As should be expected, any holiday, get-together, or even the smallest event is a reason for me to cook something extravagant. It could be Thursday night with a bottle of wine and my best friend and that’s a good enough reason for me, so clearly Rosh Hashana had to have something special. I had recently given in to my Smitten Kitchen addiction (I really spend far too much time clicking the “Surprise Me!” link and reading recipes on her website) and fell in love with her recent recipe for Olive Oil, Sea Salt & Fig Challah. Of course I aspired to make it for Rosh Hashana, I even stood in Sprouts for maybe 30 minutes contemplating the difference between seriously four kinds of figs- why do they have four different kinds of dried figs?!
Amidst my rushing about to recreate the latest SK masterpiece, I also had an idea of my own. I didn’t know if I liked figs (now I know- I do), so I wanted to make another Challah that I knew I would like, and I wanted to incorporate apples. But how?
For days I pondered… Then, it dawned on me: Apple Butter. The perfect solution!
Let me tell you about my love for apple butter. But soft! what light through yonder window breaks? It is the east, and apple butter is the sun.. but for real, apple butter is delicious. And ridiculously easy to make. So much so that I am already planning my next batch, and you really have no excuse to not bust out your crock pot at this very moment.
So, with this revelation, I made three challahs for Rosh Hashana. Yes, three! My love for homemade challah runs deep. I made Smitten Kitchen’s Olive Oil, Sea Salt and Fig Challah; Plain Challah with sesame seeds (for the discriminating tastes in the house); and the glorious Apple Butter Challah with Cinnamon Sugar. Oh, it was majestic.
I first learned how to make challah from my Rabbi’s wife in college. Chaya taught me so many things about life, love, and Jewish cooking and for all these things I will be forever grateful. Her carrot kugel cannot be matched (I have tried countless times). Her baked chicken is always perfect and juicy and amazing. And her challah is to die for! So, lucky you, that’s the recipe I used! Coupled with my apple butter, it was a combination that I will not soon forget. Enjoy!
Homemade Apple Butter
Makes about 4 cups
12 Apples (normal sized ones that seem slightly heavy)
1/2 cup Brown Sugar
3/4 tsp Cinnamon
3/4 tsp Pumpkin Pie Spice
2/3 cup Water
Peel and core each apple. Roughly cut the apples into 1/2″ cubes and place in a large bowl. To the apples, add brown sugar and spices. Mix well to coat the apples. Add apples to your crock pot with 2/3 cup water. Set on low for 15 hours (this is best done overnight). Stir occasionally.
After 15 hours, blend until smooth with an immersion blender. If you do not have an immersion blender, you can blend it in batches using a regular blender. Prop the lid of the crock pot open with a wooden spoon and let simmer for 2-3 more hours until the mixture has thickened. During this time be sure to stir occasionally. Then, shut off the crock pot and let it sit (with the lid still propped open). When it has cooled enough to be manageable, transfer the apple butter into canning jars or glass tupperware. It can be frozen as well.
Makes two Challahs
2 packages dry yeast
2 cups water, between 110-116 degrees F
1/2 cup sugar
1 tbsp salt
1/2 cup oil
1 egg, beaten
6.5-7 cups all purpose flour
Dissolve a tsp of the sugar in 1 cup of water. Add yeast and let the yeast foam for 5-10 minutes.
Add half of the flour, the rest of the sugar and the salt. Once combined, add the egg and oil. Then work in the remaining flour until the dough forms a ball. Remove the dough from the bowl and knead for 5-10 minutes until it becomes elastic and has “acquired a life of its own.” It should spring back when pressed with a fingertip. Try to add only enough flour to keep the dough from sticking. Drizzle 2 tbsp of oil into a bowl and roll the dough around to coat it in oil. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise for an hour.
Section dough in half. With each half, evenly cut enough pieces for whichever braid you choose. With each piece, roll the dough out flat. Spread a layer of apple butter over the dough, avoiding the edges (fig filling shown in the images).
Roll the dough back into a log (like a cinnamon roll). Repeat this until you have enough apple butter-filled pieces of dough for your braid.
Procede to braid the challah in whichever style you prefer. Place on a greased baking dish and brush with an egg wash. Allow to rise 1 additional hour.
45 minutes through the second rise, preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Brush the challah with a second egg wash and sprinkle with cinnamon sugar. When the oven is heated, bake for 30-45 minutes on a middle rack, until the interior temperature reaches195 degrees. If the top begins to brown to quickly, cover it loosely with a piece of foil.