This tender, celebratory loaf of apple butter and date challah is the perfect way to showcase homemade preserves and California Dates.
I have always loved the idea of a filled or stuffed challah, but until recently, I’d never made one. I’d gotten it into my head that it would be a hard thing to execute and that it might be beyond my skills. But when the folks from California Dates got in touch and asked if I had any new ideas for them, I suggested a loaf of challah filled with apple date butter and bits of whole dates. They loved the idea and so I was forced to confront my hesitations.
I used my standard challah loaf dough and once it had finished the first rise, I divided the dough into four equal parts. Using a rolling pin, I pressed each piece into a long rectangle (the trick here is to roll without using any flour, so that it sticks to the counter a little. That makes it easier to stretch). Then, I spread a thin layer of apple date butter across that portion (leaving a a small margin across the top so that I could seal it again), dotted it with dates, and carefully rolled it into long snake.
I repeated that rolling, filling, and rerolling until all four portions were complete. I wove it into a round loaf (this blog post has a good tutorial). I was careful to leave a little space in the center so that it didn’t get too dense in the middle once the loaf was finished rising.
When the loaf was formed, I gave it the first of two egg washes. Whenever I make challah, I paint it twice with an egg wash. The first goes on before the second rise, to help prevent it from drying out. The second wash goes on just before baking. The second coat fills in any gaps that formed in the wash and ensures a really glossy surface.
Baked at 350°F for 40 minutes (don’t rely just on time, it is done when an instant read thermometer inserted in the very center reads at least 190°F). The finished loaf is so shiny and impressive. It’s lovely fresh, or toasted the next day. I froze some in order to turn it into french toast on an upcoming weekend morning.
Apple Butter and Date Challah
- 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons instant yeast
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1 cup water 110F
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 4 eggs
- 1/4 cup neutral oil plus more for oiling the bowl
- 1 cup apple butter
- 25-30 medjool dates
- Place 4 cups of all-purpose flour in the bowl of a stand mixer (you can also mix this by hand, but using a mixer is admittedly easier). Stir in the yeast and salt.
- Stir the warm water and honey together so that the honey dissolves.
- Add the honey water, three beaten eggs, and oil to the flour and mix to combine in the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment. Once the ingredients are integrated, switch to the kneading hook and begin to knead (you can also do this by hand on a board).
- Work the dough for 5 to 7 minutes, adding more flour to the dough as you work, if it’s too sticky. Eventually, the dough should come together into a soft, slightly tacky, smooth ball.
- Grease a large bowl with a drizzle of oil and place the dough ball in the bowl. Move it around until the dough is fully coated with the oil. Cover with a plastic bag or a damp kitchen towel and tuck it some place warm for a couple hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.
- Once the dough has risen sufficiently, gently deflate it. Divide the dough into four equal portions and roll one into an elongated rectangle on an unfloured board or countertop.
- Spread the rectangle of dough with 1/4 cup apple butter, leaving a thin bare margin of dough along one of the long ends, to ensure that you can pinch the roll closed. Dot the dough with bits of the dates.
- Carefully roll the rectangle of dough up so that you're left with a long snake of dough. Pinch the dough closed to keep the apple butter and dates contained.
- Repeat with the remaining portions of dough.
- Using the instructions in this blog post, weave the four pieces of dough into a round loaf.
- Place the formed loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet and paint with beaten egg. Let the loaf rise for about an hour, until the loaf looks plump and filled out. Paint with another layer of the beaten egg.
- Bake the challah for 40 to 45 minutes. It is done when it is deeply browned and sounds hollow when you tap the bottom. If you have an instant read thermometer, the interior of the loaf should register at least 190°F.
- Let the loaf cool completely before slicing.
Disclosure: This is a sponsored post. California Dates provided the dates you see here, and provided additional compensation to cover time and ingredients.