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During a recent trip to Iceland, I visited a number of bakeries which make what are considered to be in the Danish tradition. They’re yeasted, but get their flaky layers by either being rolled and folded several times, or made with a brioche-like dough, often with a moist, sweet marzipan filling.

I met Uri Scheft, an Israeli baker whose parents emigrated from Denmark, at his bakery in Tel Aviv a few years ago. At the time he told me he was planning to open a bakery in New York City, which he did. And Breads Bakery became a huge success. Uri’s breads and pastries use ingredients and flavors from the different cultures that intersect in the Middle East and Northern Africa, as well as in his homeland, which inspired this marzipan challah.

I was excited when I got my hands on his new book, Breaking Breads, where he shares recipes from his always-busy bakery. People often ask me for recipes from bakeries that I visit and most don’t offer them up, because it’s a challenge for bakers to scale their recipes to make a single loaf of bread or cake. And often the recipes are daunting for home bakers, which is what attracted me to this book – everything is fully explained in detail, many with step-by-step photos. The writing talks you through each part of the recipe, and in the case of these loaves of bread, the results were top-notch.

One bit of advice is that if you’re not already using a scale for baking, I highly recommend one. The metric system makes it easier to weigh things out, too. (There was a book, What Ever Happened to the Metric System? How America Kept Its Feet about why Americans never took to the metric system, which I’ve alluded to why in a few of my books. But I should probably read that book for a better explanation.) And if you’re still not convinced, there are less dishes to wash since you can often weigh everything in the same bowl, just zeroing out the scale in between ingredients.

The downside of baking with a scale, in Paris, is that if the batteries run out on Sunday, you might find yourself outta luck. In recent years, some stores are now allowed to be open on Sunday in Paris, but I got stuck a few times before the rules were relaxed.

This time around, though, it was yeast and eggs that I needed more of. I didn’t quite run out of yeast but to make a very long (and unfortunate) story short, I mistakenly used a variety of French semi whole-wheat flour (T110) that to my early Sunday morning eyes mistook for regular flour. I considered soldiering on with that, but knowing that 95% of you can’t get T110 flour, I started all over again with regular flour.

Then I realized that I had used up the last of my fresh yeast and no natural food stores are open on Sunday, so Romain went to the local bakery for me, while I started over again. The counter clerks at the bakery told him that they didn’t know what he was talking about, and didn’t want to go into the kitchen and rifle around. But he went to other bakeries and eventually found some.

While he was gone, though, I realized I only had one egg left, and tried to text him to get more, but he’d left his phone at home. So when he got back, I sent him to the café up the street to borrow a couple of eggs. Yup…he’s un keeper.

So while this recipe may look challenging to you, imagine me on a Sunday trying to patch together all the ingredients after messing up the first batch, and starting all over again. So, to recap what I learned:

  1. Get a scale for baking, and keep extra batteries in stock.
  2. Keep extra eggs and butter in stock.
  3. Stay on the good side of your local bakers and café owners.
  4. Check the bags of flour that you have to make sure you’re using the right ones, especially if you live in a foreign country and the flours don’t correspond to flours elsewhere.

After my self-inflicted problems (which were no fault of the book), I soldiered ahead and made the three loaves of marzipan challah in the book. I questioned a few things as I went, but by the time I was braiding them up, things looked pretty good to me.

I had to say, when all was said and done and I lopped off my first slice as soon as the loaves were cool enough to slice, I think I audibly said – “Wow!” It was that good, and if you’re anything like me, you’ll be glad the recipe makes three loaves because I ate almost half of the first loaf that afternoon.

I’ve already got the Shakshuka Foccacia recipe bookmarked in Breaking Breads, and of course, the Chocolate Rugelach, which was the treat from Uri that first made me swoon. But there are also a few savory dishes that I have my eye on, too, such as a spicy green Z’hug sauce from Yemen, and Matbucha, a chile-laced tomato sauce to dip flatbreads in. And I’ve started a grocery list of things to stock up on, just in case I decide to make any of them on a Sunday.

Marzipan Challah

Adapted from Breaking Breads by Uri Scheft
Marzipan is different than almond paste. It contains additional sugar, and usually some liquid sweetener, so it's more supple than almond paste. I used
, which I like a lot, which I often bring back from the U.S. (They supply professionals and I used their almond paste and marzipan when I worked in restaurant kitchens.) In his book, Uri advises against using most tinned marzipan in the United States because, he says, it's too soft. (The brand I used worked for me, but if you use another brand, you should look for marzipan in tubes.) Fortunately, marzipan is easy to find in supermarkets in the States. (
is a widely available brand.) Ikea stores often stock it, too. If you live elsewhere, you can use my tips in
. I recommend weighing the flour, and using fresh yeast, although Uri says if you can use 2 teaspoons active dry yeast in place of it, which he adds without proofing. If you don't have a stand mixer, you can make the dough by hand. I've given some helpful links at the end of the post regarding marzipan, almond paste, various types of yeast, and substitutions, as well as a video on braiding a three-strand challah. (I gave Romain the rest of the afternoon off and took the pictures in the post myself while doing it, which was a bit of a challenge. But you can see it in action in the videos if it seems confusing.)
Course Breakfast
Servings 3 loaves

Challah dough

  • 1 1/3 cups (330ml) cold water
  • 1 ounce (30g) fresh yeast, (see headnote)
  • 28 ounces (800g) all-purpose flour, (about 6 1/4 cups)
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup (65g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons kosher salt or sea salt
  • 4 tablespoons (60g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature

Marzipan filling

  • 7 ounces (200g) marzipan
  • 1/2 cup (100g) sugar
  • 7 tablespoons (100g) unsalted butter, cubed, at room temperature
  • 3 tablespoons (20g) all-purpose flour

Almond Topping

  • 1 egg
  • 1 tablespoon water
  • pinch of salt
  • 1 1/4 cups (100g) sliced almonds, blanched or unblanched
  • 3 teaspoons sugar
  • Make the challah dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer, crumble the yeast over the cool water. Add the flour, two eggs, salt and sugar, then strew the cubed butter on top. Mix on low speed with the dough hook until everything is combined, then increase the speed to medium and knead for 4 minutes until the dough is smooth, supple, and elastic. If it's too dry or "tight," add another tablespoon of water. (Which I did.)
  • Sprinkle some flour lightly in another bowl and transfer the dough to the bowl. Sprinkle the top lightly with flour, cover the bowl with a kitchen towel, and let rise in a warm place until it's risen by 70%, about 40 to 60 minutes.
  • While the dough is rising, make the marzipan filling. Mix the marzipan and sugar in a medium bowl with your hands until it's well broken up. Mix in the butter, one tablespoon at a time, until it's fully incorporated and there are no visible bits of butter. Add the flour, and set aside.
  • Remove the challah dough from the bowl with a plastic scraper or spatula, being careful to deflate it as little as possible. Divide the dough into thirds, then divide each third into three pieces; you should have 9 pieces of dough. (You can use your kitchen scale for this if you want them exactly the same size, although I eyeballed them.)
  • Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or silicone baking mats.
  • With a rolling pin, on a lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into a 9- by 5-inch (22 x 12cm) rectangle. With the long end facing you (see photos in the post), smear a very scant 1/4 cup (45g) over the right one-third of the rectangle, then roll the cylinder up tightly, working from right to left. Pinch the seam together and place it seam side down on the work surface. Continue rolling and filling all 9 pieces of dough in the same manner.
  • Roll each marzipan-filled cylinder with your hands into a rope between 12- and 13-inches (30-33cm) in length. Don't add flour at this point, which will make them harder to roll.
  • When done, dust your hands very lightly with flour and rub them over the ropes. (The flour will help keep the ropes separate when baked.)
  • To braid each of the three loaves, pinch three of the almond-filled ropes together at the top end. Braid the loaf by taking the rope on the left and lifting it over the center rope, placing it down so it's now the center rope. Lift the right rope and place it over that center rope. Then continue with the left, placing it over the center rope, then the right. (If you're confused, you're always putting the left or right rope over only the center rope.) When you're done, pinch the two ends of the braided loaf together, tuck both ends under the bottom, and place the loaf on one of the baking sheets. Braid the remaining six cylinders, using three at a time, to make two more loaves.
  • Cover the loaves with kitchen towels and let rise in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until doubled in volume.
  • Preheat the oven to 350ºC (180ºC).
  • To make the egg wash and almond topping, mix the egg with water and a pinch of salt in a small bowl with a fork. Brush the egg wash over the risen loaves of challah, making sure you don't brush it on too heavily, or it'll pool in the crevasses. (If you have extra egg wash, you can rebrush the loaves again with more glaze. Sprinkle sliced almonds over the top and on the sides of each challah and sprinkle each with 1 teaspoon of sugar.
  • Bake the loaves of challah for 15 minutes. Rotate the baking sheets in the oven, turning them around and switching the shelves they're on, so they bake evenly. Bake 10 minutes more, then remove the loaves of challah from the oven and let cool on the baking sheets before slicing.


Storage: The marzipan challah is best enjoyed the same day, or the next. It can be kept for up to four days at room temperature, or frozen for up to two months.

Related Links

How to braid a 3-braid challah (The Shabbat project, video)

All About Yeast and Troubleshooting (King Arthur Flour)

Yeast Conversion Table (Red Star Yeast)

Fresh Yeast versus Instant Yeast (San Francisco Baking Institute)

Understanding Flour Types (Weekend Baking)

What’s the Difference Between Marzipan and Almond Paste (The Kitchn)

Ingredients for American Baking in Paris



    • Gemma

    This looks so delicious. I can’t wait until after Passover to make it!

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      I started this post a little while back (because it’s sort of an involved recipe, so took a while to write up and format) but after my trip to Iceland, many people were asking about Danish-style pastries so I wanted to share it. Happy to hear you’re bookmarking it until after the holidays! : )

    • Nancy

    Sure it’s Passover but I still can think ahead! This is one of life’s guilty pleasures, walking into Breads and buying this Challah. Can’t wait to bake it. The marzipan will be on next weeks shopping list.

    • Benny

    I love how detailed the photo instructions are. That helps quite a bit!

    • Maureen Kennedy

    5. Love your spouse, and tell him so regularly.

    • Susan

    I can’t believe you marched forward and made this with all the ingredient set backs. Looks delightful.

    • Liz Rueven

    Thanks for staying focused on the end goal. Your guy is definitely a keeper. Pesach or not, I loved reading this.

    • Pete Schaffer

    Thank you David! your marzipan challah looks great. I too will wait until after Pesach before preparing it. I love your articles (your chocolate sorbet is beyond excellent!). Your response to this query might well be: “hey, just try the recipe as it is” …but can almond flour be successfully substituted? Thanks and keep up the good! Pete

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      Since almond flour doesn’t have sugar, it’s very dry and you’d most likely end up with a rather dry filling. But if you try it, let us know how it turns out.

        • Pete schaffer

        Thanks David. I will!

    • Nina

    I miss fresh yeast, I always thought it made my challah just a little bit better. I’ll have to see if I can find some next week!

    • Ella

    David, how could you post this during Passover???? So mean…. :( I can NOT wait to make this….

    • orit

    This is for pesach i take it…

    • Christina

    I’ve wondering what to make with that marzipan I threw in my cart the last time I went to Ikea– thanks!
    It’s in the oven now because atheists eat challah too

    • Chandler

    Considering how expensive almond paste and marzipan are to buy, for such mingy quantities, but that a pound of almonds and a pound of sugar are pretty cheap, I find it hard to believe that people do not make their own. I do. Plenty of YouTubes for both. The only problem is which oil of bitter almond to use. Love this challah recipe.

    • Michela

    Looks wonderful! I’ll try it just after Pesach. Thanks David!

    • Ray

    I love reading your blog and your photos are beautiful. Do you think this recipe would work making two larger loaves instead of three?

    • Argo Naut Jason

    I read over this recipe and would really enjoy baking it; however, I only use Einkorn flour which I grind at home from berries. How do I substitute that for regular flour…if at all. Hmmm….?

    • Shelli

    Have you tried any of the other recipes in his book. I was going to buy it on Amazon but many of the reviews reported inaccuracies or unclear instructions in the recipes. Some people said the recipes didn’t appear to have been thoroughly tested. What have you found? It looks like a fabulous book.

      • Bebe

      I read those reviews. One is a doozy. The writer (who apparently reviews all sorts of products, and remarks she was sent at least one of them for testing) sounds like a real crank. She was the one complaining the recipes hadn’t been tested, etc., etc. My takeaway was that most who reviewed the book liked it, and that it may not be for bread-baking beginners. This challah sounds quite wonderful.

    • Susan

    I grew up using only fresh cake yeast. My mother said that it was sold in bulk when she was in school (1930’s) and they would buy a small bit to eat. You can still find in in the refrigerated section of some supermarkets with the butter, cheese, etc. It costs a lot more than the few pennies I am sure she spent.

    • Donna Sawyer

    Hello David,
    Long time admirer of your blog. Regarding making the Challah ahead!!
    Can I wrap and freeze, then take out of freezer the morning I want to serve the Challah?? (I have a Cook’s Illustrated pastry ring that I freeze successfully. In the morning, pull pastry, out of freezer, put into 200 degree oven for a certain time to proof, then raise temperature and finish baking). Thank you for your help today and your talent that you share with all of us. Donna Mia

    • Melissa Miller

    I think the biggest lesson of all is that everyone needs a Romain! The bread sounds great, too. :)

    • Nancy W

    It’s 10pm, and I feel like making this right now! I guess I’ll have some toast instead, otherwise it will be challah at 3 am…thanks for the awesome post. (guess what I’m doing tomorrow)

    • Nadia

    I used to eat this when I lived in Copenhagen. Yours sounds perfect and brings back great memories.

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Susan: I don’t normally call for fresh yeast in my own recipes because it’s not as easy to get as active dry yeast. But it does work better because it’s fresh, although in France, it’s only available at natural food stores – and if you ask your local baker : )

    Shelli: This was the only recipe I made from the book. I was impressed by how thorough the recipe instructions were for this, and how well is came out, but can’t comment on the other recipes in the book. My only comment was that I was a little surprised that the recipe made 3 loaves, although there are instructions in the book if you just one to make one.

    Ray: Yes, it likely would. You would probably need to adjust the baking time. If you try it, let us know how it turns out.

      • Ray

      Made two loaves this morning, turned out nicely. Large enough to take to an Easter gathering. Thank you again for sharing!

    • CHN

    Looks lovely, but I’d call it babka before I’d call it challah!

    • Ann

    I live in fear of my scale’s batteries dying right in the middle of a baking project. This loaf looks great – and I can’t wait to check out Breads Bakery!

      • Ann

      PS I was so excited to spot fresh yeast today at Kalustyan’s in NYC!


        • David
        David Lebovitz

        Supermarkets in the U.S. used to carry fresh yeast, but that may no longer be the case as it once was. But I do remember blocks for Fleischmann’s for sale in grocery stores, too.

    • Jenny

    David, just a small correction — Uri is an Israeli baker, who studied in Denmark.

    I tried to ignore it, but it was just screaming, in the beginning of the text…

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      When I met him, he told me he was Danish. I took some time to do some research and found that his parents emigrated from Denmark. Thanks for pointing out the error and I made the correction.

    • Sabine Hörer

    Your first photo is SO mouthwatering! Marzipan is a common ingredient in German baking, too, so I always love to see it in other cuisines. The Challah looks perfect and reminds me of a marzipan wreath with folded yeast dough, called “Plunderteig” – I imagine it to be the counterpart of those Danish pastries you talk about in the first paragraph. Happy Easter, David & everyone!

    • michael weinberger

    David in today’s blog post you say “And if you’re still not convinced, there are less dishes to wash ….”. Big mistake. There would be fewer dishes not less dishes. It may sound too picky but for me this is a grating frequent mistake. i enjoyed the post nerver-the-less.

      • Bebe



      Big mistake.

      “Physician, heal thyself.”

    • David
    David Lebovitz

    Michael and Jenny: It took me a few days to put together this post, with writing the story and recipe, and taking the photos, and I’m not able to catch everything unfortunately since I’m working on two book projects at the same time.

    It’s best for me to stop blogging for a while, so I’ll be taking a break until I can devote my full attention to the site, including coding and all the other behind-the-scenes stuff that it takes to put together a blog entry. I was trying to get a post up and share a recipe while I was traveling and working on other things. Apologies for any oversights or gaffes.

      • Bebe

      You are an absolute gem, David. Don’t let the nannies get you down. Copy editors rarely have a creative bone in their bodies…

    • Sarah

    Thanks for the post, it looks amazing! I’m so glad I’m not the only one who starts a recipe without all the correct ingredients (or makes a mistake after using the last of the fill-in-the-blank)and must scramble! Glad you have Romain. And to all those annoyed that you posted during Passover, oy vey!

    • Victoria

    David, I usually read right past any of your typos or grammar mistakes. They don’t bother me at all. I think we all are a bit frazzled these days and some of us (moi :) are getting older and not as sharp as ages past.
    BTW, I made your wine harvester’s chicken last weekend and it was fabulous! Thanks so much for the wonderful recipe. I know so much more about France, Paris and French food because of your blog and books.

      • Bebe

      Brava, Victoria! I’m a reasonably good speller and grammatician, but once in a while the brain gets ahead of the fingers – or vice versa – and, well, you know. It is nice to appreciate the material presented without stumbling over cracks in the pavement. And then trying to show how smart you are.

        • Bebe

        See, I did it.

        Grammarian. Not grammatician. I’ve gotten too used to ignoring Spellcheck’s read underscoring.

    • Kearin

    Having a scale is everything! I love the marzipan filling – I have so many new breads to try after everyones lovely easter creations.. And I now also have another book for my wishlist…

    • Mike

    The metric system: the only thing I detest about la France.

    • Tasha Alexander

    Recipe is fantastic – thanks for posting. My loaves are in the oven as I type.

    And I’m always happy to ignore grammar mistakes. We all make them; we’re human. Don’t give it a second thought.

    • Jennifer

    I made these three loaves today and they are cooling as I write this. They look magnificent. There was a bit of a marzipan hemorrhage, though, so be sure to pinch it all in tightly! And David … I am all about the grammar and nitpicky-ness (yes I’ve coined that, thanks) under normal circumstances, but it’s a blog post and I’d rather have one than not. You rarely stray off the path of perfect writing anyway. Save the big copy editing jobs for the printed words and don’t worry so much about dashing off a FANTASTIC recipe!! That’s what’s so great about the internet. Your readers can point out the little tweaks and you can fix them. Please don’t leave us!!!!

    • Swaloven

    i read your whole article and found great tips to make this, and i want to know, is this beneficial for Sugar patience ?
    if no then please i am waiting your best suggestion
    Thank you

    • Mercedes

    Romain is a very patient man! Or he loves bread.
    Is there a typo with the yeast? I understand 2.25 tsps of active dry yeast equal 0.6 oz. of fresh yeast, unavailable in my area.
    I hope it works and if not i shall try another time.
    Thank you for your time and effort sharing your experiences. I love your books.

      • David
      David Lebovitz

      That was the conversion given in the book (by the author) when swapping out active dry yeast for the fresh yeast.

      I don’t have the book with me but found the ingredient list online. Fresh and active dry yeast do behave differently and I gave some links to sites with yeast conversions at the end of the post. Happy baking!

    • Euan

    Thanks for posting your adaption of this recipe, David, in particular the pictures of forming the strands. I’m not sure I’d have got that right from just reading the text in the book. The end result was beautiful and tasty – the husband went back for seconds and thirds. OK, I did too :-)

    • Euan

    I meant to say that I had some leakage of the filling too, but this formed a sort of brandy-snap-textured, almond-flavoured toffee that was so delicious that it ought to be a thing in its own right.

    • Mercedes

    Thank you. And as my godmother said ” Attendez que les cloches sonnent” Joyeuse Pâques!

    • Jill

    Mine are rising right now. Might try to refrigerate one and bake in the morning to compare results!

    • Dimchansky

    Return to the first cylinder of dough, and use both hands to roll it back and forth into a long rope that s 12 to 13 inches long. Press down lightly as you get to the ends of the rope so they are flattened. Repeat with the remaining cylinders of dough. Lightly flour the ropes so that the strands stay separate during baking. 6. Place 2 challahs on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and the other challah on a separate lined baking sheet. Cover with a kitchen towel, and set aside in a warm, draft-free spot to rise for 1 to 2 hours until doubled in volume.

    • soo

    Thank you so much for the recipe! I just made it and oh man is it ever good. I love that the recipe makes 3 loaves – 2 to eat and 1 to give (maybe).

    And I ordered the book! I can’t wait to see the other recipes. I love babka in an obsessive and unhealthy way :D

    • Liliane Bradish

    I waited after Pesach to make the marzipan challah and I just tried it. Wonderful,and so easy thanks to your detailed instructions. I love your blog. I’m French and live in Sydney. What caught my attention was your review of Victor Churchill the butcher….I work near it and shop there sometimes. But what got me is the way you write about Paris and the French idiosyncracies. I have relatives in the 11th arrondissement and your tips are very valuable. i.e Ten Belles Bread, etc.
    I lived in Berkeley in the 70’s and Chez Panisse was one of our favourite restaurants, but you weren’t there then.
    Thank you, keep up the fabulous work!

    • Catherine Heukelman

    Hello David,
    Your marzipan challah looks very much like German stollen…stollen
    Is usually made round Christmas
    time and is quite delicious. I love
    Marzipan so this “bread” is really
    right up my alley. It’s also good
    toasted! Yum. Freezes well too.
    If you can get it, do try it. I live in
    South Africa. (Not in Germany)

    • Julia

    Oh my gosh I’m drooling over these photos! I always use an electric scale for baking (even when I lived in the US for a while I couldn’t get used to using cups), so I can sympathise with the battery frustrations. Mine always seems to run out halfway through a measurement and then I forget which weight I was up to :s Here in the UK we don’t seem to have tinned marzipan – it tends to come in a package as a block. Do you think this would be too firm for this recipe?

    • Sari

    Looks so delicious! I think I’ll make it for Shavuos in a few weeks since it uses
    butter which makes it dairy. Always looking for new treats for the holiday. Thanks.


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