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Sweet and Savory Challah Rolls

Happy Thanksgiving! I hope that you are able to enjoy the holiday, but if Thanksgiving is a stressful holiday for you, I hope you are at least able to enjoy some good food. In pursuit of that goal––I present Sweet and Savory Challah Pull-Apart Rolls!

These are so good! They’re great to share with your family, whether you want a sweet or a savory bread roll; and they’re fun, delicious, and a perfectly decadent companion to your Thanksgiving feast, or really any large meal event.

This recipe has already been featured at this week’s Monday-night dinner for my family’s week-long Thanksgiving visit.

Sweet and Savory Pull-Apart Challah, being pulled apart
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Pulling apart the challah

Over the past few months, I’ve made roughly 15 to 16 challahs, all of which were slightly different. My main discovery is that pareve challah just can’t compete with butter and whole milk. My favorite challah recipe is from Julia Child’s Baking with Julia.

This recipe is a sweet and savory variation on Julia’s traditional recipe, and uses a combination of different fall and Thanksgiving flavors. Instead of braiding the dough, I formed it into rolls that you can pull apart. As you pull them apart, it’s exciting to see the different dough flavors next to each other, and I’ve found that the sweet and savory rolls were eaten at roughly the same rate.

Ingredients

Both Doughs:

¾ tablespoons active dry yeast (a little over one packet)
pinch sugar
¼ cup room temperature water
¼ cup unsalted butter
½ cup whole milk
½ tablespoon honey
1 ½ teaspoons salt
3-4 cups flour

Pumpkin:

1/6 cup brown sugar
1 egg
¼ cup pumpkin
¼ cup pumpkin puree
1 teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
½ teaspoon ginger
1/8 teaspoon allspice
1/8 teaspoon cloves

Herb and Onion:

1/6 cup white granulated sugar
2 eggs
1-2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
1 teaspoon dried oregano
¼ minced onion (for topping)
sea salt (for topping, sprinkled on top)

Directions

For both batches of dough:

In a small bowl, combine yeast with water that is slightly above room temperature, and throw in a small pinch of sugar. Mix completely and set aside. Do this twice, once for each type of dough.

Cut the butter into half tablespoon sized pieces and mix with whole milk in a pan on the stove.  Stir continuously, turning down the heat slightly if the butter threatens to simmer, until the butter is entirely melted into the milk. Again, do this once per dough type.

Two Doughs, Both Alike in the Beginning...
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A Tale of Two Doughs, one sweet and one savory.

Pour each melted mixture into large mixing bowls immediately so they will cool down more quickly. Now the recipes branch off!

For the pumpkin rolls:

Mix honey, brown sugar, and one bowl of the yeast mixture into the butter and milk bowl.

Whisk one egg in a separate small bowl, then add to the mixture. Add in the generous quarter cup of pumpkin. It doesn’t have to be totally exact. Add in pumpkin pie spices (cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, allspice, cloves, ginger) or pre-made pumpkin pie spice, available in stores. 

For the herb rolls:

Add honey, sugar, and the other bowl of the yeast mixture to the butter-milk mixture. Mix in two eggs, then two tablespoons of herb de province and a teaspoon of oregano. 

Adding in the flour:

Julia Child recommends adding a half cup of flour at a time, and I trust her with my life, so I do this too. It doesn’t have to be totally exact, I just scoop out roughly a half cup and throw it in, stirring briefly between half cups.  Do this until the dough is too dry to stir. Both the sweet and savory dough will need about 3 cups of flour to get to this point.

Put your dough on a floured surface (I have a nonstick mat I sometimes use) and start kneading. Knead the dough by continuously pushing down hard on it with your palms, then folding the dough in half towards yourself. The dough will quickly become too sticky and wet to work with as the flour becomes incorporated. Pour more flour onto the work surface and continue kneading. I usually end up kneading an additional ½ to 1 cup of flour throughout the 10 minutes I knead, by adding some whenever the dough gets too sticky. You can also use a dough hook in a stand mixer, for roughly the same amount of time.

Do this for both doughs.

Melt a tablespoon or two of butter and coat the inside of two (large) bowls with the melted butter. Once the doughs are in their bowls, brush the tops with butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let sit for an hour to rise.

If you’re doing other things for Thanksgiving, this is a great time to do more food prep and cooking and optimize your time.

After an hour, check to see if the doughs have doubled in size. Punch down the dough and knead slightly in the bowl, then put the plastic wrap back on both. Let sit for another hour.

Assembly time:

Challah Assembly Photo
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Already assembled, pre-baked, Challah

Take out your two doughs. Split each in half. Split each half into four balls, and roll until they are even buns all the way around. In my pictures you can see that I did three of each and they aren’t evenly rolled, but they still tasted great! Just like with people, these don’t have to be perfect to be good.

Put parchment paper on two baking sheets and arrange four buns of each flavored dough on the trays. Arrange so the buns are alternating flavor as much as possible. I recommend creating a rectangle of challah buns to achieve this, but you can do any size you want. The challah buns should be grazing each other, but not firmly pressed together. This creates two loaves of pull-apart challah buns. 

Challah being egg-washed
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Adding the egg-wash to the assembled challah

Cover both loaves, with plastic wrap or a clean dish towel, and let sit for another forty minutes. Right before the forty minutes are over, mince a half of an onion, and set aside.

At this point, begin to preheat the oven to 350° degrees.

Uncover the loaves. Whisk an egg in a dish and get your pastry brush. Brush the egg wash over the entire outside of the loaf. Sprinkle extra cinnamon over the pumpkin buns. Sprinkle minced onion and coarse sea salt over the herb buns, making sure to get an even cover around the top. 

Let sit for a few minutes, then apply a second coat of the egg wash.

Challah and Lisa's Dog!
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Happy, Challah-y,Thanksgiving!

Time to finally get these in the oven! Bake for twenty minutes, then brush egg wash into the cracks that will appear when the rolls start expanding.

Return to the oven for twenty minutes and then remove.

If you are unsure if your challah rolls are done, knock on the bottom of the full loaf while holding in the center. It should sound hollow. If you’re not worried about keeping the rolls totally intact, you can also tear apart a roll and press on the dough inside- it should spring back at least slightly. If the dough does not spring back at all, put back in the oven for five minutes. 

Let cool for at least five minutes before tearing into the challah. It is amazing at any temperature, but there is something incredibly wonderful about breaking into a warm challah.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Main Plating: Sweet and Savory Pull-Apart Challah
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The final, beautiful, Sweet and Savory Pull-Apart Challah
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How to cite this page

Yelsey , Lisa . "Sweet and Savory Challah Rolls." 22 November 2016. Jewish Women's Archive. (Viewed on December 10, 2017) <https://jwa.org/blog/eating-jewish-sweet-and-savory-challah-rolls>.

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