Dreaming up crazy flavors of challah like pastrami sandwich challah, balsamic apple date challah or gruyere and pesto stuffed challah is one of my greatest joys as a baker. But sometimes I do long for a simpler challah, and have even been known to make whole wheat challah. Yes, it’s true. I hope you were sitting for that.
I use a half whole wheat, half all-purpose unbleached flour ratio when making my whole wheat challah. Yes, you could try to use all whole wheat flour, but challah is supposed to be light and fluffy, and whole wheat flour is simply more dense. Because the whole wheat flour is denser, I make sure to be particularly patient when letting it rise: for the first rise I allow 4 hours, and for the second rise another 1 1/2 hours. It may seem like a lot, but the result is worth it. My mother-in-law even commented about this challah, “this is sinful.” Whole wheat challah? Sinful? Well, I will take it. And especially from my mother-in-law!
I also like to add ground flax seed in the challah for a little extra dose of healthiness which is impossible to detect. And inspired by the beautiful, Israeli challot of Breads Bakery, I love to add pumpkin seeds, whole flax seeds, oats, sesame seeds, black sesame seeds and even sunflower seeds on top for a fun and healthy crunch.
This honey whole wheat challah is perfect for Rosh Hashanah. And instead of a savory topping like the ones I just mentioned, you could add a sprinkle of cinnamon sugar on top for an extra sweet, and healthy, new year ahead.
1 ¼ cups lukewarm water
1 ½ Tbsp dry yeast
1 tsp sugar
2 ½ cups all purpose unbleached flour
2-2 ½ cups whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
½ Tbsp salt
¼ cup vegetable oil
½ cup sugar
¼ cup honey
2 egg yolks + 1 tsp water + 1 tsp honey
Whole flax seed, pumpkin seeds, sunflower seeds, sesame seeds, poppy seeds (optional)
Thick sea salt (optional)
In a small bowl, place yeast, 1 tsp sugar and lukewarm water. Allow to sit around 10 minutes, until it becomes foamy on top.
In a large bowl or stand mixer fitted with the whisk attachment, mix together ¾ cup whole wheat flour, ¾ cup all-purpose flour, salt and sugar. After the water-yeast mixture has become foamy, add to flour mixture along with oil and honey. Mix thoroughly. Pro tip: use the same cup to measure the honey as you used for the oil which will allow for easier clean-up of the sticky honey.
Add another ½ cup whole wheat flour, ½ cup regular flour and eggs and mix until smooth. Switch to the dough hook attachment if you are using a stand mixer.
Add another 1 ½- 2 cups of mixed flour, mixing thoroughly and then remove from bowl and place on a floured surface. Knead remaining ½ cup flour into dough, continuing to knead for around 10 minutes (or however long your hands will last).
Place dough in a greased bowl and cover with damp towel. Allow to rise at least 4 hours, punching down at least once if possible.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Braid challah into desired shape. Allow challah to rise another 90 minutes, or until you can see the size has grown and challah seems light. This step is very important to ensure a light and fluffy challah.
In a small bowl beat 2 egg yolks with 1 tsp water and 1 tsp honey.
Brush egg wash liberally over challah. Sprinkle with seeds and thick sea salt if desired.
If making one large challah, bake around 28 minutes; if making two smaller challahs, bake 24-26 minutes. When making round challot, make sure the middle has cooked through, which might require an extra 1-2 minutes baking time.
Pronounced: KHAH-luh, Origin: Hebrew, ceremonial bread eaten on Shabbat and Jewish holidays.