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This savory Challah variation is based on pashwari naan – an Indian bread that’s filled with nuts and raisins. To those good things I’ve added pistachios, coconuts and a touch of honey. This easily done loaf, partnered with Coconut Ginger Squash Soup (page 61), also makes a wonderful accompaniment to Indian dishes like Cauliflower Paneer Masala (page 120). It’s great as a savory snack, too.
Makes two 1-pound loaves
- ½ teaspoon ground cumin
- ¼ teaspoon turmeric
- ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
- ½ teaspoon fennel seed
- ½ cup chopped shelled unsalted pistachios, skinless sliced almonds or raw cashews
- ½ cup flaked coconut
- ½ cup golden raisins, chopped fine
- ½ teaspoon cumin
- ½ teaspoon ground coriander
- ½ teaspoon kosher salt
- ½ teaspoon fennel seeds, crushed
- 3 tablespoons honey
- 1 large egg
- Prepare the challah as the Classic Challah recipe, up to Step 4*, adding the dough spices to the dry ingredients.
- Bring a kettle of water to a boil. Place the pistachios in a strainer and pour the water over them. Transfer the nuts to a dish towel and roll in the towel to remove their skins.
- Make the filling: In a minifood processor combine the pistachios, coconut, golden raisins, cumin, coriander, salt and fennel, and pulse until finely chopped.
- Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper. Halve the dough and roll into an 18 x 9-inch rectangle, making the dough thinner at the short ends. Sprinkle half of the nut mixture evenly over the dough and drizzle with the honey. Starting with the nearest long side, roll the dough jellyroll-style, apply pressure to the ends to taper them slightly. Wind the dough into a spiral, tucking the outmost end underneath the loaf. Place on the cookie sheet and cover with plastic wrap. Repeat with the remaining halves of dough and nut mixture and transfer to the cookie sheet. Let the dough rise until doubled in bulk, about 2 hours.
- Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Place an empty cookie sheet in the bottom of the oven and allow to heat.
- In a small bowl, combine the egg with 2 tablespoons of water. Brush the risen loaves with the egg wash and place in the oven. Pour about 1 cup of hot water onto the heated cookie sheet to create steam, and immediately close the oven door. Bake until the challah is golden and sounds hollow when tapped, 25 to 35 minutes. Turn out and cool on rack.
* First Four Steps for Classic Challah (page 188)
- In a 1-cup measuring cup, combine the yeast with the 1 tablespoon sugar and 3/4 cup warm (about 105 degrees) water. Stir and let sit until about 1 inch of foam has formed, about 10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, combine the 3 1/2 cups flour, 1/3 cup sugar and salt, and stir on low speed. Make a well in the center of the mixture.
- In a small bowl, combine 2 of the eggs, and the oil, mix, and pour into the well. Expand the well, then pour in the yeast mixture. Mix briefly on low speed to combine. Remove the paddle, insert the dough hook, sprinkle the mixture with 1/4 cup flour, and knead on low speed for 1 minute. If the dough is still sticky, add more flour by 1/4 cups to achieve a soft, unsticky dough. Continue to knead for a total of 5 minutes. Alternatively, to form the dough by hand, put the dry ingredients in a large bowl, make a well in it, fill with the egg and yeast mixtures, and, with clean hands, gradually incorporate the dry ingredients into the wet until thoroughly combined. Add 1/4 cup more of flour and knead, adding more flour as necessary, until the dough is formed. Transfer the dough to a work surface and knead for 5 minutes.
- Oil a medium bowl with canola oil. Form a ball with the dough and place it in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and allow the dough to rise until doubled in bulk, 2 to 3 hours. Punch the dough down, cover, and let the dough rest for 10 minutes. Oil two 8 1/2 x 4 1/2-inch loaf pans.