We’ve taken the munchkin to an apple orchard every Autumn since he was born and in many ways this simple task – picking apples – shows the passage of time. From that first visit when he didn’t even know what an apple was, to last year when he insisted on picking his own, to this year when he wanted his daddy to lift him high into the treetops. His personality gets bigger every year and you know what? They grow up too fast.
This year we went apple picking at Shelburne Orchards and the munchkin’s enthusiasm was so infectious that we ended up picking almost 40lbs of apples in less than an hour. 40lbs! And the munchkin wants to go apple picking again this weekend.
Now I normally don’t use 40lbs of apples in one week but between batches of apple butter (made in the slow cooker!), applesauce (freezing it for Hanukkah!) and a host of baked goodies, I’m making progress. We may grow tired of apples by the time winter rolls around, but for now we’re reveling in an abundance apples picked with our own hands.
One of my favorite apple-infused treats this week was an Apple Harvest Bread that looks fancy but is incredibly easy to put together. Even better? It’s delicious. I made the loaf you see above/below for a Rosh HaShanah dinner we were invited to last night and the entire thing disappeared in less than 10 minutes. (Some of the teens drizzled their slices with honey to boot – genius.)
Spiced with cinnamon and covered with diced apples, this bread pulls apart monkey-bread-style. The dough is based upon my recipe for Honey-Vanilla Challah, which I modified by using agave nectar instead of sugar/honey and water instead of milk (to make the bread parve). After the first rise I rolled the dough out, filled it with sugared apples, then assembled the bread according the instructions found here. The process was a bit messy, but it was also very forgiving and produced an impressive looking loaf that was almost too pretty to eat. (Almost!)
Want to give it a try? I know you do. :)
Apple Harvest Bread
Ingredients: Makes 1 Loaf
For the dough:
- 1/2 tablespoon active dry yeast
- 1 cup of warm water
- 1/4 cups agave nectar
- 1 teaspoon salt
- 2 eggs + 1 for the glaze
- 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
- 4 tablespoons of olive oil + 1 teaspoon for greasing the bowl and another for the glaze
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
For the filling:
- 2 medium-to-large apples, NOT peeled; cored and diced in ¾” chunks
- 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
- 1/3 cup granulated sugar
In a large bowl or in the bowl of a stand mixer, combine the yeast and warm water. Let it rest for about 4-5 minutes so the yeast has time to proof.
Add the agave, salt, 2 eggs, vanilla and 4 tablespoons of olive oil. Add 1 cup of flour, then mix with a wooden spoon or with the paddle attachment until the mixture is smooth.
Add the remaining flour, 1/2 cup at a time. Continue mixing the dough until it is too stiff to stir, then turn out onto a lightly floured surface if working by hand. Knead until soft and springy, about 4 minutes. If using a stand mixer, switch to the dough hook and knead about 3 minutes until soft and springy. If the dough is sticky, dust with flour 1 tablespoon at a time – just enough to prevent it from sticking. The dough is done when it’s smooth and small air bubbles show under the skin. If you press your thumb into it the impression should bounce back. This is a slightly firm dough.
Place the dough in a deep container greased with 1 tsp of olive oil. Turn the dough once to coat the top and cover with plastic wrap. Allow it to rise at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or lightly grease it with non-stick spray. Gently deflate the dough by pressing your fingers into it, then turn it out onto a lightly floured surface.
To assemble the bread:
Grease a spring-form pan with baking spray and set aside. In a medium bowl, toss the diced apple with the cinnamon and sugar.
After the first rise is complete, roll out the dough and assemble according to the instructions found on the King Arthur Flour website here. (See Step 5). Let the assembled bread rise until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.
About 20 minutes before the second rise is over, preheat your oven to 325 degrees F.
To bake the bread:
Whisk together 1 egg and 1 teaspoon of water, this is going to be the glaze for your bread. Gently brush the dough with a thick layer of it.
Place the dough in the oven and bake for 55 minutes to 1 hour 10 minutes, or until the bread is a deep golden brown and cooked in the middle. If the bread browns too quickly, tent with aluminum foil. I tested the bread for doneness by inserting a small knife into the center of the bread and checking to see if the dough was baked through. The small, resulting hole was easily concealed with a stray diced apple from the bread topping. ;)
Transfer to a baking rack to cool, at least 20 minutes. Run a butter knife around the edges of the bread then either remove the spring-form sides or invert onto a large plate. Place another plate on the bottom of the bread and invert once more to have a right-side up loaf.
TIP: Place a cookie sheet lined with aluminum foil on the oven rack below your bread to catch any apple juice/sugar drippings if they escape from the pan.