Challah Rolls: Choose Your Own Filling 

Beth Lee

Medium

Difficulty

Challah rolls, filled with flavors of your own choosing, are the ideal addition to your challah repertoire and an easy entry point if you’re new to baking. I originally developed this recipe for a High Holidays cooking class, but these little gems are perfect all year round. They’re also dairy-free, nut-free and pareve (if you keep kosher, they can be eaten with a dairy or meat meal). 

Ready faster than a traditional challah recipe, these rolls are also versatile: Leave the filling out, make one loaf instead of individual rolls or double the recipe and freeze some for another day. Just be sure to have fun with these mini challahs! I’ve included the ingredients and instructions to make one of my favorite apple currant fillings. If you are part of a multicultural household or have a love for global cooking, get creative. The sky is the limit with fillings—they can reflect and celebrate your family’s food culture. 

Here are some variation tips: 

  • Use different fillings to make savory rolls or change up the sweet filling by using a different dried fruit.  
  • To make one large loaf, divide the dough in thirds, make three equal-length ropes and braid. Bake for 5 to 10 additional minutes.  
  • If you don’t stuff them, you can finish them with seeds on top either randomly sprinkled or in little dots (see image on right). 

Enjoy!

Partial excerpt from The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook, by Beth A. Lee, published by Rockridge Press. Copyright © 2021 by Callisto Media, Inc. All rights reserved. 

Ingredients for 8 rolls

Dough 

  • 2 1/4 tsp. (7 grams/1 packet) active dry yeast or instant yeast*
  • 3 1/2 cups (438 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
  • 1/4 cup (47 grams) granulated sugar
  • 1 cup (235 grams) warm water (105°F to 115°F)
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (56 grams) vegetable oil
  • 1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt 

*Note about yeast: Instant yeast (such as SAF brand) is designed to be added directly to the flour mixture without proofing it. But if your active dry yeast is not expired, it should work the same way. If you’re not sure how old the yeast is, add a bit of warm water and sugar to it and let it sit for a few minutes. If it bubbles and foams, it’s alive and ready for use.  

Apple Currant Filling 

  • 1 cup (118 grams) chopped and peeled sweet firm apple
  • 1 tsp. freshly squeezed lemon juice
  • 1/4 cup (36 grams) currants or raisins
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. granulated sugar 

Egg Wash 

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 tsp. water 
  • Preparation Time
    40 minutes
  • Cooking Time
    27 minutes

Directions

  1. Mix: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flour and sugar. Add the warm water, egg, oil and salt. 
  1. Knead: Using the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, knead on medium-low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, making sure the dough is thoroughly combined and scraping down the sides as necessary. Once kneaded, the dough should be smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is overly sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary. 
  1. First rise: Remove the dough from the bowl, form it into a round and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Use your finger to poke a 1-inch hole through the center of the dough. Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and let it rest for 30 minutes. 
  1. Make filling: While the dough is resting, in a medium bowl, make the filling of your choice. If using the apple currant filling recipe, combine the chopped apple, lemon juice, currants, cinnamon and sugar. Set aside. 
  1. Prep: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. 
  1. Fill and shape (see photo below): Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Flatten a piece into a roughly 6- by 4-inch rectangle and spread a heaping tablespoon of filling down the center. Close the dough up around the filling and gently roll it out with your hands to a roughly 9-inch rope. Loosely coil the rope, tuck the end under and pinch to seal. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough to create 8 rolls. Place on the prepared baking sheet. 
  1. Second rise: Loosely cover the challah rolls with a kitchen towel, set in a warm location, and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until the dough slowly springs back when poked with your finger. 
  1. Preheat: Preheat the oven to 375°F. 
  1. Egg wash: Whisk together the egg and water. Use a pastry brush to coat each roll with the egg wash, getting into all the nooks and crannies. 
  1. Bake: Bake the rolls for 5 minutes at 375°F, then lower the heat to 350°F and cook for about 22 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and cool at least 30 minutes before serving. 

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Beth Lee

In 2010, Beth left her Silicon Valley tech career behind when she realized she preferred pita chips over computer chips. She launched her food blog, OMG! Yummy, and her first cookbook, The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook, came out August 2021. Beth’s blog and book have been featured in the New York Times, San Francisco Chronicle, San Jose Mercury News, the Forward and on many podcasts and blogs. Beth is so glad she can make a New York style bagel in her sunlit kitchen in Northern California.