Challah, a holy Jewish bread, is made all year round in Israel. So there are many variations from the traditional recipe to try. This recipe, inspired by Cuban cuisine, adds cream cheese and sweet guava paste for a delicious new creation.
2 ¼ tsp active dry yeast
1 ½ tsp plus ¼ cup sugar, divided
¾ cup warm water
¼ cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, divided
1 egg yolk
1 ½ tsp table salt
4 cups all-purpose flour
12 Tbsp cream cheese
12 Tbsp guava paste
Turbinado sugar (optional)
In a large bowl, gently stir together the yeast, 1 ½ tsp sugar, and warm water until dissolved, and let sit for 10 minutes.
Mix in vegetable oil, 2 eggs (1 at a time), 1 egg yolk, and salt.
Slowly add flour, ½ cup at a time, until well incorporated (you may need a little more or a little less, depending on the moisture in your air). When the dough holds together, knead until smooth. About 5 minutes by hand, or 2 minutes using a dough hook on a stand mixer.
Transfer dough to a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let sit in a warm place for 1 hour.
Punch the dough down, reapply the plastic wrap, and return to the warm location to rise for another hour.
On a floured surface, remove dough from the bowl, and cut into 12 equal pieces. Using the palm of your hand, flatten each piece, fill with 1 tablespoon of cream cheese and 1 tablespoon of guava paste. Bring the edges of the dough together to cover the filling, and pinch. Repeat with the remaining 11 pieces of dough.
Place the filled dough pieces seam-side-down into 2 greased 9-inch cake pans (6 dough pieces in each), and arrange the pieces in a circle with one piece in the middle.
Using the remaining eggs, create an egg wash, and brush the dough generously.
Let rest for 30 minutes. Then preheat oven to 375 degrees.
Brush the dough a second time with the egg wash, making sure to pay special attention to any dips and creases where the pieces of dough meet each other.
Sprinkle with turbinado sugar (optional)
Place cake pans in oven, and immediately lower the oven temperature to 350 degrees.
Bake for 20-22 minutes, or until loaves are golden brown.
Remove from oven, and cool 10 minutes.
Remove loaves from the cake pans, and place on wire racks to cook completely.