You don't have to be Jewish to enjoy a nice, warm challah, and you definitely don't have to be a basic white girl to make this pumpkin spice challah, but admittedly, I am both.

Challah is a traditional braided loaf of bread served on Shabbat to represent the Manna that fell on Friday, according to "A Brief History of Challah." Manna was the heavenly bread that fed the Jewish people during the 40 years they wandered in the desert. For more information about the history of challah, you can visit the website above or ask your local Rabbi. I'm sure he'll have some challah shmooze for you.  

But be warned, this recipe is not for the impatient! It takes time, but it's worth it. 

Not your Bubbe's Pumpkin Spice Challah

  • Prep Time:5 mins
  • Cook Time:4 hrs
  • Total Time:4 hrs 5 mins
  • Servings:2
  • Medium


  • 1 ½ tbsp yeast
  • 2 cups plus 1 teaspoon coconut sugar or plain sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
  • 5 ½–6 cups unbleached bread flour — preferably King Arthur
  • 1 tbsp salt
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground nutmeg
  • 1 tsp ground clove
  • 1 cup coconut oil or vegetable oil
  • 2 tsps vanilla extract
  • 1 cup canned or puréed pumpkin
  • 4 eggs — two for the bread & two yolks for the topping
  • 1 tsp water
  • 1 tbsp cinnamon
  • 1 cup pepitas
  • Optional: 1 tsp course sea salt
Samantha Sontag
  • Step 1

    Combine yeast, 1 teaspoon of sugar, and lukewarm water in a small bowl. Stir slowly and then allow to sit for 10 minutes until the mixture has a foamy film on top.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 2

    Mix 1 ½ cups of flour, salt, ¾ cup sugar, cinnamon, ginger, nutmeg and clove into a larger bowl. Then add the foamy water-​yeast mixture to the flour mixture along with the oil, vanilla and pumpkin. Mix thoroughly by hand or with a standard mixer with whisk attachments.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 3

    Add another cup of flour and 2 eggs to the mixture. Mix until it appears smooth. If you're using a standard mixer, switch to the dough hook attachment.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 4

    Add another 2 cups of flour and mix thoroughly. Then remove dough from the bowl and place it on a floured surface. Knead the remaining 1 to 1 ½ cups of flour into the dough and knead for about 5 minutes. If the dough seems too soft, add ¼ to ½ cup of flour until it is more firm.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 5

    Place the dough in a greased bowl and cover it with a damp towel. Allow the dough to rise for 3 hours.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 6

    Divide the dough in two and braid the challot into desired shape. Then place the braided challot on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Allow the challah to rise another 30–60 minutes on the baking sheet, or until you can see that the size has grown and the challah seems light. Preheat oven to 375° F while the dough rises.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 7

    To make the toppings for the challah, place 2 egg yolks with 1 teaspoon of water in a small bowl and mix together. In another small bowl combine the ¼ cup of sugar with 1 tablespoon of cinnamon.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 8

    Brush the egg wash over the challah. Then sprinkle the pepitas in a single layer on top of the challah, followed by the cinnamon sugar and the coarse sea salt if desired.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 9

    Finally, bake 24–26 minutes or until the challah is golden.

    Samantha Sontag
  • Step 10


    Samantha Sontag