Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

This Salted Spiced Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah is loaded with fluffy, sourdough pockets of gooey, salted caramel apples.  I think it’s one of my favorite challah creations ever!

Remember back in ’09 I told you all about Herbie, my then almost 2-year-old sourdough starter made using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method?

Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

Remember how I told you I was going to introduce him to all of you once my knee was better, and I could start standing to knead some really amazing sourdough breads?

Well, that day never came because I was a bad mama.  Once my knee healed, and I was out and about on two legs, I kind of forgot about him in the back of the refrigerator. When I remembered, it was probably three months since his last feeding.  I tried to revive him, but there was mold, and the small amounts I took out, minus the mold, and fed..eagerly waiting for him to blow his first bubble of life, had already been given its last rites. Plus, he smelled rank; a smell that was clearly sourdough starter rigor mortis. It just wasn’t going to happen.

I bid Herbie a sad adieu as I poured his thick liquid soul into the trash can.

Of course I later found out that he could have been saved by taking a tablespoon of him from the very center (his –sniff– heart), and giving him mad defibrillation with flour, sugar and water.  Just one tablespoon and Herbie would still be here. UPDATE: you know how we all backup our computer files? Well, I wish I had known about THIS.

I could have had a bunch of Herbie ‘backups’.

Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

Batter like sourdough starter aka Herbie II

Oh use crying over dead sourdough starter.  He gave me the best breads of his wild yeasty life, and I could eventually reincarnate him someday.  Well, that day has come, and may I introduce you to Herbie II? About 1 month ago, I decided to do it once again using Nancy Silverton’s grape starter method (recipe below).  There was no way any commercial yeast will ever step granule or cake in any sourdough starter I make.

Capturing wild yeast from everything around us, the air, atmosphere, our kitchens, etc, is the most amazing thing to watch develop, almost like gestating a baby, although not as wondrous and exciting (obviously) because this baby is not one you can cuddle and love and well, be human with.  But you can watch it grow stronger and stronger, giving you the most complex, wonderful tasting breads, all with a lovely crumb and crust.

Firm sourdough starter

My weird intuition struck again…

Our Daring Bakers Host for December 2011 was Jessica of My Recipe Project and she showed us how fun it is to create sourdough bread in our own kitchens! She provided us with sourdough recipes from Bread Matters by Andrew Whitley as well as delicious recipes to use our sourdough bread in from Tonia George’s Things on Toast and Canteen: Great British Food!

Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough ChallahYikes, I overfilled each strand, so it was hard to braid.  Next time, less is more.

So, I had already started gestating Herbie II, and one week later, it’s announced as the Daring Bakers challenge.  Although I loved that the challenge recipe for starter was all about capturing wild yeast, I’d already fermented enough grapes to capture Herbie II’s wild yeast, so there was no sense in starting another one.  I’m not a multi-starter type baker; one is enough, and from that one I can make all kinds of starters for a variety of breads, and whatever is left over from those, is given away or used to the last drop.  You will never see half-filled jars all over my kitchen or in my fridge labeled rye starter, oat starter, potato starter etc, unless they can be used up at once.

Don’t get me wrong, I think it’s cool that people do that, but if I could kill one starter with neglect, could you imagine the massacre of one plus?

Yes, as I’ve said before on this blog, I have the potential to be a sourdough serial killer. GASP.

Salted caramel apples for Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

So I needed to bake a bunch of challah braids for Hanukkah.  I’d wanted to try Maggie Glazer’s recipe for sourdough challah for a long time, so I figured this would be a great time to do it.  I had already planned on filling one of my traditional challahs with a homemade salted caramel with apples, which I haven’t been able to get out of my mind for months now, so why not sourdough challah with salted, spiced caramel apples? Tangy, sweet, salty. YES.

Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

Maggie Glazer’s sourdough challah recipe calls for a firm starter to produce another firm starter for the sourdough challah.  Fortunately, Maggie has directions on how to convert a batter like starter into a firm starter.  I needed to take a tablespoon of Herbie and mix it with some water (I only use bottled in sourdough starters; no real reason why.) and bread flour until I had a dough that could be kneaded.

I surveyed Herbie’s young, unused, not yet powerful baby bubbles, and hoped for the best.

The next morning, as you can see in the above ‘firm starter’ photo, I had a risen mass of thick, bubbly, ‘cracked window’ dough.  Success! Looks like the original Herbie’s super strength had been passed on to his younger replacement.  I proceeded on with the recipe, letting one more starter go to town – ending up with a lovely, silky dough.  It smelled wonderful too, like most wild yeast dough.

I finally had to stop sniffing it or else it would never rise, much less make it to the oven!

While the sourdough challah dough was doing its thing, I made the caramel, chopped up some apples, added some spice and sea salt, then stirred the salted, spiced apples into the hot caramel.  I think I will always keep a jar of this on hand because I’m in love.  I desperately wanted to start eating it right out of the jar I put it in for not only storage, but for the photo above.  Fortunately I refrained.

Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

If you don’t want to make a sourdough challah, traditional challah or any doughy vessel to place some of these glorious salted caramel apples in, I beg you to at least make the salted caramel apples.  I’ve already had it over ice cream and straight out of the jar, but no double dipping, honest!  It’’s…just amazing – so amazing that I can’t even put it into words.

SO, like my Unique Twist on Challah back in ’09. in which I made a 6-strand braid challah, each strand filled with grated chocolate, raisins and cinnamon sugar, I set out to reproduce something similar with the salted, spiced caramel apple filling.  This time I was only doing a 4-strand braid because I wanted thick ribbons and pockets of the salted caramel apples throughout the sourdough challah.  This is where I made my first mistake. This filling is wet, so a small amount should be used for each strand to prevent any seepage and trouble braiding.

I used 1/4 cup for each strand.

Bad idea.

I couldn’t roll the sealed strands to the 16 to 18-inches in length I wanted it to be for braiding, and the braiding was difficult, heavy, replete with several tears in between.  I ended up with a very sloppy, lopsided, wide braid.  Normally, this wouldn’t bother me, but I was presenting it to guests, and all of you.

Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

Dark circles under the eyes? Concealer.  Lopsided, fat, lumpy sourdough challah braid? Sesame seeds.

Next time I’ll only use 2 tablespoons of filling per strand..IF it’s for guests.  If not, who cares about lopsided, lumpy braids? It was delicious, and thanks to the wonderful Herbie II, it rose like Mary Poppin’s umbrella with a turbo engine in each spoke, not to mention the beautiful oven-spring, and just look at that crumb! I love how the gooey part of the salted caramel melts into its bready pocket while the spiced, caramel apples kind of hang out, dropping into your hand occasionally when you bite into a slice.

You love challah french toast? Wait until you try salted caramel apple sourdough challah french toast (hopefully, a photo coming soon, if the few slices left are not eaten before this can happen).  The sourdough has kept this challah silky soft and moist for 2 days now, so it’s not looking good! In fact, I’m already eyeing the remaining slices lustily.

Update, 15 minutes later: There will be no salted caramel apple sourdough challah french toast on this blog anytime soon.  I caved.

Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah

For the challenge sourdough starter recipe, and some great breads to make with it, click HERE.

I’m submitting my Salted Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah to Yeastspotting, a weekly bread baking showcase hosted by the incredibly talented Susan of Wild Yeast.

I’m also submitting it to Bread Baking Day #45, hosted by Cindy of Cindystar.

The GIVEAWAY winner of the six jars of Bonne Maman preserves and the $25.00 gift certificate to use at is Katrina of Baking with Boys, who was #38!  Congrats Katrina!  Will send you an email to get your info ASAP!

Homemade Herbie (Grape Sourdough Starter)
Prep time: 
Total time: 
Yield: 2 cups
Recipe 100% from Nancy Silverton
  • 2 cups bread flour
  • 2 1⁄2 cups non-chlorinated water
  • 1⁄2 lb red grapes, unwashed organic stemmed
  1. Wrap the grapes in clean, washed cheesecloth, tying the corners to form a bag, then lightly crush them with a rolling pin or wine bottle (this is to release the sugar so it mixes with the natural yeast on the skins; akin to making wine.) and place them in the flour water mix, completely covering them fully. Cover tightly with a lid or plastic wrap secured with a rubber band. Leave at room temperature for six days, stirring once or twice a day for those six days.
  2. The bag of grapes will eventually look inflated, and the liquid will begin to separate from the flour base. The mixture will begin to taste and smell slightly fruity, and the color will be strange. This is how it should be. By the sixth day the bag of grapes will be yellow and deflated, and the taste pleasingly sour; this means that the fermentation is complete. The starter is now alive, but it's weak and needs to be fed, or else you'll lose it.
  3. Remove the bag of grapes and squeeze the grape juices back into the starter. Stir it thoroughly until all the juices from the grapes are fully incorporated, then transfer it to a clean container. (You can now use it after just one feeding, but the starter will be stronger and healthier with the full process) You may refrigerate it until you're ready to proceed.
  4. Three days before you plan to use it, stir 1 cup flour and 1 cup water into the container, incorporating it well. Let sit uncovered at room temperature until it bubbles, about 3 to 4 hours, then cover and refrigerate it. Repeat this process on the second and third day.
  5. Store the starter tightly covered in the refrigerator where it will keep perfectly for 4 to 6 months, after which you should pour off all but 2 cups of the starter and give it another feeding. However, before using the starter for bread, give it a full 3-day feeding schedule again to restore it and tone down any excess sour flavor..

Converting Batter Starter into a Firm Starter
Yield: ⅔ cup of firm starter: enough to leaven about 7 cups of flour
100% from Maggie Glezer
A firm starter is usually used for a single bread recipe, not kept and fed like a batter starter. However, you can keep and feed it, although it involves kneading and such.
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.0 ounce) very active batter starter
  • 2 tablespoons (30 grams/1.0 ounce) water
  • ⅔ cup (100 grams/3.2 ounces) bread flour
  1. In a bowl, mix the batter starter with the water, then stir in the bread flour. Mix this the dough until smooth and uniform, adjusting the consistency with small amounts of flour or water to make a stiff but easily kneaded starter. Let it ferment in a sealed container for 8 to 12 hours, or until it is fully risen and starting to deflate. If the starter has not quadrupled in volume in 8 hours or less, continue to refresh it flour and water until it's very active and fully rises.

Salted Spiced Caramel Apple Sourdough Challah
Prep time: 
Cook time: 
Total time: 
Yield: a little over 1 lb loaf of challah
Add to prep time the time it will take to bring your sourdough starter to life and the time to prepare Maggie Glezer's or your favorite challah recipe, including the first rise.
Salted Caramel Apple Filling
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ cup water
  • 4 tablespoons butter
  • ½ cup heavy cream
  • 1¼ teaspoons sea salt
  • 3 medium apples, peeled, cored and cubed
  • 1 teaspoon cinnamon
  • ⅛ teaspoon grated nutmeg
  • ⅛ teaspoon ground ginger
  • 1 tablespoon flour
  • Squeeze of lemon juice
  1. First make the sourdough challah recipe linked above, or your favorite challah recipe, While dough is rising, make the salted, caramel apples.
  2. In a bowl, Combine the chopped apples with the cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon juice and flour. Set aside.
  3. Pour the water around and over the sugar in a heavy-bottomed saucepan. Cover and cook over medium heat until the sugar dissolves (I prefer this over the brushing the sugar off the sides with a wet pastry brush).
  4. When the sugar dissolves, turn to high heat, and boil uncovered until the sugar turns a medium brown, about 5 to 7 minutes. Watch it carefully at the end, as it will go from caramel to burnt very quickly. Stand back to avoid splattering, and gradually add the cream and the butter - it will bubble vigorously. Simmer and stir with a wooden spoon until the sauce is smooth and thick, about 2 minutes. Stir in the sea salt.
  5. Take pot off heat, let sit about 3 minutes, then stir in the chopped, spiced apples while caramel is still very hot. Let cool to room temperature. If not using immediately, refrigerate in an airtight jar or container.
  6. You will not use all of the salted caramel apples for the challah or challahs (if making two), so enjoy it over ice cream, pound cake, as a homemade doughnut filling,, cake filling etc. The ideas are endless! Then again, I just eat it right out of the jar or bowl. I'm a simple gal. I think.
Fill, Braid, and Bake Challah
  1. Divide dough into 4 equal pieces. I used a scale for this. Take one piece (covering the other three pieces with plastic wrap) and roll into a flat, oblong 12-inch disk. Spoon two tablespoons of the salted caramel apple filling down the length of the disk, as shown in photos above.
  2. Cover filling with both sides of dough, pimching to seal and making sure none of the filling gets into your won't seal if that happens. Gently roll and taper the ends, to about 16 to 18-inches in length. Cover and repeat with remaining three pieces of dough. Once you have all 4 filled strands, pinch them together at the top and braid using this 4-strand weaving method. In a bowl or cup, beat one egg until uniform - this will be your egg wash.
  3. Place loaf on a parchment lined pan and brush with egg wash (I don't use all of the white in the egg. I let some spill out into a cup so my egg wash is more yolk than white - this gives it that nice burnished look)). Brush loaf all over and let rise until doubled in size - about an hour. Preheat oven to 350 F.
  4. Once risen, brush again with remaining egg wash, getting into all the crevices that opened during the rise. Sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, or nothing at all - your choice. Place in the preheated oven and bake for about 35-45 minutes. Let cool a few minutes, then carefully lift off of pan, and place on a wire rack to cool fully.
* You can use any challah or bread recipe you like. It doesn't have to be sourdough.

How to create a sourdough starter by capturing wild yeast from the air via fruit, and how to turn part of that starter into a firm sourdough starter for bread recipes that call for it. This sourdough starter will be your new pet because it's alive! #sourdoughstarter #sourdough #bread #firmsourdoughstarter #battersourdough
Salted Caramel Apple Stuffed Challah. Big, gooey pockets of salted caramel apples dispersed throughout the challah, and it makes the best French Toast ever! #saltedcaramelapplechallah #applechallah #challah #sourdoughchallah #sourdough

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