In Maggie Glezer’s Artisan Baking Across America, there is a recipe from Macrina Bakery for apple cinnamon monkey bread that is really a loaf of sweet dough rolled up with apple butter and cinnamon sugar (another version of this recipe appears in the Macrina Bakery cookbook, and you can also see For The Love of Bread’s version).
I thought this would be a great idea for challah, with the cinnamon sugar left out to make it more bread and less dessert (although cinnamon sugar could only make it taste better . . . ). (Update: I made this recipe again, adding raisins and cinnamon sugar–excellent!)
Then I had the idea to spice the apple butter like those oh-so-popular speculoos cookies (also known as Biscoff).
I’m keeping a sourdough starter going, so I looked around for a sourdough challah recipe. After trying one sourdough challah recipe and not being completely satisfied, I decided to try a sweet dough recipe that uses sourdough starter and a little yeast.
Of course, you can use whatever challah dough you like. If you use a dough sweetened with honey, you will have apple honey challah, which is perfect for the upcoming holidays. I didn’t add raisins this time, but I will add them next time I make this recipe.
My daughter, who has been resisting sourdough bread, said this was the best challah I ever made. The challah tastes like babka (it would really be like babka if I added cinnamon sugar and raisins). The veins of apple butter give intense apple taste without making the challah soggy as sometimes happens with apple challah when the apple exude moisture. I served extra apple butter on the side as a spread for the challah.
By the way, if you think apple butter sounds dull, imagine this: an apple farm in September, the crisp Autumn breeze wafting the enticing scent of ripe apples, freshly made apple cider and warm doughnuts. You end up going home with way more apples than you can eat. Then, to make use of that insane amount of apples, you make this apple butter recipe and your home is filled with the aroma of spice and apples. It is the fragrance of Fall in a jelly jar.