Friday, May 14, 2010

Challah with Poppy Seeds

Challah bread is a braided, eggy loaf eaten by Jewish people on Shabbat and other holidays.  I would argue that it also makes the best bread for French Toast.  

I adapted this recipe from King Arthur Flour to be more whole wheat-y.  Partially because we ran out of all purpose flour and partially because whole wheat is healthier anyways.  "Whole wheat" means that the entire grain was ground with all parts intact - the germ, endosperm, and bran.  All-purpose white flour is ground from endosperm only.  When all parts of wheat (whole wheat) are ground to become flour, there is significantly more nutritional value (i.e. antioxidants, fiber, etc).  

We love a good grain in this apartment.  

Braided Challah Bread with Poppy Seeds
Yields one huge loaf
Time about 3 1/2 hours

1 cup all purpose flour
1 cup warm water
2 teaspoons active dry yeast

1 cup bread flour
4 teaspoons vital wheat gluten 
2 1/2 cups white whole wheat flour
3 tablespoons water (or milk if you are not going parve)
1 3/4 teaspoons salt
1/3 cup sugar
1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 whole eggs and one yolk
3 tablespoons whole wheat flour

1 egg white
1 teaspoon sugar
1 tablespoon water
Poppy Seeds (Poptional)

First, whip up the sponge.  
Let it be for 45 minutes.  
About 30 minutes after the sponge has been sitting, start to combine your dry dough ingredients in a large mixing bowl (with the exception of the 3 tbs whole wheat flour).  Stir them together.  In a separate bowl, mix together the wet ingredients.  Slowly add the sponge to the dry, stirring, and then add the wet ingredients to the sponge/dry mixture.  
Dump onto a whole wheat floured surface (use the 3 tablespoons*use more/less if you need* on your surface, the dough, and your hands).
Knead until the dough comes together.  Make sure you wash your hands and the surface well afterward since we are dealing with raw eggs.  This dough feels smoother on my hands than a dough without as much egg/oil.  
Shape the dough into a ball.  Lightly oil a bowl and turn the dough around so the whole surface gets oily.  
Let is rise until doubled about 1 to 1 1/2 hours.
Whip up your wash at some point while the dough rises.  
Now, for the braiding.  What to choose?  Fishtail, french, topsytail?
I went with a fancy four-braid.  If you are doing this with as a three-braid your rope will be longer.  

Divide the dough into four equal pieces.  Roll the dough into long ropes-- over a foot and under two feet.  About 16-18 inches if you are making a four braid, longer if you are only using three.  
Braid your dough.  One way to make a four piece braids is to take the left-most and go over the strand directly to its right.  Then take the right-most and go over the two middle strands.  Repeat, left-most over one to the right (KAF four-braid technique description).  Right-most over two to the left.  If that is confusing try these ways until you figure out what works for you:
Once you're all braided, wash with egg wash, cover with plastic wrap and let it rest for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.  Preheat the oven to 375°F during this time.  Right before the challah goes in the oven give it a second go with the egg wash (this is what gives you that nice shiny crust).  Add poppy seeds now if you'd like.  
Bake at 375°F for 35-40 minutes.  Always let bread cool completely before you cut into it.  

Shabbat Shalom
- Sarah


  1. definitely want to try challah with poppyseeds some time. i'll have to wait until the current loaf of challah is gone though... came home from work last week to find my fiancee had whipped together a large braided loaf and four braided challah buns! how lucky am i?!



  2. Oh, this looks fantastic! You know, sometimes it’s the most ingrained recipes that never get shared…thanks for bringing this one out!