Apple Honey Challah
Normal married couples fight about finances, in-laws, and the proper method to load the dishwasher. Ben and I fight about glitter. Grab a piece of golden Apple Honey Challah while I explain.
It started three years ago when Ben picked me up for a date, and I had rubbed some of that super sexy shimmer lotion onto my legs just before he arrived. It turns out that, while shimmer lotion may look good under a mini skirt, it will leave a stubborn trail dust of sparkles on your date’s passenger seat. Those sparkles will then refuse to budge until your date pays to shampoo his car. Oops.
Glitter lotion is now banned from our apartment, but that hasn’t stopped the conflict over shiny specs. Christmas is particularly problematic. I purchased our tree and ornaments in my single lady days, which translates to décor that is cheap, colorful, and of course, glittery. Every holiday when I haul it out, Ben goes into a glitter tirade, following me around with the vacuum and pointing out every stray spec. To be fair, those glitter pieces do have a fairly nasty habit of finding their way into unusual locations (Ben’s desk drawer; our kitchen cupboards; the bathtub), and I suspect that they are targeting Ben. How else would the man wind up with glitter inside his baseball cap?
Despite the dispute, I do not regret my glittery ornament selection. They are so pretty! Also, the holidays should be merry and bright. Our surroundings demand a little extra glam. Apple Honey Challah bread is just that: something familiar, studded out to make it extra special for holiday celebrations.
Challah is a traditional Jewish bread, eaten on the Sabbath and holidays. Being Jewish is not, however, a prerequisite to enjoying this wonderful loaf. For our Apple Honey Challah, I kept much of the tradition in the recipe—eggs for richness, no butter (I used light, fruity olive oil instead), and a beautiful braid—but added a bit of my own flair: white whole wheat flour, golden honey, chunks of tart apple, and a warm touch of cinnamon. The result is an unbelievably tender loaf that is so fluffy and soft, it melts on your tongue, yet still boasts enough structure to hold up to the toaster or (better yet) a French toast batter.
It took me three holiday seasons to work up the nerve to bake challah. With its fancy braid and shiny, bronzed exterior,I thought challah would be too complicated for a home baker like me, right? BZZZZZZ (cue the “Erin, you are sooooo wrong” buzzer). Challah dough is straightforward to prepare and simpler than it looks. It’s sticker than typical bread doughs (thank the honey for that) and requires an extra rise + egg wash, but otherwise challah isn’t any more complicated than a batch of dinner rolls. Even the braiding is easier than it looks (and I’ve included these pictures to help!)
My Apple Honey Challah is extra super fluffy, thanks to my bread baking BFF Red Star Yeast. As I’ve shared previously, Red Star Platinum Yeast is my bread-baking weapon numero uno. It makes the most bowl-busting doughs and fluff-tastic loaves, an especially impressive feat when baking with whole grain flours, something I do almost exclusively. My Apple Honey Challah rose so fabulously, it nearly expanded right off the edge of my baking sheet!
The holidays are a time to try something special, to add a little glitz to the every day. We place stockings on our mantels, wreaths on our doors, and lights on our trees. Let your breakfast in on the glam by baking a tender, cinnamon-scented loaf of Apple Honey Challah. Then, watch what happens when your glittery Christmas tree topper falls off, lands with a thud, and spews gold fairy dust all over the carpet and your husband’s gym shorts. Yes that happened. Fortunately, I had some fresh challah to abate Ben’s temper.
Best leave the sparkle to the Apple Honey Challah.
And a few more sweet recipe ideas to glam up your holiday spread:
Chocolate Chai Cinnamon Rolls
Apple Honey Challah
For the Bread:
- 2 cups white whole wheat flour — (or substitute an equal amount of all purpose or bread flour)
- 2 1/4 cups all purpose flour — plus additional for kneading (or substitute an equal amount of bread flour)
- 2 tablespoons vital wheat gluten — (optional—will make bread fluffier if using white whole wheat flour)
- 1 package Red Star Platinum Instant Yeast — (1/4 ounce, or 2 1/4 teaspoons)
- 1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
- 1 1/2 cups water — (very warm but not hot (120 – 130 degrees F)
- 1/3 cup honey
- 1/4 cup fruity extra virgin olive oil — (this is what I used or canola oil)
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
For the Apple Filling:
- 2 medium baking apples — such as Granny Smith, peeled, cored and cut into 1/2-inch to 3/4-inch pieces
- 1 teaspoon cinnamon
- 2 teaspoons lemon juice
For the Egg Wash:
- 1 large egg
- Coarse sugar — for sprinkling, optional
Make the dough: In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, stir together the white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, vital wheat gluten, yeast, and salt until combined. Add the water, honey, oil, eggs, and egg yolk. Mix on medium speed until the ingredients are just combined into a shaggy mass. Switch to the dough hook, reduce speed to low and mix 6 minutes, until the dough is smooth, elastic, and slightly sticky.
If making dough by hand: In a large mixing bowl, stir together the white whole wheat flour, all purpose flour, vital wheat gluten, yeast, and salt until combined. Add the water, honey, oil, eggs, and egg yolk. Stir with a wooden spoon until the ingredients are just combined into a shaggy mass. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and knead until dough forms a smooth, elastic ball, about 8 minutes. Flour the dough as little as possible to prevent it from becoming tough.
Lightly coat a large, clean bowl with cooking spray. Transfer dough the bowl, turn to coat, then cover with plastic wrap that has also been misted with cooking spray. Let dough rise in a warm, draft free place for 1 hour or until almost doubled in size.
In a small bowl, toss together the apple pieces, cinnamon, and lemon juice. Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface and gently press it into a long, flat oval. Spread 2/3 of apple pieces over 1/2 of the flattened dough, leaving the other half of the dough empty. Fold the uncovered dough half over the apples and press down to flatten. (The dough will be lumpy.) Repeat the process, spreading the remaining apples over 1/2 of the folded dough again. Fold the uncovered dough half over the apples, pressing it down once more, leaving you with a semi-square shape. With the sides of your hands, gently tuck the corners of the “dough square” under to form the dough into a round. Turn the bowl in which you let the dough rise over the top of the apple-dough ball so that it is covered. Let sit for 30 minutes.
Weave the bread (see photos in post for a visual): Divide dough into 4 pieces by cutting it in half vertically, then horizontally (your cuts will form a plus sign.) Carefully roll and stretch each of the pieces into a 12-inch rope (be sure to measure!) If any apple pieces fall out as you go simply press them back in.
Take two ropes and lay them side by side so that they are touching. Arrange the other two pieces across the dough in a perpendicular manner so that you are creating a big plus sign, weaving the pieces so that one side is over and the other is under in the center where they meet (as if you are creating a basket weave). Your dough should now have eight “legs” coming out from the center where they cross.
Find each of the four legs that are emerging from “under” the center of the dough weave (these will be every-other rope). Lift each leg over the rope to its right. Find the legs you have not yet moved. Lift each of these legs up, over, and to the left. If you had extra length to the ropes, repeat these left-right jumps until no length of dough remains. Tuck any corners or bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round.
Line a heavy baking sheet with parchment paper and gently transfer the woven dough to its center. For the egg wash, beat the egg until smooth and brush it liberally over dough. Let dough rise uncovered for one hour. Reserve egg wash.
Place rack in the center of oven and preheat to 350 degrees F. Before baking, brush loaf once more with the reserved egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar. Bake for 30 to 35 minutes, until the loaf registers 195 degrees F at its center. The loaf will bronze deeply as it bakes, but check it at the 30-minute mark. If it is browning too quickly, cover the loaf with foil for the remainder of the baking time.
Let loaf cool on a wire rack, slice, then serve.
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Red Star Yeast compensated me for my time to create this post. As always, all opinions are my own. Thanks for supporting the brands who make it possible for me to provide quality content to you. Recipe (loosely) adapted from Smitten Kitchen and Healthy Bread in 5 Minutes a Day.
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