Honey whole wheat challah
1 envelope active dry yeast (I like Red Star brand but Fleishmans is also fine)
1 cup warm water (hot really - 115 degrees - hotter than you would think)
4 large eggs @ room temp. (two whole and 2 reserved for egg wash at the end)
3 Tbsp olive oil
1/3 cup and a little squirt extra (for good measure!) honey
3 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour (you can also sub amaranth flour or just use all white flour)
1 1/2 tsp. kosher salt
toasted sesame, poppy seeds or flax seeds, raisins, cinnamon sugar (optional)
Stir yeast packet into 8 oz. of warm water @ 115°F (wrist test). Wait for yeast mixture to bubble and foam (5-10 min).
Sift all the flour together into a bowl.
Combine and mix two eggs, honey, and olive oil in a stand mixer (with a dough hook) or bowl (mix it yourself) or food processor with a plastic blade attachment.
Add yeast mixture to the egg mixture while running. Slowly add the flour (in 3-4 phases). When you get to the last third of flour - add in the salt as well (adding the salt to early will kill the yeast and limit the rise so wait until almost the end to mix it in). Mix until the flour and salt is mixed in and the dough is pulling away from the sides of the mixing bowl into a ball. If it seems a bit dry add more water one tablespoon at a time. It will be sticky to the touch. It should be workable but not to dry.
Place dough on a lightly-floured work surface and gently knead into a ball,pushing the dough away from you with the heel of your palm 5-10 times.
Place dough in an oiled bowl. Cover with a damp towel. Place bowl in warm place, until it doubles in volume (1-1.5 hrs depending on the temp of your kitchen).
After rising, take dough out of the bowl and don’t punch it down or knead it. For one large challah, divide into three or four equal pieces depending on how you want to braid it (see notes below on braiding techniques). Using a rolling pin, gently roll out each piece of dough to about 1/4 inch thick - don’t worry about the shape. At this stage you can optionally sprinkly raisins or cinnamon sugar to the discs and then gently roll up (like a fruit roll up) into ropes 12” long and 1” thick.
Place ropes on baking sheet covered with parchment paper or Silpat. Braid ropes into a loaf using 3 or 4-braid technique. Pinch ends together and tuck under.
Cover loaf with damp towel. Return to warm place to rise again for 1 hour.
Preheat oven to 350°F about 20 min before you are going to bake the challah and set rack in center position. Whisk 1 reserved egg and just the yolk (white not used) of the other and 1 Tbsp. olive oil. Brush top of loaf with egg wash. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds or flax seeds, if desired. If it doesn’t appear to have risen a lot more at this point that is ok - it will rise more during the baking process.
Bake for 27-29 min. (depends on your oven), or until golden brown or digital thermometer reads 185-190 degrees. Transfer to wire rack to cool.
Pairs Well With
I have been experimenting with challah recipes for the past couple of months in a search to make one that is better than any we can buy in Austin. This wasn’t a lofty goal because Austin challah pretty much sucks. It tastes like braided white bread - dry and crumbly. This is not how challah should taste. It should be sweet and have some bite and chewyness to it.
I was also looking for a recipe that didn’t require a commercial size kitchen aid or other tools. Some recipes call for like 10 cups of flour and that is way more than we need in our household. Small recipes can be easily doubled if I am making enough for a party but for a normal week with just me and my husband my toddler - a more manageable recipe is better.
So after weeks of tweaking, I finally nailed it. Here is the best challah you have ever eaten with some good tips and techniques I got from a really good book a friend lent to me called A Taste of Challah by Tamar Ansh. The actual recipe didn’t come from the book as her recipes are very large but it has great how-to pictures on everything from kneading to braiding to baking - I highly recommend it. This has now become my recipe which I adapted quite a bit from a comment to a post to a blog I can’t remember - I liked that it used honey and olive oil because I am not a fan of refined sugar or oils that can become rancid like canola right now. For another post I will talk about the bagels I made and that recipe also came from this challah book - it has a lot more than challah! this recipe can be easily doubled to make for a crowd.