Back to Baking...Whole Wheat Challah (that actually tastes like challah)

I am finally done with school. On Tuesday I sat down and cranked out my last exam and now, I can officially take a break from everything school related for the next month. It is an immense feeling of relief. That said, I have been neglecting my blog for the past few days. In the mean time, I have been racking up the recipes to post about. There was a stuffed squash and some pretty marvelous cookies but I decided to post first about what I am most proud very own recipe fro whole wheat challah, that actually tastes like challah. I love challah, sadly it is usually composed of white flour, something I've been trying to cut out of my diet lately (with mixed success). It's a strange thing that I have developed such a love for challah. Up until my freshman year of college, I had never even heard of the bread, now it is my favorite bread.

I was first inspired to make whole wheat challah by this post over at 101 cookbooks. Now I know that peter reinhart is very good with breads. I myself have had enormous success with most of his recipes that I've tried...this being the exception. Let me clarify, it was good bread, it made for delicious sandwiches and toast...but it was not challah. My biggest problem with it was that it was not light and fluffy, rather it was quite dry and crumbly. And,to add insult to injury, it was not remotely sweet Maybe I should give the recipe another shot, maybe it was something I did wrong (which is quite possible, especially in the realm of yeast breads). Now that I've found my recipe however, I doubt I ever will.

This recipe was adapted from another recipe (which I found at quite a few different sources) for regular old white flour challah. What I did was replace the white flour with a mixture of whole wheat flour and vital wheat gluten. Vital what? To be entirely honest I'm not all that clear as to what Vital wheat gluten (also sometimes called gluten flour and available at most bulk food stores) but I do know what it does. It increases the elasticity of wheat flour which helps to create a lighter, fluffier, and far less coarse loaf of bread. This bread was so successful I have made tow loaves in the past week (no I didn't eat all of it myself although I easily could have). In addition to being absolutely marvelous for simply tearing off hunks and snacking on, it also makes the best french toast I have ever eaten. I hope you enjoy it too (and don't worry, I'll get that pecan recipe to you soon).

Whole Wheat Challah

1 cup luke warm water (divided)
2 eggs
2 egg yolks
2 tablespoons neutral flavored oil
3 tablespoons honey
2 1/4 teaspoons active dry yeast
4 cups whole wheat flour
1/4 cup vital wheat gluten
1 teaspoon salt

2 egg whites
poppy seeds (optional)

Mix 1/4 cup of the warm water with the yeast and allow to sit for 5 minutes. In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, egg yolks, honey, oil, and remaining 3/4 cup water. Whisk in the yeast, water mixture. Add 2 cups of the flour, 2 tablespoons of the vital wheat gluten and the salt. Mix thoroughly and allow to sit for 15 minutes. Add in one more cup of flour and one more tablespoon of vital wheat gluten. Transfer the dough to a flat surface and slowly knead in as much of the remaining flour ad vital wheat gluten as possible. Continue kneading for 10 minutes. Place the dough in a well oiled bowl, cover, and allow to rise until doubled in bulk, approximately 2 hours.

After it has risen, transfer the dough onto a flat surface. Cut the dough into three equal pieces and roll each of the pieces into logs of equal length (these are instructions for a three strand braid, I tried, and failed, to make a six strand braid) Connect the three pieces at the top and make a tight braid. Pinch the other end to seal the braid and tuck both pinched ends under the loaf. In a small bowl, whip the egg whites with a fork until a foam forms on top. Using just the foam brush the Challah bread till all the dough has some of the egg wash. Set the remaining egg wash aside because you will need to do this again before baking. Cover the braid with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk, approximately an hour and a half.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. After the dough has risen remove the plastic wrap and whisk the remaining egg wash again and brush the foam on the braid again. Sprinkle with poppy seeds and place into the pre heated oven for 20 minutes then rotate the bread and turn the heat down to 375F bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or until the loaf is deliciously browned. Cool on a wire rack. ( currently bake in a convection oven, so it was done after the first 20 minutes. I expect that this is the correct baking time for most sane ovens, although I would check and make sure after the first 20 minutes).

7 Response to Back to Baking...Whole Wheat Challah (that actually tastes like challah)

December 17, 2008 at 7:43 PM

That looks beautiful! Congratulations on being done w/the finals and coming up with your own recipe.

December 17, 2008 at 9:31 PM

Thanks for the congratulations on all accounts. I was a bit nervous coming up with my own recipe as I'm not too familiar with yeast breads but this one turned out so well I might have to play around a bit more in the future.

December 17, 2008 at 9:37 PM
This comment has been removed by the author.
December 17, 2008 at 10:57 PM

yaaay on finishing school!

hmm.. what is challah? but what a beautiful bread!

December 18, 2008 at 12:20 AM

Pearl- Thanks, it's such a relief not to be stressing about finals and papers right now. Just to let you know, Challah is a traditional Jewish holiday bread which is best recognized by its braided appearance (either a three strand or six strand-which as of yet I am completely unable to do)

December 19, 2008 at 7:22 PM

You've created a really gorgeous loaf of bread. Enjoy your vacation.

February 15, 2009 at 3:32 PM

This is now my challah recipe, so thanks! One change I make is to substitute a cup of white bread or spelt flour to lighten it a bit more because I'm still too use only whole wheat. Your recipe is so much more straighforward than Reinhart's that I can't even bring myself to try it. Especially since I like this one so much.


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