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  • Eat, Darling, Eat

Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah

(adapted from Smitten Kitchen)

(by Barbara Ballinger)

1 packet active dry yeast or instant yeast

1/4 c. plus 1 t honey

2/3 c. warm water

1/3 c. olive oil, plus more for bowl

2 large eggs

2 t. flaky sea salt or 1 1/2 t. table salt

4 c. all-purpose flour

For filling:

1 c. stemmed and roughly chopped dried figs

1/8 t. freshly grated orange zest

1/2 c. water

1/4 c. orange juice

1/8 t. sea salt

few grinds black pepper

1 large egg, beaten

coarse or flaky sea salt, for sprinkling

To make dough with a stand mixer:

Whisk yeast and 1 t. honey into warm water, and let stand for a few minutes, until foamy.

In mixer bowl, combine yeast mixture with remaining honey, olive oil, and eggs. Add salt and flour, and mix until dough begins to hold together.

Switch to a dough hook, and mix at low speed for 5 - 8 minutes.

Transfer dough to an olive-oil coated bowl, cover with plastic, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

To make the dough by hand:

Whisk yeast and 1 t. honey into warm water, and let stand for a few minutes, until foamy.

Add salt and flour.

Mix with a wooden spoon until dough starts to come together.

Turn onto a floured counter, and knead for 5 - 10 minutes, until a smooth and elastic dough is formed.

Transfer dough to an olive-oil coated bowl, cover with plastic, and set aside for 1 hour, or until almost doubled in size.

To make fig paste:

In a small saucepan, combine figs, zest, water, juice, salt, and black pepper. Bring to a simmer over medium heat, and cook, stirring occasionally, until figs are soft and tender, about 10 minutes.

Season with salt and pepper to taste.

Remove from heat, and let cool to lukewarm.

Put in a food processor until it resembles a fine paste, and set aside to cool.

After dough has risen, turn it out onto a floured counter and divide in half.

Roll one half into a wide rectangle.

Spread half the fig filling evenly over the dough, stopping short of the edge.

Roll the dough into a long, tight log, then gently stretch the log as wide as possible.

Repeat with remaining dough and fig filling.

Arrange two ropes in each direction, perpendicular to each other, like a tight tic-tac-toe board.

Weave them so that one side is over, and the other is under, where they meet, forming 8 legs.

Take the 4 legs that come from underneath the center and move each leg to the right.

Take the legs that were on the right and, again, jump each over the leg before, this time to the left.

If you have extra length in your ropes, you can repeat these left-right jumps until you run out of rope.

Tuck the corners or odd bumps under the dough to form a round.

Transfer dough to a parchment-lined heavy baking sheet.

Brush beaten egg over dough.

Let rise for another hour.

Shortly before rising time is over, preheat oven to 375 F.

Brush again with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sea salt.

Bake in middle of oven for 35 - 40 minutes, or until the center is 195 F. on an instant-read thermometer.

If it starts getting too dark, cover with foil.

Cool loaf on a rack.

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