Nothing says Autumn like pumpkin. And I happen to have some extra pumpkin purée in my fridge. How better to use it than in a pumpkin challah!
I should share why I had pumpkin purée hanging around. Earlier in the week, Cam and I made pumpkin cupcakes…pumpkin skeleton cupcakes.
They were our adorable skeleton army.
But, back to the challah…As part of my Challah Challenge, I bought the book “A Blessing of Bread” by Maggie Glezer. What a cool book! 18 different Challahs plus dozens of other traditional Jewish breads from around the world. This fantastic recipe happens to be Pan de Calabaza (a Sephardic Pumpkin Bread). In addition to the bread recipes, she includes instructions for a great number of different braids and shapes for the challah. This time I tried both the low and high versions of a 4-strand loaf.
We decided we liked the low version best – the one on the bottom of the picture.
Challah de Calabaza
very slightly adapted from A Blessing of Bread by Maggie Glezer
1/2 cup pumpkin puree, fresh or canned
2 1/4 tsp instant yeast
1/2-3/4 ground cinnamon, or to your taste
few grates fresh nutmeg (this stuff is strong!)
about 3 3/4 cups bread flour (I used 1/2 all-purpose flour and 1/2 high-gluten flour)
2/3 cup warm water
1/3 cup sugar
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1 large egg, plus one for glazing (from Highland Orchards)
Sesame seed for sprinkling
Make a yeast slurry – In a large bowl, whisk yeast, cardamom, ginger and 2/3 cup of flour. Add the warm water and whisk until smooth.
Let stand uncovered for 20-30 minutes till it starts to puff and the yeast is active. Whisk the sugar, salt, oil 1 egg, and pumpkin into the yeast slurry until well combined.
Add the remaining flour all at once. Use a wooden spoon to mix it together until it forms a shaggy mass. Put the dough on your work surface and knead until it is well-mixed and fairly smooth. Place it in a warm, oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap.
Let ferment for 2 hours, or do as I do and stick it in the fridge overnight – it should triple in size. Take it out in the morning about 1/2 hour before you are going to work with it.
Shape the loaves – Punch down the dough, knead it a bit more, and cut it into two equal pieces and braid as you would like (see above, I did 2 different 4-strand loaves). Place on a parchment lined baking sheet, cover with plastic wrap and let rise for about 1 1/2 hours. During the last 1/2 hour of rising, heat the oven to 350F.
Beat remaining egg with a little salt and brush on the loaves. Sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake for 35 – 40 minutes, until well-browned. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!
Makes 2 1-lb loaves.