Tu BiShvat Vegan Challah with Dried Fruit

by Vered Guttman

This vegan braided challah is filled with dried fruit like dates, figs, apricots, toasted walnut and orange zest. It is perfect for Tu BiShvat, the new year of the trees in the Jewish tradition, when people eat from the fruit of Israel to remember the country’s abundance.


Ingredients

For the dough
1 pound all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
2 teaspoons instant yeast (or dry active yeast, see notes section)
¼ cup sugar
1 ¼ cups warm water
2 tablespoons mild olive oil (or your preferred oil)
1 teaspoon kosher salt

 

For dried fruit mix
½ cup roughly chopped walnut, preferably toasted
5 dried apricots. diced
5 pitted dates, diced
5 dried figs, diced
Zest of one orange
1 teaspoon fennel seeds (optional)
¼ cup bittersweet chocolate chips (optional)

 

For brushing
1-2 tablespoons mild olive oil (or your preferred oil)
3 tablespoons sesame seeds
2 tablespoons poppy seeds


Instructions

Make the dough

If you’re using INSTANT YEAST, use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, you can also use a large bowl and knead with your hands. Put flour, yeast and sugar in the mixer’s bowl and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center, add water and and mix on low speed for 2 minutes, until well incorporated. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the flour from the sides using a spatula and continue to mix. Add oil and salt and knead on low speed (number 2 on a Kitchenaid stand mixer) for 8 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides as needed.
Skip to instruction number 3.

 

If you’re using DRY ACTIVE YEAST you need to proof it first. Put ½ cup warm water, the yeast and a teaspoon of sugar in a glass and stir briefly. Let the mixture sit for 5-10 minutes until it visibly foams.
Use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook, you can also use a large bowl and knead with your hands. Put flour and the rest of the sugar in the mixer’s bowl and mix with a fork. Make a well in the center, add yeast mixture and the rest of the water and mix on low speed for 2 minutes, until well incorporated. Stop the mixer as needed to scrape the flour from the sides using a spatula and continue to mix. Add oil and salt and knead on low speed (number 2 on a Kitchenaid stand mixer) for 8 minutes. Stop the mixer to scrape the sides as needed.

 

  1. Remove bowl from stand mixer. Using a spatula, transfer dough into a lightly greased large bowl, cover in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature, preferably in a warm space (near the oven, for example) until dough almost double in volume, about 1 hour.
  2. For the dried fruit: Mix all dried fruit in a small bowl. Set aside.
  3. Back to the challah. Lightly flour working surface. Divide dough into 3 equal parts and roll them into balls.
  4. Use a lightly dusted rolling pin to roll each dough ball into a 10 Inch long rectangle, with the long side close to you. Spoon a third of the mixed dried fruit at the bottom third of the dough and roll it up to a rope. Repeat with the other 2 dough balls. If the dough seems to shrink when you roll it to rectangle, let it rest for another ten minutes, covered, before you continue.
  5. Roll each rope so that the center is thick and the ends are much thinner.
  6. Arrange the three ropes next to each other and braid. I find that braiding the bottom half first, then flipping and braiding the second half, creates the best looking challah. Make sure you tuck the ends under. (alternatively, braid into any shape challah you prefer.) Transfer to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Tu BiShvat Challah prep

  1. Brush braided challah with olive oil and sprinkle with sugar, poppy seed and sesame seeds. Cover completely with kitchen towel and let stand for 30 minutes.
  2. Turn oven to 350 degrees and bake for 45-50 minutes, until fully baked and golden-brown on top (since the challah is not brushed with egg on top, it is not going to get a very dark color.)
  3. Transfer to a cooling rack and cool completely before serving.

Notes
  1. I highly recommend using SAF Instant yeast (it’s available online and can keep for months in the fridge.) When using instant yeast, you should skip the process of proofing the yeast.
  2. If you’re using active dry yeast, start the recipe by proofing the yeast and continue as usual.
  3. For more photos of this challah and more recipes, visit Vered Guttman’s website. and follow Vered on Instagram.

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