I started to love marzipan only in recent years. Up until a few years ago, it was an ingredient that I really did not like (to say the least), and with few exceptions (and only because I was asked) I didn’t use it in my cakes and sweets. I simply couldn’t understand how almonds – an ingredient I truly love – could become something I really disliked, which always amazed me every time.
Despite the last paragraph, I changed my attitude to marzipan about two years ago and started to like it. A lot. Mozart balls became one of my top favorite treats in the whole world, chocolate filled with marzipan conquered my heart, and the famous marzipan challah of Breads Bakery in NYC has become one of my addictions.
You could say that now marzipan is definitely one of my favorite ingredients, and the truth is that I am only looking for excuses to make sweets with marzipan, because despite my great love for it, many of my friends and family are still not among the great marzipan lovers.
I have the wonderful Breaking Breads book by Uri Scheft ever since it was published. This is a great baking book with lots of excellent recipes for bread and pastries that you can make at home easily, along with many home baking tips. I knew that the recipe for marzipan challah was in the book, and when I had a pretty large marzipan piece a few months ago I saw its future in the shape of this beautiful marzipan loaf of bread.
The result was simply wonderful – a soft, fragrant, sweet challah and one of the most delicious pastries that came out of my oven. Since then, I had prepared the challah a few more times, and every time I couldn’t believe how great the result was. If you like marzipan – you really have to try it yourself.
The recipe is based on a recipe from Breaking Breads with my changes and adjustments.
For the dough:
- 800 grams (5 3/4 cups) all-purpose flour
- 10 grams (1 tbsp.) active dry yeast
- 50 grams (1/4 cup) sugar
- 50 grams (4 tbsp.) soft butter
- 240 ml. (1 cup) milk
- 45 ml. (3 tbsp.) water
- 2 large eggs
- 15 grams (1 tbsp.) salt
For marzipan filling:
- 300 grams raw marzipan
- 200 grams (1 cup) sugar
- 200 grams (1 3/4 stick) soft butter
- 40 grams (4 tbsp.) all-purpose flour
For coating and decoration:
- 1 beaten egg
- Coarsely chopped almonds
- Dough: in a large mixer bowl with a kneading attachment place flour, yeast, sugar, butter, milk, water, eggs and salt, and knead for about 10 minutes at a medium-low speed until uniform, flexible and smooth dough is obtained.
- Transfer the dough to a greased bowl, cover and allow rising for 1-2 hours or until it nearly doubles its volume.
- Marzipan filling: in a mixer bowl with paddle attachment place marzipan, sugar and butter and blend at medium-high speed until you get a uniform creamy mixture.
- Add flour and continue to mix until soft dough is formed.
- Cover the marzipan dough and cool in the refrigerator for 1-2 hours until it stabilizes.
- Divide the marzipan dough into 9 equal parts and roll each part into a thin strip about 20 cm long. Keep refrigerated until use.
- Prepare the challahs: divide the dough into 3 equal pieces, and divide each piece of dough into 3 equal strips.
- Shape each strip on a lightly floured work surface into a rectangle of 5 cm wide and 25 cm long and place a marzipan strip in the middle. Close the edges of the dough on the marzipan so that a strip of dough is filled with marzipan.
- Lightly roll the stuffed strip and repeat with the rest of the straps of dough and marzipan.
- Braid each of 3 strips into a challah.
- Place the braided challahs on baking pans lined with baking papers.
- Cover and allow rising for 40-60 minutes or until the challahs almost double their volume.
- Brush the challahs with beaten egg and sprinkle generously with almonds.
- Heat the oven to 200c degrees.
- Bake the challahs for 25-30 minutes or until they get a deep golden color and are stable to the touch.
- Cool on a rack and serve.
- The challahs are at their best on the day of baking, but can be frozen for up to a month, well wrapped. It is recommended to serve it warm.
- It is important to use high-quality marzipan (with a high percentage of almonds) to get a tasty result.
- Instead of broken almonds, you can decorate the challahs with any other type of nuts you like.