Rosh Hashanah Recipe: Sweet & Savory Challah Poppers

Guest Post from Paula Shoyer of The Kosher Baker

Have you noticed that challahs reinvent themselves each year for the Jewish New Year? All year long, we shape our challahs into beautiful braids. On Rosh Hashanah, our challahs are round to symbolize the cycle of the year. Just like our challahs, the new year is a time when we too can consider how to transform ourselves in a positive way during the coming year.

This recipe makes two traditional-sized round challahs for your holiday table and uses the remaining dough to turn challah into "challah poppers," mini roundish snacks, that will appeal to adults and kids alike. They are a great nosh before the big holiday meal.

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Another Rosh Hashanah tradition is to dip our challah in honey to express our wish for a sweet new year. On this holiday, I add more sugar to my challah dough and gravitate towards sweeter toppings for the top.

I give you three options to top your poppers: seeds, cinnamon sugar and powdered sugar, and if you have any cinnamon sugar left over, sprinkle it on your strands of dough for the larger round challahs for an extra sweet new year. Let us know if you come up with any other fun ways to top your poppers.

• For yet another great challah option, learn how to turn challah dough into pita pockets: Challah Pita at The Kosher Baker

Here are a couple more posts on The Kitchn featuring Paula's work:

Passover Recipe: Sweet and Crunchy Quinoa Salad
Rosh Hashanah Desserts from The Kosher Baker

And finally, if you're looking for more kosher baking recipes, check out her book!

The Kosher Baker: Over 160 Dairy-free Recipes from Traditional to Trendy, $23.10 at Amazon

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Challah Poppers
makes 2 medium round challahs plus 40 to 50 poppers

1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil, plus one teaspoon for bowl
1 tablespoon salt
3/4 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
2 packages dry yeast (1/2 ounce)
1/3 cup warm water
3 large eggs, plus one yolk
7 cups bread flour

Dissolve the yeast in 1/3 cup warm water and mix in a teaspoon of sugar and let sit until thick and foamy. Pour the oil, salt and sugar into a large bowl. Mix with a whisk. Add 1 cup boiling water and whisk again to dissolve the sugar and salt. Add 1/2 cup cold water and mix again.

Beat the eggs and yolk in a separate, small bowl and add to the oil mixture, reserving 1 tablespoon to brush on top of the loaves. Add the yeast mixture and stir. One cup at a time, add six cups of the flour and mix well after each addition. Place dough on a floured surface and add the last cup of flour, 1/4 cup at a time, and knead the flour in until smooth and no longer sticky. You may not use up all of the flour, just knead until you can slide your hand across the dough without it sticking. Place the teaspoon of oil in the bowl and use your hand to rub around. Return the dough to the bowl, rub your oiled hand on top of the dough, and cover with plastic or a damp towel. Let rise one hour.

Preheat the oven to 375°F. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper for the poppers and a third for the round challahs. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Set aside two pieces for your large, round challahs, and shape and rise as described below.

For the poppers:
To make about four dozen poppers, divide the third piece of dough into two pieces. You can shape them two different ways:

• To make nugget-shaped poppers, use your hands to roll each piece into a long strand, about 1-inch wide and 18 inches long. Use a knife to cut off 1-inch pieces. Place on prepared cookie sheet.

• To make round poppers, after you roll out the strands as described about, break off 1 to 1 1/2 -inch pieces and roll into small balls. I do this by cupping my hand around the dough, letting your fingers touch the counter, and move your hand in circles until the dough piece is round and smooth. Repeat for the other pieces of dough.

You can flavor them several ways, but it is most fun to make several different flavors. Mix two teaspoons of water into the reserved egg.

Seeds: Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle sesame, poppy, anise, cumin seeds or any other combination on top. One tablespoon of seeds is enough for 20 poppers.

Cinnamon sugar: Combine 1/3 cup sugar with 2 teaspoons cinnamon sugar and roll all sides of the dough in the sugar and then place back on cookie sheet. This amount is enough for 50 poppers.

Confectioner's sugar: Brush tops of poppers with egg wash and bake. After slightly cooled, use a sieve to dust the top with powdered sugar. About 1/4 cup powdered sugar is enough for 2 dozen poppers.

Bake the poppers for 12 to 15 minutes, or until browned on the bottom, but lightly colored on the tops.

For the medium challahs:
To make the medium round challahs, one at a time, roll the remaining two large pieces of dough into a very long strand, at least 3-feet long. Use one hand to hold one end of the strand, which will become the center, and, with your other hand, wrap the other end around the center to form a coil, pulling so that you can wrap tightly. Tuck the end into the side of the round loaf.

Let rise 45 minutes. Brush the top and sides with the egg mixed with a little water and sprinkle seeds or any remaining cinnamon sugar on top. Bake on a low oven rack for 35 - 40 minutes or until golden.

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Paula Shoyer, who has appeared on The Kitchn before, is the author of The Kosher Baker: 160 dairy-free desserts from traditional to trendy. She teaches baking classes in the Washington, D.C. area and all around the United States, with a focus on baking for people with special diets. She will appear on the new Food Network show, Sweet Genius, on October 27, 2011 at 10 pm.

Visit Paula's websites:
Paula's Pastry & The Kosher Baker

(Images: Paula Shoyer)

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