Rosh Hashanah challah differs from standard challah mostly by its shape. During the rest of the year, challah tends to be either a plait (braid) or a tin-loaf. Or sometimes a plaited tin-loaf. However, on Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, challah is invariably round.
The most usual ‘style’ is a simple coil, sometimes referred to as a ‘turban challah’. However there are also complex plaiting techniques to create a round braid. There are numerous instructions for this on the internet, and I have no intention of repeating them here. If you want to find one, there are several pinned to my Rosh Hashanah Pinterest board, so why not have a look? (There’s lots of other great recipes and ideas there too.)
Rosh Hashanah challah is often also sweeter than regular ‘year round’ challah, and often includes dried fruit, honey, and spices. I decided to create a spiced apple swirl in my challah, and then style it in three different ways – ‘the turban’ (coil), ‘the rose’ and – my personal favourite – ‘the chelsea bun’. I didn’t make it too sweet, since the bread is going to get slathered in honey before eating anyway 🙂
I used a variation on my standard vegan semi-wholewheat challah dough, then made a simple filling of finely diced apple mixed with flour, sugar and spice. The mixer did most of the hard work of kneading, and the resultant dough was smooth, pliable, soft and easy to shape. Gorgeous.
You can roll the dough out with a rolling pin, but I prefer to stretch and pat and encourage, like you would with pizza dough. It takes a bit longer, but seems altogether gentler, and the dough is less likely to shrink annoying back once you’ve flattened it out.
I’ve been eating this challah for breakfast for the last few days and I’m really enjoying it. Fruity, warmly spiced, sweet without being overly so. Yummy. I considered glazing the loaves with something sugary but in the end decided for a natural, naked finish. That way, you can drizzle over as much honey as you like without feeling like you’re gilding the lily.
Whichever shape you go for, I’m sure you’ll enjoy this delicious spiced apple Rosh Hashanah challah.
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- 500g white bread flour (4 cups)
- 250g wholemeal bread flour (2 cups)
- 400ml 'hand-hot' water (13 1/2 fl oz)
- 75g golden caster sugar (1/3 cup)
- 20g dry yeast (approx. 1 1/2 tbsp)
- 100ml vegetable oil (scant 1/2 cup)
- Beaten egg, milk, or milk-substitute to glaze (optional)
- 2 large apples
- 3 tbsp light brown sugar
- 2 tsbp flour
- 1 tbsp mixed spice (I used speculaas)
- Mix the flours in a bowl and set aside.
- Mix 50ml (2 fl oz) of the water with 1 tbsp of the sugar and the yeast. Stir well to dissolve, then set aside while the yeast begins to activate.
- In a stand mixer with the dough hook fitted, mix the remaining water and sugar with the oil and half the flour.
- Once the yeast mixture is foaming, add to the bowl and mix well. Gradually incorporate the remaining flour. The dough should leave the sides of the bowl clean.
- Leave the mixer on a low setting to knead the dough for around 10 minutes, until it is smooth and elastic. Turn out the dough, shape into a ball and roll in a little oil. Place in an oiled bowl and cover with cling-film or a tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise for around 45 minutes - 1 hour.
- Meanwhile, prepare the filling. Peel and core the apples and cut into 4-5mm (1/4 inch) dice. Place in a bowl and toss with the flour, sugar and spice to coat. Set aside.
- Once the dough has doubled in size, punch down and remove from the bowl. Knead briefly on a lightly floured surface and divide into three equal pieces.
- Flatten out each piece to a rectangle approximately 15cm x 40cm (6 x 16 inches). It will be quite thin, so be careful to avoid tearing the dough.
- Spread a third of the apple mixture over each piece, then roll up from the long side. Roll into a coil or your preferred shape (see below). Place on a lightly oiled baking sheet and set aside to rise for 20-30 minutes.
- Preheat the oven to 180C (355F).
- Brush the challah with an egg wash, milk, or a milk-substitute - I used oat milk - or leave 'bare'. Bake for 25-35 minutes until golden brown and gorgeous!
- Allow to cool on wire racks. Serve warm or cold. (Can also be baked in advance and frozen.)
- Roll up the dough around the filling. Carefully cut the roll in half lengthwise, then twist the two halves together. Roll into a coil, then place on an oiled baking sheet. Allow to rise for 20-30 minutes, then glaze and bake as above. Warning - once cut the layers of dough and filling will have a tendency to separate, so handle very carefully!
- Roll up the dough around the filling as above. Slice the roll into 3cm (1.5 inch) pieces, and arrange in an oiled 20cm (8 inch) round baking tin. Leave space between the slices as they need room to expand as they rise. Allow to rise for 20-30 minutes, then glaze and bake as above.
The three finished loaves!