I am thrilled to have a guest post on my blog today from the one and only Shannon Sarna! Shannon is the talented and hard working Editor of The Nosher and I’m lucky to say that we have become friends through our world of blogging and enjoying delicious food. After months of chatting via email, we finally met in person for the first time at Kim Kushner’s Kosher Foodie Potluck. This hug really says it all, doesn’t it?!?
Since Thanksgiving is just around the corner and Shannon is the Queen of Challah Baking, I asked her if she would make a unique challah recipe for my blog. If we lived closer, I would seriously pay her to make me challah every Shabbat! But in the meantime, she has created this special recipe just for me and now I’m gonna have to go make it myself.
There is nothing I love more than taking the iconic challah and mixing things up with some of my favorite flavors: stuffing it with pastrami and Russian dressing, mixing in za’atar or even filling the middle with leftover Halloween candy. I love seeing how challah can transform into a bread that is new and old all at the same time.
As Thanksgiving approaches, I wanted to create a hybrid challah that could serve as a beautiful and delicious dish for a holiday meal or just something special for a fall Shabbat dinner.
Admittedly I was a bit nervous to see how the addition of butternut squash would affect the challah. I have made pumpkin challah many times, but never before had I added butternut squash. But I am happy to report that not only is consistency of this dough just perfect, but the color is beautiful and the taste even more incredible.
You can swap out fresh sage for dried sage, but I really enjoyed the flecks of sage leaves throughout the challah dough, and the addition of some fresh chopped sage on top along with thick sea salt really makes this bread even more special. This challah would also translate for a wonderful savory stuffing.
Shannon Sarna is Editor of The Nosher. Her writing and recipes have been featured in Tablet Magazine, JTA News, The Jewish Week, Joy of Kosher Magazine and Buzzfeed. She lives in Jersey City, NJ with her husband, daughter and rescue dog, Otis.
- ¼ cup vegetable oil
- 5-6 fresh sage leaves
- 1 ½ Tbsp dry yeast
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
- 5 ½-6 cups all-purpose unbleached flour (I prefer to use King Arthur)
- ¾ cup sugar
- ½ Tbsp salt
- ½ cup butternut squash puree (fresh or frozen)
- 2 eggs
- 2 egg yolks + 1 tsp water
- Additional fresh sage leaves for garnish
- Thick sea salt
- Place vegetable oil and fresh sage leaves in a small saucepan over low-medium heat. Heat through until sage becomes fragrant, around 5 minutes. Remove from heat and allow to sit 25-30 minutes. Strain sage leaves but do not discard. Finely chop leaves.
- In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
- In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1 ½ cups flour, salt, butternut squash and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil and chopped sage leaves. Mix thoroughly.
- Add another 1 cup of flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
- Add an additional 3 cups of flour, 1 cup at a time, until dough is smooth and elastic. You can do this in a bowl with a wooden spoon, in a stand mixer with the dough attachment, or once the dough becomes pliable enough, on a floured work surface with the heels of your hands. Dough will be done when it bounces back to the touch, is smooth without clumps and is almost shiny.
- Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least around 3 hours.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 45-60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.
- In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water.
- Brush egg wash liberally over challah. Sprinkle with chopped fresh sage and thick sea salt.
- If making one large challah, bake around 27-28 minutes; if making two smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes.