If you’re anything like me, you’re likely having Thanksgiving dinner several times this year. Friendsgiving is a time to gather with friends, test out some new recipes and fill your freezer with leftover turkey before you head home to do it all over again with your family.
Besides the food, Friendsgiving is a way to share traditions and bring new people into your home and community. Someone brings their mom’s apple cake, another shares their gluten-free take on pecan slab pie and perhaps you even have someone who brings steamed wontons their family makes when they are all together again. This special gathering of cultures and traditions is what makes Friendsgiving unique, but with the usual turkey and pie keystones, you can get tired of your favorites before you even make it home for the holiday.
So here’s an idea for this year’s Friendsgiving: Instead of stuffing turkey, make it into a challah-baking party in which you stuff challah with your favorite Thanksgiving flavors and more! Have everyone make a basic challah dough, provide a variety of fillings and get messy as you knead your way into new traditions.
First, the logistics: Depending on how much space you have and how many people you’re hosting, decide whether you want to provide the ingredients or have guests pitch in (either money, ingredients or fillings), and whether you want to prepare the dough (a lot of it!) in advance or have everyone make it together. If you’re all baking together, make sure you have enough ingredients, mixing bowls and measuring cups and spoons, plus room for everyone to work.
To keep the Thanksgiving theme, offer fillings like homemade apple butter for an apple pie challah, pumpkin butter as a twist on the pumpkin pie and cran-apple jam. You can even add some canned pumpkin to your challah dough for a gourd-geous loaf of pumpkin challah.
If savory is more your jam, never fear! Anything thick and spreadable works well inside challah. Try sautéed greens (squeeze out as much extra liquid as possible) or even mashed sweet potatoes. Bring back summer with harissa and spicy feta mezze spreads, even doing swirls of each. Or jump ahead to Christmas Eve’s Chinese food with Scallion Pancake Challah that is filled with your favorite Chinese appetizer.
With all these recipes, it’s time to get baking. Make sure all the fillings are ready in advance. If you’re all making the dough together, share some appetizers and a slice of pumpkin pie as you wait for the first rise (about an hour).
After the dough has doubled in size, you can now fill it with your choice of sweet or savory. (If you prepared the dough in advance, you can get right to stuffing.)
For full-sized braided challot, divide the dough in half and, working with one half at a time, portion it out into three or six equal balls and flatten each into a rectangle. Spread a thin amount of filling inside the rectangle, and roll into a tight log. Seal the edge well and repeat with each ball until you have three or six filled and rolled logs. Braid your challah as you would a regular loaf (three for a braid, six for a round); then do the same for your second loaf. Alternatively, you can stretch each batch of dough farther by making mini challah buns or small braids or twists, so that everyone can work at the same time.
Have everyone take their loaves (or buns) home for the final rise (about 30 more minutes in a warm, non-drafty spot) so they can enjoy freshly baked challah later that day. Another option is to put the dough in the fridge to let it rise overnight; then bake it the next morning. Finally, you can freeze the stuffed, braided challah after its first rise; then defrost, let it rise again and bake it up for your actual Thanksgiving dinner with family.
Lastly, don’t forget to save any leftover sweet challah for Pumpkin Challah Bread Pudding and savory for your family’s favorite stuffing recipe!