Stuffed Apple & Honey Challah for Rosh Hashana
Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, like most Jewish holidays, is associated with a bunch of traditional foods. Probably the most famous Rosh Hashana culinary tradition is the dipping of both challah and apple slices into honey. These are symbols of having a sweet New Year.
I’ve made several different versions of Rhodes dough challah in the past, but the stuffed version I make for Rosh Hashana is probably one of my favorites. It combines all three traditional foods, challah, apples and honey. My sister-in-law, Ellen, gave me this idea, as she bakes delicious apple challah on a regular basis. This Rhodes dough version is incredibly simple and no patchka (fuss-free) to make because the dough is so flexible and easy to handle, and because you’re using Rhodes dough, you know your challah will have a wonderful consistency.
Since this challah is for a holiday, we’re going to make a round-shaped challah instead of the usual braided version, to symbolize the cycling of the seasons of the Jewish calendar, which is especially appropriate for start of the New Year. Here we go:
- 1/2 package 36 rolls of Rhodes dough or 1 loaf Rhodes dough white bread, defrosted
- 4 apples, any variety
- 1 t. cinnamon
- ½ c. honey plus a little extra for drizzling
- 1 beaten egg for basting
- Cooking spray (I like using the olive oil version)
- Sesame and poppy seeds (optional)
- ½ cup raisins or craisins (optional)
First, a little preparation. Spray a large baking sheet generously with cooking spray. Because Rhodes dough is so easy to work with, I don’t even bother working on a dough board; I shape and fill the dough right in the baking pan! Don’t preheat your oven yet, as the dough will need time to rise. About 10 minutes before you put your loaf in the oven, preheat your oven to 450 degrees. You’re not going to bake the challah at that temperature, but you want a super-hot oven to start, in order to brown the crust of the challah first. Before you put the challah in to bake, you’ll turn down the oven to 350 degrees.
While you’re waiting for your Rhodes dough to thaw, you can prepare your apples. I like to use green Granny Smiths, because they don’t turn brown as quickly as other varieties. Peel, core and dice the apples. Work quickly to avoid browning. Toss the apples in a bowl with the cinnamon and honey. Set it aside in the fridge. Once the apples are coated with honey, they won’t brown. You can add a ½ cup of raisins or craisins to the apple mixture if you like; I’ve chosen to skip this optional step. You can mix raisins right into the dough if you like, for a sweet, delicious raisin challah.
I normally like working with Rhodes dough loaves, but since Target had a huge sale on the 36-count bags of Rhodes dough rolls, I'm going to use them instead. Count out 18 of the rolls and push them all together to form a large lump.
Work the lump into a kind of elongated tube. If you’re working with a loaf instead of the rolls, it’s already going to be a tube. Now using the heel of your hand, smash down the tube, making a slight depression down the center. You should have a sort of longish rectangle in front of you. Spoon the apple mixture down the center of the rectangle. Pile it on and push the apple gently into the dough.
Then carefully pick up each edge of the dough (lengthwise) and fold them over seal the ends. Give it a strong pinch to create a nice tight seal . You’ll now have a long, sealed tube of dough, stuffed with the apple mixture.
Carefully pick up the tube and tie a simple knot out in it with one end of the tube sticking out in the center and the other tucked under. Place it on the pre-oiled baking sheet. It should now look like a knotted, round loaf, stuffed with the apple mixture.
Spray the top of the challah with the olive oil cooking spray so that it won’t dry out, and cover it with a clean dish towel. Let it rise.
After half an hour, the round loaf will have expanded slightly. (The yeast content in Rhodes dough is always perfect.) If some of the apple mixture has broken through, don’t worry about it; just push the apple back into the dough and pinch the opening closed. Also, some of the honey and juice from the apples will have leeched out; not only should you not worry about this, but it will make your challah even more sweet and honey-infused.
Baste the top of the challah with your beaten egg so that it will be nice and shiny when you bake it. Top it off with a handful of sesame and poppy seeds. This step is optional, but I always put seeds on top because I love a lot of crunch and texture in my challah. Also optional: drizzle the top of your loaf with some extra honey to give it a really nice sweet crust. (Don’t overdo the honey drizzle or you’ll have a very sticky challah. A little goes a long way.)
Turn the oven down to 350 degrees. Bake the challah for about 45 minutes, or until the outside is a gorgeous golden brown (your oven times may vary).
When you sit down to your YomTov (holiday) meal, you will have a delicious round Rhodes challah stuffed with apples and honey.
Serve the challah warm (but not hot) for maximum deliciousness. Your guests will get a slice of warm cinammony apples with every slice of challah. Be prepared to hear how it tastes more like cake than bread. It’s that good.
May you have a Shanah tovah u’metukah (a good and sweet New Year)!
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