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Yid.Dish: Apple Cider Challah

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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?

Find the recipe below the jump.

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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 cup 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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15 Responses to “Yid.Dish: Apple Cider Challah”

  1. debby Says:

    Taking challah is about whether or not one is making bread, not about whether that bread is destined for a Shabbat or yom tov meal.

    That said, there’s at least one other wrinkle here: traditionally, there is a minimum batch size that requires taking challah, and a somewhat larger batch size for taking challah with a bracha (blessing) (sources vary for the exact amounts; first source I found online has a 2.5 pound batch for taking challah, and 5 pounds for making a bracha).

    As a side note, there are those who are strict about the definition of bread – according to the Mishna Brurah, if it’s all fruit juice as the liquid, it’s not technically bread (though one might eat a quantity enough to require treating it as such… this stuff can be interestingly tricky).

    And it sounds like a very yummy bread!

  2. Allison Lattman Says:

    That sounds awesome! Several years ago, I actually created a challah recipe with orange juice and had the same thought–Who would think of making it without? I’m gonna have to try apple cider next time. I see a new HHD tradition a-rising:)

  3. Avi Says:

    Debby nailed the major concern, is your apple cider challah halakhically bread? It’s kosher either way, but the fruit juice could make it cake and switch the blessing to mezonot. On the one hand that means you can’t use it for motzi on Shabbat(or any other time), but on the other hand it means you can eat it without having to ritually wash your hands.

    You should probably check with a Rabbi you trust before serving it as challah at a meal.

    But of course, to quote Alton Brown, either way, “it’s still good eats.”

  4. Eric Schulmiller Says:

    This sounds amazing, Leah. I’ll have to try it while I still have some summer free time left. As for your “Sesame Street moment”, were you thinking of these guys? I have to pull Gen-X rank and give mad reading props to the soft-shoe silhouette gang at the Electric Company. Long live Morgan Freeman (aka Easy Reader)!

  5. Larry Lennhoff Says:

    You should definitely consult a rabbi since there are contradictory rulings. According to Chabad.org if the primary liquid ingredient isn’t water, technically the result is not bread, but cake.

    However, The Vaad of Queens makes it clear that in their eyes if it looks and tastes like bread it is bread, regardless of the liquid used.

    For a really detailed look check out the section “The Fallacy of Mezonos bread” in The Laws of Brachos by Rav Benjamin Forst.

  6. Ron Says:

    YUM!

  7. Leah Koenig Says:

    Thanks everyone for these insightful comments. I hadn’t thought about the fact that using juice instead of water might render this challah cake – even though it looks nothing like cake and everything like challah. Good to know…I’ll definitely check in with my parent-in-laws to be before making it for them on Rosh Hashanah

  8. Moe Says:

    Oh this sounds wonderful. I’ve never made challah myself, actually. I think this recipe has inspired me to make my first attempt.

    Thank you for sharing!

  9. shev Says:

    Okay, British question here: what is apple cider? Where I come from, it’s fizzy alcoholic apple juice – which might make an EXCELLENT challah! What are you using?

  10. Rachel Kahn-Troster Says:

    So, oddly enough, most American apple cider is non-alcoholic, so much so that as alcoholic cider has become more popular here in recent years, it is referred to as “hard” cider. I believe the switch has something to do with Prohibition, as American cider during colonial times was alcoholic. It is a little unclear what the difference is here between unfiltered apple juice and apple cider.

    For those interested in American folklore, I have heard that the reason Johnny Appleseed planted all those trees across the country was so that people could have cider…but right now I can’t seem to find a source.

  11. Naf Says:

    Rachel,
    In Michael Pollan’s “The Botany of Desire” there is an entire section devoted to the apple that has (if I recall correctly) plenty of great information about cider and Johnny Appleseed!

  12. Aaron Says:

    This is really neat. I tried using apple cider for most of the water but there are a couple of things that struck me about the rabbinic arguments as posited here.

    First, replacing the water with fruit juice is very different from replacing ALL the liquid with fruit juice, particularly in challah. Both the eggs and the oil are liquid. Even if I used butter as my fat, I could use clarified butter and that too would be a liquid. All of those go into the calculations of how much flour should be added. The decision to use honey or granulated sugar for the sweetness affects this as well.

    Next, a batch of bread needs to be five pounds for a bracha? Do the rabbis who wrote this opinion know how big a five pound batch of challah is?

    Thanks

  13. Kt Says:

    Great recipe … thanks for sharing your early morning creation!

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