Apple-Honey Challah with Craisins

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Happy New Year! Rosh Hashanah started on Wednesday evening and the celebration ends this evening. It is a time to welcome and celebrate the new year with sweets, traditionally apples dipped in honey. Round-shaped challah, symbolizing continuity, is also a staple for this holiday. A couple of hours ago I finally baked some apple-honey challah with dried cranberries!

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I think this is my third time making this and I probably only do it during at this time of the year. To be honest, I saw something similar while watching Martha Stewart years ago and wanted to try it. So here is my adaptation.

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This is the dough after mixing it and fermenting overnight in the fridge. I sneaked in some kamut flour in there! Hehe. It’s an easy bread recipe and a bit of a time-saver. I’ve done different challah doughs that require more kitchen time, but I’ve been busy studying a lot lately (will be joining a molecular biology/biochemistry lab soon so I’ve been learning as much as I can). So when I want to be in the kitchen less but still make some bread, I usually like to whip up doughs from my trusty bread book Artisan Bread in Five Minutes Everyday. Some bread baking enthusiasts don’t like the method, but I’ve adapted it to my taste by using less yeast and doing a couple of stretch-and-folds. I love the resulting loaves! For a video on how to do stretch-and-folds, click over to this Peter Reinhart video. I include my recipe adaptation later in the post.

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While the dough is fermenting, you can soak the craisins in some tea, alcohol, or other liquid that complements the flavor of the fruit. I used part bourbon, Jack Daniel’s Tennessee Honey whisky, and some black tea.  Let it soak for a couple of hours or so until the craisins are plump. Dried fruit in baked goods just taste better when they have plumped up and are infused with flavors from alcoholic or non-alcoholic liquids. Plus the plump texture makes them more palatable and not too chewy.

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Apples and honey. I used two big Fuji apples, and two smaller apples from my dad’s garden (golden delicious & Granny Smith). Peel, core and chop the apples. Slicing the apples is another option.

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To make the “filling,” mix together some oil, honey, lemon zest, lemon juice, and a pinch of salt to the drained craisins and chopped apples. Let it sit and soak in the flavors for a while while you prepare the dough.

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Split the dough in half and spread one piece of dough into a rectangle. Place the filling on top, wrap it up and knead it around a bit to incorporate the fruit in the dough. Make sure to drain the filling well as extra moisture will make the dough sticky and hard to work with. Here are some videos on how to shape the dough in traditional holiday round shapes.

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After shaping the loaves, paint some egg wash on the surface. Then let it rise. I added some honey to the egg wash for some flavor. After the rise, it takes less than an hour to bake. You could also make smaller loaves. Then you would get more loaves, which is good for giving away to friends and family!

Tip: don’t throw away the remaining egg wash! As the loaves rise, the surface will dry a bit. Paint on another layer of egg wash. Repeat as needed. This makes a really nice shine on the finished loaves + you use up a lot of the egg wash!

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Just out of the oven. My apartment smells so good at this point. 🙂

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It is still hotter than normal where I live, so good thing I had the AC on while baking these!

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Apple, Craisins, and Honey Challah

Makes two 2 lb. loaves or four 1 lb. loaves

Ingredients

Challah  – adapted from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day (you can also find the recipe and a very helpful step-by-step photo tutorial on KingArthurFlour.com under the recipe  called “no-knead challah”)

  • 736 grams (~6 cups) Unbleached All-Purpose (AP) Flour
  • 200 grams (~1 & 3/4 cups) kamut flour (or unbleached AP)
  • 1 tablespoon + 1/2 teaspoon Kosher salt (or even pink Himalayan salt!)
  • 3/4 tablespoons instant yeast
  • 1.5 cups room temperature water
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/2 cup oil (If you want to use olive oil, as I did, use 1/4 cup olive oil + 1/4 cup neutral tasting oil like grapeseed oil)
  • Egg wash:  1 large egg, beaten mixed with 1 tablespoon water + 1 tablespoon honey
  1. In a large bowl, mix together the AP flour, kamut flour, salt, and yeast. In another bowl, mix together the water, eggs, honey, and oil.
  2. Pour the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients. Mix well until no pockets of flour remain. You may have to dig in with your hands (I always do).
  3. Cover and let the dough rest at room temperature for an hour. Do 4 stretch-and-folds every 10 minutes for the first 40 minutes of rising time. *Note:  These stretch-and-folds are optional–to do or not to do will result in tasty loaves.
  4. After the hour of rising and 4 stretch-and-folds*, cover the dough (keep a small hole for air) and keep in the refrigerator overnight or for up to 3 days.
  5. When you are ready to bake, make the filling (recipe below) and take the dough out of the refrigerator. Divide dough in half. Cover the other piece.
  6. Working with one half of the dough at a time, flour or grease your work surface and spread into a rectangle, about 10-12 inches in length. Place half of the drained filling on top and roll, sealing the fruit inside. Knead the dough for a minute or two to mix the filling into the dough.
  7. Shape the dough as desired. Placed on a parchment-lined/greased baking sheet or greased/parchment-lined 9-inch cake pan.
  8. Repeat with the other portion of dough and remaining fruit filling.
  9. Brush both loaves with egg wash and let rise for about 1 to 1:30 hours. If the surface gets dry, paint more egg wash. Repeat if needed.
  10. If you keep a baking stone in your oven, after 30 minutes of rising, preheat the oven and stone at 350 degrees F for the remaining half hour of rise time. If you are not using a baking stone, preheat for just 5-10 minutes.
  11. After the hour of rising, bake in the preheated oven for 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Filling

  • 3 medium Granny Smith or other firm baking apple  (I used 2 big and 2 small), cut in 1/4″ slices or diced
  • 1.5 cups craisins (soaked in liquid for a couple of hours until plump, drained)
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 2 tablespoons neutral tasting oil (I like grape seed)
  • zest of 1 lemon
  • 1 tablespoon lemon juice
  • pinch of salt (I love pink Himalayan salt for this!)

Mix together all the ingredients until thoroughly combined. Drain well before kneading into the dough.

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Can’t wait for my husband to get home so we can slice a loaf and eat something sweet! Probably will post on my tumblr, a quick bites version that reminds me of twitter on a blogging platform. Stay sweet everyone!

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(image credit:  TraditionsJewishGifts.com)

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21 thoughts on “Apple-Honey Challah with Craisins

  1. Pingback: Garden Vegetable Slaw with Pea shoots, Corn, and a Creamy Calamansi Dressing | food flavor fascination

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