This starter is perfect for an evening in with friends or an impromptu cocktail party (and could be a handy one for Halloween night to enjoy in front of a scary film while the trick or treaters ring your doorbell). No forks or plates required; just use your hands and dig in. I like to alternate the toppings on the challah balls to make a beautiful pattern: sesame seeds, dried garlic, poppy seeds, or dried herbs would be my suggestions. If you have a different spinach artichoke dip you love using, no reason not to swap it in.
Yields 2 pull-apart rounds
For the dough
1?½ tbsp dry active yeast
300ml lukewarm water
540-600g unbleached bread flour
1?½ tsp table salt
60ml vegetable oil
2 large eggs
For the dip
335g frozen artichokes, thawed and chopped
225g frozen spinach, thawed and drained
170g whole milk Greek yoghurt or sour cream
115g shredded Cheddar
115g cream cheese, at room temperature
60g goat’s cheese, at room temperature
30g grated Parmesan + more for topping, if desired
2 tsp Worcestershire sauce
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp pepper
pinch red pepper flakes
For the topping
1 egg, beaten
1 tsp water
1-2 tsp dried herbs such as basil, oregano, or parsley
1-2 tsp sesame seeds
¼ tsp coarse sea salt
For the dough: In a small bowl, place the yeast, ½ tsp sugar, and lukewarm water. Stir gently to mix. Allow to sit 5-10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 180g of the flour, salt, and 125g sugar. Add the water-yeast mixture and oil to flour. Mix thoroughly.
Add another 120g of the flour and 2 eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 180-240g of the flour and mix thoroughly. Remove from the bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead the remaining 50g flour into the dough, continuing to knead for about 5 minutes.
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with a damp towel. Allow to rise at least 3 hours, punching down at least once if possible.
For the dip: While the dough is rising, prepare the artichoke dip. Combine all the ingredients in a large bowl. Set aside.
Grease two 23cm round cake pans. You can also use a cast iron skillet.
After the dough has risen 3 hours, divide dough into two equal parts.
Divide each part into 10-12 even-sized pieces (use a food scale to measure exactly). Roll each piece into a ball. Place challah balls around outside of cake pan. Repeat with second part of dough. Allow to rise 30 minutes. Preheat oven to 190°C/gas mark 5 while the dough rises.
Divide the dip into equal parts. Spoon the dip into the middle of each pan.
For the topping: In a small bowl, beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water. Brush the challah with egg wash. Sprinkle with dried herbs, sesame seeds, and/or coarse sea salt.
Bake for 23-25 minutes, until the challah is golden and artichoke dip is gooey and melted. Top with additional grated Parmesan, if desired.
Extracted from Modern Jewish Baker by Shannon Sarna (WW Norton, approx €26).