Apple Filled Algerian Challah

I was given this recipe from Clemence Barkate and decided to tweak it a little bit for  Rosh Hashanah.  Just a little apple, when cut into small dice, adds a reminder in every bite that the New Year should be fruitful and ” filled” with content.

8 cups bread or all purpose flour (or a combination)
2 packages yeast
1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt
2 cups water
¾ cup vegetable oil, corn or cottonseed oil
2 Tablespoons sugar
Zest of ½ medium orange, finely grated or chopped
1 ½ teaspoons orange blossom water
1 Fuji apple (optional if filling dough) see below

1 egg yolk
Sesame seeds

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1.    Combine 7 cups of the flour, yeast and salt in the large bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a dough hook.

2.    Place the water, oil, sugar and orange zest in a glass measuring cup and microwave for 1 minute.  Stir to dissolve sugar and then microwave on high for another 1 ½ minutes until water is very warm (125F.) to the finger but not hot enough to burn it.  Add the orange blossom water.

3.    With the machine running on 2, or low, add the warm liquid to the mixing bowl scraping down the sides of the bowl to incorporate all the flour.  Gradually add most or all of the remaining flour to the bowl and keep mixing for another 5 minutes.  As an alternative, you can knead the dough by hand for 7-10 minutes on a lightly floured surface until the flour is all incorporated and the dough is satiny smooth.  Oiling your hands might help when kneading the dough.

4.    Turn your oven on for 1 minute.

5.    Oil a 4 quart bowl and place the dough in the bowl.  Cover with plastic wrap.  This should take less than one minute.  Immediately TURN OFF the oven and place the bowl of dough in the slightly warmed oven.

6.    Let the dough rise for 1 ½ hours or until dough has risen to the top of the bowl.

7.   When dough has risen, remove plastic wrap, punch down the dough and place on a flat surface.

8.   Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a thick rope about 2 inches thick and 12 inches long.  Coil the dough around itself and tuck the end under to make a large, slightly domed round of dough.  Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and return to the turned off oven.  Let the dough rise for 45 minute to an hour.

9.   Remove loaves of bread from the oven and pre-heat the oven to 350F.  Meanwhile, beat the egg yolk in a small glass dish with 1 teaspoon water.  Brush this egg wash over the loaves of bread and then sprinkle generously with the sesame seeds.

10.   Bake the loaves of bread for 25 minutes or until bread sounds hollow when tapped with you finger.  Remove from oven and immediately cover the loaves with a kitchen towel.  When cool, wrap tightly with plastic wrap or foil.

Makes 4 loaves.

Alternatives:
•    Core, peel and finely dice 1 apple and combine with ¼ teaspoon cinnamon.  Spread some of this apple mixture lengthwise over each slightly flattened rope of dough.  Roll dough to enclose the filling and pinch the seam together tightly to prevent the apple from oozing out.  Then shape your filled bread dough ropes into a coil and proceed with step 6 and the remainder of the recipe.

•    Divide dough into 24 equal parts.  Roll out each part to make an 8 inch long snake and then coil each rope to make 2-3 inch rolls.  Proceed with the end of step 6

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