
  • 1 c. whole wheat flour
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1¼ tsp. salt
  • 2-2¼ c. unbleached all-purpose or bread flour, plus additional for kneading
  • 1 large egg yolk whisked with 1 tsp. water, for egg wash


Heat milk or water (with or without the raisin-soaking water), oil or butter, and sugar or honey together in a pot on stovetop or in a large bowl in microwave oven until warm (about 110 degrees). Transfer mixture from pot (if using) to a large bowl and add yeast. Stir mixture and let rest five to 10 minutes or until mixture begins to foam.

Thoroughly stir in all the whole wheat flour and cover bowl with a damp towel. Let rest at room temperature for at least 30 minutes and up to four hours. (This is called a sponge.)

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Uncover bowl and stir down mixture. Add the 2 eggs, salt and 1 cup of all-purpose or bread flour. Stir until everything is incorporated. Add ¼ c. more of the flour and stir. Continue adding small handfuls of flour and stirring until the mixture forms a mass of dough that leaves the sides of the bowl. 

Lightly dust counter with flour; turn dough out onto counter and evenly sprinkle top of dough with the drained raisins and a dusting of flour. Fold dough over raisins to evenly incorporate them, and knead the dough by gently pushing it away from you and rolling it back over itself. Continue kneading, dusting it lightly with more flour as needed to keep it from being too sticky. It will take approximately 10 minutes of kneading for your dough to become smooth and remain slightly sticky.

Lightly oil a large bowl or a 1-gallon ziplock bag. Add dough, and either cover bowl tightly with plastic wrap, or seal bag, pressing air from the bag.

Transfer bowl or bag of dough to refrigerator and let rise overnight or for up to three days. Remove dough from refrigerator 30 minutes before continuing with recipe.

Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper or oil bottom of pan.

Turn dough out onto a lightly floured counter; do not punch it down. Simply cut dough into three equal pieces and form each piece into a 16-to-20-inch rope. Braid the ropes, pinching the ends together and tucking them under on both sides. (Note: You could cut the dough into six smaller pieces and make two braids and two smaller challahs. The challahs freeze beautifully once completely cooled.)

Lift braid onto baking sheet and coil braid loosely around itself. Cover challah loosely with plastic wrap and let it rise at room temperature for 30 minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Make egg wash by whisking together 1 egg with 1 tsp. water.

Uncover risen challah(s) and lightly brush with the egg wash. Bake on center rack in oven for about 30 minutes or until light golden brown. (If you are making two challahs from this recipe, they may be ready in 22 to 25 minutes.)

Immediately lift challahs from pan onto a cooling rack. Let cool for at least 30 minutes before serving.

Makes one large challah or two smaller challahs.