Fennel and Orange-Scented Challah Recipe

Fennel and Orange-Scented Challah


by Peter Fritz

Fennel and orange scented challah is a favorite of many members of the congregation.  Because fennel and orange go so well together, I include some orange zest with some fresh orange juice in the dough for its scent and brightness. The added flavor and natural sweetness from the orange allows for a reduction in the amount of sugar.


  • 1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar or honey.
  • Grated zest from 2 large oranges plus 1/2 cup of the juice, strained
  • ⅓ cup vegetable or canola oil
  • 3 large eggs, plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 7 ½ cups unbleached all-purpose flour, plus more as needed
  • 1 tablespoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons poppy seeds
  • 2 teaspoons roasted sesame seeds



    1. In the bowl of a standing mixer, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 cup of lukewarm water.
    2. 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. 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.
    4. When the dough has almost doubled, punch it down, divide it in half and braid the loaves.
    5. Beat remaining egg and egg yolk and brush about half the mixture on the loaves. Let rise uncovered another half-hour.
    6. 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.
  • Bake for 35 to 40 minutes or until golden and firm when tapped with a spatula. Cool on a rack.  I do not rely on time alone to determine when bread is done.  I also use a thermometer to determine when the bread is done.  A thermometer helps me to bake a bread that is cooked through, not gummy in the center and moist. There are varying temperatures for bread doneness, just like there are for a roast beef.  For lean dough breads the recommended doneness is 190–210°F, while rich-dough breads like eggy challahs are done at 180–190°F.  A thermometer also helps me when I make larger or smaller loaves.  When I make smaller loaves, I need to adjust for a shorter cooking time, but the internal temperature stays the same. If I make a larger loaf, monitoring the internal temperature helps me to make sure that it is not doughy in the middle.