There are few things better than a freshly baked challah. But sometimes even perfection needs a little shake-up. Or perhaps more accurately, a little stuffing.
I have experimented stuffing challah with sweet combinations like my Balsamic Apple Date Challah and super savory varieties like my Pastrami Sandwich Challah. But I had been hankering to try something with a little summer flare to it.
This latest stuffed challah is a bit lighter than both my previous stuffed challah experiments, with brightness from fresh herbs and just a touch of richness from the cheese.
And the truth is you can stuff your challah with any pesto variation you like: kale pesto, fresh herb pesto or a traditional basil-pine nut pesto.
Don’t want to include cheese? Just leave it out. You will still have a deliciously unique stuffed challah experience.
Pesto and Gruyere Stuffed Challah
For the pesto:
1 bunch fresh garlic scapes, trimmed
1 garlic clove
1/2 cup fresh spinach, steamed
2-3 Tbsp fresh parsley
2-3 Tbsp fresh basil
1/2-3/4 cup extra virgin olive oil
Salt and pepper
For the challah:
1.5 Tbsp yeast
1 tsp sugar
1 1/4 cup lukewarm water
4 1.2-5 cups King Arthur flour
3/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 Tbsp salt
2 large eggs
3/4 cup shredded gruyere or crumbled goat cheese
1 egg yolk + 1 tsp water for glaze
Thick sea salt, sesame seeds and dried herbs (optional)
To make the pesto:
Place garlic scapes, garlic clove, spinach, basil and parsley in a food processor fitted with blade attachment. Start pulsing. Drizzle olive oil and continue to pulse. Scrape down sides with rubber spatula, add salt and pepper to taste and pulse until desired smoothness.
Place in an air-tight container until ready to use.
*Note: after steaming spinach, make sure to remove excess water very thoroughly.
To make the challah:
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, and sugar. 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.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
After the challah is done rising, roll out dough into a large rectangle about ½-1 inch thick on a lightly floured surface. The challah dough may need an extra dusting of flour to work with at this point.
Spread a thin, very even layer of pesto all over the dough. You may have extra pesto leftover. Sprinkle gruyere or goat cheese in an even layer on top of pesto, leaving ½ inch border all around.
Working quickly, start rolling up the dough towards you. Try and keep the roll relatively tight as you go. Pinch the end and tuck under 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.
Alternatively, you can split challah into three even sections and then roll into snakes. Flatten each piece slightly, and fill with pesto and cheese. Pinch ends back up tightly and roll out slightly. Braid as usual. Makes two challot if you use this method
Allow challah to rise another 30-60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown.
Beat 1 egg yolk with 1 tsp water. Brush liberally over challah. If desired, combine 2 tsp thick sea salt with 1 tsp sesame seeds, 1 tsp dried basil and 1 tsp dried parsley and sprinkle on top of egg wash.
Bake for 26-27 minutes, or until middle looks like it has just set, and the color is golden.
Pronounced: KHAH-luh, Origin: Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.