Monday, January 2, 2012

Honey Whole-Wheat Challah

We obviously aren't following a gluten free diet here at SteffesWood Apiary!  I've been on a bread baking kick and have been having some great luck with challah.  This whole wheat challah recipe produced a lightly sweetened loaf with a soft crumb that is also great toasted.  It makes a gorgeous loaf, too!

1 cup water
1/4 cup honey (I used amber summer honey, but fall honey would be delicious here)
2 tablespoons butter
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour
1 packet (.25 ounce) rapid-rise yeast
1 teaspoon salt
1 whole egg, plus one egg yolk
1 teaspoon (or so) sesame seeds

Heat water, honey and butter in a small pan over low flame until the water is warm enough to melt the butter.  You don't want the water to be boiling hot, but it should be hot to the touch.  Stir to melt butter and dissolve honey.  In a separate bowl, combine 1 and 1/2 cups whole wheat flour, 1 and 1/2 cups all purpose flour, yeast and salt in the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook (or large bowl).  While mixer runs on low speed, pour hot water/honey/butter mixture into bowl.  Beat the whole egg with a fork and pour it into the bowl, too, and mix until the liquid begins to combine with the flour. Stop mixer, scrape down sides of the bowl and turn mixer onto medium speed.  Knead dough about 5 minutes, adding up to 1/2 cup more each of whole wheat and all purpose flours if needed, until dough is soft, smooth and elastic.  If you're doing this by hand, it may take about 8 minutes of kneading.

Three risings:
Place dough in a large, lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and/or a kitchen towel and set in a warm place until doubled in size (about 1 hour).  Fold dough in on itself a few times, turn it over so smooth side is up, cover and let rise again until doubled in size.  Fold dough in on itself again and roll into a long rope, tapered at the ends, about 18 inches long and 3 inches thick.  Roll the rope into a tight curl, pinching the dough on the bottom to hold the curl together (see photo). Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet.  Cover again and let rise for about 1 more hour.

 Preheat oven to 350.  When dough has risen (in loaf form) for the third time, beat an egg yolk with 1 teaspoon water and gently brush over entire loaf.  Sprinkle with about 1-2 teaspoons of sesame seeds (try to have a light covering over entire loaf).  Bake in center of the oven for about 45-55 minutes, until the loaf is a rich, brown (almost the color of a soft pretzel).  Cool on a wire rack for about 10 minutes before slicing and serving.  This recipe makes one loaf.

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