09 April 2013

Apple Honey Swirl Challah


I would be lying if I said I'd never been on a diet. I think every woman would. But whenever I've felt like I needed to cut back a bit, I've always done it by simple things like smaller portions, snacking less, focusing on fruits and vegetables, getting up and going for walks around the office, exercising. My point is, I've never been on a named diet, no Atkins, no South Beach, no grapefruit diet, no veganism.


As someone who has never gone on an elimination diet, I will admit I am fascinated by them. Wait so you can eat tons of sausage but not an apple? Your entire diet has no dairy or legumes? I cannot imagine an existence without wonderful plain yogurt but I can bet it would be sad. We have several friends who have recently gone paleo, which judging by the participants vocal advocation of it, is like the timeshare of diets.


Basically, I eat a little bit of everything. I don't believe in the low carb craze, but I do think it's a good reminder to look carefully at what you consume every day. I am careful about not eating too many wheat-based things, just like I'm careful about not eating too much red meat, or too much tuna, or too many beets. I almost never eat pasta. I try to eat different colors everyday, reds, browns, oranges, blues, purples, greens. I should point here that red wine is a nice filler for your purple food group.


This is all a very long-handed way of saying I've been making less bread recently. And cakes and cookies too. But for Easter I wanted to make a challah bread for Paul (it's a bit of a tradition), and I had the last bits of some apple butter brought over from the States to use up. This dough is a breeze, and the olive oil and salt make it particularly delicious and easy to work with. Luckily Paul has no qualms about carbs, because he ate the whole thing.


Apple Honey Swirl Challah
I originally did not include cinnamon in the filling, but your mind just expects a cinnamon flavor coming from those dark swirls, so I've added it here. Adapted from the Smitten Kitchen Cookbook.

1 packet active dry yeast
5 tablespoons honey
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for the bowl
2 eggs for the bread, 1 egg for the egg wash
2 teaspoons sea salt
4 cups flour, plus more for kneading as necessary
1 cup apple butter
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1. In the bottom of a large bowl combine the yeast, 1 drip of the honey, and the warm water. Let stand until the yeast mixture bubbles, 5-10 minutes. Add in the remainder of the honey, the olive oil, and the eggs and whisk well. Switch to a wooden spoon, and gently begin add in the floor one cup at a time. Halfway through, or after you've added 2 cups of flour, add the salt, then continue adding the flour. The dough should come together in a sticky mass.
2. Flour your hands and knead the dough vigorously for 5-10 minutes, until very smooth and elastic, adding more flour if needed. You can turn this out onto a board to knead, or you can be lazy like me and just knead it in your bowl. Rub the bowl liberally with olive oil and turn the dough to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until doubled in size, 1-2 hours.
3. Preheat oven to 375 F. Turn the dough out onto a floured counter and divide in half. Roll one half out into a rough long rectangle, oval shape. Spread the apple butter generously over the dough, stopping short of the edge. Sprinkle half of the cinnamon over top and smooth it into the apple butter with a knife. Roll up the dough into a long log and set aside. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.
4. Gently stretch out each of your dough logs until very long, but don't let the dough break. Cut each log in half so you have 4 dough logs. Arrange the logs in a cross, two logs vertical, two horizontal, with the legs interwoven where they meet. Take each of the "under" logs and jump it over the log to its left. Repeat this jumping until you run out of dough and have a weird-octopus shaped things. Tuck all the ends of the dough under the center.
5. Transfer your loaf to a lined or greased baking sheet. Cover with an inverted large bowl and let rise 45 minutes to one hour. After rising, beat the remaining egg in a bowl and brush all over the dough. Bake the dough for 35-40 minutes, until well browned on top. Let cool on a rack before slicing.

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