It was the day before Rosh Hashana and we were up in Lake Tahoe. I was driving to Whole Foods to stock up for my holiday cooking, when my friend, Kathryn, who was also in Lake Tahoe, called me and said, “I am texting you a recipe for Fig and Olive Oil Challah. You have to get the ingredients, while you are at Whole Foods and you have to make this Challah, it looks so good.” “Uh, okay,” I said, “when I get to the store I will have a look.” Figs and olives are a famous food coupling, so I was already intrigued, even though there are no olives in this recipe, just the olive oil. The original recipe, which is actually by one of my favorite cooks, Deb Perelman of The Smitten Kitchen, called for a lot of salt flakes, throughout and additionally on top. I am not a huge fan of salted Challah, so I omitted it from my version.
Making a round Challah is a bit of a challenge, but here is a video that guides you through the technique. After I braided the Challah, I placed it into a glass pie plate, which was perfect for retaining the round shape.
So now that you are equipped with photos of ad videos, there’s no reason not to make this wonderful Challah.
The end result is so good, I literally had to stop myself from consuming half of the Challah. Without further ado, I present my version of the recipe for Fig and Olive Oil Challah!
For the dough:
- 1 packet of active dry yeast
- ¼ cup, plus 1 tsp, of honey, divided
- ⅔ cup of warm water (110º to 116º)
- ⅓ cup of olive oil, plus more for the bowl
- 3 large eggs, divided
- 2 teaspoon of kosher salt, plus more for garnish
- 4 cups of all-purpose flour
For the fig filling:
- 2 cups of dried figs, roughly chopped
- 1/4 teaspoon of freshly grated orange zest
- 1 cup of water
- 1/2 cup of orange juice
- 1/4 teaspoon of sea salt
- black pepper, to taste
- To make the dough: In a small bowl, whisk the yeast and 1 teaspoon of the honey into the warm water, and let it stand for a few minutes, until foamy.
- In a stand mixer fitted with a whisk, combine the yeast mixture with the remaining ¼ cup of honey, olive oil, and two of the eggs.
- Switch to a dough hook, add the salt and flour, and mix at a low speed for 5 to 8 minutes.
- Transfer the dough to an olive oil-coated bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.
- Meanwhile, make the fig filling: In a small saucepan, combine the figs, orange zest, water, orange juice, sea salt, and a few grinds of black pepper. Bring the mixture to a simmer over medium heat and cook, stirring occasionally, until the figs are soft and tender, about 10 minutes.
- Season the figs with salt and pepper, and let them cool to lukewarm.
- Chop the fig mixture in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, scraping down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Set the filling aside to cool completely.
- Once the dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide it in half.
- Roll the first half of the dough into a wide rectangle. Spread half of the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping ½ inch short of the edge.
- Roll the dough into a long, tight rope, trapping the filling within. Gently roll and stretch the rope until it’s about 3 feet long, and then divide it in half.
- Repeat steps 8 and 9 with the remaining dough and fig filling.
- To braid the challah: Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board. Weave them so that, where they meet, one side is over, and the other is under. From here, you can follow the written directions, or check out this video tutorial.
- Take the four ropes that come from underneath the center and place each over the rope to their right—i.e., jumping it.
- Take the ropes that were on the right and, again, jump each one over the rope to its left. If you have extra length in your ropes, you can repeat these right-left jumps until you run out of rope.
- Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough with the sides of your hands to form around.
- Transfer the dough to a parchment-covered, heavy baking sheet, or if you’ll be using a bread stone, a baker’s peel.
- Beat the remaining egg until smooth, and brush it over the challah. Let the challah rise for another hour. 45 minutes into this rise, preheat your oven to 375 degrees.
- Before placing the bread in the oven, brush the loaf one more time with the egg wash and sprinkle with sea salt. Bake in the middle of the oven for 35 to 40 minutes. The challah should be beautifully bronzed: if it starts getting too dark too quickly, cover it with foil for the remainder of the baking time. The very best way to check for doneness is with an instant-read thermometer — the center of the loaf should be 195 degrees.
- Cool the loaf on a rack before serving.