Step into a Jewish bakery and prepare to be overwhelmed with sweet, toasty smells and more variety than you may be prepared for. Thankfully blogger Shannon Sarna of The Nosher has a new book of recipes out that demystify the unfamiliar and bring the favorites to your own home kitchen. This whole-grain challah will ruin you for all other braided breads.
Instead of using 100 percent whole-wheat bread flour in this recipe, I use a mix of flours: unbleached white bread flour, whole-wheat bread flour and oat bran (which adds sweetness and some health benefits too). I encourage you to play around with your flour mix to include rye flour, spelt flour, buckwheat flour, or others depending on your preferences.
Note: To ensure the freshness of your whole-wheat flour, make sure to store it in the freezer. Allow the whole-wheat flour to sit out at room temperature 20 to 30 minutes before using to make bread. Cold flour can slow down the rising process.
- 1 1/2 tablespoons dry active yeast
- 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
- 1 1/4 cups lukewarm water
- 2 1/2 cups unbleached bread flour (preferably King Arthur)
- 1 1/2 cups whole-wheat bread flour (can also use regular whole-wheat flour)
- 1/2 cup oat bran
- 1 1/2 teaspoons salt
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 1/4 cup vegetable oil
- 2 large eggs
- 1 egg yolk (or 1 whole egg)
- 1 teaspoon water
- 1/4 cup whole oats (optional)
- 2 tablespoons whole flaxseed (optional)
- 1/4 teaspoon coarse sea salt (optional)
- 1/4 cup sunflower seeds (optional)
- 1/4 cup sliced almonds (optional)
For the challah
In a small bowl, place the yeast, ½ teaspoon sugar, and lukewarm water. Stir gently to mix. Allow to sit 5 to 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together 1 cup of the unbleached bread flour with ½ cup of the whole-wheat flour, the oat bran, salt and sugar. Add the water- yeast mixture and oil to flour. Mix thoroughly.
Add another ½ cup of the bread flour, ½ cup of the whole-wheat flour, and 2 eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add the remaining flour and mix until dough comes together. It should feel slightly dense and just a tad sticky.
Remove from bowl and place on a lightly floured surface. Hand knead for 30 seconds, just until dough is smooth and no longer sticky.
Place in a large greased bowl. Drape a warm, wet dish towel over the top and allow to rise 3 hours.
Divide the dough in two and braid the challahs into desired shape.
Place braided challah on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper or silicone baking mat. Allow the challah to rise another 45 to 60 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and the challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah. Preheat oven to 375°F while the dough rises.
In a small bowl beat egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water.
Brush the egg wash liberally over challah. Sprinkle with whole oats, whole flaxseed, or other desired toppings such as coarse sea salt, sunflower seeds, or almonds.
Bake 24 to 26 minutes, or until the color is golden.