My new recipe for challah buns is filled with a pistachio cardamom mixture and topped off with a zesty lemon vanilla icing. Perfect for breakfast or a teatime snack.
What is Challah Bread?
Challah is an Eastern European egg-enriched bread, traditionally associated with Jewish cuisine. It is a common celebratory bread and often prepared as large braided loaves.
Plain challah is an eggy, sweet bread, soft inside with a browned crust and often lightly salted on top. There are many variations in form as well as flavour. The dough works well paired with all manner of fillings or toppings!
Making Challah Buns
- Dry active yeast - this recipe calls for one sachet of dry yeast, which is usually equivalent to 2¼ teaspoons.
- Warm water - you do not want the water to be too hot, so do not use freshly boiled water. I like to boil water and allow to cool for about 10 minutes, to ensure it is well warmed, but not so hot it will kill the yeast.
- Sugar - this recipe calls for both plain white caster sugar and also light brown muscovado sugar.
- Flour - in the UK, plain flour is not quite equivalent to all-purpose flour in the US. For this recipe, I use a mix of plain flour and strong white bread flour. You can replace the full amount (3¼ cups) with all-purpose flour in the US.
- Oil - you will want to use a flavorless oil such as canola or sunflower.
Process for Making Challah Dough
Making challah dough is an easy three step process:
1. Activate the yeast using warm water
Add the warm water to a small bowl, with ½ teaspoon of white caster sugar and sprinkle the dry yeast over top. Give this a quick stir and allow to sit for about 10 minutes until foamy on top.
You do not want to use boiling water for this as having too hot of water can kill off the yeast. Ideal temperatures are around 100°F (38C). If you don't have a thermometer, I find that using water that boiled about 10 minutes previous or generally water that is warm but not hot to the touch works well.
2. Prepare the wet and dry ingredients separately
In a jug, whisk together the wet ingredients: the oil, eggs and brown sugar. Set this aside.
Meanwhile, using a large bowl or the bowl of an electric stand mixer, stir together the flours, remaining caster sugar and salt.
3. Knead everything together!
Once the yeast is foamy, add this to the bowl of dry ingredients, immediately followed by the whisked up egg mixture. Mix to combine into a wet dough and then continue to knead.
In my standmixer, fitted with a dough hook, I knead my dough for 10-12 minutes on a low speed until the dough is pulling itself off the sides of the bowl. It will still be a wet dough, so don't worry if it is still clinging to the bowl a bit and a bit sticky to touch.
If you are kneading by hand, this will take a bit longer than using a stand mixer.
Once your dough is kneaded, transfer this to a separate, oiled bowl. Cover with cling film and allow to rise.
Proofing Challah Dough
There are two options for proofing this dough. You can either:
- Proof for 2 hours at room temperature. In a reasonably warm kitchen, the dough should double in size in two hours.
- Proof overnight in the refrigerator. Following a slow proof process in the refrigerator is great if you are making this recipe for breakfast or brunch. Simply place the covered bowl in the refrigerator for about 8-10 hours (overnight). Allow to sit at room temperature for about an hour
Pistachio Cardamom Filling
- Pistachios - these should be shelled and unsalted.
- Ground cardamom - if you cannot find ground cardamom, you can use cardamom seeds, removed from the pods. As you will be blitzing the ingredients in a food processor these will be ground up in the process.
- Vanilla extract
- Egg white
Making Bun Filling
The process for making this pistachio filling could not be easier! Simply blitz the dry ingredients in a food processor, then mix with the vanilla, butter and egg white until you form a paste.
If you don't have a food processor, this isn't a problem. You can achieve similar results in two ways:
- Finely chopping the pistachios and crushing these together with the cardamom with a mortar and pestle.
- Alternatively, place the pistachios and cardamom in a sealed ziploc bag and beat to crush with a heavy rolling pin or meat tenderiser.
In either case, once the pistachios are ground down a bit, mix this with the vanilla, butter and egg white to form the paste.
Dividing Challah Buns
Once your dough has finished its first proof, tip this out onto a lightly floured work surface and divide into 12 pieces. I do this with a dough cutter, but a sharp knife would work too.
Filling Pistachio Cardamom Challah Rolls
If you've tried to fill bread rolls in the past and struggled, you are not alone! I've often had my buns burst a bit when adding a filling.
To be on the safer side, I suggest using only about ½ tablespoon of filling per bun in my recipe, which is not a huge amount, but does give a good filling and flavour without too many explosions in the oven!
Another key tip is do not be afraid of handling the dough. You will want to work your dough a bit to make a rough and then flatten this for the filling.
Also do not be shy about pinching the dough together. Pinch the seam together strong to ensure any openings to the filling are well concealed and also be sure to place the buns seam side down for their second proof (and bake). This will help prevent too much leakage.
Once ready, you can help fashion the spherical shape by forming a cage with your fingers on a work surface and lightly rocking the dough back and forth, with the seam side remaining against the work surface.
Baking Challah Buns
Once you've filled your rolls, place these well spaced on silicone baking sheets or parchment paper and allow to rise again for 30 minutes. Meanwhile preheat your to 350°F (175C/155C Fan) and make a quick egg wash using the egg yolk leftover from the filling and a dash of water.
Brush each bun with this egg wash and bake in the preheated oven for 20 minutes until nice and golden.
Remove from the oven and place on a wire rack to cool, while making the icing.
Icing Pistachio and Cardamom Challah Buns
My zesty lemon and vanilla frosting is the perfect topping for these challah buns. Honestly, I'm a massive fan of iced buns in all forms and frosting is my weakness. I could happily just eat spoonfuls of this simple bun icing (and may have when making it...)
The ingredients are very straightforward:
- Powdered icing sugar
- Vanilla extract
- Lemon juice - I juiced half a lemon for this recipe, which roughly equaled 1 tablespoon of lemon juice.
To make the frosting, mix together these ingredients and use a table knife or offset spatula to frost the buns.
You can play around with the consistency of the frosting by adding the milk last and slowly. If you would like a thicker frosting, simply reserve some of the milk instead of adding it. Alternatively if you would like a thinner frosting, like a glaze, you can add additional milk to thin this out. My recommended measurements will achieve a relatively thick frosting like you would find on an iced bun.
Sprinkle chopped pistachios over your frosted challah bun and you are ready to dig in!
FAQs for Pistachio Cardamom Filled Challah Buns
These challah buns are best eaten fresh on the day they are baked, but they do last for about two days kept in an airtight container at room temperature. Alternatively, you can freeze them for up to 3 months.
Unfortunately, this likely means that your yeast has died. It may be due to using too cold or too warm water or using expired yeast. The best thing to do will be to try again with making the water, sugar and yeast mixture before carrying on.
So, in my experience, there are two types of leaks/explosions when it comes to filled buns.
1. The first is due to the filling not being fully sealed in to the bun. If this is the case, the filling will leak out and pool around the baking buns. You can still salvage these (at least in flavour, if not in presentation), by continuing to bake until the bread rolls are done. Then carefully scoop the exploded filling into a bowl. This will be very hot from the oven. When making your icing, use crumbled filling instead of chopped pistachios to top.
2. The second common issue is if your bread has ended up too thin and the filling expands out the top when baking, causing the bread the break open. You can see in my photos that this happened to one of mine in this bake! This type of leak is a bit less likely to occur on a wide scale, so again just carry on - frost over the exploded bit and the bun will still be perfectly delicious!
If you liked this recipe, check out some other breakfast bread bakes:
Pistachio Cardamom Challah Buns
Ingredients for Challah Buns
- 2¼ teaspoon dry active yeast (one packet)
- ¾ cup warm water
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- 2½ cups plain or all purpose flour
- ¾ cup strong bread flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs
- ⅓ cup flavorless oil (such as canola or sunflower oil) plus extra to oil the bowl
- ¼ cup light brown muscovado sugar, packed
Ingredients for Pistachio Cardamom Filling
- 1 cup pistachios, shelled and unsalted
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ¼ teaspoon salt
- 2 tablespoon sugar
- ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon unsalted butter, softened
- 1 egg separated
Ingredients for Icing
- 1¾ cup powdered icing sugar, sifted
- 1 tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
- 2 tablespoon whole milk
- ¼ cup pistachios, shelled and unsalted, coarsely chopped
- Place the warm water in a small bowl. Add ½ teaspoon of the sugar and sprinkle the dry yeast over top. Stir lightly and set aside for 10 minutes. The yeast should create a frothy surface on the water.
- In a jug, whisk together the eggs, oil and brown sugar. Set this aside.
- Place the flours, remaining sugar and salt in a large bowl of the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook attachment. Mix together lightly.
- After 10 minutes, once the yeast is foamy, add this to the flour, immediately followed by the egg mixture. Knead this together either by hand or with the electric mixer for about 10 minutes until a sticky dough is formed. It should be pulling itself away from the sides of the bowl.
- Lightly oil a large bowl and scrape the prepared dough into this. Cover and let rise for 2 hours at room temperature. The dough should double in size. Alternatively allow to proof slowly overnight in the refrigerator (the next day, allow to stand at room temperature for about an hour before handling).
- While the dough is proofing, make the filling by pulsing the pistachios, cardamom, sugar and salt in a food processor until the pistachios are finely ground. Pour these into a small bowl and then add the vanilla, egg white and butter. Mix to form a paste.
- When the dough is ready, turn this out onto a lightly floured surface and divide into 12 equal pieces.
- Working one piece at a time, form balls with the dough and flatten these out. Spoon a heaping teaspoon (approximately ½ tablespoon measure) of filling into the centre and pinch the dough closed around the filling. Set the finished filled dough ball seal side down on a piece of parchment paper or a silicone mat.
- Repeat the filling process until all 12 balls are filled. Place these well spaced on the parchment paper or silicon mats and allow these rise again for 30 minutes at room temperature.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F (175C/155C Fan).
- After 30 minutes, brush the challah rolls with an egg wash, made from the remaining egg yolk and a sprinkle of water whisked together. Bake these in the middle of a preheated oven for 20 minutes, until golden on top.
- Remove from the oven and transfer to a wire rack to cool completely.
- In a bowl, mix together the powdered icing sugar, lemon juice, vanilla and milk.
- Once the challah buns are cooled, frost each of these with a generous amount of the icing mixture and sprinkle with chopped pistachios.