Apple Butter Challah and a Braid

Challah is Jewish celebratory bread. I was smitten by the sheer beauty of it, the very first time I saw it. It is either braided or coiled like a turban to make it look pretty. I did a six strand braid while my 17 year old stood by me guiding me through the braiding, which is really simple once you get the hang of it. Took me back to my art and craft class at school and was great fun to do!

The other I made is a turban shaped one with a layering of apple butter. This one is almost like a sweet pastry. I made the apple butter at home from scratch and we love it as a bread spread too! The turban shaped Challah is often made at the Jewish festival of Rosh Hashanah. The circular shape symbolizes the year’s cyclic nature says The Kitchn,where I have adapted the recipe for the apple butter challah from.
Peter Reinhart’s amazing treatise on baking is my constant companion and a lot of this bread comes from there too.
I used the measures below to make a round turban challah and a six strand braid.

Apple Butter Challah
All purpose flour/Maida- 5 cups
Salt- 2 tsp
Instant Yeast- 1 tsp
Warm water- ½   cup
Sugar- 1/3 cup plus 1 tsp
Oil- ¼ cup (I used sunflower oil)
Honey-1/4 cup
Eggs- 3
Apple Butter- ½ cup
Apple, peeled and chopped fine- 1
Orange Juice- ½ cup
Raisins- ¼ cup 

Soak the raisins in the orange juice for a couple of hours.
Prove the yeast by mixing it in ½ cup of warm water and a tsp of sugar. Let it sit for about 10 minutes till it foams well.
Mix flour, sugar and salt in a large bowl.
Mix the oil, two eggs and the honey. Give this a stir and add to the yeast mixture.
Add the orange juice and the soaked raisins.
Add this to the flour mix and stir till all comes together to form a ball.
Knead well for 10-15 minutes. Sprinkle a little flour in case the dough is too sticky. Add a little water in case the dough is too dry. Knead to get soft and supple dough.

Transfer the dough to a greased bowl. Cover and let rise for 1-2 hours till it doubles.
Gently punch the dough down and divide into two.
Roll out one part to a rectangle about 1/8 inches thick.
Spread apple butter generously and top with the chopped apple.
Roll the rectangle, taking care to seal the edges. Gently pull the sides to elongate it to a 24 inches rope.
Coil it to form a turban like shape.
Transfer to a greased baking pan (I uses a 9inch pan) .
Whisk the remaining one egg and brush the Challah. Store the remaining egg wash in the refrigerator.
Leave to rise for another 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
Just before putting the Challah into the oven, brush it again with egg wash.
Bake at 180C till cooked through and deeply browned all over. It took me 45 minutes.
Let cool before slicing.

For the Six strand braid
Divide the remaining dough into 6 strands.
Bunch the ends together at the top.
Starting from the right, bring one strand over two strands; slip it under one strand and again over the remaining two.
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Again, starting with the right –repeat.
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Continue this till the braid forms.
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Brush with egg wash and rest for 30 minutes.
Pre heat the oven at 180C for 15 minutes.
Brush again with egg wash and bake for 40-45 minutes.

Apple Butter
This is a sweet and spicy spread and contrary to its name has no butter. It is called so because of its smooth buttery texture. I have adapted the recipe from Simply Recipes. 

Apples, quartered-  5-6
Water- 2-3 cups
Vinegar- 2-3 Tbsp (I used  white vinegar. Apple cider is what the original recipe says but I didn’t have any)
Salt- ½ tsp
Sugar-  2 cups (use in ratio with the pulp- see recipe)
Black pepper- ¼ tsp
Garam Masala- ½ tsp
Cinnamon powder- 1 tsp
Ground cloves- ¼ tsp
Grated rind and juice of one lemon

Wash and cut the apples. Do not peel or core them.
Put the apples with water and vinegar in a heavy bottomed pot. Bring to a boil and cover and cook on low heat for twenty minutes.
Cool and mash with the back of a ladle and run through a sieve.
Measure the pump and add ½ cup of sugar for each cup of pulp. Add the salt, cinnamon powder, clove powder, black pepper, lemon juice and rind and Garam masala. Taste and adjust the seasonings.
Cook the mixture in a wide mouthed, heavy bottomed pan or kadhai and keep stirring.


Mine took about 40 minutes to get done. I kept the heat high and kept stirring to avoid scalding, taking care to scrape the bottom of the vessel. To check if it is done, spoon a bit on to a chilled steel plate. Chill the plate in the freezer for ten odd minutes before you check.


It should be thick and not runny. Cool and store in sterilized glass jars.

I used it for the Challah and we love it on hot toast for our breakfast every morning



Gibassier- a French pastry like bread with flavours of orange and anise


This is the first time I baked with the Biga/sponge/pre-ferment and I kicked myself for not having done it earlier. As much as I love baking, I was too lazy to go the Biga way though I had been reading about it for some time. I am so glad I finally did!

Biga/sponge/preferment/poolish defined – A combination of flour, water, and sometimes yeast that is prepared in advance (as in pre-fermentation) and then mixed into the main body of the dough as an additional ingredient. You can find a lot of information here on baking with preferment.
So basically it is a bit of dough you need to knead a night or (14 hours) ahead  of your baking time.

Gibassier– this mildly sweet, pastry like, fruit flavoured French bread just stole my heart, and the boys all but applauded! Happiness and Joy: D
It is not difficult to bake. Just that it needs to be planned a day ahead to prepare the Biga- but totally worth it! We loved the beautiful texture and the heavenly aroma from the fresh orange juice used.

Gibassier is traditionally made with fruited olive oil and spiced with anise, candied orange peel and orange blossom water. Fancy ingredients like Orange Blossom water and candied orange peel are a farfetched dream in my small town so I used fresh fruit instead. I had an orange and some peaches and used these to bake the Gibassier. The flavours were beautiful!



For the Pre-ferment (Biga)
All Purpose Flour/Maida- 1 ½ cup
Milk-  ½  cup milk
Instant yeast- 1/16 tsp

Making the Biga/Pre-ferment
The biga / pre-femented dough needs 14-16 hours to ferment. It is best to make it a night ahead of the day of baking. Mix all the ingredients listed above and knead into a soft dough. Put it in a greased bowl, cover and leave for about 16 hours (may need more time in case of cold weather). It doubles up and develops air pockets.
What I also did the previous night (Fruit zest mix)
I chopped the 3 peaches I had, juiced an orange, grated the zest. I dropped the peaches and the zest into the orange juice and left it covered in the refrigerator overnight, while the biga got done.


For the Dough

All the pre-ferment/ Biga from above
APF (All Purpose Flour)/Maida- 3 ¼ cup
Instant Yeast- 1 ¾ tsp
Warm water – 3 Tbsp and Sugar -1 tsp(to prove the yeast)
Olive oil- ¼ cup + 2 tbsp
1/3 cup  butter ( slightly soft at room temperature)
Baking powder- 1/2 tsp
Anise seeds/ Saunf- 2 Tbsp
1/2 cup granulated sugar
3/4 tsp salt

For Glazing and Dusting the Gibassier
Melted ghee(clarified butter)- ½ cup
Powdered sugar/vanilla sugar/icing sugar- ½ cup (use as desired)

Warm 2 Tbsp water, stir in 1 tsp sugar and add the yeast. Leave covered to bloom for 10-15 minutes till it becomes frothy.


Mix the APF(Maida), salt, sugar and baking powder.
Add the anise and olive oil  to the fruit zest mix.

Break thr Biga into chunks and add in.

Add the yeast mix and the fruit zest mix to the flour and mix well with a wooden spatula/ladle.


Start kneading. Do not add more water unless required. It is a sticky dough but will come together after some time.
Add the melted butter gradually  and knead for 10-15 minutes to get a soft dough.

Leave covered for 1 ½ – 2 hours till it doubles up.

Gently knock down the dough and divide into 12 balls.

Shape them into balls and rest them for 15 – 20 minutes.
Shape each ball like a ‘D’.

Make three cuts on the D- one in the centre and two on the sides. I used a butter knife for making the cuts.

Make 4 slits on the arched side (outer side) of the D.

Gently, life the shaped gabassier and transfer to a greased baking tray. Stretch the gibassiers while placing them on the tray so that the cuts show clearly.

Leave covered for another 40 minutes till they puff up nicely.
Preheat the oven at 180c (350F) for 20 minutes and  bakefor 10 -15 minutes till they are nicely browned.
Remove and brush immediately with melted ghee/clarified butter.


Dust with powdered sugar/ icing sugar/vanilla sugar.

Serve warm or sit them under a hot grill for 7-8 minutes just before serving.
I made 6 gibassiers and used the rest of the dough to make these cuppies. These, warmed and topped with some chocolate sauce were heaven on the palate!
If you are too lazy to shape them, cuppies are the way to go 😉





Recipe Source- Ciril Hitz’s Baking artisan and pasteries Book with help from the eggless version here.
I was first introduced to this delightful bread on Manish Bhalla’s blog here. 

I am taking these yummy orangey sweet delights to Angie’s Fiesta Friday. Let’s party! Many thanks Jhuls and Selma for the rocking time!