Whole Grain Challah With Cranberries and Orange Zest


Our new book has a terrific braided challah with whole wheat and wheat germ, and I’ve been playing with a variation that includes cranberries and orange zest.  This same challah recipe lends itself to many other holiday traditions as well, forming the basis in our book for Scandinavian Christmas breads like Pulla and Julekage.  It’s really just a lightly enriched yeast dough that is very, very versatile.  The recipe……is quite easy, like everything in our book.  The main difference between this challah and the white challah from our first book is the ingredients list (lots of whole grains), plus the fact that you need to mix in vital wheat gluten with the dry ingredients first, in order to prevent clumping.  Vital wheat gluten is a crucial ingredient for our stored whole grain doughs– we found that unlike white doughs from the first book, they just didn’t store well without it.  So here goes:

5 cups whole wheat flour

3 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup wheat germ

1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)

1 tablespoon kosher salt

1/4 cup vital wheat gluten

3/4 cup dried sweetened cranberries (“craisins”)

Zest from 1 orange, scraped off with a microzester)

3 cups lukewarm water

1/4 cup neutral-flavored oil, melted butter, or melted zero trans fat, zero hydrogenated oil margarine

1/2 cup honey

3 large eggs

Egg wash (1 egg lightly blended with 1 tablespoon water)

Whisk together the flours, wheat germ, yeast, salt, vital wheat gluten in a 5-quart bowl, or a lidded (not airtight food container.  Drop in the cranberries and orange zest.  Add the liquid ingredients and stir them together with a spoon, or use a 14-cup food processor or heavy-duty stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment.  Allow the dough to rest and rise at room temperature for about 2 hours, until it slows down its rising or begins to collapse. 

Now follow the directions for challah at https://artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=360, but probably skip the seeds– I don’t think they go with cranberries and orange.  You can use some additional orange zest instead; just sprinkle it on after brushing with egg wash.   Baking time is 30 to 35 minutes at 350 degrees F (use an oven thermometer).  This recipe makes five pounds of dough; make tonight’s loaf a one-pounder and store the rest for up to five days in the fridge, using pieces of dough as needed.  Or, store up to 2 weeks in the freezer— freeze in one-pound portions.

Enjoy!  …and follow us on Twitter for updates and recipe alerts.


69 thoughts to “Whole Grain Challah With Cranberries and Orange Zest”

  1. This is not specific to this blog post, but i didn’t see where else to post…

    I’m needing to find out if it is possible to bake the HB5 breads at a slightly lower temperature than the typical 450°F.

    The stupid smoke/carbon detector in my military housing sits right off of the kitchen. And no matter what i do (stove exhaust, patio door open, etc) it ALWAYS goes off when the oven is at 450°F or higher. The oven doesn’t have burned stuff on the bottom or door or anything. We truly think it is just a “heat thing” for some reason.

    Anyway, i use a stone for the breads, if that matters. I’m needing to know if i can bake the bread at say 400° or even 425°F, and for how much longer (generally speaking) and hope to get the same results.

    BTW, i bought your HB5 book yesterday and am THRILLED with the nice variety of recipes within. 2010+ is going to be a yummy year with new recipes to bake!

  2. Lovely! I love orange zest. Will have to try. Meanwhile, just made spicy chili crackers from HBn5. Came out thin, delicious, crispy. But 1 or 2 that were thicker @ edges have softened the whole batch. How to keep them crisp (ex in husband’s lunch, where he doesn’t have leisure to recrisp in oven)? Do I have to store them in single layers? Eat all the slightly-bready ones immediately? Other suggestions, please? PS: can u tweet me @rmgbi when u reply so I don’t miss answer? Many thx!

  3. Is it possible to add solid goodies (raisins, pumpkin seeds, whatever to my daily hunk of the master recipe? Just folding them in gently? That would give me the versatility.
    Or, would it just deflate the gasses, even with the second rise?

  4. I am still experimenting for our upcoming sailing trip – will be trying a silicone bread pan with the boule (or maybe whole wheat challah!) next, since I don’t want to bring a glass or metal pan or a bread stone…Wondering if you have ever stored the dough in a large ziplock plastic bag? I don’t know how available an ice cream bucket will be in the virgin islands and don’t want to carry this on the plane, either! Thanks.

    1. Hi Dianne,

      I suggest you bring us with you to the Virgin Islands and we can do some experimenting! 🙂

      The silicone baking pans work very nicely. If you try the bags for storing dough be sure to only fill them about 1/3 full so that you have plenty of room for expansion. If you have an enclosed pot you can do away with the stone and the pan for steam. Like this: https://artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=552

      Enjoy your trip and the bread! Zoë

  5. I found a recipe that added sundried tomatoes and cubed Asiago cheese to bread dough. How can I use these in your bread recipes, at the beginning of the mixing process and they stay in the frig. or add them as if I were make cinnamon raison bread. Also which white bread would be best. Thank-you

    1. Hi Suzie,

      I would follow the recipe for the Vermont Cheddar Bread and just add the Asiago and sundried tomatoes to the mix in place of the cheddar. Or you can do it like the cinnamon raisin bread as you mentioned, using the master recipe as your base. Either way will work nicely.

      Sounds great, let us know how it goes. Zoë

  6. What if you eliminated the cranberries from the dough, but used them instead to make a version of the classic stick bun/cinnamon bun? I bet it would be really yummy with that orange zest in the filling as well.

    1. Hi Mike,

      There is a weight equivalents table in Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day for all of the various flours. We use a scoop and sweep method of measuring which results in more flour. 1 cup of unbleached all-purpose flour = 5 ounces. For the master recipe in ABin5 the flour equals 2 pounds.

      I hope that helps! Zoë

  7. I made this bread the other day and it turned out WONDERFULLY! We made the best french toast from it!! I’m wondering whether you’d be okay with me putting the recipe (and linking to the site of course) on your blog. If not, I’ll just link to your blog and not post the recipe. Let me know! Thanks!

    1. Hi Natalie,

      How wonderful that you made it and enjoyed it so much. We do prefer that people link back to us for the recipe. I so appreciate you asking! 🙂

      Enjoy, Zoë

  8. hi, its hard for me to find kosher salt. If the recipe says to use 1 1/2 tablespoon of this salt, what,s the amount i should use with table salt? thank you, patricia

  9. I must confess, after years of failures with kneading (torturing!) the dough, I actually thought I had given up bread making for ever. Then I found your article in Mother Earth News and I made my first beautiful loaves right away. I got your first book about 3 months ago and your 2nd as a Christmas present. I have been experimenting / leaning toward the whole wheat side since the first day, first book, first batch, adding some wwf even when your recipes used all purpose flour. My mom got me buying whole wheat and whole grain breads and wheat germ decades ago, but I was so pleased to tell her about your efforts. Now she’s a proud owner of your 1st book and soon your 2nd, too. She bakes more than I do! 🙂
    I tried a variation of this recipe by altering your original Challah on my 2nd time making it (the first time turned out so well, why not add whole wheat flour!?!?!?!?!). I always use King Arthur Unbleached (as opposed to bleached) and almost Never miss an opportunity to add KAF’s whole wheat and whole grains.
    But I had problems; the dough made with increasing amounts of whole wheat and whole grains sometimes BROKE while I pulled a chunk out of the container, and it never had quite the oven spring I got with just the Unbleached All Purpose flour. I didn’t know what I was doing wrong!
    Well, your HBin5 book made such a difference when I discovered your vital wheat gluten changes and good info you give on this site. I LOVE and APPRECIATE what the two of you have done for my family’s health and the idea that I can make beautiful bread and still work almost 50 hours every week. Now, I want to bake bread for 50 hours a week and do my regular job (network admin) only 5 minutes a day! Thank you for all you do and know that I tell everyone that eats my breads where I learned to do this!

    1. Hi Patti,

      Thank you so much for the lovely note. How amazing that you and your mom are baking bread together. My mom and I do too, albeit long distance. I’m so pleased that HBin5 took the mystery out of your whole wheat loaves and you are enjoying them so much!

      Cheers and enjoy the bread! Zoë

  10. Thanks for the tips, Zoe. Now if I could just stop eating the bread I am testing for the next 2 wks so that I can fit into a swimming suit!!!
    Why don’t you grab your deck shoes and join us!!

  11. To Patti – I just read your comment about baking bread 50 hours a week and working five minutes a day – BRAVO for that!!!

  12. I made this recipe back in December when Michelle posted it to the baking group and it was so very easy. I was very happy with my braids and the taste was fantastic. We couldn’t eat our way through all of the bread I baked so I froze half of each braid. I use it in cubes for a baked french toast casserole with blackberries and it’s wonderful. Everyone is very impressed with my bread too and I refuse to tell them the secret of how easy it is to make.

    1. Hi Natanya,

      So glad you are enjoying all the bread! I will stop by and see the breads you are baking in HBinFive.

      Enjoy and your secret is safe with us! 😉


  13. I have a general question. I am making my first batch of bread with the master recipe in Artisan Bread in 5 Minutes. The recipes keep talking about keeping the bread in a container with a fitted lid that is not airtight. If I am using a dough container from King Arthur Flour should I put the lid on all the way or leave it open a bit when I store the dough in the fridge? I am not sure if the closed container is considered to be airtight or not.

    1. Hi Chiara,

      Just put the lid on, but don’t snap it shut. That is exactly how I do it with those buckets. After a couple of days you can snap it shut if you like.

      Thank you for trying the breads, enjoy! Zoë

  14. We are LOVING the new bread book! Thank you for the whole grain recipes.
    Have either of you, found a source for or tried baking with Organic Vital Wheat Gluten? I just read the book, “The Unhealthy Truth” and I am committed to cutting out all GM Foods (Genetically Modified) and we are trying to eat 100 % organic. Especially for the sake of my growing children! But I am having a difficult time locating the Vital Wheat Gluten in an Organic Version.
    Happy Baking! Thank you for changing the way we eat our daily bread!

  15. Dear Zoe,
    Thank you for taking the time to research and answer our many questions. We are all becoming very educated through your kindness and shared expertise. I checked out the Amazon link for the Organic vital wheat gluten and then called Arrowhead Mills to confirm. Apparently Amazon did a miss-print on that item. The title and photos show Vital Wheat Gluten, but the description says talks about organic cookies. Arrowhead Mills confirmed that their vital gluten is not organic.

    So I kept calling around, Hodgson Mills says, “Our Vital Wheat Gluten is not Certified Organic, however we do not use pesticides and we do not use GMO ingredients. We can’t guarantee that it is organic or non-GMO, but it basically is organic, just without the certification.”

    Ahhhh….. now I can bake guilt free!

    1. Kristi: Part of why I started baking my own way back when was because I wanted to try to use more organic ingredients, so I feel your pain. It’s tough to commit to 100% organic because it isn’t available for everything. Jeff

    2. Hi Kristi,

      Thank you so much for letting us know. I will be careful when reading the amazon descriptions.

      Happy baking! Zoë

  16. Hi Zoe and Jeff,
    ” it’s the first time that you make a bread that is so soft, write down what you did so you can do it again ” those were the words of my husband as he tasted the brioche today. It was yummy, thank you for a wonderful book and for making bread easier to make.

  17. can i mix different ingredients such as cheese, garlic jalapeno or whatever after i have refigerated the dough overnight. thanks…

  18. Hi jeff and zoe,

    Just finished mixing up my first “5HBin5” batch. The dough is beautiful. I noticed the book says that “white, unbleached spelt flour” is unavailable. I am a person who is wheat-sensitive, so use whole spelt and unbleached white spelt flour in all of my bread. I buy Vitaspelt brand of unbleached spelt flour. It’s similar in structure to cake flour, but blended with whole grain spelt flour works very well. Love the book, can’t wait to try all the recipes! thank, kim

    1. Hi Kim,

      Is the spelt you are using labeled “light”? I found that the dough came out too wet when I tried it with that flour. It sounds like you didn’t have that experience?

      Thanks, Zoë

  19. I am about to make the milk and honey raisin bread p270 HBin5 and the storage directions are for 10 days frig and most other egg/milk enriched all say 5 days and then freeze – is 10 days safe with this one?

    1. Hi Amy,

      I usually don’t go beyond 5-7 days for the egg enriched doughs. Honestly it is more of a flavor issue than safety. I find that I prefer that kind of fermentation in my non-enriched breads. You can always freeze the dough if you don’t use it up.

      Thanks, Zoë

  20. Used up some week old Quinoa (HBin5)dough by taking a loaf’s worth patting out to about 1/2 in on floured peel, brushing with olive oil, sprinkling with various seeds and some rosemary – baked on stone with steam and it was a crusty and wonderful focaccia and great with EVOO dip and pasta. Thanks for the advice on enriched dough storage.

  21. Hi zoe,
    When I’ve used the white unbleached spelt flour, it has a different consistency than whole spelt flour. For bread, I find it works best to combine it with at least 1/3 (or more) whole spelt flour, and 2/3 white. I believe it contains less protein than wheat unbleached flour, and doesn’t support the structure of the bread without the whole spelt flour. It does work great for cake and quick breads. 🙂 But that’s another book . . .
    Anyways, the ABin5 bread I made using whole spelt flour and unbleached spelt flour turned out well, I think I wouldn’t let it rest for the full 90 minutes so it rises a little higher in the oven. It is by far the best I’ve ever made when trying for a whole-grain bread. Yum, and thanks! kim

  22. I have been busy baking since I got the book for Christmas. I find that I am going through ingredients much quicker as a result. I mentioned to my sister that I wished there was some sort of flour storage containers available that I could easily dump the whole bag of flour into, that would keep bugs and rodents out of it, but yet be easy to scoop my measure cup into and pull it back to sweep off excess. I was surprised to hear that my mother used to often wish for such a storage container. She grew up in Finland were her father had a store and that is what they had, because people would come in and just buy a few cups of flour at a time. I am curious how do you store your ingredients? I finally bought the 2 lbs yeast at Costco and store. that as well as my VWG, in spaghetti sauce jars but that will not do for the flours.

  23. I rec’d your book for Christmas and made your master recipe. My bread looks beautiful and the crust is perfect but has absolutely no flavor. What am I doing wrong? Doing everything like the book says. Thanks

    1. Kaye: The ideas that come to mind:

      1. Any chance you mis-measured the salt? See this post for adjustments with different types of salt: https://artisanbreadinfive.com/?p=139
      2. You will find the bread more flavorful if you let the dough age for at least a couple of days– that’s the idea behind our method, and is essential if your palatte is used to natural sourdoughs. Our method begins to approximate that as the dough ages; by about 4 days you’ll notice a very big difference. If this solves the problem, just stagger your batches so you always are baking from an aged batch.
      3. Any chance that the flour is old and stale? I had this experience baking in someone else’s house once. Flour does go stale.

      Hope that helps… Jeff

  24. Hi jeff and zoe, Can’t wait for the pizza and flatbreads book. I will look for the spelt recipes. All the recipes so far are easily adaptable. Can’t wait to try more. kim

  25. Hi, I am having trouble getting my
    HBin5 bread to rise. It rises ok after
    mixing by putting some boiling water
    near it, but doesn’t rise after refrigerating
    it. Please help.

    1. Sara: Once the bread has done its initial rise on the counter, it doesn’t rise again in the fridge. It expands modestly after shaping and resting 90 minutes at room temperature. But expect only modest rise at that point.

      Our method depends on a concept called “oven spring” for proportionally more of its rise than traditionally mixed non-stored dough. You should be seeing good rise once it’s placed in the hot oven.

      Are you using the vital wheat gluten? Unbleached (not bleached) flour for the all-purpose white that we specify? Have you tested oven temp with a thermometer (a too-cool oven won’t achieve nice oven spring). Jeff

  26. I recently used the Apple and Honey Whole Grain Challah recipe but altered it a little bit to make what I call “Breakfast Buns”. To the recipe on page 262 of HBin5 I added 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon, 1 cup finely chopped walnuts, and 1 cup craisins. After the first rest period I took half of the dough and made 18 balls then elongated the balls into “hot dog” shaped buns. Placed them on a parchment lined baking sheet and baked them for about 20 minutes at 350. Keep in the freezer in ziplock bags. Microwave for 15 seconds to thaw. Slice in half & toast lightly. Add a little butter, if you like. We eat them plain. They are yummy for breakfast on the run. Enjoy! (pictures on Facebook HBin5 page)

  27. I just made the recipe for Challah from HBin5 yesterday. I baked up a batch today.

    I did not get any oven spring like normal. I find it best to wait until the dough is not cool to my hand before putting in the oven. At least, with all the doughs I’ve tried before (from ABin5).

    I made little ‘rolls’ in muffin tins and they did expand while warming up on the counter. I’ve found with all the recipes that I’ve tried that the recommended rising time is not nearly enough. I just go by the touch method and that seems to work best.

    Even though I did not get much oven spring, the rolls were very light, tender, airy, and soft. Wonderful flavor!!! And the aroma was just too much, lol.

    So, any ideas as to why no oven spring? this was the first HBin5 recipe I’ve tried. I’m not disappointed by any means. It was delicious!

    1. Tammy: The whole wheat recipes definitely don’t rise as much and don’t have as much oven spring. But— when you say that they were light, airy, and soft, that tells me that doesn’t fit with what you’re saying about not getting “any oven spring.” If that were so, they’d be like lead.

      So basically, I think you’re on the right track. Just have different expectations for the whole grain stuff.

  28. I would just like to clarify; this challah dough requires no kneading, yes? It only says to stir; the dough is much too wet to knead with the current amounts of ingredients.

    1. Hi Andy,

      Yes, you are correct. That is the basis of our method, making a large batch of wet dough that can be stored for several days and baked when you want it. Working with the wet dough will take a little getting used to, but it is really quite easy.

      Thanks, Zoë

  29. I’ve made the whole wheat/wheat germ challah several times (and I’ve been making breads with your method for years). It is always a little on the dry side. I’ve tried increasing the liquid ingredients without resolving the problem…maybe I need to bake at a lower temp? Other breads with whole grains and all-white-flour challah turn out fine! Any ideas?

    1. Daniell: Believe it or not, the eggs in challah and brioche make them more sensitive to overbaking, not less. The egg proteins curl up around themselves and drive out water molecules.

      This sensitivity becomes even more of a problem when you introduce WW into challah or brioche— the bran creates a dry sensation in the mouth. So… be careful not to overbake, check your oven temp with a thermometer. Make a smaller challah– that will take away the concern that it might “not be done,” and you’ll be able to pull it earlier.

      Adding vital wheat gluten might help– it captures water– see the FAQ on WW, using VWG etc at the top of the web page. Jeff

  30. Is there a recipe for Gluten Free Challah? I didn’t see one in the book. Is there a way to adapt the whole wheat challah recipe for GF? Thanks. Dorothy

    1. Hi Dorthy,

      There is not a recipe for Challah, but the brioche would be very similar. The trick with g-f doughs is in the braiding. This will take a very careful hand and some practice.

      There is no way to adapt wheat recipes to g-f, they require entirely different flours and xanthan gum so the ratios are different.

      Thanks! Zoë

  31. Cranberry Orange is one of my favorite bread combos. I have been making a cranberry orange with the basic boule. I just add cranberries and the zest and juice of two oranges when mixing up a batch of dough. Incredible.

    I have a quick question for the two of you. I have made your challah recipes a number of times. They are one of the best I’ve ever tried (and the most requested by my family). I have one minor problem each time I make them. The braids don’t stay tight. They split at the braids almost like when you slash the other loaves. Sometime they look very distorted when they come out of the oven. Each time I make them I try to make sure that the braids are snug, but after a couple of minutes in the oven they get a mind of their own. Other than that they cook perfectly, I just wouldn’t enter them in any bread beauty contests. I see the pictures of your challah like the one above and I am very envious. Any thoughts?

    1. Paula: Have you tested oven temp with something like https://bit.ly/czmco2 ? Oven could be too hot. Other option would be a longer rest in case your kitchen is on the cool side.

      Smaller ones probably won’t behave this way. Are you keeping it to 1 pound, or are these biggies?

  32. Hello! I am searching your site for a substitution for the honey in Braided Challah with Whole Wheat and Wheat Germ in HBin5 page 258. I know I need to add more liquid if I use regular sugar (family member is sensitive to honey). Any ideas how much liquid to add (or how much sugar?) I would rather not use stevia (I saw that substitution) because of many food sensitivities in the family. Thank you for your time!
    Also, I made the whole wheat crust from your pizza and flatbreads cookbook (p 82) with half whole wheat for dinner tonight and my kids and I loved it!! Now I am going to try the spelt one next for my husband. I found some unopened whole spelt flour in my cupboard but it is past its expiration date (oops!!) Any ideas if I can tell if it is still ok to use? I am not familiar with how spelt flour smells usually so unless it is very rancid, it will be hard for me to determine. Tried to look online without success.

    1. Hi Cindy,

      You can use 1/2 cup of sugar and just add a few additional tablespoons of water to the dough. You could also try agave if that is well tolerated by the family member who can’t eat honey.

      Thanks! Zoë

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