Maple Raisin Challah

What’s rich and brown, shiny and sleek, and smells like Vermont at sugaring time? The answer is Maple Challah, aka “the end of dieting as we know it”. Once this heady fragrance wafts out of your oven, all good intentions will be put aside and you’ll be a gonner!

I used maple syrup to sweeten the dough, but it doesn’t give enough maple “kick”, so I turned to my trusty Mapleine. Maple flavoring, maple extract, it’s all good! And, in case you’re wondering, I found kosher maple flavoring and refined coconut oil on the internet.

Whether you make a simple three-strand braid or go all out for the six-strand braid, this bread won’t fail to impress; it’s gorgeous even if you try desperately to follow instructions and still come up with a wonky braid!  

Ahem.

I tried a six-strand braid. Several times. I had no trouble with four strands (see my Pumpkin Challah ) but apparently, that was pushing the limit of my braiding skills. I hate videos, but this is one time I probably should have watched a tutorial. In the end, I did the best I could, tucked the less than attractive ends under, and hoped that a good, puffy rise and a lot of egg yolk would cover my worst messes. It wouldn’t pass the test of experienced challah bakers, but it worked for me.

Because I can never get enough maple flavor, I sprinkled the top of one of the loaves with maple sugar which gave a slightly burnt-sugar flavor and made the crust a tiny bit crunchy. I loved it, though it takes away the pretty shine. It’s totally optional, of course, but mmmmmm. Here’s what the sugar-topped loaf looks like next to one with a traditional egg yolk wash:

Left loaf was brushed with yolk wash and sprinkled with maple sugar

Remember that challah dough is rich and will take a little longer to rise than a basic sandwich bread. Make it when you’ll be home all day so you don’t try to rush it. Ninety-minute rise times are to be expected. You don’t have to sit and watch it – just set a timer and go about your business, and before you know it you’ll be tearing off a tender piece of maple goodness.

Maple Raisin Challah
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Makes 1 large loaf or 2 small loaves. Simple braids are very attractive. For more complicated braids, look for online tutorials.
Ingredients
  • ½ cup hot water
  • ½ cup raisins
  • ½ cup pure maple syrup
  • ¾ cup warm water
  • pinch sugar
  • 1 package active dry yeast
  • 2 eggs plus 1 yolk, divided (extra yolk is for glazing bread)
  • ⅓ cup refined coconut oil, melted (or you can use a mild-flavored cooking oil)
  • 1 tablespoon maple flavoring - or to taste
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 teaspoons salt
Instructions
  1. Combine hot water and raisins in a small bowl and let sit for 10-15 minutes to plump raisins. Stir in maple syrup.
  2. In a small bowl or cup combine warm water, sugar, and yeast. Allow it to sit until yeast is foamy.
  3. In a large bowl, (a stand mixer with a dough hook is recommended) combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, the raisin mixture, and the yeast mixture.
  4. Add flour and salt. Mix well. Allow mixer to knead dough for 5-6 minutes. (If mixing by hand, drop dough onto lightly floured surface and knead 7-8 minutes.The Dough should be soft and slightly tacky. If it's too sticky, add a little more flour.
  5. Place dough in a greased bowl. Turn to coat the dough, cover with a dish towel, and allow it to rise until doubled - about 90 minutes.
  6. For one large 3-strand braid, divide dough into 3 equal parts. (For 2 small braids, divide into 6 equal parts.) Braid loosely and tuck ends under. Place on parchment covered baking sheet and cover with a damp cloth. Allow bread to rise until doubled, about 90 minutes.
  7. Heat oven to 350 F.
  8. Whisk egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water. Brush generously over entire challah. Bake for approximately 40 minutes, until bread is deep golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped.
  9. Remove from baking sheet and cool on wire rack.

Hot water, raisins, and maple syrup

Combine eggs, oil, maple flavor, raisin mixture . . .

. . . and the foamy yeast

Put dough in greased bowl and let it rise. It will go from THIS . . .

. . . to THIS. Now comes the fun part – braiding!

Braiding a round challah. I’m not EVEN going to try to explain this. The Internet is your friend, with lots of tutorials.

Brush with egg yolk and sprinkle with maple sugar if desired. The more sugar you add, the crunchier the crust will be.

Bake. Cool on a rack if you have superhuman self-control. Otherwise, rip and tear!

I haven’t tried it (yet), but I’ll bet this recipe would be great for rolls, too. I think I’ll add them to my Thanksgiving plan. And I may try mixing maple syrup with that egg yolk before brushing it on the bread. If you beat me to it, let me know how that works!

Lorinda

 

6 thoughts on “Maple Raisin Challah

  1. I love the idea of maple challah! Well, maple anything! And your loaves look so pretty. But a while ago I bought some Mapleine, and it tasted like metal. Since you are using it, it might just be me, but have you ever run across that yourself?

    I hadn’t heard of maple flavoring and maple extract before you mentioned them in this post. Are they artificial? Now I’m afraid to try artificial maple flavor of any kind, though a maple oomph in addition to syrup is sometimes needed in cooking, so I don’t know what else to do.

    • It tasted like metal? What did you use it in? Aaack. There are some interesting maple extracts on Amazon. Some are natural and organic. I want to try the Frontier Co-op Maple flavor. I’ve tried a couple and nothing had the maple flavor of Mapleine for me. But maybe it’s like cilantro – some people love it, some think it tastes like soap.
      Maple sugar is wonderful too. Maybe it could be used in place of the syrup (with a little added liquid).

      • Thanks, you gave me some things to think about. I can’t remember what I used the Mapleine in, but it was an awful experience.

        I’ve used maple sugar but get so addicted I can’t stop using it, so have decided to set it aside for a while! I’ll check out those maple alternatives you suggest.

        Meanwhile, bake on!

        • You’ve inspired me (maybe after the first of the year) to have a maple flavoring comparison test, trying six or seven top rated brands mixed in buttercream icing. Sounds interesting!

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