Spinach- and ricotta-stuffed challah
1 hour, 20 minutes, plus rising time for the dough
Makes 2 loaves, 8 to 10 slices each
Spinach and ricotta filling
2 (10-ounce) packages frozen chopped or leaf spinach, defrosted
1 1/2 teaspoons oregano
1/2 teaspoon thyme
1/2 cup chopped fresh basil leaves, from about 20 leaves
3 to 4 garlic cloves, pressed
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted in a dry frying pan
2 cups ricotta cheese
1/4 cup cornmeal or flour
Salt and freshly ground black pepper
1. Drain the spinach well,
squeezing out any excess liquid. If using leaf spinach, coarsely chop it. You should have 2 cups of drained spinach, packed.
2. In a medium bowl,
combine the spinach with the oregano, thyme, basil, garlic, pine nuts, ricotta and cornmeal. Season with a scant half teaspoon of salt and one-fourth teaspoon of pepper. Taste, and adjust the seasoning as desired. Cover and refrigerate the filling until needed.
Challah and assembly
2 eggs, plus 1 beaten egg for brushing the loaves, divided
2 tablespoons sugar
1/4 cup oil
Heaping teaspoon salt
3/4 cup warm water
2 cups (8½ ounces) unbleached all-purpose flour
1/2 cup (2¼ ounces) whole wheat or whole spelt flour
2 teaspoons active-dry yeast
Sesame seeds, for garnish
1. In a small bowl,
whisk together the 2 eggs, sugar, oil, salt and water.
2. In a large bowl,
whisk together the all-purpose and wheat flours along with the yeast. Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients, and pour in the wet ingredients. Mix together with a wooden spoon until the dough is uniform but still somewhat sticky.
3. Transfer the dough
to a lightly floured board and knead until it is smooth and soft, and when you poke the dough with your finger the hole springs back immediately, about 5 minutes.
4. Place the dough
in an oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel or plastic wrap. Set aside until doubled, about 1 hour.
5. Heat the oven
to 350 degrees. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and remove the filling from the refrigerator.
6. Divide the dough
in half, and place each half on a baking sheet (if the dough is sticky, flour it lightly). Stretch each half on the diagonal of the baking sheet into an oval measuring roughly 16½ inches long by 8 inches wide. Use your fingers to pat and stretch the dough, or a small rolling pin if desired.
7. Place half of the filling
in a strip down the center of each oval, packing the filling tightly so the strip is no more than 2½ inches wide, and leaving a little space at the top and bottom of the dough to fold it over the filling.
8. Use a sharp knife,
scissors or a pizza cutter to cut strips 1½ inches wide down the side of the dough on the diagonal, like a feather. Fold the top of the dough over the top of the filling, tucking the edges under.
9. Braid the challah:
Overlap 1 strip from each side over the other side and the filling, pinching the tips of the strips down where they land. The filling will show through. When you get to the bottom, fold the bottom of the dough over the bottom of the filling and tuck the edges under.
10. Brush the loaves
with beaten egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds Bake until the challot are puffed and nicely brown, about 30 minutes. Serve the challot warm or at room temperature. The challot may be prepared up to 1 day in advance, refrigerated and reheated before serving.
Each of 20 slices: