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+ servings

Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah

yield: 1 large loaf
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Special Equipment

  • a freestanding electric mixer with a paddle attachment and a dough hook
  • plastic wrap (like Saran)
  • A food processor
  • a dough scraper

Ingredients

For the Challah Dough

  • 2 1/4 teaspoons (or, one 7-gram packet) active dry yeast
  • 2/3 cup water, warm (between 110 and 118 (F))
  • 1 teaspoon plus 1/4 cup honey, separated
  • 1/3 cup extra virgin olive oil, plus more for the bowl
  • 2 large eggs, at room temperature
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
  • 4 cups all-purpose flour

For the Fig Filling

  • 1 cup dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/4 teaspoon orange zest, freshly grated
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/8 teaspoon flaky sea salt
  • few grinds of black pepper

For the Egg Wash

  • 1 large egg
  • flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

Instructions

For the Challah Dough

  • In the bowl of a freestanding electric mixer, whisk 2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast and 1 teaspoon honey with 2/3 cup warm water and let stand for a few minutes until foamy.
  • Once foamy, add the remaining 1/4 cup honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, and 2 eggs.
  • Add 2 teaspoons salt and 4 cups flour and use the paddle attachment to mix all the ingredients together until a dough is formed and begins to hold together.
  • At this point, switch to a dough hook attachment and run at low speed for 5 to 8 minutes until a smooth and elastic dough is formed.
  • When the dough is finished kneading, transfer to an olive oil-coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.
  • While the dough is proofing, make the fig filling.

For the Fig Filling

  • In a medium saucepan, combine 1 cup dried figs, 1/4 teaspoon orange zest, 1/2 cup water, 1/4 cup orange juice, 1/8 teaspoon salt, and a few grinds of black pepper.
  • Bring to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and tender (about 10 minutes).
  • Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm. Process fig mixture until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set aside to cool.

Putting It All Together

  • After your dough has risen, turn it out onto a clean, floured counter and use a dough scraper to divide it into two even halves.
  • Roll the first half of the dough into a wide rectangular shape and spread half the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge.
  • Starting from the longer edge of the rectangle, roll the dough into a long and tight log, trapping the fig filling within. Then, gently stretch the log to as wide as it feels comfortable (mine was around three feet long) and divide it in half. Set these two smaller logs (ropes) aside.
  • Repeat with the remaining dough and fig filling, ultimately ending up with four ropes.
  • (I highly suggest heading over to Smitten Kitchen for this step:) Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under where they meet. Now you've got an eight-legged octopus. Take the four legs that come from underneath the center, and move them over the leg to their right, jumping over that piece of rope. Take the legs that were on the right and again, jump over each leg before, this time to the left. Continue to do so until you run out of rope. Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hand to form a round.
  • Transfer the dough to a parchment-covered heavy baking sheet. Beat one egg until smooth, and brush over the braided challah loaf. Let the challah rise for another hour, but 45 minutes into this rise, preheat the oven to 375 (F).
  • Before baking, brush the loaf one more time with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse salt. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 - 40 minutes. If the bread starts to brown too quickly, cover with foil for the remainder of the baking time. When the loaf is ready, an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the bread should read 195 (F).
  • Cool loaf on a cooling rack before serving.

Notes