Fennel and Orange-Scented Challah Recipe (2024)

By Joan Nathan

Fennel and Orange-Scented Challah Recipe (1)

Total Time
About 1 hour, plus rising time
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My challah varies according to the weather and my whim. The basic formula has changed through the years; I use less sugar and oil now and fewer eggs. The key is knowing that you can always add more flour to your dough if it is too sticky, but it is hard to make a soft dough if you start off with too much flour. I take mine out of the mixer when it is tacky and work the extra flour in with my hands.

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Yield:2 loaves

  • tablespoons (2 packages) active dry yeast
  • 1tablespoon plus ⅓ cup sugar
  • Grated zest from 2 large oranges plus ½ cup of the juice, strained
  • cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1tablespoon salt
  • cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2teaspoons roasted sesame seeds

Ingredient Substitution Guide

Nutritional analysis per serving (16 servings)

308 calories; 7 grams fat; 1 gram saturated fat; 0 grams trans fat; 4 grams monounsaturated fat; 2 grams polyunsaturated fat; 53 grams carbohydrates; 3 grams dietary fiber; 7 grams sugars; 8 grams protein; 241 milligrams sodium

Note: The information shown is Edamam’s estimate based on available ingredients and preparation. It should not be considered a substitute for a professional nutritionist’s advice.

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Fennel and Orange-Scented Challah Recipe (2)


  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of lukewarm water.

  2. Step


    Using the paddle attachment, stir orange zest, juice and oil into yeast mixture, then add 2 eggs, 1 at a time, and remaining sugar and salt. Switch to the dough hook and gradually add 6 cups of flour, kneading for about 5 minutes and adding more flour as needed to make a slightly sticky, smooth and elastic dough.

  3. Step


    Grease a large bowl, turn dough into it and then turn the dough over to grease the top. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, or refrigerate for a few hours or overnight.

  4. Step


    When the dough has almost doubled, punch it down, remove it to a lightly floured counter, knead it briefly until smooth and divide it in half. Roll each piece into a cylinder about 27 inches long, making sure there are no seams in the dough. Bring one end of the dough up to the other and twist to form a spiral. Push both ends together to make a squat 12-inch loaf. Repeat with other piece of dough and arrange loaves on a parchment-lined baking sheet at least 2 inches apart. You can also twist the long spirals into a circle if you like; the dough is very malleable.

  5. Step


    Beat remaining egg and egg yolk and brush about half the mixture on the loaves, reserving the rest. Let the dough rise uncovered another half-hour or overnight in refrigerator.

  6. Step


    If dough was refrigerated, bring to room temperature. Heat oven to 350 degrees and in a small bowl, combine fennel, poppy and sesame seeds. Brush the loaves with egg again and sprinkle with seeds.

  7. Step


    Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and firm when tapped with a spatula. Cool on a rack.



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Cooking Notes

Cate Andrews

Made this a few times last year, Split the recipe in half and it made two great demi-loaves. (I chose to make rounded plaits). A little more orange juice and zest made it a-ok, if not a little better without affecting the texture. To help with proofing, It really helped letting the dough sit atop the stove with the oven turned up to 200 F to keep the mix warm and happy. This is a super beautiful recipe!


For a quicker rise and a softer dough, halved the salt and used six cups of flour. Made three loaves instead of the recommended two loaves. Have made it several times and it has been well received each time. Is a keeper.

Nicole Agran

The loaves look, smell and I hope taste divine. The second rising took one hour, not 30 minutes. The kitchen was a bit cool. Otherwise, the recipe was easy to follow. Many thanks to Joan Nathan.

David Look

Joan said to start with 6 cups of flour and add the rest gradually.


I love this challah and make it every holiday season. I usually leave out the fennel seeds- they're a bit too strong for me.

D. Macris

I baked this for friends several years ago as a Chanukah gift. It was baker friendly and not complicated to make. It smelled amazing and was a total hit! I’m making it again this week. Try it! Festive and delicious!


I was attracted to this recipe by the idea of fennel "scented" challah but in truth I find the fennel seeds off-putting. I didn't use the other seeds, as I wanted the clean orange and fennel flavors only. Possibly a splash of sambuca in the dough would have made it fennel "scented." Other than the unpleasant seeds, this bread is absolutely delicious and very low-effort/high-reward.


2/21/22 zest and juice of 2 caracara oranges. 3 eggs instead of 2. 750 g flour (600 bread, 150 whole wheat); canola oil; honey instead of sugar.3 rises instead of 2. came out well.

Too much orange rind

I found the orange taste overwhelming. Will cut it by half next time.

ellen karpf

I live at high altitude. Accidentally added the 3 rd egg in the dough mix. It came out better than when I made it the first time.


Braid instead make one giant


This is the best Youtube for learning how to braid challah. Love this recipe. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RP6j7esQyjk&feature=youtu.be


Love this video - thank you!


Very easy and delicious! The second loaf made excellent French toast.


My favorite recipe! Made without a standing mixer and just as good. The recipe split in half makes one medium sized loaf.


The only sub I made was 1/3 cup honey instead of the 1/3 cup sugar once you’ve made the yeast mixture. Good recipe.

David R

Megan - My recipe substitution book said that 1/3 cup of sugar equals 1/4 cup honey, plus if you make that substitution you need to add a little (quarter tsp) baking soda so the dough will rise (because honey is not the same as sugar, chemically speaking). When you did the substitution of honey for sugar at 1/3, was there any problem?


First time using this recipe. I usually do the 5-fold no-knead challah. I cut this recipe in half and found it easy to make, and oh so dramatic to serve. I very much wish the the recipe was in grams as there are so many variables in measuring. My dough was actually dry with the 3 cups of flour and I had to add about 1/4 cup of water. The first rise was 1 1/2 hours. I pulled my strands tightly when forming the loaf and my bread was almost 6" high when done. Beautiful.


This is an amazing bread! I also didn't need the extra 1.5 cups of flour, but found everything else to be super spot on. What a beauty and such flavor. I do have to work on my braiding though, to be sure! Thanks for sharing this gem.


Made this for the first time this week and LOVED it. I don't have a mixer, but didn't find kneading by hand to be an issue. I was also a little confused about the flour amounts- I stuck with 6c and it came out perfectly. I love the little bit of color that the orange zest imparts, and may drop a little saffron in with the liquid ingredients next time to brighten things up even more. Definitely a crowd pleaser.


Am I the only one who noticed the list of ingredients called for 7 1/2 cups of flour but the directions said add 6 cups?? I have been bread baking for years, always measuring flour, yeast, salt and water and never a problem. The extra 1 1/2 cups is a huge difference!


I've also done this as a 4 strand braid. Makes delicious French toast!

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Fennel and Orange-Scented Challah Recipe (2024)
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