Tuesday 8th September 2015
The speculaas orange Challah combines a sweet bread dough recipe with vandotsch speculaas spice infused orange jest, orange juice, raisins, currants and honey.
Challah is a special Jewish bread, usually braided and typically eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Sabbath and major Jewish festivals (other than Passover).
Challah is traditionally made from eggs, fine white flour, water, yeast, sugar and salt.
These days you can get challah from many local non-jewish bakeries and supermarkets.
Both challah are made from the same dough but the New Year’s Rurban always has raisins or other sweet fruit (to symbolise a sweet new year).
Turban Challah - made only once a year
On Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the challah is often rolled into a circular shape, sometimes referred to as a "Turban Challah".
This symbolises continuity with the cycle of the Jewish year coming to a close, and a new cycle beginning.
Turban Challah is usually baked with raisins and honey in the dough to signify a “sweet” new year.
I am grateful to Tori Avey at www.toriavey.com for the inspiration for my adapted Challah bread recipe. It does take time to make, but bear with me - the end result is well worth it!
What follows is an overview of the ingredients that I used to make two speculaas orange challahs with raisins and currants – one to keep, one to freeze unless you are feeding many people, in which case just bake them together.
For the dough:
For the filling:
For the egg wash:
Directions for making the speculaas orange filling
I usually make the filling well in advance, usually several days before I bake the bread. This way, the vandotsch speculaas spice mix truly fuses with the various ingredients of the filling guaranteeing the tastiest result.
You will need a clean and sterialised glass jar. Check how to sterialise a glass jar, Here.
Make a pot of tea (I use a ginger infused teabag), pour out in a large bowl and add all the currants and raisins. Leave to soak for about ten minutes
Drain and dry the currants and raisins with paper towels and put in the glass jar
Wash extensively the two small sweet oranges, or the one large one, and grate the zest. Squeeze one of the oranges to make fresh orange juice
Add the orange zest and orange juice in the jar. Finally, add the runny honey, vanilla sugar and the vandotsch speculaas spice mix. Close the jar and shake vigourously. Store in the fridge.
Making the dough
Pour 75ml of lukewarm water (about 35 degrees C) into a large mixing bowl
Add the dry yeast and the vanilla sugar to the bowl, stir to dissolve. Wait 10 minutes. The yeast should have activated, meaning it will look expanded and foamy
Once your yeast has activated, add remaining lukewarm water into the bowl along with the eggs, honey and the vegetable oil. Use a whisk to thoroughly blend the ingredients together
When thouroughly mixed together start adding the flour to the bowl by half-cupfuls, stirring with a large spoon each time flour is added. Do not worry about the lumps!
After you have added half the flour, add the salt. Don't add the salt too soon or it may kill the yeast. Mix well. When mixture becomes too thick to stir, use your hands to knead
Continue to add flour and knead the dough. When the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl turn onto a floured board and knead for approximately 10 minutes
Add only additional flour to make dough manageable. Knead until the dough has 'a life of its own': it should be smooth, elastic, and not sticky, springing back when pressed lightly. The amount of flour you will need to achieve this texture varies - only add flour until the dough feels pliable and “right.”
Grease two large bowls with a little vegetable oil. Knock the air out of the dough and divide it into two equal pieces. Place the dough into the separate bowls turning it around so that all sides are coated with the oil.
Now you have two options, bake the dough on the same day or the next day . . .
Same day baking: First prove
Boil some water and put in a saucepan. Cover the bowls with dough with a clean, damp kitchen towel. Place the bowls on the middle rack of your oven
Take the saucepan with the boiling water and place it below the rack where your dough sits. Close the oven, but do not turn it on. The pan of hot water will create a warm, moist environment for your dough to rise. Let the dough rise for 1 hour
Take the bowls out and punch the dough down several times in order to remove any air pockets. Place the bowls back inside the oven and let them rise for another hour.
Next day baking: First prove
Cover the bowls with a damp kitchen towel and prove overnight in the fridge.
After the first prove:
Take the jar with the speculaas orange filling out of the fridge, shaking it vigorously
Take the bowls out of the fridge or oven and flour a smooth surface like a cutting board. Note, following the first prove your dough will have risen by half, if not doubled in size.
Let's start rolling
Punch the dough down into the bowl a few times, then turn the dough out onto the floured surface.
Knead for a few minutes, adding flour as needed to keep the dough from feeling sticky. Now your dough is ready to be filled.
With a rolling pin roll to flatten the dough into a rough rectangular shape, about 1cm thick.
Add the speculaas orange filling and sprinkle it evenly across the center of the rectangle.
Roll the dough from the bottom upward into one large, even strand, making sure to roll tightly to avoid air pockets. The filling will be concealed inside the dough.
Now, this is were the real fun starts . . .
Making the "Turban"
Using both hands roll the dough to smooth seams and create one large strand, like a rope.
Taper the strand at the ends by rolling the dough between your palms. Or pinch the rope closed all along its seam.
Roll one end of the strand inward to create a spiral snail-shell shape. Continue rolling the strand in the same direction until the spiral is complete.
Tuck the loose end of the spiral underneath the challah and pinch it tightly into the bottom, securing it.
Alternatively, starting with the thickest end in the middle, wind the thinner end around it and finally, tuck it underneath to seal
Leave the challah for up to an hour for a second prove until you can press your finger into the dough and it doesn’t bounce back. The last rise is very important with this challah shape, since it is prone to splitting
Lightly flour the cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.
Prepare your egg wash by beating the egg, salt and water till smooth
After the second prove, place the challah on the lightly floured cookie sheet
Preheat the oven to 175 degrees C.
Tip: make sure there is enough space between the challot, since they tend to expand a lot when baking
Use a pastry brush to brush a thin layer of the egg wash onto the visible surface of your challah. Reserve the leftover egg wash.
Baking the speculaas Turban Challah
The challah needs to bake for about 40 minutes in total. For best results the baking should be done in two stages
Put your challah in the oven. After 20 minutes, take the challah out of the oven and coat it, in particular the center of the braid with another thin layer of egg wash. This area tends to expand during baking, exposing areas that will turn white unless they are coated with egg wash
Turn the tray around, so the opposite side is facing front, and put the tray back into the oven. Turning the tray helps your challah brown evenly (the back of the oven is usually hotter than the front).
Let the challah bake for about another 20 minutes. For this last part of the baking process, check your challah regularly.
Note: it may be browning faster than it is baking.
Once the challah is browned to your liking, take the tray out and cover it with silver foil, then place it back in the oven. Remove the foil for the last 2 minutes of baking time.
Take the challah out of the oven. At this point your house should smell delicious. You can test the bread for doneness by turning it over and tapping on the bottom of the challah - if it makes a hollow sound, it is done.
Let the challah cool on a wire cooling rack.
Resist eating your challah for at least 1 hour before you cut it.
Serve your speculaas orange challah with butter and blueberry marmalade, honey or any other jam or marmalade to your liking, such as the vandotsch speculaas spice infused Damson jam.
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