Apple Cinnamon Raisin Challah

Hey guys! Let’s talk about bread today. Bread sometimes gets a bad wrap in a lot of baker’s minds for being something that is hugely labour intensive and difficult to make. While we agree that there is a bit of an art to it (and some time investment involved for rising), we think that it’s well worth the effort of adding to your baking arsenal!

Homemade bread is out of this world. The stuff you can buy at the grocery store pales in comparison, and because you’re making it in the comfort of your own home, you can feel free to make it however you like it. Love raisins? Load them up. Hate them? Leave them out. Want to make things a bit healthier by adding some whole wheat flour? Go for it. The bread world is your oyster.

The very first bread recipe that we’re bringing to you is the stuff of our bread dreams. Tender, lightly sweetened dough swirled with raisins, chopped apples, and cinnamon for a loaf that screams to be toasted and slathered with butter.

Challah is a traditional Jewish bread, served on the Sabbath and at special events, often times with the addition of apples and honey for the Jewish new year which falls in September. It’s generally made with a dough that’s been enriched with eggs and either butter or oil, similar to a brioche dough if you’re familiar with that. This leaves it with a soft crumb and richer flavour than your average white bread.

Often times, challah is braided into a long loaf like sandwich bread. We took our inspiration from Deb at Smitten Kitchen though, and braided ours into a round instead. It looks impressive, but it’s actually very easy to create. You only need 4 lengths of dough and it only really gets braided twice. We’ve included lots of pictures, since we found that looking at the process visually was the easiest way to learn how to do this.

We took our flavours a step further as well and added raisins and cinnamon to the tradtional apples and honey since cinnamon, raisins, and apples go together like pumpkin and spice. Think cinnamon raisin bread, but better.

This bread would be absolutely brilliant toasted with butter and/or jam, it’s also great with peanut butter or almond butter slathered on it. We were thinking that French toast would be absolutely phenomenal when made using this bread, but you’ll have to check back in here on Thursday to get the recipe for that?

Go bake.

Apple Cinnamon Raisin Challah

Ingredients:

2 1/4 teaspoons (1 standard packet) active instant dry yeast

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey

1/3 cup neutral oil (we used canola oil)

2 large eggs plus 1 large yolk

1 1/2 teaspoons table salt

4 1/4 cups (530 g) all-purpose flour, plus more for your working surface

For the filling:

1 apple, peeled, cored, and cut into 1/2-inch chunks (we used Granny Smith)

1/2 cup (80 g) Thompson raisins

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

Squeeze of lemon juice to keep the apples from browning

Egg wash:

1 large egg, beaten

Directions:

  1. Start by whisking together the yeast, 1 teaspoon honey, and 2/3 cup warm water in a large bowl. Let stand until foamy, about a 4-5 mintues.
  2. To your yeast mixture, add the oil, 1/3 cup honey, eggs and yolk and give it a good stir. Add the flour and and salt all at once and stir until you get a shaggy mess of uneven dough.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lighly floured counter and knead it into a smooth, elastic dough, about 5-8 minutes. Try to use as little flour as necessary when kneading the dough to avoid a tough bread.
  4. Transfer the dough to a large bowl that has been sprayed with non-stick spray, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside to rise for 1 hour, or until almost double in size. It’s important that you let your bread rise in a draft-free area. If you’re concerned, a safe place is always a turned-off oven.
  5. While you’re waiting, combine your chopped apples, raisins, cinnamon, and lemon juice and mix until well combined.
  6. Turn your dough onto a lighlty flour surface and gently press it down into a flat, oblong shape. The shape doesn’t matter! Spread 2/3 of the apple/raisin mixture over 1/2 of the flattened dough. Fold the other half over the filling and press the dough down around it, flattening the dough and sealing the edges. Spread the remaining 1/3 of the filling over half the folded dough. Fold the other half over the filling, pressing the dough down again. Your dough packet will probably look square-ish at this point.
  7. Fold the corners under using the sides of your hand and form the dough into a round. Place back into the bowl, cover, and let rise for another 30 minutes.
  8. Weave your bread: Divide the dough into 4 pieces. Roll and stretch each one as carefully as you can into a rope, about 12-inches long.
  9. 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 in the middle. So, now you should have 8 legs coming out from the center. Take the for legs that come from underneath the center and move them over the leg to their right, i.e. jumping it (it’s really easiest to look at the picture here!). Take those legs that were on the right and again, jum each over the leg before, this time to the left. If you had extra length to your ropes, you can repeat these jums until you run out of dough. For us, this was enough.
  10. To finish off the shaping, fold each of the ends of dough underneath and into the center using the sides of your hands so you’re left with a round loaf. Transfer the dough to a parchment-lined baking sheet and brush with beaten egg. Let the challah rise for another hour but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375 degrees F.
  11. Before baking, brush your loaf one more time with egg wash and then transfer to the oven to bake for 40-45 minutes. If you feel like the top of your bread is getting to brown, cover with tinfoil for the remaining bake time. Place the bread on a cooling rack to cool down completely before serving. Enjoy!

Inspired by this recipe.