Hands up who loves a fruity bun? They are always a big hit in our house, spread with loads of butter and enjoyed for breakfast, tea, or just as a snack. No surprise really that raisin challah is my favourite kind of challah, too.
So when contemplating making something special for Tu B’Shevat, the New Year for Trees, which this years falls on Shabbat, a super-fruity challah studded with all kinds of tree-fruits seemed like a great idea. To really get into the Tu B’Shevat spirit, I also decided to form half of the dough into a tree shape before baking. The other half I baked up as a standard fruity challah loaf – not quite so Tu B’Shevat themed but just as delicious!
I raided our baking cupboard for suitable dried fruits and came up with the following – apple, apricot, cherries, raisins, sultanas, and candied lemon & orange peel. Not bad, but you could also use dried figs, dates, plums (prunes), peaches, pears, mango and probably a whole lot more. I upped the tree-fruit content still further by using olive oil and coconut oil in the dough too. I had also intended to scatter flaked almonds onto my tree-shaped loaf to give the impression of leaves, but when I went to retrieve them found there weren’t any there 🙁. I ran round to our local shop and they didn’t have any either… ☹️
Still, even without its almond leaves I’m quite pleased with how this fruity ‘tree’ challah came out. As well as looking highly appropriate for Tu B’Shevat, it was also soft, fluffy, lightly scented and of course deliciously fruity. YUM. And the house smelled AMAZING while it was baking and for some time afterwards. Bonus.
If you’d like to read more about Tu B’Shevat, check out my Tu B’Shevat fruit platter post, which has more background on this fruity festival plus some useful brachot (blessings).
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- 180ml soya/oat/almond milk (3/4 cup)
- 130ml hot (boiling) water (2/3 cup)
- 2 tsp dry yeast
- 250g strong white bread flour (2 cups)
- 250g plain flour (2 cups)
- 70g caster sugar (1/3 cup)
- 3 tsp cinnamon OR mixed spice
- Good pinch salt
- 20g coconut oil (1 tbsp)
- 30ml olive oil (2 tbsp)
- 125g mixed chopped dried fruit e.g. apricots, apples, raisins, sultanas, cherries, pears, peaches, figs etc. etc. (2/3 cup)
- Egg to glaze (optional)
- Combine the milk and hot water, stir, then add the dry yeast and whisk to dissolve. Set aside for 10 minutes until foamy.
- Meanwhile, combine the flours, sugar, spice and salt in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.
- Once the yeast mixture is foamy, add it to the flour and set the mixer running. Let the mixer combine and knead the dough for about five minutes.
- Add the coconut oil and olive oil and continue to mix for a further five minutes.
- Add the fruit and mix just to distribute the fruit through the dough. Remove the ball of dough from the bowl and knead by hand for a minute or two. The dough should be soft and smooth but not too sticky.
- Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover, and put in a warm place for an hour or until doubled in size. (You can also leave the dough in the fridge overnight to complete this stage - see notes.)
- Knock back the dough, knead lightly, and divide into two pieces.
- Line two loaf tins with baking parchment.
- Cut one of the dough pieces into three sections. Stretch/roll each one into a long snake, then plait them together.
- Tuck the ends underneath and place in a lined loaf tin. Repeat with the remaining piece of dough.
- Line 2 baking sheets with baking parchment.
- Divide a piece dough into three pieces. Cut the first two into 5 smaller pieces. The third piece should be cut into two irregular pieces, one about 3/5 of the piece and one 2/5. Cut the smaller piece in half.
- You now have one larger piece and 12 small pieces. Form the larger piece into the 'trunk' of the tree and place onto a lined tray. Roll the small pieces into balls and arrange to form the top of the tree. The balls should be just touching, with room to rise and expand.
- Repeat with the second piece of dough.
- Cover with a tea towel and leave to rise for about an hour.
- Preheat the oven to 180C.
- Uncover the loaves. Whisk the egg and gently brush over the tops of the loaves (if using).
- Bake the 'tree' loaves for around 20 minutes, and the standard loaves for around 25 minutes, until golden brown and glossy.
- Remove from the oven and allow to cool on wire racks.
- Tu B'Shevat Sameach!
- The first rise of the dough can be done in the fridge overnight. Make the dough before you retire, place in an oiled bowl, cover and place in the fridge. Remove the bowl as soon as you arise and leave for an hour or two to come up to ambient temperature before continuing with the recipe as above.
Apple and lemon verbena jelly by Kavey Eats
Apricot and vanilla jam by Tin & Thyme
Cherry jam by Fab Food 4 All
Clementine marmalade by Domestic Gothess
Lemon curd by Tin & Thyme
Orange curd by Elizabeth’s Kitchen Diary
Peach & ice-wine jam by Kavey Eats
Plum jelly by Kavey Eats
Plum and apple jam by Fab Food 4 All
Simple fig jam by Fab Food 4 All
Three fruit marmalade from Lavender and Lovage