Cranberry Swirl Challah
Happy almost Thanksgivnukkah! (…or Thanksgivukkah as the internet has taken to calling it…)
Instead of sharing this recipe with you on Thanksgiving / the first day of Hanukkah—when many people will be away from their computers, cooking, eating, and drinking with friends and family—I wanted to share it with you today, to give you time to make it!
Why? Because it’s that good! And because Thanksgivnukkah only happens once every 70,000 years.
Also, Hanukkah actually begins Wednesday night, and this recipe makes one gigantic loaf of challah, so you could probably bake it up on Wednesday, serve it for Thanksgivnukkah on Thursday, and still have a few slices left to make turkey sandwiches on Friday.
(It took me and Paula an entire week to polish off this challah the first time we made it. Luckily the second time we made it to share with friends.)
Challah is a delicious, eggy, Jewish bread, traditionally eaten on Shabbat (Friday evenings) and holidays. It’s not really a Hanukkah food exactly, but that didn’t stop Buzzfeed Food from including a recipe for Challah-apple stuffing in their collection of Thanksgivukkah recipes.
As I mentioned in my last post, with my first take on a Thanksgivnukkah recipe (Pumpkin Cheese Blintzes), I enlisted my younger sister’s help to come up my Thanksgivnukkah concoctions.
I told my sister that Paula had wanted to make a challah-based stuffing for our Thanksgiving dinner this year, and also that I’d thought about swirling a pumpkin-spice mixture into some challah, à la this fig, olive oil, and sea salt challah from smitten kitchen. But then I decided to make pumpkin cheese blintzes, and I didn’t want to make two pumpkin spiced things in a row. (I think we can all agree there’s been no shortage of pumpkin-spiced things floating around the internet/world this fall.)
So following closely on the heels of my pomegranate rosemary focaccia recipe, I have once again baked some fruit into bread. (And once again with heavenly results.)
This time, at my sister’s suggestion, we used smitten kitchen’s strategy for swirling figs into challah, but instead of chopped dried fruit + juice, we used cranberry sauce.
I took these photos a few weekends back, when Paula and I were still emotionally adjusting to daylight savings time and the sun was already setting (can you tell?!). Racing against the sunset, I threw together an easy cranberry sauce with brown sugar and orange zest, and was surprised by how cooperatively it gelled; I think it took five minutes from start to finish. (I forgot how quickly cranberries can transform from firm, nutty beads into a syrupy magenta jam!)
Then Paula used the smitten kitchen method for flattening out the braids of dough that would form the challah, slathering them with cranberry sauce, then rolling them up again, before braiding them into the shape of the loaf for the final proofing.
We both loved the results. The cranberry sauce was distributed beautifully throughout the bread, and was not too wet or too dry. (It made me so glad we’d chosen to make our own cranberry sauce instead of using, say, dried cranberries.)
And that wasn’t just an offhand comment about the turkey sandwiches above; it is a FACT that this challah makes for some EXCELLENT turkey sandwiches. The comforting, doughy egg bread, dotted with tangy cranberries, and smeared with sharp mustard is the perfect backdrop for a simple sandwich of turkey, cheese, tomato, and spinach.
I should know, since I made myself that sandwich for about five lunches in a row using the first loaf of challah. I had to test it out for you (and your Thanksgivnukkah leftovers enjoyment)!
p.s. Check out my Thanksgiving recipe round-up for some more traditional (and not so traditional) Thanksgiving ideas.
Print this recipe. (PDF)
Makes 1 large loaf (15-20 slices)
Active time: 45 minutes; Total time: 5½ hours
~ 1 cup all-purpose flour
~ 1 cup water
~ 2 tsp. yeast
Cranberry Sauce Ingredients:
~ ¼ cup brown sugar
~ 3 Tbsp. water
~ 1 cup fresh cranberries
~ 1-2 tsp. orange zest
~ 3½ cups all-purpose flour
~ 1½ tsp. salt
~ ⅓ cup sugar
~ ¼ cup vegetable oil
~ 2 large eggs + 1 egg yolk, beaten (save extra egg white for egg wash)
~ ⅔-1 cup cranberry sauce
Egg Wash Ingredients:
~ reserved white from 1 egg
~ ½ tsp. sugar
~ ½ tsp. water
How to make it:
1. Make the starter: In a medium bowl, combine the flour, water, and yeast. Mix well, then cover and let sit for an hour until it’s nice and bubbly.
2. Make the cranberry sauce: Combine the brown sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat, stirring until sugar dissolves. Add the cranberries and orange zest and cook, stirring frequently, for 5-7 minutes, until most of the cranberries have burst open and the cranberry sauce has thickened quite a bit (it should leave a clear path when you scrape across the bottom of the saucepan with a wooden spoon). Transfer the cranberry sauce to a bowl and let cool completely before step #4.
3. In a large bowl, combine the flour, salt, and the starter from step #1, and mix together with a rubber spatula. Then mix in sugar, vegetable oil, and eggs. Turn out dough onto lightly-floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes, until all ingredients are well incorporated and the dough is smooth and less sticky. Lightly spray a large bowl with olive oil, then place the ball of dough in the bowl, and spray the dough with olive oil as well. Cover and let sit for 2 hours until doubled in size.
4. Once the dough has doubled in size, turn it out onto lightly floured surface, and use a dough scraper to cut into four equal pieces. Stretch each piece into a long rectangular shape, then use a rolling pin to flatten out a long rectangle. Spread the cranberry sauce evenly across the dough (but not right up to the edges), then roll the long edge of the rectangle up so that it forms a long rope. Repeat with remaining three pieces of dough.
5. Braid the challah: On a lightly-floured surface, join the four ropes of dough at one end, spreading the other ends out. Start by taking the outer (first) rope and bringing it over the second rope, under the third rope, and over the and fourth rope. Then continue by taking the now-outer (formerly second) rope and repeating the weaving process. (You can refer to these excellent challah-braiding tips for more details; but you can see from the photos that we braided ours somewhat haphazardly, and it still turned out just fine!) Carefully transfer the braided challah to a parchment paper-lined baking sheet.
6. In a small bowl, mix together the egg wash ingredients and brush half of the mixture over the braided challah. Cover the challah with plastic wrap and set aside for the final proof of 1 hour. (Plan to start pre-heating the oven about 45 minutes into this final proof). Pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees. After the final proof, brush the challah with a second coat of egg wash. Then bake for 35-40 minutes. Let cool before eating.
Print this recipe! (PDF)
Related recipe posts:
|Pomegranate Rosemary Focaccia||Skillet Cranberry Apple Crisp (Gluten-Free)||Pumpkin Cheese Blintzes for Thanksgivnukkah||Sourdough Epi Baguettes with Rhubarb Blood Orange Ginger Jam|