By Warda Bouguettaya
Rosh Hashana begins at sundown Wednesday, Sept. 4. To celebrate this Jewish new year, many families will fill their tables with holiday dishes both savory and sweet. Eating sweet foods on this holiday symbolizes hope for a sweet year ahead.
At the Jewish dinner table, it is customary to dip apples in honey and to have apples as the main ingredient in many cakes and breads, such as in today's recipe for apple challah.
This challah is totally different from the braided or spiral-shaped golden bread you're used to. Stuffed with sweetened, cinnamon-scented apple chunks, it's prepared like monkey bread. Though the process is messy, the result is well worth it, and the whole house smells like the holiday season.
I caught up with Mike Fusilier from Dundee-based Fusilier Family Farms at the Farmers & Artisans Market on Saturday to get his advice on choosing the right apples for baking.
From all the beautiful varieties he had on his stand, he told me that Macintosh and Jonamacs were the best choice for baking that he had available at the time. However, the best is yet to come.
"We will have Northern Spy available in two weeks, and this would be my No. 1 choice for baking," Fusilier said.
Macintosh was what I bought because it has a nice, sweet and tart taste. Fusilier said Macintosh apples retain their shape very well when baking and won't turn into a mush like other apples do.
The process of making apple challah is an easy one if you follow the recipe and don't get discouraged by the apples starting to slip out of the dough. This will be very messy — the dough is slippery, apples will fall out, sugary syrup will ooze — it's not pretty. Don't worry.
When folding the apples into the dough, make sure to pinch the borders very well before patting down the dough over the apples. This will assure all the apples stay inside, but if some rebellious apple chunks fall out during this process, do not fret; just tuck them in and have fun when baking this apple challah — or any other dish you're baking or cooking.
Happy Rosh Hashana! Happy baking and peace to all!
Adapted from King Arthur Flour
- ½ c. lukewarm water
- 6 Tbsp. vegetable oil
- ¼ c. honey
- 2 large eggs
- 4 c. (17 oz.) all-purpose flour
- 1½ tsp. salt
- 1 Tbsp. instant yeast
- 2 medium-to-large apples (Macintosh, Jonamac or Northern Spy varieties preferred), peeled, cored and diced into ¾-inch chunks
- ½ tsp. ground cinnamon
- ¼ c. granulated sugar
- 1 large egg beaten with 1 Tbsp. water
Combine all of the dough ingredients and mix. Knead them — by hand, mixer or bread machine — until you have a soft, smooth dough.
Allow the dough to rise, covered, for two hours, or until it's puffy and nearly doubled in bulk. If you've made the dough in a bread machine, allow it to rise in the machine for an extra hour after the dough cycle is completed.
Lightly grease a 9-inch round cake pan that's at least 2 inches deep, or grease a 9-inch or 10-inch springform pan. In a bowl, toss the apple chunks with the sugar and cinnamon.
Gently deflate the dough, transfer it to a lightly greased work surface and flatten it into a rough rectangle, about 8 inches by 10 inches. Spread half the apple chunks in the center of the dough. Fold a short edge of the dough over the apple mixture — as if you were making the first fold of a letter, with the apples enclosed inside — patting firmly to seal the apples and spread the dough a bit. Spread the remaining apple mixture atop the folded-over dough. Cover the apples with the other side of the dough (as if you were making the second fold of a letter), again patting firmly.
Take a bench knife or a regular knife, or even a pair of scissors, and cut the apple-filled dough into 16 pieces by cutting in half, then cutting each half in halves, etc. Don't stress about making all the pieces the same size.
Lay the dough chunks into the pan; crowd them so that they all fit in a single layer (barely). Lots of apple chunks will fall out during this process; just tuck them in among the dough pieces, or simply spread them on top. Cover the challah gently with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow it to rise for about one hour until it's a generous 2 inches high. It should just crest the rim of a 9-inch round cake pan. Toward the end of the rising time, preheat the oven to 325 degrees.
Whisk together the egg and 1 tablespoon water. Brush the dough with the egg mixture. Place the bread in the lower third of the oven. Bake it for 55 minutes, or until the top is at least light brown all over, with no white spots. Some of the higher-rising pieces will actually char; that's OK.
Remove the challah from the oven, and after five minutes, loosen the edges and carefully transfer it to a rack. Serve the bread hot, warm or at room temperature. Drizzle with honey just before serving, if desired, or serve with honey for dipping.