With Rosh Hashana quickly approaching I’ve been experimenting with different sweet challahs. The most typical sweet challah is a lightly sweetened dough dotted with raisins, and while that’s a good option, I like to try new flavours.
I’ve been working on this challah for a while now and the first two or three times I baked it I used cubed pears and a dry sugar/cinnamon mixture spread over the dough and rolled up. It tasted delicious but the juicy pears created so much liquid while it baked that the dough burst at the seams and so much of the delicious cinnamon/sugar/pear came flooding out. And when I sliced it, a lot of the little pieces of pear fell out of the bread.
Then my sister suggested that I cook the pears with the brown sugar and cinnamon and effectively make a pear-butter. And that was a great idea.
I use Bartlett pears, but you can use any pears you like, as long as they’re ripe. The challah is best freshly baked, but I love to toast the leftover challah for breakfast with just a little butter spread on top.
Pear Cinnamon Swirl Challah
Lightly sweetened challah dough swirled with pear and cinnamon butter.
- 3 ripe pears, peeled, cored and chopped
- 3/4 cup brown sugar (6 oz / 170 grams)
- 1/4 tsp. salt
- 2 Tbsp. ground cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. water
- 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour (1 lb 6 1/2 oz. / 630 grams)
- 2 tsp. quick rise / instant yeast
- 1 1/2 tsp. salt
- 3 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 large eggs
- 1 large egg yolk
- 1/4 cup oil
- 1 cup warm water
- 1 large egg
- 1 Tbsp. water
- Start with the pears. Place all of the pear ingredients into a small pot and bring to a simmer over medium heat, stirring while it heats up. Once it comes to a simmer, reduce the heat to low and cook, stirring for about 10 minutes, or until the pears have softened and started to break down. Use a potato masher to mash the pears — it doesn’t have to be smooth but you want to mash up all the chunky pieces.
- Once the pears are mashed, continue to cook the pears over low heat, stirring frequently. Simmer until the mixture has reduced and thickened and there’s no excess liquid, 15-20 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and chill while you make the dough.
- For the dough, add all of the dry ingredients to the bowl of a stand-mixer fit with a dough hook and mix briefly on low to mix together. Add the eggs, oil and water and mix on low until all of the ingredients are combined, then start kneading on medium for 6-8 minutes, until the dough has formed a smooth ball that’s slightly tacky.
- Scrape the dough out onto a lightly floured counter and knead for just 1-2 minutes, forming a smooth dough ball. Place the dough into a lightly greased bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a damp towel and set aside for 30 minutes to relax.
- After the 30 minutes, check your dough to see if it’s relaxed enough. Press one finger into the middle of the dough and when you pull your finger out, if the indentation remains in the dough without springing back, you’re good to go.
- Cut the dough ball in half and roll out each half on a lightly floured work-surface. Dust the top of the dough lightly with flour, then roll out into a large rectangle, approximately 12″ x 16″. Use a spoon or spatula to spread half of the cooled pear mixture evenly over each dough, leaving approximately 1/2″ of the edges naked. Brush the edges with water.
- Roll each dough into a log, pinching the edges together and carefully pinching the long seam with the dough below it, making sure not to tear through the dough.
- For each log, start with one end and roll the log in a spiral, forming a round loaf and making sure each end is tucked underneath. Transfer to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
- Spray with vegetable oil and cover loosely with plastic or cover with a clean towel. Set aside to rise for 45 minutes or until the dough has puffed up.
- While the dough rises, preheat your oven to 375°F / 190°C.
- For the egg wash, whisk the egg and water together in a small bowl. When the challah is ready to go into the oven, brush with egg wash.
- Bake for 15 minutes and then brush the challah with egg wash again. Bake for another 15-20 minutes, until the challah is golden brown and baked through (check the bottom of the challah to make sure it’s golden brown too). Remove from the oven and let cool. If not serving immediately, once cooled completely, place in a plastic bag or wrap well in plastic. If baking in advance, cool completely and wrap very well before freezing.