Sunday, April 22, 2012

Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah

I doubly experimented with this week's challah, and I'm so glad I did!  Last summer, Leigh Ann wrote a guest post on blueberry challah.  She got a pretty good result using frozen blueberries but she ultimately decided it wasn't such an amazing bread... pretty good, but not great.
But thing about this challah is? Once you finally, ecstatically, bite into it…it’s really nothing to write home about. It’s still beautiful, even more beautiful than before it was baked. Certainly, there’s nothing WRONG with it. But it’s kind of bland, with not much real character to differentiate it from other challot - a Mary Sue, if you will. (Yes. I even crack myself up.) And that’s why I’m calling this “Bella Cullen Blueberry Challah.”
Not to be deterred (am I ever?), I figured I'd give it another go when I spotted Dried Wild Blueberries at Trader Joe's this past week.  (They're even O-U!)  I also grabbed a bottle of Agave Syrup, wanting to give it a try.  A few friends have suggested to me using it in cereal or oatmeal, though I've never tried it with anything.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
And then I realized I knew nothing about agave other than it's a really good V-word on Words with Friends.  Well, research is my strong suit, so I started with Chef Google and found a few things...
  • Agave nectar is 1.4 to 1.6 times sweeter than sugar. {Source}
  • Agave is commonly used as a Vegan alternative to honey in cooking. {Source}
  • The taste of agave nectar is comparable, though not identical, to honey. {Source}
  • It also has none of the bitter aftertaste associated with artificial sweeteners. {Source}
  • One of the most health-promoting properties of agave nectar is its favorable glycemic profile... The carbohydrate in agave nectar has a low glycemic index, which provides sweetness without the unpleasant "sugar rush" and unhealthful blood sugar spike caused by many other sugars. {Source}
I was pretty much sold at that point. But, I'll be upfront with you... I'm not totally sure I taste a difference. The Hazz detects a texture difference, and I think I can. It's a very smooth challah. But I also masked the taste difference by tweaking my recipe a bit. I'll probably try challah next week with a basic recipe and agave instead of honey... I'll keep you all updated!  Without further ado, Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah!

3/4 c warm but not hot water
2 1/4 tsp active dry or instant yeast
1 1/2 tbsp agave nectar/syrup
2 eggs plus 1 more for egg wash
1/4 c vegetable oil
3 c flour
1 1/4 tsp salt
1 tsp vanilla
1 1/2 tsp brown sugar
Dried Wild Blueberries

I proceeded normally with this challah.  Proof the yeast in the hot water with the agave.  After the yeast is frothy, add the two eggs and oil.  Stir in the flour and salt.

Knead with a dough hook on 2 or by hand until the dough holds together as a ball.  My dough was particularly soft and sticky this week.  Since I have no science skills whatsoever, I can't make any more of a guess than the fact that the agave syrup is runnier than honey.  So, perhaps it made the dough runnier?  Does that mean anything to those of you out there who understand glycemic index?  Long story short, I had to add a lot of extra flour.  Probably close to a half cup.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Cover and place in a covered, oiled bowl.  Let rise until doubled bulk, about 1 1/2 hours. Turn the dough out on a floured work surface.  Add generous handfuls of the dried blueberries and knead gently.  The amount you use is up to you.  I sort of flatten my dough and pour berries over top, then knead.  I try to incorporate throughout but not have too many out the outside of the dough or they singe a little in the oven.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Roll into strands and braid as normally.  Again, add flour if your dough seems sticky.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Let rest for about a half hour.  Egg was with a beaten egg, vanilla, and brown sugar {I take no credit for this idea... Leigh Ann did it in her recipe!}  Bake at 350 for 25-30 minutes, or until internal temperature reaches 180 degrees.  Check regularly to prevent excess browning!
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
So I'm thrilled. I kind of think this challah tastes like blueberry muffins. It's sweet, it's delicate (the agave?) and it's full of anti-oxidant rich blueberries.   I think that this challah is something to write home about... And I'm not such a dried fruit person (see here).  But this is truly a breakfast challah.  One you want to slather with butter or make into French Toast.  Or serve to your guests at Friday night dinner for a major wow factor.  I'm that pleased.
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
After Saturday morning Shabbat services, The Hazz asked me, "Is there any more blueberry challah?" Whoops. I'd eaten the rest. (However, there's another in the freezer just waiting to be devoured!)
Wild Blueberry and Agave Challah
Psst! We redid the photos for our Basic Challah Recipe. Check it out here!


  1. This was so, so yummy! This week we had one blueberry and one plain, and the kiddos gobbled up the blueberry and asked for more ;-) I will definitely make this one again!

  2. Yay, Sarah! So glad the kids loved it. :) We had our second loaf (it was frozen) this past Shabbat, and it was just as good!

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