Apple ChallahSeptember 21, 2017 By Cathy — 6 Comments
Celebrate Rosh Hashanah with challah made with apples and honey for a sweet new year.
It’s a very sweet time of year. It’s time for apples and honey and sharing the holidays with family. It’s Rosh Hashanah, a holiday that I’ve come to know through marriage, but one that’s no less special because I didn’t grow up celebrating it.
I grew up in a very Catholic home, in a very Italian Catholic town. My life was Christmas and Easter and pasta and cakes flavored with anise. We ate fish on Fridays and went to mass on Sundays. We spent every birthday, holiday and Sunday around the kitchen table eating seemingly endless trays of heartily sauced food, followed by bottomless pots of coffee. My family was boisterous, occasionally biting, and always interesting.
And then I grew up and got married to a Jewish guy, that according to my Aunt Rita, at least “looked Italian”. It’s funny, as single-minded as most of my relatives were growing up, it never occurred to me that bringing a Jewish boy home would be difficult. Whether it’s a credit to them or if I was just oblivious, I never gave it a second thought. I simply assumed that it would work out and surprisingly enough, it actually did.
See, in a very top-line view, big Italian families and big Jewish families aren’t that different (save that whole religion thing). We have a tendency to nurture, over-feed, and over-worry. Opinions are shared even when not asked for and doggy bags are packed even when you say you’re not hungry. But it comes from a good place, the best place…the heart.
When I said yes one day to a boy on bended knee, I didn’t fully realize that I was saying yes to his family too. A family with their own traditions, their own holidays and yes, their own religion. We both said yes to a life where we would technically be the “outsiders'” in so many ways. Well, twenty years and a couple of scrappy boys later, I think we’ve got a handle on it.
As it turns out, this melding of families and traditions has benefited both of us. I’ve been welcomed into a family as keen on tradition as my own, albeit in different ways. I’ve learned the importance of the Jewish heritage over holiday dinners and in countless discussions and it’s encouraged a very open and direct dialogue with my own boys as they set out to discover themselves. It’s incredibly important to me that they have an understanding of where they come from and be proud of their heritage, on both sides.
I am also grateful and very fortunate that my husband’s family absorbed me into their lives as one of their own. I may not take two helpings of gefilte fish at Passover dinner, but I make up for it by bringing some killer treats. But more importantly than the food (and that’s a big statement coming from this girl), is that I truly think of his family as my own at this point. I no longer think of it as “his” holiday or “my” holiday, instead I think of it as our family’s holiday. A time that we share meals, laughter, love, traditional food and occasionally too much wine.
So I’ll leave you today with a recipe for apple challah, a round loaf of spongy, eggy bread, flecked with apples and sweetened by honey. The round shape is symbolic of the continuing cycle of the year and seasons, but it also represents a time in which we can decide if we want to continue down the same path or make a change. Perhaps it’s time to leave some of our past behaviors and ideologies behind and engage in a new path that lifts us out of our comfort zone into something less easy but more inspiring. I know that dipping a toe into two cultures has provided me with firsthand knowledge that there’s more than one way to look at life and there truly is room for everyone’s point of view. I’m humbled and honored to share this day with my Jewish friends and family and wish them all a sweet new year!
- 1 - 1/4 oz package active dry yeast
- 1/2 tsp sugar
- 1 cup warm water 100 degrees
- 3 eggs room temperature
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1/3 cup canola oil + oil for coating the bowl
- 1 1/2 tsp kosher salt
- 4 cups bread flour
- 2 large apples I prefer Braeburn
- 2 tsp sugar
- Topping: 1 egg + 1 Tbsp water and 1 Tbsp turbinado sugar
Whisk the yeast, 1/2 tsp sugar and warm water together in the bowl of a standing mixer (if using) or another large bowl. Let stand for 5 mins until foamy.
Whisk in the eggs, honey, oil and salt. Add the flour and stir to combine.
Using the dough hook attachment for a standing mixer, knead the dough for 5-7 mins until it is smooth (it will be a little sticky). Alternatively, knead the dough on a lightly floured surface by hand for 10 mins.
Scrape the dough into a large, well oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover tightly with plastic wrap and let stand a room temperature for about 1 1/2 hours or until doubled in bulk.
Peel, core and chop the apples into 1/2 inch chunks and toss with 2 tsp sugar.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and divide it into 4 equal pieces.
Use your hands to roll each piece into a 12 inch rope and flatten to about 3 1/2 inches wide. Working with one piece at a time (cover the others with a slightly damp towel), spread 1/4 of the apples along one side of the flattened dough strip. Fold over lengthwise and press the edges lightly to adhere. Repeat with the remaining three pieces.
To weave the dough, lay two pieces lengthwise next to each other (almost touching). Now use the other two pieces to weave it tic tac dough style, one side is over/under, the next row is then under/over across the middle. (See images below.)
Next, pick up the piece that was under and pull it over its partner to the side. Repeat with the three "under" pieces. Now, reverse the direction and pull the "unders" over their partners. Tuck the ends underneath to form a round shape.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
Place the woven round on the baking sheet and cover it very loosely with plastic wrap or a slightly damp towel. The dough should rise for about 1 hour until doubled in size and it doesn't spring back when lightly pressed.
Whisk the egg with the water and brush over the top and sprinkle with the turbinado sugar.
Bake for 35 mins until golden brown. If the crust begins to brown too deeply during baking, cover with aluminum foil. Slice and enjoy!
Weaving the challah is easier than you think! See the images below for guidance.