Despite the frigid weather, we survived this week’s arctic blast here in Minnesota. And while I managed to get out-and-about a couple of times, much of the long weekend was spent tidying up the house and pre-Spring cleaning. By January our home is so cluttered with Christmas toys, winter gear, and heaping piles of kindergarten projects that it’s almost unbearable. So we bought more toy shelves (I really need to have a garage sale this Spring), organized the important school work, and re-arranged a few rooms. And somehow, once everything was in order, it felt like we’d uncovered two new rooms. Now I can finally think clearly again!
Aside from the re-organization and playing countless games of Munchkin and Memory with the little ones, I also managed to squeeze in a little baking. It was a nice way to help warm the house when the windchill dropped to -30°F. This apple challah turned out perfectly. One of my favorite things to play around with in the kitchen is bread made with yeast. I’m fascinated by how yeast grows and changes, creating such interesting flavor. Baking bread takes patience and planning, but not a lot of work. And the aroma of freshly baked bread, alone, is worth the small effort.
If you have reservations about working with yeast, just relax and start with something simple. This apple challah is a nice entry point. You basically shove everything into a pan and bake it up. But the results are a magical, tender, rustic-looking bread. This one isn’t overly sweet– it’s amazing flavors come from the apples, honey, and cinnamon. One of my favorite characteristics of this challah is the nice ‘crunch’ provided by sprinkling turbinado sugar on top. The crust is best on the day it’s baked, since it tends to soften over time in a sealed container. Even so, it keeps well for several days, and the inside stays soft and moist. Enjoy it drizzled with a bit of honey and a nice cup of hot coffee.
The Recipe: Apple Challah
For the Dough:
4 cups (20 ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour (see note)
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
6 tablespoons canola oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/4 cup honey
1 package instant yeast (2 1/4 teaspoons)
1/2 cup luke-warm water (between 100-110°F)
For the Filling:
3 smallish apples, diced into 3/4-inch chunks with the skin on
1 teaspoon cinnamon
3 tablespoons granulated sugar
For the Glaze:
1 large egg beaten with 1 teaspoon water
Turbinado sugar for sprinkling
Note: The recipe from King Arthur called for 4 cups of flour. I generally assume that 1 cup of all-purpose flour weighs 5 ounces. So, I added 20 ounces of flour to this recipe. King Arthur called for 4 cups of flour, but stated 17 ounces as their weight measurement. I did feel the dough was a bit stiffer than I was accustomed to working with, but the outcome was absolutely perfect. It was a soft and tender bread that was sublime. I think it’s safe to say that anything between 17-20 ounces would work here, though I haven’t tried the 17 ounce version first-hand. Can you tell that I love my scale?
In a bowl of a stand mixer (the recipe can also be done by hand, of course), mix the yeast, honey, and water together until it is dissolved. Let stand for 5-10 minutes, or until it begins to get a bit foamy.
Add the remaining ingredients for the dough to the yeast mixture and slowly mix using the paddle attachment until the dough just comes together. Remove the paddle attachment and add the dough hook. Knead the dough for a few minutes until it is soft and smooth. Place the dough in a slightly oiled large bowl and cover it with a dishtowel or lightly greased plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 2 hours, or until it has doubled in size.
Lightly grease a 9 or 10-inch springform pan or a 9-inch cake pan that is at least 2-inches deep. Mix the apple filling ingredients together in a bowl.
Gently deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly floured work surface. Roll the dough out into a 8 x 10-inch rectangle. Place the apples on the dough in two 10-inch rows near the center of the dough. Fold each side over the row of apples closest to it. Pushing down as you go to seal it. Using a sharp knife, cut the dough down the center, and then across 8 times. You should end up with 16 pieces of dough. Hopefully the photographs will help with a visual. Place the pieces of dough into the prepared pan so they create a single layer. Tuck any apples that have fallen out into the mixture.
Cover the challah with a lightly greased piece of plastic wrap. Allow to rise for about 1 1/2 hours, or until it’s about 2-inches high.
Preheat the oven to 325°F toward the end of rising time. Brush the top of the dough with the egg wash and sprinkle heavily with turbinado sugar (or any coarse sugar). Bake for about 55 minutes, or until the top is a beautiful golden brown. Some of the higher pieces may get dark brown, and that’s ok. The dough needs to bake all the way through in the middle, so be patient. Remove challah from oven and after 5 minutes loosen the edges and transfer it to a rack. Serve hot or cold, preferably with a drizzle of honey. Keeps well for days in a covered container. Enjoy!
Source: Adapted from King Arthur Flour
Thanks so much for stopping by! xo