This recipe takes classic challah to the next level. By switching up the traditional way of braiding the dough prior to the second raise, the horizontal stacking method creates an extra pillowy texture, almost like Hokkaido milk bread.
It looks advanced, but this bread is absolutely simple to make, although a bit messy. The results are amazing and would definitely make the perfect centerpiece for a tea party. Tear off a slice and enjoy it with a cup of tea for breakfast or an afternoon snack.
Makes 1 10-inch loaf
480g all-purpose flour
120ml lukewarm water
6 tablespoon vegetable oil (Any mild tasting oil will work, such as safflower. I used light olive oil.)
2 large eggs
85g acacia honey or any mild clear honey
1.5 tsp salt
1 tbsp instant yeast
3 cups diced apples, I used royal gala (about 4 small), cored, skin on
1/2 tsp cinnamon
50g caster sugar
For egg wash
1 large egg
1 tbsp water
If you are using a standing mixer:
Put all dough ingredients into standing mixer bowl and knead with dough hook, on medium low speed, for about 5 minutes. Resulting dough should be soft and elastic. Lightly oil bowl and toss dough around to coat. Cover with silicon wrap. Let dough rise in warm place for about 1.5 hours until it looks puffy, almost doubling in size (but not quite).
If you are making this by hands:
Put all dough ingredients into a large mixing bowl and use a spatula to roughly mix everything together until a shaggy dough is formed. Use your hands to continue to knead until the dough is smooth and elastic. Lightly oil bowl and toss dough around to coat. Cover with silicon wrap. Let dough rise in warm place for about 1.5 hours until it looks puffy, almost doubling in size (but not quite).
To know if your dough is ready, poke it with your finger. The dent will remain and not bounce back.
Lightly grease 10-inch, non-stick loaf tin.
For filling, toss apple chunks with cinnamon and sugar. Cover and set aside.
Turn dough out onto clean, unfloured work surface and roll into roughly 20″ x 15″ rectangle. Toss apple cinnamon mixture and spoon any accumulated juices onto dough, spreading it into an even layer. Lightly press apples into dough with your fingers.
Using a bench knife, cut apple-filled dough into 36 pieces by first cutting lengthwise into 6 strips, then cutting each strip crosswise into 6 pieces. Stack 6 pieces together, lightly pressing each layer to seal apples between stacks. Repeat to form 6 stacks total. Transfer stacks to prepared pan, lining them up like dominos. You will have to squeeze them in tightly, and it is going to be messy, as the apples may fall out. Just pick up any fallen apples and tuck them between the pieces of dough in the loaf tin.
Second rise: Cover loaf tin with silicon wrap and let dough rise in a warm place for 45 minutes until 1.5 times original size.
Preheat oven at 170C. Arrange rack in middle of oven.
When dough has risen just above edge of tin, prepare egg wash and brush it evenly all over top of challah. Bake for 20 minutes. Check at 15 minutes to see if loaf starts browning too quickly. If so, place shallow baking sheet above and continue to bake for 5 minutes further. Rotate the loaf tin and continue to bake for 15-20 minutes further. Edges should be golden, and some bits can be more brown but not burnt. Remove from oven and let cool in tin for 10 minutes further. Insert paring knife around edges to loosen loaf and remove carefully from tin.
Serve warm or at room temperature with butter and a sprinkle of flaky sea salt.
Loaf can be pre-sliced and frozen for later.