A Detour: Whole-Wheat Challah

>> Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Just in time for Rosh Hashanah preparation, a few people have asked me for my whole-wheat challah recipe. I figured posting it here would be the easiest way to disseminate it. If you have questions, ask them in the comments section and I will do my best to answer them. Enjoy!

Picture Added 10/10/08: Challot post-rise, pre-baking


Yeast Mixture: 1 packet yeast (2.25 tsp from jar); ½ tsp sugar; ¼ cup water
1 cup warm water
½ cup sugar
½ cup oil
1 tsp salt
½ tbsp vanilla
¼ tsp baking powder
2 eggs (beaten well)
3 tbsp vital wheat gluten
3 cups whole-wheat flour
2-3 cups white flour
1 egg (for painting the dough)
sesame seeds/zatar/topping of your choice

1. Make yeast mixture by combining yeast, 1/2 tsp sugar, and 1/4 cup warm water. Set aside. The mixture is ready when it is thick and bubbly, about 10 minutes.

2. In separate BIG bowl, whisk together the following ingredients, one ingredient at a time: 1 cup warm water, 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup oil, 1 tsp salt, 1/2 tbsp vanilla, 1/4 tsp baking powder, 2 eggs, yeast mixture.

3. Add wheat gluten and mix well.

4. Add flour one cup at a time, mix with a whisk/wooden spoon for as long as possible, then mix with your hands [I start with whole wheat flour and then add the white flour; I usually use a little more than 2 cups of white flour but you may need more or less depending on the consistency of the mix.] The dough is ready when it’s not too sticky.

5. Transfer dough to an oiled bowl and set aside in a warm place covered with a damp towel for one hour. [I often turn on the oven to 200 degrees, let it get warm, turn it off, and then put the dough into rise.]

6. Allow the dough to rise for at least 1 hour. Punch it down a couple times and then allow it to rise in a warm place for another hour.

7. After the second rise, remove dough from bowl, punch it a few times, and start to knead it.

8. Divide the dough equally based on the number of challot you want to make—a single recipe makes 2 big challot or many smaller ones. Divide each chunk of dough into 3 (or 4 or 5…), roll out the segments, and braid (or roll out the undivided chunk and make into a spiral for a round challah).

9. Once braided/spiraled, transfer challot to an oiled baking sheet (a couple of oiled 9x13 pans work as well). Cover with a towel and let rise for about 1 hour (or until it is the size you want it to be).

10. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.

11. Beat 1 egg. Paint the top of the challah and either leave it as is or sprinkle sesame seeds or zatar (yum!) or the topping of your choice.

12. Beat at 350 degrees for 25-30 minutes. Challah should be golden brown on the outside when done. Or, as Molly Katzen says, tap the bottom and listen for a hollow sound.

*The vital wheat gluten is what makes this whole-wheat challah work. Don’t skip it. [I buy Bob’s Red Mill vital wheat gluten, available at most grocery stores these days.]

*You can let the braided dough rise overnight by placing the loaves on an oiled cookie sheet/baking pan, covering them with saran wrap, and placing them in the refrigerator to rise.

*Top challah with anything you want. The Bernstein kids introduced me to rainbow-sprinkle topped challah this summer. Personally, I prefer zatar, but go with anything you like (except raisins; I don’t like raisins in or on challah. But I guess if you do, you should go right ahead).

*Challah can be made ahead and frozen. When the loaf cools, wrap it in foil and place it in a plastic bag before freezing. [I find the foil + bag keeps better and, bonus, lets you move it straight from the freezer into the oven – well, take it out of the bag first and put the foil-wrapped loaf into the oven.]

Picture added 10/10/08: The challah on the right has zaatar on top, while the challah on the left is plain (just brushed with egg). If there is any leftover, I'll turn the plain one into challah-french toast.


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