Apple Honey Challah

This apple and honey challah recipe was certainly a challenge for little old me, a novice baker. But, it miraculously came out pretty well. It wasn’t perfect but it had great flavor and the texture was almost spot on. Smearing it with pumpkin butter made it incredible…and toasting it for breakfast? Genuis!

A great tip from Deb of Smitten Kitchen: If you measure the oil in the 1/3 cup measuring cup first, and then your honey, the honey will slide right out (it worked!).

Warning: This takes about 2.5 hours to to make so be prepared before getting yourself into this!

Bread Ingredients:
-2 1/4 tspns (1/4-ounce packet) active dry yeast
-1/3 cup plus 1 tspn honey
-1/3 cup organic canola oil, plus more for the bowl
-2 eggs plus 1 yolk
-1 1/2 tspns table salt
-4 1/4 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

Apple filling Ingredients:
-2 baking apples (I used Gala), peeled, cored and in 1/2-inch chunks
Squeeze of lemon juice, to keep them from browning

Egg wash Ingredients:
1 large egg

-Whisk yeast and 1 tspn honey into 2/3 cup warm water and let stand until foamy, a few minutes.
-In a large bowl, whisk together yeast mixture, oil, remaining honey (1/3 cup), eggs and yolk.
-Add flour all at once and stir with a wooden spoon until you get a mass of uneven dough.
-Turn dough out onto a floured counter and knead it into a smooth, elastic dough, about 5 to 8 minutes (Deb’s note): Try to use as little flour as necessary when kneading the dough; you don’t want to toughen the bread)
-Transfer dough to large oil-coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

Add apples to dough:
-Turn dough out onto a floured counter and gently press it down into a flat, oblong shape.
-Spread 2/3 of apple chunks over 1/2 of the flattened dough
-Fold the other half over the apple chunks and press the dough down around them, flattening the now lumpy dough
-Spread the remaining 1/3 apple chunks over half the folded dough
-Fold the other half over the apples, pressing the dough down again
-Your dough packet will likely be square-ish
-Fold the corners under with the sides of your hands and form the dough into a round
-Turn your empty bowl over and set it aside for another 30 minutes
-Divide dough into 4 pieces
-Roll and stretch each one as carefully as you can into a rope — don’t worry about getting it too long or thin, just 12 inches or so should do
-If any apple chunks fall out as you form the ropes or at any other time in the forming of the loaf or risings, just poke them back in with your finger
-Arrange two strands in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a plus sign (see photos)
-Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet
-Take the four legs that come from underneath the center and move them over the leg to their right, i.e. jumping it
-Take those legs that were on the right and again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left
-If you had extra length to your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope
-Just as you had with the folded packet of apple dough above, tuck the corners/odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a round
-Transfer the dough to a parchment-covered heavy baking sheet
-Beat egg until smooth and brush over challah
-Let challah rise for another hour but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
-Before baking, brush loaf one more time with egg wash
-Bake in middle of oven for 40 to 45 minutes
-It should be bronzed
-Cool loaf on a rack before serving

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