Speculoos Spiced Apple Butter and Apple Butter Swirl Challah

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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).

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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.

Speculoos Spiced Apple Butter
This apple butter is spiced the same as speculoos cookies, also known as Biscoff (Lotus) cookies. I think that the amount of sugar listed here is sufficient, but most recipes call for twice as much, so you might want to adjust the sweetness to your own taste.

3 lbs. apples, peeled, cored, chopped into 1/2″ pieces (or smaller)
1/4-3/4 cup water or apple cider (you can use the larger amount of water, but 1/4 cup is sufficient and the apple butter thickens faster)
1/2 cup Demerara sugar (raw sugar)
3/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/16 tsp. nutmeg
1/4 tsp. ginger
1/8 tsp. freshly ground black pepper (optional–gives a little heat)
1/4 tsp. kosher salt
vanilla, 1 tsp. per cup of finished apple butter
juice of 1/2 lemon, optional

Start this the evening before the day that you want it to be ready. Combine the apples and water in a crock pot and cook 1 hour on high. Add the sugar and spices to the crock pot, stir to evenly combine and continue cooking the apples overnight (8-12 hours). (UPDATE: I found that if you cut the apples into small 1/8″-1/4″ pieces and use 1/4 cup liquid, the apple butter cooks down in about 5 hours.)

In the morning, puree the apples in a food processor to make a smooth puree.Some people stop cooking the mixture at this point, but I like a thicker, more concentrated apple butter.

If you also want a thicker apple butter, you can continue cooking the mixture in the crock pot, uncovered, occasionally stirring, or you can transfer it to a pot and cook it, uncovered, on a very low flame for another 5-6 hours, stirring occasionally. If you try to speed things up by cooking at a higher temperature, the apple butter will burble and splutter volcanically as it simmers and you will risk getting burned with splatters of lava-like puree as you stir it. I found this out the hard way.

As the apple butter cooks down, it will reduce in volume by half and it will go from being a thick-ish applesauce to an almost spreadable mixture. When it is done, you should be able to drop a spoonful of it on top of the rest of the apple butter and the spoonful of mixture will mound on top instead of immediately dissolving in.

You should end up with 2-3 cups apple butter. If you want more, you can double this recipe and it should still fit into the crock pot.

For every cup of cooled apple butter, add a tsp. of vanilla (or more, to taste). You could also add a little lemon juice or apple cider vinegar if you want a little tang.

Apple Butter Swirled Challah
Makes 2 medium challahs. I used sourdough sweet dough (see below recipe) for my challah dough. The 7 ounces of apple butter listed provides a modest amount of filling, which will work perfectly if you roll each piece of dough to the suggested 8″x10″ size before spreading with filling and rolling up. if you are able to roll the dough thinner, you will have a larger surface area that will allow you to spread more apple butter, maybe even as much as 10 ounces.

1 3/4 – 2 lbs. challah dough (after first rise)
7 ounces apple butter
beaten egg for egg wash
sesame seeds, for sprinkling over egg glazed loaves

Divide the dough into two pieces. Each piece should be between 3/4 lb. and 1 lb. Roll out each piece into a rectangle about 8″x10″ (slightly small than a regular sheet of paper). Spread each rectangle of dough with 3.5 ounces of apple butter. Don’t spread the apple butter all the way to the edges of the dough–leave a border of an inch on all sides. Roll up the dough, pinching the ends and making a tightly closed seam. You should now have a 10″ long rope. Twist the rope into a spiral. Place the spirals on a parchment lined baking sheet and cover with a floured cloth.

Let the loaves rise for an hour, or until doubled. Brush the loaves with beaten egg and sprinkle with sesame seeds. Bake at 350 degrees for 35 minutes, or until golden brown. (update: I think this is even better baked for 10 minutes at 400 degrees and then at 350 for another 20-25 minutes.)

Note: I didn’t have raisins on hand, but if I had, I would have sprinkled them over the apple butter before rolling up the dough. Next time . . .
Update: I made this again, this time adding raisins and a little cinnamon sugar to the dough before rolling it up and it was excellent.

Another note: It adds a nice nutty taste to the bread if you use a lot of sesame seeds on top.

Sourdough Sweet Dough
Adapted from Loaves and Stiches. Makes about 28 ounces dough, enough for two small to medium sized loaves challah.

8 1/2 ounces sourdough starter (240 g.) (equal to 1/2 cup water and 1 cup flour)
1 Tbl. water (12 g.)
1 1/2 tsp. yeast
2 eggs
3 Tbl. sugar (40 g.)
3/4 cup all purpose flour (100 g.)
1 tsp. kosher salt
4 Tbl. corn or safflower oil (60 g.)
2 1/4 cups bread flour (250 g.)

In a mixing bowl, combine the sourdough starter, water, yeast, eggs, sugar and all purpose flour. Let this mixture stand, covered, for a half hour. The mixture should be foamy.

Combine this mixture with the salt, oil and bread flour. Knead well to make a smooth dough that is slightly tacky, but not sticky.

Let the dough rise in the fridge overnight (or you can let the dough rise for 30-60 minutes at room temperature–I’ve tried it both ways). Shape the dough as desired.

The Kosher Connection, an informal group of creative kosher food bloggers from all around the world, proudly present our monthly kosher recipe challenge.  Each month we will present you with recipes on a different theme from all the kosher food bloggers. 

This month is all about apples!

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12 Responses to “Speculoos Spiced Apple Butter and Apple Butter Swirl Challah”

  1. Mrs. S. Says:

    Just reading this made my mouth water!🙂

  2. Leora Says:

    Mm, this sounds delicious. But I would probably just call it dessert. I’ve made babka from challah dough – yours sounds even better.

  3. Sina Mizrahi (@thekosherspoon) Says:

    oooooh my, this sounds amazing!!! I really must make this. I’ve been wanting to make challah with a sourdough starter. I should start a sourdough starter first! I have so many plans, so little time!

  4. Prag Says:

    Wow, so many ingredients in the title alone, sounds great!

  5. Alison@Alibabka Says:

    Awesome! This is so perfect for Rosh Hashana!

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