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I am so excited to share this recipe which has been in the works for months. When King Arthur Baking announced that its recipe of the year for 2021 is Perfectly Pillowy Cinnamon Rolls, I jumped right on board. The secret to their “perfectly pillowy” rolls is tangzhong, which we will get to in just a moment. I loved the pillowy-ness of that dough so much, having never made a tangzhong dough. I then became obsessed — I mean, obsessed — with converting my Challah recipe to a Tangzhong Challah.

overhead view of two loaves of tangzhong challah, one resting on the other, with a bowl of honey
Tangzhong Challah is fluffy and doughy!

What is Tangzhong?

Tangzhong is an Asian technique, often used in milk bread, whereby a small portion of the recipe’s flour is cooked with some of the liquid (usually milk and/or water) to create a paste. The cooking process generally takes 1-3 minutes. From a technical standpoint, the cooked concoction gelatinizes the starches in the flour. The result is that the starches can absorb more liquid, creating a moister bread. The tangzhong method can also make the dough rise a bit more and cause the baked bread to stay fresh longer.

Why Tangzhong Challah?

One of the first tangzhong challah recipes out there is by America’s Test Kitchen. I honestly have never made their recipe because I love the flavor of my Challah recipe (loaded with egg yolks and honey) which I became obsessed with converting to tangzhong! That said, America’s Test Kitchen tangzhong challah looks so pretty, and they provide helpful braiding tips.

The Challenge to Convert Challah to Tangzhong Challah

King Arthur Baking has a great article on How to Convert a Bread Recipe to Tangzhong. If you’re interested in the science and math behind converting a recipe to tangzhong, this is the place to start. As mentioned in that article, the recipe generally needs to contain a somewhat high hydration for the tangzhong to work. The problem I encountered is that challah dough generally is low hydration. I suspect that this is the reason why there are not too many tangzhong challah recipes out there. After many tries, I found that I could get the dough to come together even with the addition of more water to the recipe.

For me, I loved the challenge of bringing tangzhong to a low-hydration dough like challah. The key step I took away from America’s Test Kitchen was to allow the flour to autolyse with all the liquid (including the tangzhong) in the recipe. Autolyse simply means allowing the flour and the liquid to rest, after just being mixed, for a period of time, usually 20 minutes. The autolyse allows the flour to absorb the liquid which makes kneading the dough much easier and helps to create a stronger dough.

The end result of my challenge, after many attempts, is a fluffy, delicious challah that has an extended shelf-life. This Tangzhong Challah has now become my go-to challah recipe. I have not yet done so, but I suspect that it will be phenomenal to use this Tangzhong Challah dough to make Onions Rolls.

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How to make Tangzhong Challah

How to Make Tangzhong

Tangzhong is actually incredibly simple and easy to make. All we are doing is cooking a small portion of the recipe’s flour with five times that amount (by weight) of water.

So, for this recipe, we are using 40 grams of bread flour and 200 grams of water. Whisk the two together in a saucepan so that the flour is fully hydrated. Over a medium-low flame, cook the mixture. Initially, just whisk occasionally. As it starts to heat up, start whisking constantly. It should only take approximately 1-3 minutes to cook.  (You can also make tangzhong in the microwave. In a microwave safe bowl, whisk the flour with the water to hydrate the flour. Microwave for 30 seconds. Whisk the flour mixture. Microwave for 15 seconds. Whisk again and keep repeating until the paste is formed.)

Technically, you want to cook it to 149° F. I recommend taking the temperature of the mixture the first time you make it so you know when it is done. A Thermapen thermometer is perfect for this! Once you know how it will look and feel, you do not need to be so precise in the future. The tangzhong mixture is at its best when cooked to 149° F  or so. It is fine it if gets hotter than that, but try to keep it less than 175° F. Apart from temperature, you will know it is done once it thickens up. Avoid cooking it further after it has thickened.

How to Make Tangzhong Challah

Making Tangzhong Challah is really no different than making traditional challah. The only change is that we are allowing the tangzhong, the rest of the flour, and the rest of the liquids to rest for 20 minutes before adding the sugar, honey, and salt and fully kneading the dough.

Although I provide cup measurements for this recipe, I very strongly urge you to weigh the ingredients. There is too much fluctuation when measuring cups of flour and liquids, so you may not end up with the desired result unless you weigh the ingredients.

tangzhong in mixing bowl together with cups and bowls holding the rest of the challah ingredients, with each labeled as oil, water, sugar, honey, yolks, bread flour, salt and yeast
As the tangzhong cools, weigh out the rest of the ingredients.

1. Prepare the Tangzhong

Once you cook the tangzhong, spread it thinly on the bottom of your mixing bowl. Spreading it out will help it cool a little faster. You do not want it too hot because you want to avoid scrambled yolks and killing the yeast when you add them in the next step.

2. Autolyse

Once the tangzhong has cooled a bit (lukewarm is fine), add the water (which should be room temperature or lukewarm), yolks, oil, bread flour and yeast. Mix it all together so that the flour is fully hydrated. You can do this by hand or use the paddle attachment to your mixer. Cover the bowl and allow it to rest for 20 minutes.

3. Knead the Tangzhong Challah

After the 20 minute rest, add the sugar and honey. With the dough hook attachment, knead the dough, You may need to stop the mixer to scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. These are my go-to bowl scrapers. Do not panic if the dough seems very wet. It will all come together. Allow the dough to knead at medium-high until it is cleaning the sides of the bowl. Then, lower the mixer speed and slowly add the salt as the dough continues to knead. Knead for several more minutes until the dough passes the windowpane test. That means that, if you take a small piece of dough and stretch it with both your hands, it should become very thin and translucent without ripping.

4. Bulk Rise the Tangzhong Challah

Cover the dough and allow it to bulk rise until it has doubled in size. This generally takes approximately three hours. This may seem long, but this dough is rich in egg yolks and honey, both of which contribute to slowing down fermentation.

5. Shape the Tangzhong Challahs

Divide the dough in half, preferably by weight. Make as many ropes for braiding as you desire. If the dough is slightly sticky or tacky, lightly flour the countertop and the pieces of dough.

The video included with this post demonstrates how to make a 4-strand challah braid. Cover the challahs and allow them to rise for 1½ hours.

For other braiding methods, check out my Festive Challah and 4-Strand Round Challah posts.

6. Egg Wash the Tangzhong Challahs

For a lighter egg wash, mix 1 egg together with 1 teaspoon of water. If you prefer a slightly darker challah, use just 1 egg and no water. For a deeper, darker hue, use just the yolk for your egg wash. Be sure to spread the egg wash all the way to the bottom of the loafs.

7. Bake the Tangzhong Challahs 

Bake the challahs for 30-35 minutes. For a darker crust, lean toward the 35 minute mark. The internal temperature of the challah should be 200° F. Again, Thermapen thermometer is also perfect for this!

straight on shot of slices of challah with a small bowl of salt and a bowl of honey and a bread knife in forefront
Tangzhong Challah stays fresh for days!

Frequently Asked Questions About Making Tangzhong Challah

Do I have to weigh the ingredients to make Tangzhong Challah?

I highly recommend weighing the ingredients. Everyone measures cups of flour differently, so you may not end up with the desired dough texture.

How should I store Tangzhong Challah?

One of the benefits of tangzhong is that it extends  the shelf life of bread. Tangzhong Challah will stay fresh, wrapped in plastic wrap, at room temperature, for at least 5 days.

Can I freeze Tangzhong Challah?

Absolutely. Wrap the challah in plastic wrap and store in the freezer for up to 3 months. Defrost it at room temperature. If you like to serve it warm, wrap it in aluminum foil and place it in a 350° F oven for 10-15 minutes.

Tangzhong Challah

4.86 from 48 votes
Prep Time 30 minutes
Cook Time 30 minutes
resting time 4 hours 30 minutes
Servings 24 slices
Calories 157
Tangzhong Challah is soft, fluffy and doughy and stays fresh much longer than traditional challah.

Ingredients

Tangzhong:

  • 40 grams bread flour (⅓ cup)
  • 200 grams warm water, 90°F-110°F (¾ cup plus 2 teaspoons)

Dough:

  • All the tangzhong
  • 113 grams water (½ cup)
  • 5 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 72 grams neutral oil such as vegetable, canola, sunflower, safflower, or grapeseed (⅓ cup)
  • 590 grams bread flour (4 cups plus 3 teaspoons)
  • 7 grams instant yeast* (2¼ teaspoons)
  • 50 grams Sugar (¼ cup)
  • 113 grams honey (⅓ cup)
  • 12 grams salt (2 teaspoons)

Instructions 

  • Tangzhong. In a small to medium saucepan, whisk together the bread flour and the water until full combined. Place pan of a medium-low heat, whisking occasionally. Once the mixture starts to simmer, whisk constantly until it is thickened to a paste consistency. The temperature should be 149° F. Remove from heat and pour tanghong into bowl of an electric mixer. Spread the tangzhong thinly on the bottom of the bowl to allow it to cool quicker. Set aside while gathering the rest of the ingredients.
  • Dough. Add the water, egg yolks, oil, bread flour and yeast to the tangzhong. Use a wood spoon or the paddle attachment of an electric mixer to combine all the ingredients just until the flour is fully absorbed. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 20 minutes.
  • Add the sugar and honey. Using a dough hook attachment to the electric mixer, knead the dough for approximately 4-5 minutes. You may need to stop the mixer several times to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Knead until the dough cleans the sides of the bowl. Lower the mixer speed and slowly add the salt. Knead for 2-3 additional minutes until the dough passes the windowpane test. (That means that, if you take a small piece of dough and stretch it with both your hands, it should become very thin and translucent without ripping.)
  • Shape dough into a ball and place back in mixing bowl. Cover with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow to rise in a warm area on the counter for approximately 3 hours. The dough should double in size.
  • Deflate the dough by pulling a piece from the bottom and folding it over itself, turning the bowl so you can do four similar folds. Remove the dough from the bowl and give it several kneads on the counter.
  • Weigh the dough and divide into two or three equal portions, depending on how many challahs you are making.
  • Further divide each portion into the number of strands you be making for each braid.
  • Shape each portion into a ball. If the dough is slightly sticky, lightly flour your countertop and the balls of dough.
  • Press down each ball into an oval. Fold the top third of the oval over itself towards you. Fold the top part again over the rest of the dough. Using the palms of both hands, roll the dough against the countertop to create your strands. If the dough starts pulling back, place it aside and allow it to rest for 5-10 minutes. Braid and shape as desired.
  • Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let rise 1½ hours.
  • Towards the end of the rising time, preheat oven to 350° F.
  • Apply egg wash. Sprinkle challah with any toppings, if using. Bake 25-30 minutes until golden brown on top and sides.

Notes

*If you have active dry yeast, use the same amount, 7 grams or 2¼ teaspoons. Dissolve it in the 113 g. (½ cup) warm water with a pinch of the sugar for about 5 minutes until it gets foamy. Add the rest of the ingredients as set forth in Step 2 and continue. 
  • You can also make tangzhong in the microwave. In a microwave safe bowl, whisk the flour with the water to hydrate the flour. Microwave for 30 seconds. Whisk the flour mixture. Microwave for 15 seconds. Whisk again and keep repeating until the paste is formed.
  • For the egg wash, beat 1 large egg. For a darker crust, beat just the egg yolk.
  • Add any desired seeds (poppyseeds, sesame seeds, Everything Seasoning, etc.) after applying the egg wash.
  • If making an entire batch with raisins, once the dough passes the windowpane test, add 219 g. (1½ cups) raisins and knead until fully incorporated. If dividing into two loaves and you want to make one of them with raisins, knead in 110 grams or ¾ cup of raisins at Step 6.
Author: Rob Finkelstein
Calories: 157kcal
Course: Bread
Cuisine: Jewish
Keyword: challah, challah braiding, rosh hashanah, shabbat, tangzhong

Nutrition

Calories: 157kcal | Carbohydrates: 25g | Protein: 4g | Fat: 4g | Saturated Fat: 1g | Polyunsaturated Fat: 1g | Monounsaturated Fat: 2g | Trans Fat: 1g | Cholesterol: 41mg | Sodium: 197mg | Potassium: 36mg | Fiber: 1g | Sugar: 6g | Vitamin A: 55IU | Vitamin C: 1mg | Calcium: 10mg | Iron: 1mg

24 Comments

  1. Wow! I can’t wait to try this Tangzhong Challah! Looks so delicious. It would be perfect for my green tea. Thanks!:)

    • Suzi Sholin Reply

      I really want to try this and wonder if I need to use as many eggs as you do? Likely that’s part of the hydration but I prefer a less egg-y challah.

      • Rob Finkelstein Reply

        I have not tried this, but using 2 whole large eggs instead of the 5 yolks will be approximately the same hydration.

  2. 5 stars
    This was so interesting to make! I love milk bread and this fusion with challah was so fun! Your instructions were clear and it turned out great!

  3. 5 stars
    I’d heard of this method before but only in passing. So, many thanks for the step-by-step instructions and tips! I’m really looking forward to trying this. It’ll be amazing with all those fall and winter brunch dishes!

  4. Amanda+Dixon Reply

    5 stars
    This challah is perfect! It came out so soft and pillowy — delicious. I’ll definitely make it again.

  5. 5 stars
    Made this today for the first time its absolutely delicious so soft and slightly sweet will be making this again for sure. Great recipe.

  6. Let me start by saying that I am a regular challah baker and almost never find a challah I like better than mine. But after one bite we were swayed. This is a great challah. I made it Sunday for Sukkot and it’s still soft and delicious 3 days later. Thanks Rob!

  7. Elizabeth Flight Reply

    5 stars
    This bread is absolutely delicious! The whole family loved it!

    • Rob Finkelstein Reply

      I do not believe so. The water to flour ratio is what makes this recipe and the Tangzhong method what they are. I suggest you Google how to covert a recipe to Tangzhong and try following those instructions.

    • Rob Finkelstein Reply

      No. This recipe is dependent on gluten. I do not have experience making gluten free breads, but there are many recipes online if you Google it.

  8. Phillip Hain Reply

    Can I use whole eggs instead of egg yolks? If so, how many would you recommend? Thank you.

    • Rob Finkelstein Reply

      You can try using 2 whole large eggs. It should work, but the challah will not be quite as “eggy”. (Large eggs weigh approximately 50 grams each. The yolks weigh approximately 20 grams each. Since there are 5 yolks, or 100 grams of them, 2 large eggs will give you the same amount of egg in the recipe.)

  9. Wilma Poyser Reply

    I made them. The dough is so soft. They smell so delicious. I would give the dough ample rising time so plan on this taking some time.
    I have students in my class we share a love of baking and we were talking about this so I will bring pictures and my family reviews in next week. Wish I could upload a picture they came out beautiful. Thank you!!

    • Rob Finkelstein Reply

      I am so thrilled you enjoyed this challah!

  10. Okay 2 questions – 1) could I substitute the water for milk? 2) could I sub in cone sourdough starter?

    This recipe found amazing. Thank you!!

    • *some. Not come :). Sorry for the typo!!

      And could I leave it in the fridge overnight before baking? (Last question 🙂 )

      • Rob Finkelstein Reply

        It is difficult for me to answer your questions because I have never tried any of them. That said, I will give you my best guesses for answers.
        1. I have only made challah with water because my family traditionally eats challah with a meat meal, so I never use dairy in challah (for kosher purposes). I am very confident that you could use milk instead of the water, although I suspect it would not make a material difference since this dough is already so soft.
        2. As for subbing in sourdough starter, I don’t see why not. I would try subbing in 226 g. of discard. To do that, you should decrease the flour by 113 g. and omit the 113 g. water/milk in the dough recipe. I would not tinker with the flour or water/milk quantities in the tangzhong.
        3. For refrigeration, I would allow the dough to rise for about a half hour and then place it in the refrigerator overnight. In the morning, shape the dough and allow it to rise, probably about 2 hours, before baking. Alternatively, you could try going all the way to the point of shaping the dough, then refrigerating it. In the morning I would let it come to room temperature at least one hour before baking.
        Please let me know if you try any of these and how it works out!

        • 5 stars
          Oh my gosh. Of course!!!! I grew up kosher so I should have totally known that (duh). Thank you for helping me have that lightbulb, I feel so silly.

          Okay so I’m skipping the milk.

          I made the recipe your written way (yay!) but did try over night. I was late to the party on your reply so I left it to rise for the originally prescribed 3 hours, punched it down, and set it in the fridge over night. Next morning I shaped my 6-braids, let them rest for 1hr and baked. They came out LOVELY. Thank you so much for this recipe. For fun, I am going to try adding discard tomorrow or later this evening and do a half recipe – I will absolutely report back!! Thank you so much for all your guidance!!!

  11. Two questions….
    Can this recipe be doubled and come out well?
    If I only have instant yeast, is it interchangeable with the active?
    Thanks!!

    • Rob Finkelstein Reply

      Generally, you can double, halve, triple, etc. any bread recipe and it should come out just the same. As for the yeast, I meant for the recipe to say instant yeast. It is all I use these days, actually. Thanks for pointing that out — just changed it in the recipe.

      To answer your question, in a small bread batch like this, you can generally use the same amount whether active dry or instant. However, approximately 25% of active dry granules are dead and won’t work in dough. With instant, 100% of the granules are alive. Therefore, if a recipe calls for active dry, I usually decrease the amount by 25% when using instant. And if a recipe calls for instant, I increase it by 25% if using active dry.

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