50% Whole Wheat Sourdough Challah
Despite the fact that growing up challah was more favourite bread, since I’ve been baking bread for the past three years I’ve only made challah once. My first challah was Maggie Glezer’s sourdough challah which I blogged about last year. I made some changes to her recipe in order to add some whole grain. I also love an eggy challah so also increased the egg. I reduced both the water and the oil to compensate for the contribution of both by the additional egg. This is what I came up with for my test bake.
The dough was stickier than I would have liked so shaping was more challenging than I wanted. I would omit the holdback water the next time I bake this.
- The night before baking, mix the starter and ferment it at 76-78°F for 8-12 hours.
- In the morning, in a large bowl or the bowl of a stand mixer, add the starter then water, then mix in the 4 eggs, salt and honey and 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. (Bassinage the hold back water to achieve the desired consistency) The dough should be quite firm. Gradually add the oil, the dough may break down, wait until it comes back together and before you add more. Mix until gluten is well developed.
- Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl and cover it tightly. Ferment for about 2 hours. It may not rise much. At 82°F it rose 20-25% in 2 hours.
- 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 (I used a quarter-sheet pan for each loaf.) Cover well with plastic wrap or place the pans in a food grade plastic bag, and proof at room temperature until the loaves have tripled in volume. About 4-6 hours.
- If it’s almost tripled 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 upper 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.
- Optionally, sprinkle the loaves with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds.
- Bake until done – 25-40 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.