SMiLes by Meg

Fig and Olive Oil Challah

This was fun to make. I’m home for the long weekend, having a girl’s weekend with my mom, and she agreed to humor me and make a complicated braided bread on Saturday night. I love challah, she’d never had challah, and the idea of somehow getting a flavor woven into the challah made it a recipe I couldn’t skip.

Start by making the base dough. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, warm water, and teaspoon of honey. Let sit for 10 minutes until it starts to foam up.

Add the remaining honey, olive oil, eggs and salt. Whisk to combine.

Add the flour and mix on low speed of the stand mixer using the hook attachment for awhile, until the dough comes together and is smooth.

Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead a few time until elastic. Place in a bowl sprayed with baking spray, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise for 1 hour, until doubles in size.

While the dough is rising, make the fig paste. Put the chopped figs, orange zest, orange juice, water, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat. Once it starts simmering, reduce heat to low and simmer for about 10 minutes, stirring occasionally, until figs are soft. Set aside to cool until lukewarm.

When cooled.a bit, put in a food processor and process until smooth.

When the dough has risen, split in half. Roll half the dough out into a rectangle, and spread with half of the fig paste, making sure not to spread all the way to the edges.

Roll the dough, starting on a long side, into a tight log. Then continue to roll it, play dough style, into a snake about 3 feet long.

Repeat with the second half of the dough and filling. Cut each snake in half.

Next is the fun part – weaving. Instead of explaining how this works, I’m just going to show you some step by step pictures. I trust you to figure it out.

Basically you just keep twisting things until you’ve reached the end, at which point you can tuck them underneath. Whisk the egg until smooth and brush the dough. Set on a sheet lined with parchment paper to rise for another hour.

After an hour, brush with more egg, and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake at 375°F for 35 minutes, until browned and cooked. If it’s browning super fast, cover with some tin foil.

Remove from oven and allow to cool on a wire rack.

Isn’t that gorgeous? But want to know what’s even more gorgeous? Cutting into it and seeing all of the fig veins.

Like, how good does that look? You could do any variety of filling here. Lemon? Apples? Cinnamon? Chocolate?

Store this in a paper bag at room temperature – it will stay fresh longer than just leaving it on the counter. My mom had this for breakfast this morning, toasted with some cream cheese, and strongly approved.

Enjoy!

Fig and Olive Oil Challah

Directions:

Bread

  • 1 packet active dry yeast
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 teaspoon honey, divided
  • 2/3 cup warm water
  • 2 eggs
  • 1/3 cup olive oil
  • 2 teaspoons flaky sea salt
  • 4 cups flour

Filling

  • 1 cup dried figs, chopped
  • 1/8 teaspoon orange zest
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1/8 teaspoon pepper
  • 1 egg for egg wash

Directions:

  1. In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, 1 teaspoon honey, and warm water. Allow to sit for 10 minutes until foamy.
  2. Add the remaining honey, eggs, olive oil, and sea salt and whisk to combine.
  3. Add the flour and beat on low speed of the stand mixer fitted with the hook attachment until dough comes together. Turn out onto a floured surface and knead a few times until elastic.
  4. Place dough in a bowl with sprayed with cooking spray, turning to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside for one hour to rise, until doubled in size.
  5. Make the fig paste by placing the chopped figs, orange zest, orange juice, water, salt and pepper in a small saucepan over medium heat, bringing to a boil.
  6. Reduce to low heat and simmer for 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until softened. Set aside to cool until lukewarm.
  7. Transfer to a food processor and beat until smooth. Set aside to cool.
  8. When dough has risen, cut in half and roll one half into a rectangle. Spread with half of the fig paste, and roll up starting at a long edge.
  9. Roll dough into a long snake, about 3 feet long.
  10. Repeat with second half of dough and filling. Cut each length in half.
  11. Braid the dough together to form a loaf, looking at the pictures above.
  12. Brush with egg wash and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper to rise for another hour.
  13. Once risen, brush with more egg wash and sprinkle with additional sea salt. Bake at 375°F for 35 minutes, until browned and cooked through. Allow to cool on a wire rack.

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