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Cardamom, Apple & Honey Challah for the New Year

Cardamom, Apple & Honey Challah for the New Year


Each fall as the busy the school year hits, so does the cascade of two big Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. It can feel overwhelming at times, but also provides a good excuse to find moments of reflection and gathering just as life is getting packed and busy. I'm grateful for this. Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year arrives first, and brings with it the custom of eating round foods like apples, and round challah bread, symbolizing the cycles of the year, as well as honey to bless the coming year with sweetness. In our home, we also use honey regularly in the Yoruba Orisa tradition: a taste on our finger to bless each day with sweetness and help us stay connected to the divine presence throughout our daily life. I relish in the times of year when the religious and cultural traditions in our diverse home synchronize with such sweetness. 

I'm constantly inspired by the world around me, and while I love special holiday recipes returning each year, I also love creative twists that bring new joy into a special day. This gorgeous (and fairly easy) woven style challah has been plastered all over Instagram and food sites for the past few years, and it is my favorite solution for turning a normally straight braided bread into a circle for the new year.  I LOVE cardamom and think it goes especially well with apples, but if you prefer cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, star anise or any other flavor, feel free to make adjustments. When adding dried fruit to bread, I favor a short soak in liquid and then rolling the fruit into the dough so that it bakes inside the bread rather than burning on the surface (think cinnamon raisin swirl breads).  It's important to bake this bread in the middle of the oven so that the top and bottom cook evenly, and the thick center is fully baked. When checking for doneness, tap the bottom well and listen for a very hollow sound.

The suffering and pain around us in the world is not new, it just feels magnified this year as massive hurricanes hit and white supremacists feel emboldened to express their hatred so publicly. While we each find ways to work towards healing and deep liberation for all peoples this year, I hope for a brief moment, this gorgeous round bread helps you to welcome the renewal and sweetness that is possible in life, whether you are celebrating the new year or not. Many blessings! -Tagan

Cardamom, Apple & Honey Challah Bread

1 1/3 cups warm water
2 tablespoons yeast (or two packets dry active yeast)
1/2 cup honey (you can use sugar if you want)
1/2 cup oil
4 eggs
1 tablespoon salt
5-6 cups flour (part whole wheat or whole spelt is fine)
1/4 cup toasted wheat germ (optional)
2 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 cup chopped dried apples

1 egg beaten for brushing the bread

  1. Soak chopped dried apples in hot water for 20 minutes. Remove apples with a slotted spoon and place in a small dish and save the water for the next step.
  2. Pour the now warm (not hot) water into a large bowl. Add honey and yeast. Mix and let sit for 1 minute or until the yeast foams up. 
  3. Stir in 2 cups of flour, the eggs, oil, wheat germ and cardamom. Mix to combine. If using a stand mixer, knead this mixture with the dough hook attachment, adding the rest of the flour a cup at a time, and the salt towards the end of the flour. If mixing by hand, use a spoon to mix as long as you are able, and then turn the dough onto a floured work surface and knead until the dough is smooth and no longer very sticky. Your finished dough should be very smooth, soft and tacky, but not very sticky. Set the dough in an oiled bowl and cover the bowl with a cloth and put it in a warm place to rise, until doubled in size, about 1.5 hours.
  4. Gently turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Cut the dough into 4 even pieces. Roll or press each piece into a flat rectangle approximately 12 inches by 5 inches with the 12 inch side facing you. If you have to knead the dough first to create an even shape, let it rest for a few minutes before rolling into a rectangle so the dough has relaxed and won't shrink back.
  5. Sprinkle 1/4 of the dried apple pieces across the rectangle leaving a 1 inch area clear along the 12 inch side farthest from you. To roll the rectangle into a log, start by folding the dough along the 12 inch side nearest you and continue rolling until you reach the other side, pinching the end closed along the whole 12 inch side. Roll the whole log gently to seal. Set aside and repeat with the other 3 pieces. 
  6. To weave your four strand round challah I highly recommend watching this video as I find it nearly impossible to learn to braid from written directions (no less write those directions). Skip to the middle at 1:11 for the 4 strand braid which is what I did here. Essentially what you are doing is arranging your four strands in a crosshatch pattern with two vertical pieces and two horizontal pieces laid under an dover each other like a basket weave to start (see pix above). You then cross the pieces coming out from under the weave over the piece next to it that is coming out from the top of the weave. Seriously, watch the video to see how to do this better than I can write it!
  7. Place the finished woven bread onto a parchment lined heavy baking pan, or an oiled baking pan or foil if you don't have parchment. Brush the bread all over with egg wash. Let it rise again until doubled in size about 1 hour. 15 minutes before your rising time is up, preheat oven to 350. Bake until golden brown and the bottom sounds very hollow when tapped, about 45-50 minutes. 
    Note: If you want to make the dough in advance, you can place it in the refrigerator for the 1st rise over night (or from the morning until evening). Punch the dough down and let it rise again at room temperature for a few hours. Then resume assembling the bread from step #4. 

Do you have any special new year or fall recipes?
Please share in the comments below! 

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