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Shaping a 4-strand round challah is actually very easy! Trust me. I am no braiding expert, so if I can pull this off, you certainly can too!

Round Challah for Rosh Hashanah

It is tradition for Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur and even Sukkot to make round challah. Why? We may never know the exact reason this tradition came to be to honor the Jewish new year, but some theories include that it represents

  • no end in a year for a wish of blessings;
  • the circle of the year and seasons;
  • a crown to honor god as king on the new year; and
  • something more special than the weekly challah of the Sabbath.

For more information about the symbolism and braiding, check out this article from Aish.

With this tradition, we have even more liberties to play with our food! There are endless ways to create a round challah. The simplest way, and the one we see most often in bakeries that are mass producing these round balls of delish dough, is to take a strand of dough and roll it up. It’s pretty, round, and quick. Mission accomplished.

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How to Shape a 4-Strand Braided Round Challah

For us home bakers, we can get a little more creative, and, to be honest, there’s not much more effort involved to create something like this 4-Strand Round Challah or a Festive Challah. Both are super easy to make and very impressive!

How to Make a 4-Strand Round Challah

I am going to break it down for you here, and the video in this post shows you how simple this really is.

Make the Dough

My recipe already has honey in it, so it is super ready for Rosh Hashanah! To make this 4-Strand Challah, you will need half of the Challah recipe. (Make the whole batch and divide the dough in half, preferably by weight. You can make two 4-Strand Round Challahs, or one 4-Strand Round Challah and one Festive Challah. If you want to go a bit healthier, make my Whole Wheat Challah recipe, also loaded with honey. You can also use my Fluffy Sourdough Challah recipe to make one 4-Strand Round Challah.

Divide the Dough

After the first bulk rise of the dough (Step 5 in the Challah recipe, Step 7 in the Whole Wheat Challah. and Step 2 in the Fluffy Sourdough Challah), divide it into four equal portions. Your best bet is to weigh the total amount of the dough, divide by 4, and weigh out 4 equal portions.

Roll Dough into Strands

Roll each of the 4 portions into strands, approximately 12 inches long. Here are a few pointers for rolling out your Challah strands:

  • Using the palms of your hands, roll the dough against a clean countertop.
  • Taper the ends of the logs, so that they are thinner than the centers of the logs.
  • If the dough starts pulling back (shrinking), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest 5-10 minutes. (You are allowing the gluten to rest. After a short rest, you should be able to roll the dough out without any pull-back.)
  • Line up 2 of the strands in front of you, so they appear vertically in front of you.
  • Criss-cross the remaining two strands so that there is a weave in the center.
  • Starting from one strand, go around the square, placing a strand towards the left over a strand. Once you make your way around, do the same thing towards the right. Keep rotating until complete. Tuck the ends under, pinching them into the bottom.

Let Shaped Dough Rise

Cover and allow the 4-Strand Round Challah to rise as stated in the recipe you are using.

Egg Wash and Decorate

Apply egg wash and any seeds/toppings. (For a deeper and darker look on your 4-Strand Round Challah, use the egg yolk only for the egg wash.) Bake as instructed.

Cool and Enjoy!

Allow to cool to room temperature before slicing.

overhead view of half of a 4 strand round challah sliced with honey dripped on several pieces. Shown with a bowl of honey and a dish of sliced apples
Enjoy the challah with some honey!

Frequently Asked Questions About Making a 4-Strand Round Challah

Can I use a full challah recipe?

If making my traditional challah recipe, I recommend using half the dough to make a 4-Strand Round Challah. In other words, from that recipe, you can make two 4-Strand Round Challahs or make one and one Festive Challah. If making my Whole Wheat Challah or my Fluffy Sourdough Challah, use the full recipe of each for one 4-Strand Challah.

How do I roll challah dough into strands?

Using the palms of your hands, roll the dough against a clean countertop. Try to keep the ends of the log the same width as the center. (Try to avoid tapering the ends.) If the dough starts pulling back (shrinking), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest 5-10 minutes. (You are allowing the gluten to rest. After a short rest, you should be able to roll the dough out without any pull-back.)

What’s an egg wash?

Egg wash is what makes a challah brown on top and look shiny. It is best to use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash to the dough. Make sure to apply the brush everywhere dough is visible for an even, consistent application. For a light browning color, mix one egg with 1 teaspoon of water. For a darker brown look, just whisk one egg. For a dark brown look, use just an egg yolk.

overhead view of 4 strand round challah shown with a bowl of honey and plate of sliced apples
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5 from 11 votes

How to Make a 4-Strand Challah

Learn how easy it is to shape a 4-strand, round challah for Rosh Hashanah.
Active Time5 mins
Total Time5 mins
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: challah, rosh hashanah, round challah
Yield: 1 challah
Author: Rob Finkelstein

Materials

Instructions

  • Make the Dough. My traditional Challah recipe already has honey in it, so it is super ready for Rosh Hashanah! Alternatively, you can use the full recipe of my Whole Wheat Challah or my Fluffy Sourdough Challah.
  • Divide the Dough. After the first bulk rise of the dough (Step 5 in the Challah recipe, Step 7 in the Whole Wheat Challah and Step 2 in the Fluffy Sourdough Challah), divide it into four equal portions. Your best bet is to weigh the total amount of the dough, divide by 4, and weigh out 4 equal portions.
  • Roll Dough into Strands. Roll each of the 4 portions into strands, approximately 12 inches long. If the dough starts pulling back (shrinking), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest 5-10 minutes.
  • Braid. Line up 2strands in front of you, so they appear vertically in front of you. Lay the remaining two strands alternately (weaving) with the vertical ones so that the centers of the strands form a weave. Start from one strand and work your way clock-wise, placing each strand over the one next to it. When you get back to where you began, go counter-clockwise. Repeat until you reach the ends of the strands. Tuck in the ends to the bottom of the challah, pinching them into place.
  • Second Rise. Cover and allow the 4-Strand Challah to rise as stated in the recipe you are using. Egg wash the outside of the Challah and decorate with seeds as desired. Bake as instructed.
  • Cool and Enjoy. Allow the challah to cool completely before slicing.

Notes

  • If making my traditional challah recipe, I recommend using half the dough to make a 4-Strand Round Challah. In other words, from that recipe, you can make two 4-Strand Round Challahs or make one and one Festive Challah. If making my Whole Wheat Challah or my Fluffy Sourdough Challah, use the full recipe of each for one 4-Strand Challah.
  • Using the palms of your hands, roll the dough against a clean countertop. Try to keep the ends of the log the same width as the center. (Try to avoid tapering the ends.) If the dough starts pulling back (shrinking), cover it with plastic wrap and let it rest 5-10 minutes. (You are allowing the gluten to rest. After a short rest, you should be able to roll the dough out without any pull-back.)
  • Egg wash is what makes a challah brown on top and look shiny. It is best to use a pastry brush to apply the egg wash to the dough. Make sure to apply the brush everywhere dough is visible for an even, consistent application. For a light browning color, mix one egg with 1 teaspoon of water. For a darker brown look, just whisk one egg. For a dark brown look, use just an egg yolk.

8 Comments

  1. 5 stars
    Ive only done 3 strands challah, will take this as a guide, lovely challah bread

  2. 5 stars
    Omg thank you! I tried this a few weeks ago from an internet video I found that was too fast and left me cursing! I just followed your video moments ago with your whole wheat recipe and it braided beautifully! No cursing involved. So much better explained. LOVE the step by step.

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