I love bread. That should come as no surprise, since I’m half Italian. My godparents are Jewish though, and so I grew up eating challah bread. Challah is one of my favorite types of bread. Recently my aunt (godmother) and I have been having a challah-off (if that is even a thing). Whenever we cook challah, we take pictures and brag to one another. I was very excited that my aunt was in town when I cooked up this stuffed challah.
Ingredients: Completely Delicious
For the dough:
- ½ cup (118 ml) whole milk
- ¼ cup (85 grams) honey
- ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter
- 3 cups (360 grams) all-purpose flour
- 1 teaspoon salt
- ½ teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1 envelope (2¼ teaspoons, 7 grams) active-dry yeast
- 2 large eggs
For the filling:
- ½ cup (113 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
- ¾ cup (160 grams) light or dark brown sugar, packed
- 2 cups (226 grams) Diamond of California Chopped Walnuts, finely chopped
- 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
To prepare the dough:
1. Combine the milk, honey and butter in a small saucepan set over medium heat. Warm just until butter is melted. Remove from heat and let cool 5 minutes or until it is between 120-130 degrees F.
- I usually do this step in the microwave, but you have to be very careful if you do that. I killed my yeast the first time around because the butter was too hot.
2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a dough hook (you can also use a large bowl and mix by hand), combine 2 cups of the flour, the salt, cinnamon and yeast. Add the milk mixture and mix until smooth. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing after each.
- I always use active dry yeast and mix with the liquid. That way I can see if the yeast has been activated without having to wait and see if my bread will rise or not.
- I am a big fan of kneading my bread by hand. I’m not sure why, since I have a KitchenAid, but for some reason I like the physical kneading of bread.
3. Add the remaining flour a few tablespoons at a time, letting it incorporate into the dough before adding more. When all the flour has been added, the dough should be very soft, but still clear the sides of the bowl. If necessary, add a few more tablespoons of flour. Continue to knead the dough for about 5 more minutes until it’s smooth and elastic.
- The reason you want to add the last part of the flour a little at a time is so you don’t add too much. You don’t want the dough to be too dry. Always go with your gut when it comes to things in the baking world. If you think it is a good consistency and the recipe says to add more of dry, just don’t. If you are horrible at baking, just trying to get better and going by your gut scares you, then make sure you follow the directions very carefully.
4. Carefully place the dough in a greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled, about 1 hour. Gently punch down the dough to release gases and knead a few more times by hand.
To assemble the stuffed challah:
1. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment (or in a large bowl with a handheld mixer), combine the butter, brown sugar, walnuts and cinnamon and mix until smooth. Mixture should be crumbly.
- You want this a little thick so it does not melt out. It will be tempting to melt the butter, but don’t – you need that creamy consistency it brings.
2. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Working with each piece individually, place dough on a well-floured surface and roll into an approximate 12×6-inch rectangle. Sprinkle one third of the walnut mixture on top of the dough. Starting at one long end, tightly roll up the dough and carefully transfer to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper, seam side down. Repeat with remaining 2 pieces of dough.
- I wanted to work on my four-armed braid, so I divided it into four pieces. I advise not to divide it into any more than four, or you won’t be able to stuff them.
3. When you have finished rolling up all 3 pieces of stuffed dough, braid them together on the sheet pan, tucking the ends under. Cover with greased plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until doubled again, about 30-45 minutes.
- This may sound silly, but try not to “manhandle” the dough too much. Not only is there filling in it, so you don’t want to rip anything, you also never want to overwork bread.
4. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Make an egg wash with 1 large egg and a teaspoon of water and brush on the loaf. Bake until golden, about 35-40 minutes. Let cool 15 minutes before transferring from sheet pan.
5. Bread is best the day it is baked, but will keep in an airtight container for a few days.
I not only won over my aunt with this stuffed challah – I won over everyone who ate it. Though this challah is a little different than your average challah, it is still worth trying. If anything, it helps you master your braid. I know mine always gets worse the longer it is. The pecans give this bread a great nutty flavor along with a taste almost like a cinnamon roll.