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Yid.Dish: Apple Cider Challah

Yesterday, I made two loaves of challah. It felt like a funny activity for a Sunday, I’ll admit. (I usually make challah in a flurried rush on Friday afternoon.) But I’d had a culinary brain flash the other day, that I felt compelled to try out: apple cider challah.

The idea was originally inspired by a beautiful loaf of apple honey challah my friend Ariela over at Baking and Books made last year. Lying in bed a few Sunday mornings ago, still heavy with dreams and sleep, I’d suddenly remembered that beautiful loaf of bread Ariela had made, which twisted the flavors of Rosh Hashanah into braided loaves. My thoughts then drifted to another favorite fall treat, apple cider – the one drink that manages to capture all of the sweet, spicy secrets of autumn.

Despite not being fully awake yet, my brain somehow managed to fuse these two thoughts together Sesame Street style: Cider………Challah Cider….Challah. Cider.Challah. Eureka! All of a sudden, I could hardly imagine a world without apple cider challah. (According to Google, only one other person has thought of it before.) So yesterday, I set about making my dream bread into a reality. It was such a treat to knead the loaves and let them rise on the counter without the pressure of the setting sun at my back. And as I bit into a warm slice, spread with a dollop of amber-colored apricot jam, I felt (almost) okay with the fact that fall is just around the corner.

Question to the Jewish text-perts out there: If you make challah that is not meant for Shabbat, do you still need to remove some of the dough as the Challah offering?

Apple Cider Challah

*This challah, which features the flavors of apple cider and honey, is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. It tastes delicious drizzled with more honey, or spread with apricot jam or apple butter. Thanks to Ariela for the original inspiration and to Dr. Phyllis Bieri whose challah recipe I based this one off of.

1 package dry yeast
1 c warm apple cider
5 c flour (feel free to play around with wheat flour)
3/4 c dried apple, chopped well
1/3 c sugar
2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 c neutral oil, e.g. canola
2 large eggs plus 1 egg yolk
1 Tbs honey, beaten with 1 tsp canola oil for “wash”

In a small mixing bowl, whisk yeast into warm cider. Set aside.

Measure dry ingredients (including dry apples) into another large mixing bowl. Stir with a wooden spoon, and make a well in the middle.

Whisk in 2 eggs plus 1 egg yolk and oil into yeast/cider mixture. Pour wet ingredients into dry (into well in center), and stir with wooden spoon. Dough should be soft and sticky. Turn onto floured surface and knead briefly with a little extra flour to prevent dough from sticking to hands.

Put ball of dough back into large mixing bowl and coat with a little oil to prevent sticking. Cover with saran wrap or towel and let rise about 1 hour until doubled in size.

Punch down dough, turn onto floured surface and knead till smooth, about a minute. Divide dough with sharp knife in half, then divide each half into 3. Roll each of 6 lumps into a cylinder, 8-10 inches long.

Place each cylinder on a baking sheet covered with parchment paper. Braid 3 strands from the middle to each end. Pinch ends together and roll under. Repeat for second loaf.

Cover both loaves with oiled saran wrap (re-use from previous covering). Let rise at least an hour, preferably in a warm spot, until doubled in size.

Preheat oven to 375. Brush loaves with honey wash using a pastry brush. Put in middle third of oven and set timer for 15 minutes. Loaves are done when deep golden brown. Depending on oven, this usually takes about 20 minutes but can be shorter if it is a hot oven. I start watching after 15 minutes, checking every 2 minutes or so.

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