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For More Exciting Challah, Treat it Like Babka (Sweet or Savory)

July 11, 2016

No-frills challah is a wonderful thing, passed around the table and pulled into feathery, haphazard chunks before the meal even starts (with any spared pieces becoming French toasted the next day).​

But over on our (Not)Recipes app, Rachael Strecher looked to Smitten Kitchen's Fig and Sea Salt Challah to give her weekly loaf a seasonal adaptation​. (Friendly reminder that you can add links—to a source of inspiration, to a smart tip—right inside your (Not)Recipe posts.)

Rachael Strecher
Rachael Strecher
Pesto Challah--a stroke of inspiration lead me to Summerize our weekly challah. Check out Smitten Kitchen's fig and sea salt Rosh Hashanah Challah for the technique. Make your dough (whatever is your favorite) and roll out the "strands", spreading pesto and then rolling it up. I mixed normal pesto with our garlic scape pesto. Braid as usual and brush with an egg before baking.. This was a winner.

​In Deb's recipe, she divides the dough into quarters. Before shaping them into logs, she flattens them into rectangles and spreads them with a homemade fig filling. Then, she rolls them up into snakes before looping and twisting them into an impressive round loaf. (I can tell you from personal experience that the process is messy—fig jam everywhere—but well worth it, each slice striated with pockets of sweet jam.)

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​Rachael made the recipe weekday- and spring-appropriate by smearing the dough rectangles with garlic scape pesto and shaping them into a more casual three-braid.

​Rachael's ingenuity has us brainstorming other seasonal fillings for challah (or other enriched, braided loaves):

Just make sure that your filling is on the viscous side of the thick to runny spectrum: You don't want it leaking and dripping all over the place in the oven.

See what other Food52 readers are saying.

  • BurgeoningBaker
  • creamtea
  • AntoniaJames
  • Sarah Jampel
    Sarah Jampel
I used to work at Food52. I'm probably the person who picked all of the cookie dough out of the cookie dough ice cream.


BurgeoningBaker August 2, 2016
Please note that once you add a dairy product to the bread it is no longer considered Challah. Challah is specifically dairy free for a reason.
creamtea July 12, 2016
Please note, there is more than one way to plait a challah! I use a 6-strand braid, which gives a beautiful shape and visual interest. I find it much prettier than a simple 3-strand braid. You can do 5, 6, 7 strands and more; there are many helpful online tutorials. Tapering the dough strands at the ends, making them fatter in the middle, helps give the final product a more rounded final shape.
Sarah J. July 12, 2016
Great point! I love watching the YouTube videos.
AntoniaJames July 11, 2016
How much pumpkin butter is needed to do what you suggest?

I have some in my freezer from last winter that I've been trying to figure out how to use . . . as well as a spiced fig and dried apple spread that I use in nut crescent thumbprints, that also seems perfectly suited to this.

Thanks so much. ;o)