Honey and fig challah

Honey and fig challah

How to Cook Bread
1 large plaited loaf
Peter Cassidy

This is a delicious variation on the traditional plain enriched challah loaf. Traditionally challah loaves are plaited using 6 strands, but here only 4 strands are plaited to make the finished loaf simpler to achieve.


Quantity Ingredient
15g fresh yeast
100g runny honey
150ml tepid water
85g dried figs
80ml olive oil
2 eggs
1 extra yolk
525g strong white flour, plus extra to dust
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
oil, to grease

For the glaze

Quantity Ingredient
1 egg
1 tablespoon granulated sugar


  1. Dissolve the yeast and 1 tsp of the honey in the tepid water in a medium bowl and leave to stand for 2–3 minutes. Roughly chop the figs, place in a separate bowl and pour on just enough boiling water to cover. Set aside to soak.
  2. Whisk the oil, remaining honey, eggs and egg yolk into the yeast mixture.
  3. Mix the flour and salt in a large bowl, add the yeast mixture and stir with a wooden spoon until the dough comes together into a large, soft ball.
  4. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5–10 minutes until smooth. It should be soft, but not too sticky to knead.
  5. Transfer the dough to a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with lightly oiled cling film and set aside in a warm place until almost doubled in size, up to 2 hours.
  6. Drain the soaked figs and pat dry with kitchen paper. Knock back the risen dough and knead in the figs until combined.
  7. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Roll and stretch each one into a rope about 30cm long. If any bits of the dried fruit fall out, just poke them back in with your finger.
  8. To shape the loaf, arrange 2 strands in each direction, perpendicular to each other (like a noughts and crosses game). Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. Take the 4 ropes that come from underneath the centre and move them over the rope to their right. Take those ropes that were on the right and again, move each rope over the rope before, this time to the left. If you have extra length to your ropes, you can repeat these left-right moves until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round loaf.
  9. Transfer the shaped dough to a lightly oiled baking sheet, cover with lightly oiled cling film and leave to prove for about 45 minutes until nearly doubled in size again. Meanwhile, heat the oven to 190°C.
  10. Beat the egg for the glaze in a small bowl using a fork. Brush the risen loaf with the egg and sprinkle with the sugar. Bake in the middle of the oven for 40–45 minutes, or until the loaf is golden brown, sounds hollow when tapped on the base and feels light for its size. If it starts to take on a lot of colour in the oven, cover with a sheet of foil to finish cooking. Transfer to a wire rack to cool.
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