30% Whole Wheat Challah
I needed to get a challah baked quickly because we were hosting a last minute brunch for which I was going to bake a ham, cheese, mushroom, red pepper and onion strata. So with little time to plan I bake this challah that relies on IDY for leavening. I was surprised at the slight tearing that this loaf had between the strands. At the time of baking the dough didn’t bounce back at all with the poke test. This is usually quite a reliable sign that the challah is well fermented, but in this case it could have used a bit more time in final proofing. Nonetheless the challah was delicious and excellent for the strata. I cut the bread into cubes and allowed it to stale overnight, putting the strata together in the morning.
- In the morning, in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the IDY then water, then mix in the 4 eggs, salt, honey and oil then mix until completely combined.
- Mix in all the flour until it forms a shaggy mass.
- Knead the dough on the bench or in a stand mixer until it is smooth and there is moderate gluten development. The dough should be quite firm. Mix until gluten is well developed.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it tightly. Ferment for about 2 hours. It should approximately double in size.
- To make one loaf, divide the dough into two equal portions, and divide each portion into the number of pieces needed for the type of braiding you plan to do, so divide each by 3 to make 1 six strand braided loaf.
- Form each piece into a ball and allow them to rest, covered, for 10-20 minutes to relax the gluten.
- Form each piece into a strand about 14” long. (I like Glezer's technique for this. On an un-floured board, flatten each piece with the palm of your hand. Using a rolling pin, roll out each piece to about ¼ inch thickness. Then roll up each piece into a tight tube. Using the palms of your hands, lengthen each piece by rolling each tube back and forth on the bench with light pressure. Start with your hands together in the middle of the tube and, as you roll it, move your hands gradually outward. Taper the ends of the tube by rotating your wrists slightly so that the thumb side of your hand is slightly elevated, as you near the ends of the tube.). You can consider rolling each rope of dough in two different types of seeds at this point for a decorative effect, or only a few of the strands.
- Braid the loaves. Braiding somewhat loosely, not too tight.
- Place loaf on parchment paper on a sheet pan. Brush with egg wash. Cover well with plastic wrap (brush with oil so it doesn’t stick to the dough) or place the pans in a food grade plastic bag, and proof at room temperature until the loaves have tripled or quadrupled in volume. About 2 hours.
- If it's quadrupled and when poked the dough only springs back a little, preheat the oven to 180°C/350°F. Gauge the dough again. Stick a finger lightly in the dough. If it makes an indentation that doesn't spring back, the dough is ready to be baked. If not, wait a bit more.
- Pre-heat the oven to 350ºF with the rack in the lower third of the oven about 30 mins before final proof is complete.
- Brush each loaf with an egg lightly beaten with a pinch of salt. I do this twice in total.
- Optionally, sprinkle the loaves with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds.
- Bake until done – 30-40 minutes rotating half way. If baking as one large loaf may take a bit longer, bake until sounds hollow or reaches 190ºF in the middle.
- Cool completely before slicing.