Friday, March 11, 2011

Almost Heaven - Challah Stuffed with Ricotta and Chestnuts

I have to admit that I hadn't thought of stuffing challah bread before. Of course, I know about stuffed breads, and have even tried my hand at it a few times. Still... challah is already so rich. It really is a kind of brioche but with less eggs and butter. My challah recipe is famous, at least in the extended family, and so the idea of stuffing it was a bit intimidating. The idea originated with an article I read in Al Hashulchan, an Israeli food monthly I subscribe to. This latest issue is their annual baking special and it features a recipe for stuffed breads.

Now, honestly, I've never baked with chestnuts before so it was a bit of a learning experience. Also, I used homemade cottage cheese using a recipe my cousin Morey Altman taught me a while ago.

This is a recipe for patient people who like a rich bread surrounding an even richer interior. It takes time. Period. But believe me, it is worth the wait. Best eaten warm, it has good keeping qualities. That means you can slice a piece tomorrow and toast it!! Eat it plain (as if this is plain bread) or covered in butter, incredible!

Here's What You'll Need: (for a single loaf)
2 cups AP flour
1/3 cup (about 50g) rye flour
1 egg
1/8 cup (about 30g) demerara sugar
1/2 Tbs. lemon zest
1/2 Tbs. yeast
1 1/4 cup (185ml) warm water
6 Tbs. (about 100g) butter or margarine, softened
a little less than 1/2 Tbs. salt

for the filling:
about 350g (12oz) fresh chestnuts
200g (a little less than 7oz) ricotta cheese

Here's What You'll Need to Do:
1. Mix all the dough ingredients together, then remove to a lightly floured surface and knead vigorously, for 10 to 12 minutes to form a smooth, soft,slightly tacky dough. Place this dough in a lightly-oiled bowl, turn to coat, then cover and let it rise until doubled, about 1 1/2 hours.

2. In the meantime, cut an 'X' in the bottom of each chestnut. Place them in a pot of boiling water and cook over low heat until they peel easily. This could take 45 minutes. Peel the chestnuts then chop coarsely. Chill the chopped nuts until ready to use.

3. Mix the nuts with the other ingredients for the filling.

4. Divide the dough into 3 pieces. Flatten each piece into a rough rectangle. Then place about 1/3 of the filling on each piece, in the middle. Close the dough around the filling, pinch to close the dough then roll to seal the filling inside. Finally, braid the 3 pieces of filled dough into a challah shape.

5. Place the shaped, filled bread into a prepared loaf pan. Cover, and place in a warm place until is rises to just slightly higher than the rim of the pan.

6. Bake for 45 minutes in an oven heated to 350F (180C) or to 300F (150C) in a convection oven. Cool on a rack completely before slicing.

7. Pass the butter!


  1. After this delicious & wonderful recip you may be called King David. :-)

  2. It is truly a wonderful bread, Guaranteed I will make it again! Thanks.

  3. Dry ingredients should be sifted together and added at the lowest speed. Dry should be added alternatively with wet with dry being the first and last to be added.

    Bakery Equipment

  4. If you are using instant yeast, then you can safely mix everything together at slow speed, adding the salt last after everything else is incorporated. Only after you have a rough dough should you increase the speed to develop the gluten for smoothness and, of course, strength and structure. Adding alternate dry and wet ensures even mixing at the beginning, but if you knead vigorously for say 10 minutes, is not strictly necessary.