Sunday, December 29, 2013

Growing Sweet Potatoes In WNC

Sweet potato soup is warm and soothing for the winter.


Preorder sweet potato slips in late winter to early spring:
• Reems Creek Nursery: 70 Monticello Rd, Weaverville, 645-3937.
• Sow True Seeds: 146 Church St, Asheville, 254-0708.
• Southern States: 464 Riverside Dr, Asheville, 253-9351.
Beloved nearly everywhere south of the Mason Dixon, sweet potatoes are North Carolina’s state vegetable and a large portion of its agriculture — the state yields close to 40 percent of the nation’s entire production.
A distant relative to the common potato, sweet potatoes are not part of the nightshade family, as are standard potatoes. The sweet tuber, a product of the plant’s prolific vine growth (which is also edible), works well to a buttery sauté and cloaked in cream.
Thought to have originated in either Central or South America, sweet potatoes find perfect growing conditions in Western North Carolina: a temperate climate similar to the tuber’s native growing conditions. Traces of Peruvian sweet potatoes date as far back at 8000 B.C.
Today, the majority of the world’s sweet potato crop is produced in China. Half of it is used as livestock feed, but humans eat their fair share.
In 1920, the average American ate about 30 pounds of sweet potatoes annually, compared to today’s four-pound average. Sweet potatoes are fairly easy to cultivate, require little fertilization and grow well in marginal soil. Because of this, sweet potatoes came to represent a hard-times food, falling in popularity as people became concerned with food as a symbol of affluence.
But as Southerners are known for following flavor, sweet potatoes have remained a fundamental element of Southern cuisine. Most Southern cookbooks have recipes dedicated to the versatile applications for sweet potatoes, most often as a whipped casserole spiked with bourbon with a crunchy layer of brown sugar and pecans, or baked into silky pie. Few holiday tables of the South go without such dishes.
The nutritional perks of sweet potatoes are as attractive as their flavor. The greens are some of the richest sources of the carotenoid lutein, which protects against age-related macular degeneration.
The sweet tubers contain high levels of dietary fiber, potassium, beta-carotene (which is a precursor to vitamin A), manganese, iron, calcium, vitamin B6 and vitamin C. Written by

Preheat oven to 375. Line two rimmed baking sheets with parchment.
Arrange squashes cut sides down on one sheet. Drizzle skins with olive oil.
Arrange carrots, sweet potatoes, onion, and garlic on second sheet. Drizzle with olive oil. Pour 1 cup of water on each baking sheet.
Place baking sheets in top and bottom thirds of oven, switching halfway through, and roast until all ingredients are tender (time will vary depending on thickness of squashes) at least one hour. Add more water to pans as needed.
Allow contents of pans to cool. Scoop flesh from squashes and sweet potatoes and transfer to a large bowl. Add carrots, roasted onion and garlic to bowl with 1/2 the broth. Puree with an immersion blender or place contents in food processor and blend working in batches. Add more broth while blending until puree is smooth.
Place puree in a large soup pot over medium low heat. Add sea salt, pepper and mace to taste. Stir in cream. Remove from heat once soup is heated through.
Portion into bowls and garnish with whole plain yogurt, kefir or sour cream and chopped parsley.

In parts of the world where vitamin A deficiency is rampant, sweet potatoes with dark pigmented flesh have been introduced to help address the problem, with great success.
My experience with growing sweet potatoes has been only positive. My first harvest was one of the most successful, affording crate upon crate to overflow with giant tubers as soil was overturned just before autumn’s first frost. Storing well after a week or two of curing, this is a crop well-suited to small-scale gardeners and larger producers alike, rewarding growers all winter long.
Each year, a basement filled with the season’s crop has granted ample creativity in the kitchen. Favorite applications include baked sweet potato fries tossed with garlic and herbs; a creamy sweet potato soup made with homemade broth and swirled with yogurt; or simply baked whole, split open and topped with a thick pat of sweet cream butter.
However prepared, sweet potatoes seem to fulfill the contemporary quest for remedying comfort-food while giving North Carolina diners a chance to partake in an abundant regional delicacy. Combined, this may tip the pendulum toward a new perception of affluence.


4 large sweet potatoes
Olive oil
2 garlic cloves
Sea salt
1/8 cup chopped parsley or 2 Tablespoons chopped rosemary
Preheat oven to 375.
Line two baking sheets with parchment.
Slice sweet potatoes crosswise in half then lengthwise in half, to create four large pieces per potato. Flesh side down, cut each portion into 1/2-inch sticks. Place in a large mixing bowl. Coat with olive oil and season with salt. Press garlic through a garlic press and toss with sweet potatoes, olive oil and chopped herbs. Divide fries evenly among the baking sheets. Bake until tender, about 15 minutes.
Serve hot.


Feeds a crowd
1 large Hubbard or buttercup squash, quartered and seeded
1 large butternut squash, halved lengthwise, seeds and pulp removed
10 large carrots
3 large sweet potatoes pierced several times with a fork
1 medium sweet onion
3 garlic cloves, peeled
4-5 cups chicken broth
Sea salt
Black pepper
1 teaspoon mace
1 1/2 - 2 cups (you decide) high quality cream
Yogurt, sour cream or kefir for garnish
Chopped Italian parsley for garnish

Saturday, November 23, 2013

One Pan Roast Chicken and Potatoes

If it's cold outside 
and you want a warm, 
hearty meal 
without putting forth too much effort, 
do this:
Place a fresh, 
whole bird 
(thanks East Fork Farm
in a large cast iron skillet. 
Coat it with coarse sea salt
 and many turns
 fresh black pepper. 
Then turn it over to a hot oven. 
Surround chicken with potatoes halfway 
through baking, 
drizzle with olive oil, 
and bake until all contents are golden.
Transfer the whole pan 
to the center of the dinner table, 
sprinkle with fresh rosemary, 
uncork a good bottle, 
and enjoy. 

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Asheville Keeps Alive Sweet Sorghum Syrup Tradition

Sweet sorghum syrup from Double Tree Farm can be used on flapjacks or in cornbread.
Sweet sorghum syrup from Double Tree Farm can be used on flapjacks or in cornbread. / Rachel Brownlee / Special to the Citizen-Times

Where to buy sorghum

Call Cathy Bennett at 380-2254. She can arrange a drop off in Asheville at one of the weekly tailgate markets. Quantities are limited.
Of the few southern states known for producing sorghum, North Carolina is still standing strong.
Here in Western Nprth Carolina, the tradition of making sorghum syrup is being kept alive by a handful of old-timers and homesteaders with access to antique cane mills and plenty of helping hands. Much like the culture of maple sugaring, making sweet sorghum syrup (or sorghum molasses) is a time-consuming, communal affair.
Popular for its agricultural durability in tropical and subtropical regions, Sorghum bicolor (of the sugar cane family) is grown worldwide for its use as grain, silage, ethanol and syrup production. Its multipurpose characteristics have made sorghum a favored choice in rural and low-income regions with its drought tolerance and nutritional stability, acquiring deep roots in Appalachian history.
Due to its labor-intensive nature, sorghum syrup production declined greatly after World War II when able-bodied farm hands became scarce. Currently, only one million gallons are produced within the U.S. annually, compared to more than 20 million during the turn of the century.
Alongside a few local producers (including Flying Cloud Farm in Fairview) Cathy Bennett, owner of Double Tree Farm in Marshall, produces and mills sweet sorghum as part of an annual tradition, using draft horses to power her mill.
She said the decision to make sorghum syrup is an extension of her choice to farm with draft horses. “When people see that you farm with horses in the country, they want to talk to you about old traditions,” she said. “I was curious about their recollections of making molasses, so in 1998, when I was living and farming in Greeneville, Tenn., I decided to grow some.”
Following a move to Madison County a couple of years later, Bennett continued to make molasses with volunteer help and borrowed equipment. Later, Double Tree Farm erected their own facility. “It was helpful, too, that people were interested in buying it. We cannot make enough,” she said.
The sorghum stalks are prepared by stripping their leaves before being cut down and relocated to the milling site where the seed heads are then removed. Prior to harvest, the mill must be set up and firewood collected.
“There are lots of details that go into getting ready to make syrup,” said Bennett. Lining up help and making an order for jars is just part of the process. Once the sorghum stalks are pressed by the mill to release their sweet, green-tinted juices (it takes about 10 gallons of juice to produce one gallon of syrup), the juice is simmered over a wood-fueled fire in a large, shallow vat, requiring constant tending and skimming until it cooks down into a rich, dark syrup. Often this is a ritual requiring a full day or weekend entirely devoted to the event.
At Double Tree, sorghum seeds are sown in May or early June and often in succession to stagger the harvest. Draft horses are used to cultivate the plantings. Harvest and syrup making takes place in September and October, when the weather turns crisp. “The cooking day can be lots of fun if people come over to help,” Bennett said. “Usually friends come and play music and the children can ride the horse that is powering the cane mill. There is a festive feeling when we are cooking molasses.”
When asked how she most enjoys the final product, Bennett has a long list. Aside from keeping a jar of it on the table to use on the fly, she tops everything from cornbread to oatmeal with the sweet syrup. Highlights include sorghum syrup as a replacement for Karo in homemade caramels and pecan pie, and as the special coating for salty-sweet popcorn. Bennett even uses it when brining meats. “Really, I put it on everything,” she said. “It’s the secret ingredient. Some people claim it’s a superfood — whatever that is — but I believe it.”
Sorghum is special not only for its many culinary uses, but because it represents a time passed, one fully dependent on community. It speaks to the satisfaction of old-fashioned hard work, and to the sweet rewards of keeping tradition.


1 cup quality corn meal
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon aluminum-free baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1 cup buttermilk
1/2 cup sorghum syrup
1 egg
5 tablespoons butter
Preheat oven to 400. Heat a 100-inch cast iron skillet in oven with the butter.
Mix dry ingredients together in a medium miking bowl. Whisk together the buttermilk, sorghum and egg in a separate bowl. Remove skillet from oven and add melted butter to wet ingredients once slightly cooled. Mix buttermilk mixture into dry mixture. Gently blend with a rubber spatula. Pour batter into hot skillet and bake until golden, about 20 minutes. Slice and serve with additional butter and sorghum molasses.

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Tomato Garlic Braised Chicken with Kale

Chicken thighs are tender and hold more flavor than the white meat sections of the bird. Cuts with the bone-in are excellent for a slow braise, allowing the fats and marrow to render the meat into supple forkfuls. A hefty amount of garlic with fresh tomatoes and white wine is basically all you need for this dish. The beauty is in the simplicity. Just allow chicken to slowly simmer until you are ready for supper, throw some fresh kale over the top of the dish, and you have a one-pot meal fit for your most treasured guests.

Tomato Garlic Braised Chicken with Kale:
*3-4 whole chicken legs
*1 sweet onion, peeled and sliced
*1 garlic bulb, cloves peeled and coarsely chopped
*2 fresh tomatoes, cored and chopped (you can substitute about 1 1/2 cup marinara sauce if good tomatoes cannot be easily sourced)
*1 1/2 cups white wine
*sea salt and pepper
*1 bunch fresh kale, ribs removed, coarsely chopped

Place a shallow braising pan over medium high heat. Coat with butter or olive oil. Rinse chicken legs and pat dry with paper towels. Season liberally with sea salt and pepper. Sear legs in pan until well browned on each side. Remove from pan and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
Reduce heat to mediem. Add onions. Saute until clear and aromatic, about 3 minutes. Add the chopped garlic. Saute for additional 2 minutes before adding tomatoes. Allow to cook about 3 minutes then pour in wine. Allow liquid to slightly reduce for 2 minutes. Return chicken to pan. Reduce heat to lowest stovetop setting, sprinkle chicken with rosemary sprigs, and cover.
Braise for at least 3 hours or up to 5. Remove chicken from pan and transfer to a serving dish. Increase heat to medium, and place chopped kale in braising liquids a few minutes before serving. Cover and wilt. Serve alongside chicken. Spoon leftover cooking liquid over chicken after kale is removed from pan.

Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Broth Season

Tis the season for bones and chicken feet gently bubbling away on the stove top, infused with the smell of lemon and celery. Bring on the cold weather.

Wednesday, October 9, 2013

Time For Braising

A dish of braised beef with root vegetables is warming for fall — and easy to make.
Scott Paquin of Firefly Farm gives reason to welcome cooler autumn weather.
His grass-finished Devon beef can help kick off the unofficial stew season, waking the soup pot from its slumber with pleasant warmth and earthy aromatics. As chilly temperatures settle into the WNC mountains, a slow-simmered pot of Firefly’s braised beef, nestled among root vegetables, is pure alchemy.
Braising is an age-old method for cooking meat, poultry or vegetables, using time and low heat to transform basic ingredients. As the braising liquid slowly works its magic on the contents of a recipe, it is often used for stews or roasts to turn otherwise tough cuts of meat into melt-in-your-mouth dishes.
Less-tender cuts — containing tough muscle and connective tissue — typically come from the most exercised portion of an animal. These cuts, sourced from the front, lower front and back sections of livestock (referred to as the chuck, shank or brisket, and round), are tougher but highly flavorful — and often less expensive than premium cuts.
Grass-fed beef has a reputation for being slightly more muscular compared with cuts from feedlot cows, but this is not necessarily the case. Although it takes longer for strictly pastured cows to reach harvest weight than those finished on grain (up to a full year longer), grass-finished beef is just as supple, with arguably greater flavor complexity.
Red Devons are excellent grazers, as they’re thought to be one of the oldest beef breeds — with prehistoric roots reaching all the way back to the aboriginal Bos lonqifrons — and are hearty grass-eaters yielding very tender meat. This robust genetic history translates into a strong agricultural choice, since cows with such sturdy genes tend to need less in terms of breeding and medicinal intervention.
Paquin said he chose Devons for their regional adaptability and gentle workability. This particular breed has a remarkable feed-conversion ratio, is extremely parasite-resistant and produces high yields of exceptional meat, he said. He described the meat as tender and fine-grained, marbling well under a diet of only grass and hay. Paquin’s beef is a testament to his focus on good soil and healthy grass and his commitment to rotational grazing.
When it comes to braising, Paquin primarily uses bone-in cuts such as shoulder, chuck or bottom-round to add extra flavor and depth to his dishes.
After searing the meat over high heat to create a flavorful crust, he adds shallots, onions and garlic, along with acidic fruit such as peaches or apples. The acidity of the fruit helps to break down connective tissue as the meat simmers, helping it reach fall-off-the-bone consistency.
A little red wine adds additional acidity, while broth or stock completes the braising liquid, sprinkled with fresh herbs such as thyme or sage.
After a slow simmer for 1 hour at about 300 degrees, Paquin lowers his braise to 225 degrees for the remainder of the cooking process, which can last the better half of a day.
If desired, root vegetables such as fingerling potatoes, parsnips or carrots can be added to the dish in the last hour of cooking.
When it comes to a good braise, trust your farmer. In this case, Paquin. He gives more than enough cause to embrace slow food, and plenty incentive to keep coming back for more.
3-4 pounds bone-in shoulder, chuck or bottom round
1 large onion, chopped
2 celery stalks, chopped
5 garlic cloves, peeled
1-2 apples, cored and chopped or 1-2 peaches, pitted, peeled, and chopped
1 cup dry red wine
1 tablespoon olive oil
Approximately 4 cups high quality beef broth
Sea salt
Black pepper
Three sprigs fresh thyme or sage, or 2 bay leaves
Assortment of root vegetables, such as carrots, parsnips and small potatoes, quartered or left whole
Place a large heavy pot over medium-high heat. Coat lightly with olive oil. Rinse meat and pat dry with paper towels. Season with salt and pepper.
Sear meat in pot until all sides are browned, about 5 minutes. Remove from pot and transfer to a plate. Set aside.
Lower heat to medium. Add onion and celery. Saute until onions are translucent, stirring often, about 2 minutes. Add garlic and fruit. Saute another 3 minutes or until apples are soft. Pour in the wine. Stir and allow alcohol to cook off (1-2 minutes) before returning meat to the pot.
Cover contents one-half to two-thirds with broth. Season with sea salt and pepper. Add herbs. Bring to a simmer. Reduce heat to low and cover. After one hour, reduce heat again to lowest setting. Allow to just slightly simmer for at least 3 hours or up to a full day. Do not stir.
Add root vegetables during the final hour of cooking. Adjust seasoning to taste.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Fresh Fig Galette

We planted a Chicago Hardy fig thinking this variety would do best here given the cooler mountain temperatures. And it has. The 5 year old tree has at least tripled in size this season and is loaded with fruit. But the problem is, the fruits really aren't very good eaten directly from the tree for some reason? They ripen quickly toward the end of the season, and get mushy and off-tasting quick. If you try to eat one before it's perfectly ripe, there is hardly a hint of sweetness and the texture is....just bad, but if you miss the window of just-right ripeness the sugars taste fermented. So instead of letting the wasps and ants have their way with them, I harvested as many as I could before they got too ripe, and sliced them and baked them into a galette as an experiment. Turns out, this is the way to eat this variety. They baked down perfectly, got a little jammy, and became sticky and sweet.  A butter crust with just a pinch of sugar is a good, flaky counter to the fig's baked-down gooeyness.
A very fine autumn treat!

Fresh Fig Galette:

*aprox 20 fresh figs, stems removed, quartered lengthwise
*2 Tablespoons butter, cut into small cubes
*1 Tablespoon sugar

Butter Pastry: (makes enough for one large galette)
*1 1/4 cups organic flour
*1/2 tsp sea salt
*2 Tablespoons raw sugar
*8 Tbsp cold unsalted butter, cubed
*3-4 Tbsp ice water

Preheat oven to 375.
Place flour, salt and sugar in a food processor fitted with a pastry blade. Blend. Add the cold butter and blend to a course meal. With blade running, slowly add the ice water one tablespoon at a time until dough forms. Transfer dough onto a floured work surface. Form into a disk, wrap in plastic wrap or parchment and place in the freezer for 15 minutes.
Remove from freezer and unwrap. Return to floured work surface. Roll dough to desired thickness, about 1/4 inch. Transfer to a baking stone or baking sheet. Trim edges to make a circle.
Arrange fig slices in a large ring toward the center of the dough, allowing 2 inches of free space between fruit and edge of the dough. Repeat within the first ring of sliced figs until dough is filled with arranged fruit. Fold edges of pastry dough over onto the 1st ring of arranged fig slices to create a crust. Continue folding until fruit is bordered by folded dough.
Sprinkle fruit with cubes of butter and sugar.
Bake at 375 for about 20 minutes or until pastry is golden. Allow to cool slightly before slicing and serving.

Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Exploring The History Of Corn

This article appeared recently in the Asheville Citizen Times:

Written by

Teosinte (Euchlaena mexicana), the original wild grass cultivated into what we recognize today as corn, found its way into modern agriculture more than 7,000 years ago. Over thousands of years, Native Americans transformed this miniature version of maize through careful cultivation into today’s most prolific grain.
Comparative high yields to other grasses helped corn become a staple to native people, representing security during winter months. Suitable for storage and various applications, left whole or ground into cornmeal, corn has been, and remains, a central element to our nation’s history.
Its appeal comes as no surprise. As each row of tightly gathered kernels must be persuaded to forfeit its sweet juices with enough pressure to produce the perfect crunch, this sensation has become a mascot of summertime celebration. Then there is the matter of grits, rich with butter and cheddar and a turn of fresh cracked pepper, or skillet cornbread infused with wild honey and sage. A long history with this seductive grain seems inevitable.
Today, corn varieties differ from one to the next as greatly as mealy grocery store tomatoes compare to their heirloom cousins. Almost no comparison exists between varieties grown simply for quantity and those grown for quality.
As agriculture has gone from the hands of the individual to the hands of only a few individuals, mainstream corn varieties have been greatly reduced, pushing many into extinction. Most corn today is grown in massive quantity, ending up as corn syrup, corn oil, processed into ethanol, or used as silage for livestock.
These varieties are owned and seeded by large corporations with specific purpose, leaving scant room for genetic diversity, while lacking the protein and micro-nutrient content of their ancestors. Yet in the wake of this pattern, small producers are successfully breeding old cultivars. The renaissance of heirloom corn cultivation ensures the future for endangered varieties while giving diners the gustatory satisfaction our grandparents used to know.
Last season, I grew a plot of Painted Mountain Corn (bred for its cold hardiness and drought resistance). Peeling away its ordinary looking husk revealed a rainbow of fantastic, striated color. Originally bred by the process of open pollination from seeds gathered from Native Americans and homesteaders from more than 70 varieties of native corn, this harvest was among my most memorable. Butcher’s Blood, another variety gaining notice, also captivates with alluring hues and nutritional excellence. These varieties are not intended for classic picnic-cob eating, but can be milled into nutritious flours or coarse-ground as a flavorful base for cornbread or polenta. 
As far as sweet hybrid varieties go, Silver Queen is a personal favorite. Introduced to this white kernel variety while working on a farm during my teens, I recall a swarm of Silver Queen devotees piling ears into canvas sacks in such a frenzy, we had to stash a few crates in the back of the market truck to keep latecomers from uncontrollable grief. So sweet and tender, it could be eaten directly from the field.With the help of seed savers, heritage growers and motivated breeders, corn varieties of the frontier are making a steady comeback. Since the genetics of native corn also carry the advantage of greater natural pest resistance than commercial varieties, small-scale producers gain extra incentive to try heritage seeds.
Whether the crop ends up decorating an autumn entryway, or becomes a highlight for the Thanksgiving table, genetic diversity for corn’s future is in the hands of backyard gardeners. Grow a few rows and save the seed from your most successful ears. The rest is a matter of history.

Savory corn pudding

A devotee of slow cooked grits and skillet cornbread, savory corn pudding has become a family favorite. Sweet and creamy, with a herbaceous nod from fresh sage, this application bumps corn from side dish to main course.
4-5 cups sweet corn kernels, freshly cut from the cob
2 cups whole milk
6 tablespoons high-quality unsalted butter, melted
1/3 cup local honey
3 fresh large eggs
3 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon sea salt
Black pepper to taste
1-2 tablespoon fresh chopped sage
1 sweet onion, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Butter a 9-by-13-inch baking dish. Place corn in dish. Set aside.
Whisk remaining ingredients in a medium mixing bowl. Pour over corn. Bake until top is golden, about 35-40 minutes. Serve warm.

Thursday, September 5, 2013

Holiday Apple Raisin Challah

Apples and raisins coated in honey and cinnamon are braided into this egg-rich dough for a sweet start to the Jewish New Year.  This recipe is worth the effort.

Holiday Apple Raisin Challah: 
Recipe sourced from

"The trick to making great challah is to add just enough eggs and oil to the dough so that it tastes rich and moist without becoming heavy and sticky. My friend Kathy Cohen gets it exactly right—her bread, stuffed with apples, raisins, and cinnamon, is the highlight of her annual Jewish New Year feast. For years, I'd count the days between slices, until I finally decided to ask for the recipe."

Apple Notes: There aren't a lot of apples in this bread, so you want a variety that really stands out. Therefore, green firm-tart apples, such as Granny Smith and Rhode Island Greening, are the perfect choice here.

Equipment: 2 large baking sheets, rimmed or unrimmed


For the bread
  • 2 tablespoons dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon plus 3/4 cup (155 g) granulated sugar
  • 5 large eggs
  • 3/4 cup (180 ml) vegetable oil, such as canola or safflower
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 6 cups (870 g) all-purpose flour
For the filling
  • 1 large firm-tart apple (about 8 ounces), peeled, cored, and cut into small cubes
  • 1/2 cup (65 g) raisins
  • 3 tablespoons lemon juice
  • 2 tablespoons honey
  • 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 egg yolk


1. Combine 1/2 cup warm water, the yeast, and 1 tablespoon of the sugar in a small bowl. Stir until the yeast dissolves. Let it activate for 10 minutes—the mixture should look foamy.
2. In the large bowl of a standing mixer with the paddle attachment or with a hand-held mixer, beat the eggs at medium speed until blended. Add the oil, salt, and remaining 3/4 cup sugar. Beat until pale in color, about 4 minutes. Beat in 2/3 cup water, then add the yeast mixture. Beat in the flour 1 cup at a time.
3. Turn the dough onto a floured surface and knead for 2 minutes (or use the dough hook on your mixer for 1 minute at low speed). Put the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel and put in a warm corner of your kitchen to rise. I like to use my (unheated) oven with the lightbulb on. You want the dough to double in size, which takes just about an hour.
4. Punch down the dough, rewrap with plastic wrap and a kitchen towel, and let the dough rise for 30 minutes. It won't quite double in this time, but it will puff up.
5. Meanwhile, make the filling: In a small bowl, toss the apples with the raisins, lemon juice, honey, and cinnamon. Let sit for 20 minutes, then drain any liquid.
6. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and divide in half. Divide each half into three equal parts, for a total of six pieces. Roll out each piece to form a 12-inch strand, then pat each strand down into a flat rectangle shape. Spoon a bit of apple mixture down the center of each rectangle, then fold dough over the filling, roll into a 15-inch rope, and pinch the ends tight.
7. Form the loaves: Put three of the apple-filled "ropes" on each baking sheet. Braid the ropes together (fold right rope over center, then fold left rope over center, repeat). Pinch at bottom. Repeat with the other loaf. Cover the loaves with kitchen towels, and let rise for 45 minutes.
8. Preheat the oven to 400°F and set a rack to the middle position. Whisk the egg yolk with 1 tablespoon water and brush over the tops of the loaves. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the heat to 350°F and bake until the crusts are browned and the bread is puffed and light, 30 minutes more. Transfer the loaves to a rack and let cool for 30 minutes before serving.
Reprinted from The Apple Lover's Cookbook by Amy Traverso. Copyright © 2011 by Amy Traverso; photographs © 2011 by Squire Fox. Used with permission of the publisher, W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.