Sunday, April 12, 2015

Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah

A very long time ago I printed this recipe for Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah from the Smitten Kitchen blog.  And I have been wanting to make it ever since, it just seemed to never happen.  When I was planning my sort of spur-of-the-moment Easter meal I remembered this recipe and decided it needed to be part of Easter.  I had all of the ingredients on hand so it clearly was meant to be.  Wow, am I glad I did!  Besides looking BEAUTIFUL (I seriously love the round braided look), it tastes absolutely delicious.  Yummy, get-in-my-mouth-right-now, might-could-eat-the-entire-loaf, good.  And guess what?  Not so hard to do! 

The dough for this bread is very wet, in fact at first I worried that I did something wrong and repeatedly asked myself if I put in the right amount of flour (answer, "yes").  But I rolled with it and it turned out fine.  You can make the dough in a mixer or by hand (what?  Not in this busy life...).  This bread is super fluffy and light.  I am sure it would taste quite good without the fig filling, but WHY??  The filling is made by re-hydrating dried figs in orange juice and some water and then pureeing it down so it becomes paste-like.  I could have added more liquid to mine I think, as it was VERY paste-like and hard to spread over the dough.  It was totally unevenly done but I didn't actually care about that so it was all fine!

The dough is divided into 4 long ropes that are then woven around each other to form this awesome round loaf.
There was no need for butter for this bread.  It was simply eaten as it was.  To RAVE reviews.  I will definitely be making this bread again.  You should, too.  It is so so delicious!

Fig, Olive Oil and Sea Salt Challah
adapted from Smitten Kitchen
makes 1 loaf
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast (1 packet)
1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey, divided
1/3 cup olive oil, plus more for bowl
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons flaky sea salt OR 1 1/2 teaspoons table salt (my sea salt was not "flaky" so I used 1 1/2 teaspoons)
4 cups all-purpose flour

Fig Filling
1 cup stemmed and chopped dried figs
1/8 teaspoon freshly grated orange zest
1/4 cup orange juice
1/ teaspoon sea salt
black pepper - to taste

Egg Wash
1 large egg
Coarse or flaky sea salt

Dough:  In a small bowl, whisk the yeast and 1 teaspoon honey with 2/3 cup warm water (110F-116F).  Let it stand for a few minutes to get nice and foamy.  Combine the yeast mixture with the remaining honey, olive oil and eggs in a large mixing bowl.  Add the salt and flour and mix with a paddle attachment until the dough begins to come together, then switch to a dough hook.  Run at low speed for 5-8 minutes.  Transfer the dough to large bowl that has been lightly coated with olive oil, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 hour, until almost doubled.

Fig Filling:  Combine the figs, zest, 1/2 cup water, juice, salt and a few grinds of black pepper in a small saucepan.  Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, for about 10 minutes, until the figs are tender.  Season to taste with salt and pepper and allow the mixture to cool to lukewarm.  Transfer to a small food processor and process until it resembles a fine paste.  Scrape the sides of the processor bowl as needed.  Allow to cool completely.

Spread Figs:  Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a well floured surface and divide it in half.  Place one half back in the oiled bowl and roll the other half into a wide rectangle.  The size doesn't totally matter.  Spread half of the fig filling over the dough, leaving an inch border around the edge.  Roll into a tight log along the long side of your rectangle.  Gently stretch and roll the log as long as is comfortable and then divide it in half.  My log/rope ended up being 3ft 10 inches before I divided the rope into two.  Repeat this process with the remaining dough and filling.

Weave!  You now have 4 dough ropes of equal length.  Arrange them in a tight tic-tac-toe shape, such that the knot/woven part is in the very center.  Lay your tic-tac-toe so that one strand goes over/under and the next goes under/over, i.e. it is woven together.  You will note that on each side of your tic-tac-toe board, one rope comes from under the knot and one comes from over.  Focus on the ones coming from underneath.  Take each of these "under" legs and cross them over the rope to their immediate RIGHT, keeping your rope pressed up against the center knot.  Do this with all four "under' legs.  Now take the legs that were the "over" legs from the beginning, and cross them each over the ropes to their immediate LEFT.  If you still have additional length to your  ropes, continue to repeat this process until you run out of rope.  Tuck the ends and corners under the dough with the sides of your hands to form a tight woven ball.  Place the dough ball to a parchment-covered heavy baking sheet or bakers peel (if you will be baking on a bakers stone). 

Egg Wash:  Beat the egg until smooth.  Brush it over the challah.  Let the dough rise for 1 hour.  Approximately 15 minutes before your hour rise is over, turn on your oven to 375F.

Bake:  Before placing the loaf in the oven, brush again with the egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt.  Bake in the center of the oven for 35-40 minutes.  The bread will be a dark golden brown.  Watch your dough - if it darkens too quickly, loosely cover the top with aluminum foil for the remainder of the baking time.  To check for doneness, you can VERY CAREFULLY lift up the bread and knock on the bottom, it should sound hollow.  Or stick an instant read thermometer into the loaf - it will read 190-195 when the loaf is done.

Cool on a rack before slicing.
Printable Recipe

Give this bread a try.  You CAN do this.  It looks more complicated than it really is, I promise.  And the end result is absolutely worth it!

No comments:

Post a Comment

Due to some bizarre spam comments I have recently received, I am moderating the comments for a while. I hope this spam craziness stops so this becomes unnecessary!