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Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah


The layers of this Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Challah pull apart beautifully with pockets of cinnamon goo and toasty butter plus a slight essence of vanilla.

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Rate this recipe 4.1/5 (17 Votes)
Vanilla Bean Brown Butter Cinnamon Swirl Challah 1 Picture


  • 1 package active dry yeast, 2 1/4 teaspoons if you have a jar of yeast
  • 1 cup tepid water
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 4 to 5 cups bread flour
  • 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk
  • 1 vanilla bean, split and scraped
  • 10 tablespoons unsalted butter, browned, 1 stick plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons in the dough, 4 tablespoons to brush on dough)
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • 2/3 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • 1 egg, beaten for the egg wash


Adapted from


Step 1

In a small bowl dissolve the yeast in 1/4 cup 110 degree water. Cover and let bloom until foamy.

While the yeast is blooming, brown the butter then pour it into a medium bowl. Split the vanilla bean and scrape out the seeds. Stir the seeds into the melted brown butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let it infuse while preparing the dough.

Place 1 cup of the flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the middle of the flour and pour the bloomed yeast into it. Mix the bloomed yeast into some of the flour from the sides of the hole, covering lightly with flour. Place in warm place, covered with towel, for about 15 minutes.

When the flour-yeast mixture starts to foam and rise, add the 6 tablespoons of the vanilla bean brown butter, sugar, salt, eggs, the yolk and the remaining 3/4 cup water, then mix until batter like. Slowly start to stir in remaining flour until you get a workable dough. You may or may not use all the flour, or may need more, depending on many factors, like the weather.

Remove the dough from bowl, and knead on a floured board for 10 - 15 minutes until smooth and elastic. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and a towel and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour or until doubled in size.

Combine the cinnamon and brown sugar in a small bowl, cover. and set aside. Grease a 9-inch springform pan.

When the dough has doubled in size, gently fold the dough onto itself to deflate it. Remove from the dough from the bowl to a floured surface. Roll the dough out into a 20 x 24-inch rectangle, lifting the dough and flouring the board as you go along, if necessary, to prevent sticking (I keep a dough scraper on hand). Brush the surface of the dough with the remaining 4 tablespoons of vanilla bean brown butter (you will have to melt it again - just a few seconds), then sprinkle evenly with all of the brown sugar-cinnamon mixture..lightly pressing it into the dough, then patting it down.

Roll the dough up, tightly, from the 24-inch side. Seal the ends and seams. Slice the roll in half vertically (some sugar and cinnamon will fall out, don't worry about it) and immediately twist both halves together. Coil the twist into a greased 9-inch springform pan, starting in the center of the pan and wrapping it around that center. Cover with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled in size. 15 to 20 minutes before it's ready to bake, preheat the oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit.

Brush the strips of solid dough on top with egg wash, being careful not to brush the open strips of cinnamon sugar. Place the springform pan on a baking sheet on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 35 to 45 minutes until a deep, golden brown (the brown sugar caramelizes, so keep an eye on it the last 10 minutes)

Let the challah cool in the pan for 10-15 minutes, then run an offset spatula or the back of a knife around the challah to insure it releases cleanly. Place the loaf on a wire rack to cool completely before slicing (this is very hard to do - we usually start pulling it apart while still warm).

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