Apple and Honey Challah

I think that baking bread is one of life’s simple pleasures. You feel like you’ve created magic as you knead the dough into a smooth ball, and then watch it rise, only to punch it down an hour later. Then you get to see the magic again as you put the dough in the oven to bake and turn brown, and the whole house becomes infused with the lovely smell of freshly baked bread. Yum!
This bread is a twist on the classic Jewish bread called challah. Challah is normally a white bread enriched with eggs and honey to give it a hint of sweetness, but this particular version becomes even more special with the addition of chopped apples.
While the original recipe called for instant yeast, I opted for the rapid rise type to decrease the rising times even more. If you choose to use rapid rise yeast you can cut down the rising times in the recipe by about 1/3, with no change in the quality of the amazing bread you’ll produce! 
The apples take of bit of finesse to incorporate into the dough. Don’t worry if they’re not totally stuck in the dough, or a few pieces fall out, these can easily be squished back in with your fingers as you fold, and braid your loaf.
Once your dough has been made and has risen once, you spread it out with your fingers (kind of like you’re making pizza) and sprinkle 2/3 of the apple chunks across one half of the dough.
Fold the dough over and place the remaining 1/3 of apples over half of the dough.
The next bit looks tricky but really it isn’t. The instructions are listed in the recipe, and once you’re finished your unbaked loaf should look something like this:
As you can see, mine was definitely not a masterpiece, but it was still delicious:)
This bread is great just on its own, but could be jazzed up into some awesome French toast, or even used for a yummy take on grilled cheese. It’s not that sweet, so it can swing both ways into savoury or sweet dishes.
Apple and Honey Challah

2 1/4 tsp (1 standard 1/4 ounce packet) active yeast (I used rapid rise yeast and it worked just as well)
1 tsp sugar
1/3 cup honey
1/3 cup neutral oil (Canola, vegetable, etc.)
2 large eggs plus 1 large egg yolk
1 1/2 tsp table salt
4 1/4 cups all-purpose or bread flour, plus more for your work surface

Apple Filling
2 medium baking apples (I used ambrosia because it’s what I had on hand), peeled, cored and in 1/2 -inch chunks
Squeeze of lemon juice, to keep them from browning

Egg Wash
1 large egg

Make your dough: Stir yeast and 1 tsp sugar into 2/3 cup warm water and let stand until foamy, a few minutes.

By hand: In a large bowl, whisk together yeast mixture, oil, honey, eggs and yolk. Add flour all at once and stir until you get a shaggy mass of uneven dough. Turn dough out onto a floured counter and knead into a smooth, elastic dough, about 5-8 minutes. Try to use as little flour as necessary when kneading the dough; you don’t want to toughen the bread.
Transfer dough to large oil-coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

Add apples to dough: (See photos in post) Turn dough out onto a floured counter and gently press it down into a flat, oblong shape. The shape does not matter so however it goes, it goes. Spread 2/3 of apple chunks over 1/2 of the flattened dough. Fold the other half over the apple chunks and press the dough down around them, flattening the now lumpy dough. Spread the remaining 1/2 apple chunks over half the folded dough. Fold the other half over the apples, pressing the dough down again. Fold the corners under with the sides of your hands and form the dough into a round. Place in bowl and set aside for another 30 minutes.

Weave your bread: (See photos in post.) Divide dough into 4 pieces. Roll and stretch each one as carefully as you can into a rope- don’t worry about getting it too long or too thin. If any apple chunks fall out as you form the ropes or at any other time in the forming of the loaf or risings, just poke them back in with your finger.

Arrange two strands in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a plus sign. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet. So, now you’ve got an 8-legged woven-headed octopus. Take the 4 legs that come from underneath the center and move them over the leg to the right. Take those legs that were on the right and again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left. If you have extra length to your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners/odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round.

Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet. Beat egg until smooth and brush over challah. Let it rise for another hour but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375 F.

Bake your loaf: Before baking, brush your loaf one more time with egg wash. Bake in middle of oven for 40-45 minutes (mine was done after 40). It should be beautifully bronzed; if yours starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time.
Cool loaf on a rack before serving… if you can wait that long:)

(Adapted from Smitten Kitchen)



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