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BEST Apple & Honey Challah

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The first recipe I saw for Round Apple Challah was from master baker and mentor Marcy Goldman in “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking” (I learned so much from that book!) and then on Smitten Kitchen. I suspect that many of the Apple Challah recipes out there are based on Marcy’s recipe, but I don’t see anyone else giving her credit which is a big pet peeve of mine (and I’m sure hers too!).

 

The first few I made were pretty clunky, with slippery apples flying all over the place. But they were always delish. I have since adapted and perfected my own version and developed a better way of filling it with apples. It’s much easier to roll out each of the four individual pieces of dough and fill with apples, than to create a large, unruly mound of dough and apples and then attempt to squish the apples back in again.

Chopped apples on one piece of dough


It’s also better to sprinkle the apples with cinnamon sugar once already in the dough because if you do it earlier they will release moisture, and that also creates a sticky mess.


I do like mine quite sweet and cinnamon-y. Not gonna lie. And my family and friends lovvvvve it. (I’ve even had requests for my Apple Challah on Thanksgiving!) If it’s too sweet for you, by all means just reduce the cinnamon sugar. Most challah recipes have either honey or sugar, but I prefer the taste with a hint of honey and sugar which gives a different sweetness.

My secret ingredient is the olive oil at the end which gives it depth of flavor. ? Or switch out melted butter for the oil to make it more decadent.

The loaves freeze beautifully and you can divide the dough in two or even four and make challah mini’s for Rosh Hashanah gifts.

You can even turn this versatile dough into savory rolls or sweet cinnamon buns (just brush with melted butter before sprinkling with cinnamon sugar).

Make sure you’re following OrnaBakes on YouTube and/or Facebook so you don’t miss the Apple Challah YouTube video—COMING SOON!

Wishing you the sweetest New Year from our family to yours.

Try my “bulkas” (South African Cinnamon Buns) for breaking the fast on Yom Kippur!

Xoxo


Please post pics of your beautiful creations and tag @OrnaBakes! And please share this with friends and family.

BEST Apple Honey Challah

Orna @ornabakes.com
Make one majestic round challah for Rosh Hashanah, two medium, or four challah mini's for gifts.
Servings 16

Equipment

  • 2 baking sheets (half sheet pans), cooling rack
  • kitchen scale , instant read thermometer, ruler (optional)
  • parchment paper, heavy duty aluminum foil, plastic wrap
  • metal bench/dough scraper (optional), rolling pin
  • large mixing bowl or bowl of stand mixer with dough hook
  • clear large (2 - 3 quart/liter) glass or plastic bowl, preferably with straight sides, for rising the dough (optional)
  • mixing bowls, measuring spoons, dry & liquid measuring cups, colander (for raisins)
  • whisk, flexible spatula, pastry brush, spoon, fork, peeler, sharp knife
  • dough mat for counter, silpat for baking sheet (optional)
  • 2 gallon zip top bag if making large loaf ahead and freezing

Ingredients
  

  • ½ cup warm water (100 - 110°F/38 - 43°C)
  • 1 tablespoon (10g) instant yeast (preferably SAF Gold) or active dry yeast room temperature
  • 2 tablespoons (28g) granulated sugar plus one teaspoon (if using active dry yeast)
  • 3 tablespoons (60g)  light honey
  • 1 ¾ teaspoons fine sea salt or non-iodized table salt or 2 teaspoons kosher salt
  • ¼ cup (56g) canola oil or unsalted butter (very soft) room temperature
  • 2 large eggs room temperature
  • 4 cups (520g) bread flour or unbleached all-purpose flour or bleached all-purpose flour separated into 3 cups (390g) + 1 cup (130g)
  • canola or vegetable oil spray
  • 2 teaspoons good quality extra virgin olive oil (optional) only if using oil—not butter—in dough

Apple Filling:

  • 2 medium-large apples, peeled, cored, 1/4 - 1/2 inch dice (2 cups total) I use one Granny Smith and one Envy apple
  • 1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice (about ½ small lemon)
  • ½ cup (80g) raisins (optional) Rehydrate in very hot/boiling water for 10 - 20 min, drain, pat dry with paper towels

Egg wash:

  • 1 egg
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • pinch salt mix with a fork until smooth

Cinnamon sugar:

  • 4 tablespoons (50g) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cinnamon combine well

Instructions
 

  • Place the shelf in the middle of the oven and remove any shelf above it.
  • Place water in a large mixing bowl or the bowl of your stand mixer. If using instant yeast skip the next step.

Proof the yeast (ONLY IF USING ACTIVE DRY YEAST): 

  • Whisk the yeast and one teaspoon of sugar into the water; set aside for 5 - 10 minutes until it’s very bubbly. (If using instant yeast this “activating” or “proofing” the yeast isn’t necessary—you will simply add the yeast with the flour). 

Make the dough:

  • To the mixing bowl (which should contain water only if you're using instant yeast or the yeast mixture if you're using active dry yeast) add the sugar, honey, salt, oil, eggs; whisk until well combined. Add 3 cups (390g) of flour (all at once), and the yeast (ONLY IF USING INSTANT YEAST); stir with a flexible spatula or wooden spoon to incorporate all the ingredients.

Rest the dough:

  • Cover with plastic wrap and let it stand for 10 to 20 minutes to absorb the flour. This will make it easier to work with and require adding less flour overall. (If you forget this step it’s OK)

Knead the dough (by hand):

  • Remove 1/2 cup of flour from the remaining one cup and set the rest aside for shaping. Lightly flour your surface and scrape out the dough with your spatula. Sprinkle the dough and your hands lightly and start kneading, adding in a sprinkle of flour at a time only as needed. Use the bench scraper to help you lift/scrape the dough off the counter until it is more manageable. You probably won’t need more than this 1/2 cup measure of flour. Knead for 5 - 8 minutes to develop the gluten and strengthen the dough. It shouldn’t be sticky—just barely tacky, soft and supple, but slightly firm. If the dough is dry, sprinkle on a little water. HOW TO KNEAD: Use the palms of both hands to press down on the dough and push it away from you, stretching but not tearing the dough; fold it back over itself toward you and give it a quarter turn. Repeat.

OR Knead the dough (by mixer):

  • Knead with the dough hook on medium-low (2nd speed) for 5 - 7 minutes. Add about 1 tablespoon of flour at a time as necessary. The dough should form a ball around the hook and not stick to the sides of the bowl. Halfway through, stop the mixer, turn the dough over and scrape the sides to incorporate all the flour. Keep checking to see if it’s too dry or too wet/sticky. I like to finish kneading it by hand for a minute or two to feel and check the dough.

First Proof/Ferment:

  • Spray or oil a large clean bowl. Form the dough into a ball by rounding the sides under and place in the oiled bowl. Press the dough down to flatten so you can tell when it has doubled in size; spray or coat the top lightly with oil (try olive oil for extra flavor). Cover tightly with plastic wrap or a lid. TIP: Stick a post-it note on the side of the bowl to mark the height; notate the time on the post-it. Set aside to double in size. This will take 1 - 2 hours depending on how warm your kitchen is. If you gently poke your finger into it, it should not spring right back out (not risen enough) or stay completely indented (over-risen), but should come back just a little.
    NOTE: A slower rise is preferable as it develops more flavor. Ideal rising temp is 75° to 80°F/24° to 27°C. You can also do a “cool rise” in the refrigerator for 8 - 24 hours to develop flavor (or for convenience). Bring to room temp for 20 - 30 minutes before working with it.

Punch down the dough:

  • Gently press down with your hand in the middle of the dough to deflate it; turn the edges up on one side and then on the opposite side to make a business letter shape (rough rectangle) and get rid of all air bubbles. 

Second Proof/Ferment (optional):

  • Cover and set aside to rise for 1 hour or refrigerate for 8 - 24 hours. If the dough is rising too quickly in the fridge press it down to deflate, re-cover and continue to rise. This second rise gives the loaf better flavor and lighter texture, but if you don’t have time it will still be delicious.

Make the egg wash:

  • In a small bowl mix the egg, 2 teaspoons of water and a pinch of salt with a fork. (The salt helps to make it smooth). Cover; set aside or refrigerate if not using immediately.

Plump the raisins:

  • Pour boiling or very hot water over the raisins, stir and set aside for 10 - 20 minutes to re-hydrate. Drain in a colander and place on paper towels to drain.

Make the filling:

  • Place lemon juice in a medium bowl. Peel and core the apples and cut into 1/4 - 1/2 inch dice, adding them to the lemon juice. Stir to coat. You will only use about 2 cups of apples. Lay apples on the baking sheet prepared with paper towels; blot the tops to remove all moisture.

Divide the dough:

  • Gently press down with your hand to deflate the dough. Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured counter/mat. (I turn it out onto a piece of parchment paper and place it on the scale to calculate the weight of the entire dough—about 812g—and then simply divide by four). Use your hands to form it into a rough rectangle shape. Use a bench scraper (especially if you’re using a dough mat) or a sharp knife to cut it into four rectangles (about 203g each).

Roll the rectangles:

  • Work with one piece at a time and cover the rest with plastic wrap so they don’t dry out. Use your hands to press the dough into a rough rectangle and then roll out with a rolling pin to about 12 x 4 inches and 1/4 inch thick. Don’t make it too thin because it has to hold the apples. (If the dough is difficult to work with or shrinks back, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for 5 - 10 minutes to relax the gluten)

Add the filling:

  • Place about 1/2 cup apples in one even layer on the dough, leaving 1/2 inch border all around. (Don’t use too many apples or they will poke through the dough) Add one fourth of the raisins. Sprinkle evenly with one teaspoon of cinnamon sugar. 

Form the ropes:

  • Starting at the end furthest from you, roll up your dough and pinch the front onto the roll to seal it; pinch the sides to seal. Push in any apples that are poking out and pinch together any holes in the dough. Gently roll it on the counter and/or lift up one side of the rope and gently pull down and squeeze with your other hand to lengthen it to about 14 - 16 inches with tapered ends. Set aside. Repeat with the other three pieces so you have four even ropes.

Form the challah:

  • Lay two ropes top to bottom on your counter and two left to right in the middle of them. Wind the top horizontal rope under the first vertical and over the second vertical. Wind the bottom horizontal rope over the first vertical and under the second. Braid it tightly, especially in the middle, so that the dough doesn’t spread too much when rising and baking.
  • Jump each of the four ropes that comes from underneath on the left OVER its partner rope on the right. (Anti-clockwise)
    Then go in the opposite direction and jump each of the ropes that come from underneath on the right OVER its partner rope on the left. (Clockwise)
    Repeat this if you have enough rope. Twist the two open ends together and tuck underneath. Repeat with all the open ends. (Make sure this is secure so they don’t come out when it bakes) Gently push all around the sides with your hands to plump up the challah and place it in the middle of the parchment-lined baking sheet lined. You could bake it in a 10-inch cake pan (bottom and sides lined with parchment paper) but I prefer to bake it free-form on a baking sheet.

First glaze and final proof/rise:

  • Gently brush the challah all over with egg wash. Cover loosely with lightly sprayed plastic wrap. Set aside to rise for 45 - 60 minutes until very puffy and almost doubled in size. It’s better to let it rise more here and avoid too much “oven spring” so you don’t have unglazed parts. But be careful not to let it over-rise.

Preheat the oven:

  • At least 30 minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C) (NOT convection because using the fan can dry bread out).

Second glaze and topping:

  • Carefully remove the plastic wrap. Pinch to pop any air bubbles. If there are any apples or raisins poking out, gently try to close up the dough over them so they don’t burn. Brush very gently all over with egg wash, getting in all the nooks and crannies. Sprinkle generously with cinnamon sugar. Turn the baking sheet and lift it as necessary to get it all around.

Bake the challah:

  • Place in the oven and set a timer for 20 minutes. Remove from the oven and place on a second baking sheet (to protect the bottom crust from getting overdone). Rotate the pan, tent with foil, and place back in the oven for 25 - 35 minutes. If it’s not brown enough remove the foil for the last few minutes of baking. It should be golden brown all over. An instant read thermometer inserted in the middle should read 190 - 200°F/ 88 - 93°C. If you’re freezing and reheating it, bake it to the lower end of that temperature. It may take longer to bake because of the apples, so be patient. (It’s totally worth it!)
  • Carefully slide the parchment paper onto a cooling rack and cool completely before slicing. We like wedges so everyone gets a good piece ? It’s always better to cool bread completely and re-heat before cutting it, not to cut into it when warm.

To make-ahead:

  • When completely cool, double wrap in plastic wrap and place in a 2 gallon freezer ziplock bag, removing as much air as possible. Freeze up to three months. Thaw completely on the counter for several hours; wrap in foil and reheat at 350°F/180°C for 5 - 10 minutes.
  • Enjoy! And please post your beautiful creations and tag @ornabakes ?
  • Adapted from Marcy Goldman and Smitten Kitchen.

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