Challah, a holy Jewish bread, is baked all year round. This week's recipe is brought to you by Leah Koenig, author of "Modern Jewish Cooking," and she fills her challah with sweet apples and a pumpkin filling.
- 1¼-ounce packet active dry yeast (2¼ teaspoons)
- 1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon sugar
- 1 cup warm water (110˚ F)
- 4½ cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- ½ teaspoon ground cardamom
- 1½ teaspoon salt
- 1/2 cup pumpkin purée
- ¼ cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing
- 2 eggs
- 2/3 cup apple butter
- 1 small apple, peeled, cored and finely chopped
- Stir together the yeast, 1 teaspoon of the sugar, and the warm water in a medium bowl. Let stand until foaming, 5–10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, whisk together the remaining 1/3 cup sugar, flour, cinnamon, cardamom and salt in a large bowl.
- Add the pumpkin, vegetable oil and 1 egg to the yeast mixture and whisk to combine. Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the wet mixture. Gently stir until the dough begins to form, then turn out the dough onto a floured surface and knead well, adding more flour, a little at a time, as necessary, until a supple dough forms, 8–12 minutes. Rub about 1 teaspoon oil around the bottom of a large bowl, add the dough, and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap or a dish towel and let sit in a warm place until nearly doubled in size, 1–1½ hours.
- Line two 9-inch round cake pans with a circle of parchment paper and lightly grease the parchment; set aside. Gently deflate the dough with your hands by pressing it in the center and turning it out onto a flat surface and divide in half with a knife. Working with 1 piece of the dough (and keeping the other covered with a dish towel), use a rolling pin to roll it into a large rectangle, about 1/8-inch thick. Spread about half of the apple butter evenly over the top, and sprinkle with half of the apple. Starting at one of the long ends, tightly roll the dough in on itself, like a jelly roll. Pinch the ends to seal and gently stretch into a 24-inch-long rope. Coil the rope into a circle and place into one of the prepared pans, tucking the end underneath. Repeat with second piece of dough and the remaining apple butter and apple.
- Whisk the remaining egg in a small bowl and brush the challahs with one coat of egg wash. (Put the remaining egg wash in the fridge). Cover the loaves loosely with lightly greased plastic wrap and let rise for another 30 minutes. Fifteen minutes before baking, preheat the oven to 375° F.
- Uncover the loaves and brush with a second coat of egg wash. (Don’t skip the second coat; it adds deep beautiful color to the loaves.) Bake until deep golden brown and cooked through, or an instant-read thermometer stuck into the center of the loaf reads 195˚ F, 40–55 minutes. (The cooking time varies significantly depending on how thick the coil is. Start checking with your thermometer at 40 minutes, then every 5 minutes after, as necessary.) Remove from the oven and let cool on a wire rack. Serve warm or at room temperature. Challah is best the day it is made, but can be rewarmed in an oven or sliced and toasted for up to 3 days.