This sourdough apple honey challah has all the best qualities of a challah, eggy, sweet flavor and an incredibly soft and pillowy crumb, with all of the health benefits of naturally-leavened breads.
I’ve been working on my sourdough challah recipe for a VERY long time. Each time I tried, my breads just wouldn’t come out right, they were dense and stodgy everytime I tried. To the point that I thought it really wasn’t possible to make soft, pillowy naturally-leavened bread without milk and butter. It took me a while to get challah right so when I finally did, it felt like a triumph!
Full disclosure, I am not Jewish and am therefore not fully aware of what makes a bread traditionally “challah.” From what I gather, a challah is made with dough enriched with eggs and oil, in lieu of dairy. So unlike similar soft and rich breads like brioche, you cannot rely on milk and butter to tenderize your crumb. If you’re familiar with the intricacies of challah, I’d love to hear about them in the comments! I hold my food traditions dear, so let me know, do you think I should change the name of this recipe?
Unlike other recipes I’ve tried in the past, this one only uses 1 egg. That’s right, no extra yolks needed, and it still has an incredibly eggy flavor. I love the flavor of apples in bread, like in my Vegan Apple Cinnamon Rolls, so I opted for using apple juice as hydration for this loaf, but you can substitute water if you don’t have any on hand. Honey adds a floral sweetness to this bread and helps tenderize the crust, but brown sugar or granulated sugar added at the same proportions would work as well.
Other than that, this recipe is pretty simple and straightforward. As always the quality of your bread will always come down to the strength of your starter and getting your proofing right. The times below are for bread that has been bulk and proofed inside my Brod and Taylor Bread Proofer which keeps a constant 78 F (25 C). If your kitchen is colder, lengthen your bulk and proofing times, and shorten if it's warm.
|Central Milling Artisan Bakers Craft (Bread Flour)
|Central Milling Organic Beehive (All-purpose Flour)
|Apple Juice or Water
In a large mixing bowl, whisk together flours and salt until no more lumps remain. Set aside.
In another large glass measuring cup or bowl, combine active sourdough starter, apple juice, honey and egg, stir until sourdough starter has dissolved. Add the sourdough mixture into the flour and stir with your hands until fully incorporated and all of the flour is hydrated. Make sure there are no lumps of flour in the dough.
Once your dough feels like a cohesive mass, begin kneading the oil into your dough a little bit at a time, the purpose of this is to slowly emulsify the oil in your dough. As you add the oil your dough will feel really slimy and sticky, but it will begin to look smoother and begin to feel less tacky as you continue to work it.
The dough will be quite sticky at this point and will be difficult to knead, place your dough into an airtight container or a clean bowl covered with plastic wrap. Set aside and allow to rest for 1 hour. This rest period will make the dough less sticky and easier to work with.
Turn rested dough onto a lightly floured work surface. Knead the dough until it feels soft and cohesive, about 5 to 10 minutes. The dough may not be totally smooth at this point. Return the dough to your container and allow it to rest for another hour. After the dough has rested, knead again for another 5 to 10 minutes or until it appears smooth and elastic. Gather the dough into a tight ball.
Return the dough to your container and allow to proof for 4 to 6 hours, depending on the temperature of your kitchen. Your dough should have increased in volume by 30 to 50% and will feel airier and bubblier since first mixing.
Deflate your dough, gather it up into a tight ball, return it to your container and place in the refrigerator to rest overnight.
I shaped this dough into a 5-strand braid, don’t get too intimidated! It may seem complicated at first but braiding this way is actually easy once you get the hang of it. Katharina @besondersgut has an incredibly easy to follow braiding video, which you can watch here.
If you’re not up for the 5-strand challenge, shape into an uncomplicated 3-strand braid.
Whisk together egg and salt until no streaks of egg white remain. Brush the dough with egg wash (save the remaining egg wash). Place the dough on a parchment lined baking sheet, and proof it inside your oven with the heat turned off. I don’t usually cover the dough with plastic wrap at this point, proofing inside the oven will minimize air flow, and the egg wash will moisturize the dough.
Allow your dough to rise undisturbed until it has noticeably increased in volume, it should look really puffy and feel like its full of air when lightly poked with your finger, this could take up to 4 to 6 hours depending on the activity of your starter and the temperature of your kitchen.
Take your dough out of the oven, preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C). Once the dough comes up to temperature, brush the dough with the remaining egg wash, and bake the dough for 25 to 30 minutes or until the internal temperature reads 180 F (82 C).
Your bread will look incredibly shiny and browned with a soft and fluffy crumb, and an incredibly rich and egg flavor.