I love a good challah challenge and always welcome an excuse to create new flavors for friends and family to try. I tend to favor savory combinations such as rosemary and garlic, za’atar and “everything bagel” challah flavors, although I also make salty chocolate and cinnamon raisin versions on occasion.
For Rosh Hashanah this year I wanted to branch out and try something completely new and perfect for the holiday.
A few months ago I was chatting with my husband’s best friend’s mother, whom we lovingly call “Mama Morley.” She was explaining a technique she uses for round challah that I had not tried before – stuffing the challah dough and rolling it like a cinnamon bun. Brilliant!
This conversation stuck in my head, and so as I was mulling over potential recipes for the New Year I realized I should try this technique and stuff it with something uniquely delicious for Rosh Hashanah.
And thus my Balsamic Apple Date Challah was born. The dough itself is sweet, laced with cinnamon, vanilla and just a touch of nutmeg. And when you break into the round loaf, it is like biting into a challah cinnamon bun.
I sprinkled the top of the challah with thick sea salt, cinnamon and sanding sugar. But you can leave the salt off if you would rather go all-sweet. Either way, your guests will barely be able to control themselves around this challah. My daughter kept trying to sneak her own bites, as you can see below from her chubby little hands which somehow made it into the photos.
Wishing everyone a sweet, happy, healthy and DELICIOUS New Year.
For the challah dough:
5 cups flour
½ cup sugar
2 Tbsp honey
½ Tbsp salt
2 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinnamon
¼ tsp nutmeg
¼ cup vegetable oil
1 ½ Tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
2 whole eggs
1 egg yolk
For the filling:
3 gala apples, peeled and diced
1 cup pitted dates, chopped
½ tsp salt
1 cinnamon stick
¼ cup water
¼ cup red wine
2 Tbsp balsamic vinegar
1 Tbsp sugar
For top of challah:
1 tsp water
1 tsp honey
1 Tbsp sanding sugar
1 Tbsp thick sea salt
2 tsp ground cinnamon
In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with whisk attachment, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, salt, sugar, honey, vanilla, cinnamon and nutmeg. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil. Mix thoroughly.
Add another cup of flour and eggs until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 1/2 cups flour and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise 3-4 hours.
To make the filling, place apples, dates, salt, cinnamon stick, water, red wine and sugar in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil. Continue to simmer on medium heat until the mixture is reduced. Add the balsamic vinegar and simmer another 2-3 minutes. The mixture will cook around 10-15 minutes in total.
Remove from the heat and allow to cool 5 minutes. Remove cinnamon stick.
Place mixture in a food processor fitted with a blade attachment and pulse until smooth.
After the challah is done rising, cut the dough in half. To be as precise as possible, use a scale to measure the weight.
Roll the first ball out using a rolling pin into a rectangle. Spread around half, perhaps slightly less, of the apple-date mixture in an even layer, leaving 1/2 inch all around without filling. Working quickly, start rolling up the dough towards you. Try and keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the end when you finish.
Create a pinwheel shaped-challah by snaking the dough around and around in a circle around itself. When finished, tuck the end under the challah neatly and pinch lightly. This doesn't have to be perfect - remember, as long as it tastes good, almost no one (maybe except that judgmental great aunt) will care what it looks like.
Repeat with other half of dough.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Allow challahs to rise another 30-60 minutes, or until you can see the the size has grown.
Beat 1 egg with 1 tsp water and 1 tsp of honey. Brush liberally over each challah. Combine sea salt, sanding sugar and cinnamon, and sprinkle over challah.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, or until middle looks like it has just set, and the color is golden.
The first bread I ever learned to bake was challah. My grandmother was a rebbetzin famous for her glorious displays of baked goods, including challah. Once I started baking myself, my favorite time of the week was Shabbat dinner, when we’d lift the cover to reveal my braided loaves. We would all sigh, stomachs rumbling.
After a year of creative exploration of the wonderful world of bread baking, my one-woman gluten fest came to a rather rude end. I had been ignoring my chronic stomach pains and bloating, and though my celiac test came back negative, I opted to try a gluten-free diet and see how it went. Both to my dismay and relief, my pains subsided, my energy level increased, and I began to feel more like myself again. I swore off bread and wallowed in self-pity for a short while until I was pushed to at least try baking gluten-free bread. I soon discovered wonderful and tasty gluten-free flours, some made from grains I’d never even heard of.
After crafting this basic gluten-free bread recipe, I went off to create a challah recipe that would make my grandmother proud and would even be worthy of hamotzi and hafrashat challah, the blessing over separating and ritually burning a small piece of bread (also known as “taking challah”). See “Challah Back,” my rabbinic source sheet all about challah baking!
According to Jewish law, challah can only be “taken” if it is made from one of the five grains named in the Bible: barley, rye, wheat, oat, spelt. Bread made from other grains can be kosher, but you cannot say hamotzi over it, nor can you take challah from it. These five grains are precisely the grains that gluten-free eaters avoid. The one exception to this rule is oat, which can be gluten-free for some* if it is grown, harvested, and processed separately from wheat. A rabbi I consulted suggested that while no teshuva (responsum) has yet been written on this topic, the oat flour must be at minimum 51% of the total flour in the bread.
Based on these requirements, I put together the recipe below (using this amazing Kaiser Braided Loaf Pan). Enjoy!
1 package active dry yeast (about 1 Tbsp)
1 1/4 cups warm water
1/4 cup honey (85 grams)
2 eggs (egg-free version: 2 tbsp flax seeds blended with 6 tbsp warm water until frothy)
1/4 cup (50 grams) grapeseed or other vegetable oil
1 tsp cider vinegar
2 tsp sea salt
1 Tbsp xanthan gum
1 cup (140 grams) tapioca flour/starch
1⁄2 cup (40 grams) coconut, quinoa, brown rice, teff, or other gluten-free flour (note: if you use teff flour, you can reduce your xanthan gum to 2 tsp).
Place the yeast and honey in the bottom of the bowl. Cover with the warm water and whisk for 30 seconds to dissolve the yeast.
Let the yeast foam and bubble for a few minutes. Mix in wet ingredients first (eggs, oil, vinegar) and then add the flours, salt, and xanthan gum. Mix well. Add raisins if you like. Pour into a lightly oiled 9×5 loaf pan and smooth the top. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
15 minutes before it’s finished rising, preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the dishtowel and bake until golden brown, about 40 to 45 minutes. Let it cool for a few minutes out of the oven in the pan before removing. Remove to a cooling rack and let cool 30 minutes before slicing.
Gluten-free bread dough is usually a similar texture to cake batter, which is not braidable. I have this braided loaf pan to trick people into thinking I actually braided this challah. But any loaf pan will do!
*Note: There are some celiacs who cannot digest oats, so I realize this recipe will not work for those folks.
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I generally prefer savory challah, since you can use the leftovers for sandwiches. But every now and then a sweet challah with chocolate chips, cinnamon, raisins or chocolate really hits the spot.
Not everyone loves the flavor combination of peanut butter and chocolate, and I consider those people crazy. What is better than peanut butter and chocolate!? Well, maybe peanut butter and chocolate in a challah. With crumbs on top. Served with a cup of coffee, and this is what my breakfast dreams are made out of.
Tip: baking challah is not a 1 hour process, so definitely give yourself plenty of lead time. And don’t rush the rising – the longer you let the dough rise, the fluffier it will be.
Happy challah baking!
5 cups unbleached all-purpose flour plus extra for dusting
1/2 Tbsp yeast
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
1 tsp sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup creamy peanut butter
1 tsp vanilla
1/2 cup sugar
1/2 Tbsp salt
2 eggs plus 1 egg for brushing
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
For crumb topping:
1/2 cup flour
3 Tbsp margarine
1/4 cup light brown sugar
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 cup peanut butter
Put yeast and 1 tsp sugar into a small bowl. Add lukewarm water, stir gently and allow to sit until foamy bubbles form on top, around 10 minutes.
In the meantime, mix together 1 1/2 cups flour, sugar, salt, vanilla, peanut butter and vegetable oil in a mixing bowl fitted with the whisk attachment. When yeast-water mixture is ready, add to flour mixture until it is incorporated.
Add eggs one at a time and another cup of flour. Mix thoroughly.
Change to dough hook on mixer, or if working without a mixer, continue to mix in a large bowl. Add chocolate chips.
When the dough is too difficult to stir, flour a working surface and start kneading. Add remaining flour and knead for 10 more minutes.
Grease a large bowl and add dough to bowl. Cover with warm, wet towel. Let dough rise for 2-6 hours, punching down at least once.
To make the crumbs, add flour, brown sugar, salt, margarine and peanut butter to a bowl. Using a pastry cutter or two knives, cut ingredients together until small-medium size crumbs form. Set aside.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
When challah has risen, braid challah into two medium sized loaves. Place loaves on baking sheet lined with parchment paper or a silpat. Allow challah to rise 30-60 minutes extra.
Brush challah with beaten egg and sprinkle crumbs on top.
Bake 25-30 minutes or until outside is golden, and a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.
It’s that time of year again when we go through cabinets, fridge and freezer searching for chametz and rack our brains on how to use them up before Passover. I love this challenge each year, especially because I usually have a few bags full of leftover challah just waiting to be used in a new recipe.
Bread puddings are often sweet and served for dessert; while stuffing is usually savory and served as a side dish. But I wanted to sort of combine both these concepts and do something a bit different – a savory, dairy bread pudding perfect to serve for breakfast or brunch! And thus, my Savory Breakfast Bread Pudding with Goat Cheese and Mushrooms was born!
Don’t like mushrooms? Use spinach or peppers instead.Serve with scrambled eggs and some fruit for a perfect, rounded breakfast.
4 cups leftover bread, preferably challah
1 cup sliced mushrooms
2 sprigs fresh thyme
1 Tbsp olive oil
1/2 Tbsp butter
1 1/2 cups milk
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
2 ounces goat cheese
Cut or break bread into chunks. Grease a 9x9 square pan and place bread into pan.
Heat olive oil and butter in saute pan over medium heat. Add fresh thyme to pan. Saute mushrooms for 3-4 minutes. Season with salt and pepper.
In a medium bowl, whisk together milk, heavy cream and eggs. Add goat cheese. It's ok if the goat cheese remains in small chunks. Add mushrooms to milk mixture, but remove the fresh thyme.
Pour milk mixture over leftover bread chunks and let sit for 1 hour. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Bake bread pudding for 35-45 minutes. Serve warm or room temperature. Can be served next day.
I am not one to make lofty secular New Year’s resolutions, but as we welcome 2012, perhaps it might be a good time consider some food-related goals for the year.
Have you heard about Meatless Mondays? Its an effort to help Americans cut out meat from their diets just one day a week, for health and environment reasons. So why not try a dairy meal once a week, like this recipe for Lasagna with Chard, Tomato Sauce and Ricotta.
You might consider substituting chicken or turkey instead for red meat, which I found was a good compromise between me and my meat-loving husband. If you’re looking to switch from chopped beef to turkey, try my own recipe for Quinoa and Turkey Stuffed Peppers (the best part about this recipe – you can also make it for Passover!) Another easy switch is using ground turkey in your chili recipe, instead of ground beef.
Want to try something totally new in the kitchen? Maybe its time to bake your own challah, make your own pickles or take on your grandmother’s brisket recipe. Already mastered challah? Perhaps you might enjoy trying a new twist on challah, such as one of The Challah Blog‘s unique flavors.
Another simple but fantastic food resolution is starting your own counter-top, or windowsill, herb garden! There are tons of herb gardens you can buy ready-to-go, but I just came across these Ceramic Wall Planters from West Elm, and I am already plotting out where I can mount them in our apartment, and fill them with thyme, lavender, mint and other aromatic herbs!
For me? I hope this year I will find a fruit cobbler recipe that never disappoints, and would also love to try to make my own rugelach! Have a good recipe to send me? I’d love to try it out and post the results.
Happy New Year 2012, and happy eating (and cooking, baking, jarring or planting)!