Last Friday I made the Apple-Honey Challah from Martha Stewart Living (the September 2009 issue) for the first time. This twist on the classic round challah for the Jewish New Year is found on page 176:
It was a huge flop! The failure was partly mine: I used yeast too close to its expiration date. But I think it was partly the magazine's fault: The recipe doesn't call for proofing the yeast (putting dry yeast in warm water, with some sugar or honey, to make sure it bubbles up, thereby showing it is still viable). Instead, the yeast is just pitched into the bowl, unproofed, with a lot of other ingredients. And if you're using yeast that's hung around a little too long on your pantry shelf, well...
You get my last Friday's loaf of bread. An undercooked, leaden lump.
But it had a heavenly glaze of honey and butter, and it was studded with tender slices of apples. My family laughed at my failure and gobbled up all the crispy, honey-soaked crusts. They pulled out the yummy bits of apples and licked their fingers.
So I knew I was on to something and should try again. This time, I made sure my yeast was fresh, and I proofed it before I added it into the dough. Take Number Two turned out much, much better:
Now, I admit: the top of the challah is a little too brown. It should be golden, not mahogany. A minute or two less in the oven, or perhaps dropping the oven rack down one notch, should take care of the matter. In the meantime, how lovely is this loaf, hey? Even my Czech Republic teacup sidled in for a closer look:
That's a delicate slice of Granny Smith apple, and a closeup of the crust, below. There's a honey/butter glaze causing all those deliciously oozy highlights:
Here's a droplet of the honey/butter glaze, hanging like a topaz jewel on the (slightly) overbaked crust:
One last look at this baby before I cover it up until dinner tonight:
I wish this blog had Smell-O-Vision. Yeasty, buttery, apple-y, honeyed goodness would be wafting out of your screen right now.
I'd share, but I can't figure out how to cram the bread through the Internet cable! Happy New Year, everyone.