Saturday, April 2, 2016

Mixed Fruit Challah

So it's been 10 months since my last post, but in my defensive it's really hard to keep up with a full time job and a challah blog. But now that my client TJX (TJMaxx, Marshalls, HomeGoods to name a few of their divisions) has filed their 10-k, ending my busy season, I finally found time to bake challah AND blog about it.

Working so much makes it difficult to have a life but every now and then I manage to find some time for fun. One of my clients was in New Orleans and I spent 4 weeks there this year. I never thought of visiting New Orleans, but it is definitely a great city with a ton of character. We spent a number of nights on Bourbon Street, ate bananas foster at the restaurant that invented it, had a drink at the carousel bar, walked to the Superdome, went on a swamp tour but didn't see any gators, and gambled at the casino. And of course we also visited Cafe Du Monde. Actually, we went twice in less than 6 hours. There is just nothing like a pastry at 3am and since they are open 24 hours it makes for the perfect post-Bourbon Street snack. We probably shouldn't have walked around an unfamiliar city at 3am, but the Beignets were worth it.

The inspiration for this week's challah comes from my busy season client. I was assigned the role of health champion and coordinated weekly fitness challenges to keep all of us healthy. The partner bought the entire team fitbits and we used them to track our steps during the workweek. Sadly my team came in last every week, but I definitely think the fitbit kept us more aware of how little we move during the day and motivated us to exercise more. TJX has a huge building and to get in the extra steps we would walk laps around the building, take the stairs, or use their treadmill desk. I was also resonsible for buying healthy snacks and one of those snacks was dried fruit. As good as dried fruit is alone, it is way better inside challah!

Recipe: (makes 1 big challah)
1 1/4 cup water
2 packets of active dry yeast (about 4 tsp)
1/2 cup honey
4 extra large eggs: 3 for dough, 1 for baste
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 tsp salt
4-5 cups flour
Sliced Almonds
Chopped Pecans
Sun Maid Mixed Fruit Pouch

Mix 1 1/4 cup water, 4 tsp yeast, and 1/2 cup honey in a mixing bowl. Place in a warm place. This could be next to a window that gets sunlight, or I like to place it in the oven at 120 degrees and then turn off the oven. Let stand for about 10-15 minutes or until the mixture starts to foam.

In a separate bowl mix 3 eggs and 1/2 cup oil.

Add to the yeast mixture after it has foamed. Add salt and flour. Make sure you mix the flour as you are adding it. Continue to add flour until the dough is no longer sticking to your hands.

Chop the mixed fruit into small pieces.

Add mixed fruit, almonds, and pecans to dough and knead into a ball.

Oil the large bowl and then roll the ball of dough in the oil. This prevents the dough from sticking to the bowl as it rises. Place the ball back in the bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Place it in a warm place. Let the bowl sit for about 1-2 hours, or until the dough has doubled in size.

Remove dough from bowl and knead to get out all the air. I added more fruits and nuts after the dough rose because I didn't add enough initially.

Separate the dough and roll out each ball into a strand. I did a 6 strand challah, but you can do whatever shape you want.

After braiding the challah, place on a buttered cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap and allow the challah to rise for at least 30 minutes in a warm place. This allows the dough to rise again.

Baste with egg wash (1 egg and 1/2 tbsp water).

Bake for about 35 minutes at 350 or until internal temperature is around 170. If the top of the challah is getting too dark or hard then place a piece of foil on top of it while the inside continues to cook.

I'm pretty sure this challah may be too pretty to eat!