There are so many excellent prospects for Sukkot-themed challahs—pumpkin challah springs immediately to mind, a big favorite around here which I make it starting at Sukkot and on through winter. I wanted to add to the repertoire, so this year I came up with a tribute to the spoils of my mom's erstwhile Sunday morning grocery runs. She'd invariably bring back a fruit and nut La Brea loaf, either the raisin-pecan or the cranberry-walnut, which we'd have with the Sunday Times. My harvest challah takes the most autumnal from each: cranberries and pecans. To that I add whole wheat to get a bit of that artisan-bread chew, as well as the flavor of the fall harvest.
Mixing in the fruit and nuts
As with raisin challah or chocolate chip challah, the key to getting good mix-in distribution is to knead the extras into the dough at the right time: right as the dough's coming together. Too soon and the fillings can gum up the kneading process or get smushed by the dough hook; too late, and they'll just sit at the top of the dough. For this challah, I added the fruit and nuts just a bit earlier in the process, which worked well. I didn't mind the nuts getting crushed a bit smaller, and this way everything turned out suspended evenly throughout a slice of the finished bread.
Shaping a spiral challah
Just because this guy is the easiest way to make a round challah, doesn't mean he won't charm the socks off your fellow celebrants. He's festive, a tad dramatic, slices well, and generally a crowd pleaser. I make round challahs all through Tishrei, and this is the one I make when I'm crunched for time (that is, usually).
For this recipe, you can either roll the finished dough into one long, relatively thick rope (about 2' / 60cm long and 2" / 5cm thick), as I did in the photo above, and then cut it into two even pieces; or divide it into sections and roll each separately (each about 12" / 30cm long and 2" /5 cmthick). Taper the ends slightly.
After curling each rope into a spiral shape, firmly tuck the end under. Cover and leave to rise for about half an hour, until visibly puffed. Brush with egg wash and bake—it'll take longer than a loaf challah, due to the stocky shape.
Whole Wheat Harvest Challah with Cranberries & Pecans (parve)
- Stand mixer fitted with a dough hook
- Instant-read thermometer (optional but helpful for assessing doneness)
- 1 cup warm water - 235ml
- ¼ cup honey - 85g
- 2¼ tsp active dry yeast - 8g / 1 packet
- 1 cup whole wheat flour - 32g
- 3¼ cups all-purpose flour - 400g
- 1 Tbsp salt - 18g
- ¼ cup olive oil - 60ml
- 2 eggs
- ⅔ cup dried cranberries - 65g
- ⅔ cup pecans, roughly chopped in a food processor or partially crushed by hand - 85g
- 1 egg
- 1 tsp almond milk - or water
- 1 tsp honey
Mix the dough:
- In a glass measuring cup, combine the ¼ cup honey with 1 cup warm water. Whisk to begin to dissolve the honey (it doesn't need to be completely dissolved). Add the yeast and set aside until foamy, 5-10 minutes.
- To the mixer bowl, add the whole wheat flour, all-purpose flour, and salt. Pour the yeast mixture on top and begin to mix on the lowest speed setting (speed 1). With the mixer going, tip in the olive oil and then the eggs and continue to mix on the lowest speed for 5-6 minutes. You may need to add a bit more all-purpose flour if the dough is too wet or water if the dough is to dry, a tablespoon at a time.
- Add in the cranberries and pecans and continue to knead on the lowest speed for another 3-4 minutes or so, until the dough is supple and soft but not sticky, and the fruit and nuts are thoroughly mixed into the dough. Increase the spead to 2 and mix for 1 more minute or so.
Leave to rise:
- Lift the dough out of the mixer bowl and shape into a ball using your hands. Mist the mixer bowl with oil and return the ball of dough to the bowl. Mist the top of the dough ball with a bit more oil, cover, and leave to rise for about 2 hours in a warm place, such as the inside of your (turned-off) oven with the light turned on.
Shape and rest:
- When the dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean work surface. Roll the entire dough into a long. thick rope about 2' / 60cm long and 2" / 5cm thick; or, divide the dough in half and roll each into a rope about 12" / 30cm long and 2" / 5cm thick.
- Starting in the center, roll up the rope tightly into a spiral shape. Firmly tuck the end under and into the center bottom. Cover and leave to rest and rise more, about 30 minutes.
- In a small bowl, combine the egg, almond milk (or water), and honey, ans whisk until well combined. Brush the loaves with the egg wash using a pastry brush.
- Bake the loaves at 350°F / 175°C for 45 minutes, more if needed, until the tops are golden and the internal temperature registers at least 200°F / 90°C.