27 Mar Sourdough Whole Wheat Challah Bread
- Morning/Midday the day before: Refresh starter to make sure it is ready to make a specific starter (levain) for the challah dough that evening.
- Night before: Refreshed starter should be active. Follow directions to make a specific, extra thick starter (levain) for the dough.
- Morning of bake day: Mix dough
- Midday of bake day: Shape dough
- Late afternoon of bake day: Bake challah
Firm Challah starter (levain) to be made the night before:
- 35g (2 T.) Very active, fully fermented starter, refreshed 8-12 hours earlier
- 80g (1/3 c.) Water
- 135g (less than 1 c.) White Bread Flour (all-purpose is okay)
For final dough:
- 100g (7/8 c.) Warm water (room temp is okay, temp will affect fermentation speed)
- 2 large eggs (plus one additional egg for glazing, to be used later)
- 55g (1/4 c.) Oil (I use avocado oil for a more neutral flavor, olive oil would work great as well, for health and quality reasons I wouldn’t recommend any other oils)
- 65g (3 T.) honey (or 60g sugar)
- 8g Sea salt
- 400g (about 3 c.) Hard Red Wheat Flour (mine was fresh milled and purchased from Moon Family Farm)
- 200g of the fully fermented firm starter made the night before
1. Night before, make the starter: Knead starter into water until partially dissolved, then add flour. Knead dough until smooth. Place in a covered container where it will ferment and increase 4x in volume. Let ferment 8-12 hours.
2.Baking day begins with mixing the dough. In a large bowl, beat together water, 2 eggs, salt, oil, and honey until well mixed and salt is dissolved. With your hands, wooden spoon, or using dough hook in a mixer, mix in all flour at once. Once no dry bits of flour are left and it has become a shaggy ball of dough, I recommend a long autolyse with whole wheat for 30 minutes up to 2 hours.
3. After autolyse, it is time to add 200g of the firm starter. If using mixer, add the starter to the whole wheat challah dough and knead with dough hook until fully incorporated, scraping as needed. If mixing by hand, turn whole wheat challah dough out onto a work surface, knead in the starter until dough is smooth and the starter is fully incorporated.
4. Time to ferment: Prepare a clean bowl and place dough into bowl. Cover and let ferment 2 hours.
5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper, preferably one with no sides like a cookie sheet. Decide whether to make one large loaf or two medium loaves. For two medium loaves, divide the dough into two equal parts.
6. For each loaf (or only one if making one large), divide the dough into two equal pieces. Lightly flour surface and roll each piece (rolling one at a time) into a large rectangle then from the long side, begin to roll up dough until it meets opposite side. This creates a long strand (or plait) with lots of air incorporated for fluffy bread. Repeat process with all the sections of the dough. Roll strands against work surface until they are at least 18 inches long. To braid the sections of dough, take two ropes of the dough and cross over each other into an “X” shape. Take the upper two sections of the ropes of dough and pull down toward the bottom so all four edges are pointed downward. From left to right, think of the pieces of dough as 1, 2, 3, 4 (the strand with ends 1 and 3 should be under the strand with ends 2 and 4. Bring 1 over 2, 3 over 4, 4 over 1, 2 over 4, 1 over 3, 3 over 2, 4 over 3, 1 under 2, then tuck all strands under pressing sections to seal against loaf. Here is a video I created a year ago sharing some of the process: challah shaping video, shaping description starts at 4:24-6:00 Also, here is a short video of the two-strand challah shaping: Braiding Challah Bread from Two Strands
7. Once shaped, transfer loaf/loaves to parchment covered baking sheet, cover to protect from air using plastic wrap or damp cloth, and leave to proof until tripled in size. Use oven light method if your kitchen is cold. Check proof readiness using poke test, poking dough should leave a slight dent.
8. Preheat oven to 350 degrees with baking stone (recommended to create a consistent heat source). Place a jelly roll pan with water on bottom rack during preheating to add some humidity.
9. Meanwhile, scramble 1 egg with 1 T. water and brush top of challah loaf/loaves. Sprinkle with sesame seeds or poppyseeds, if desired.
10. After 15-30 minutes of preheating, slide dough on parchment (parchment remains under dough) onto hot baking stone. Bake 30 minutes, then remove water tray and rotate loaf/loaves if color looks uneven (keep an eye on loaf/loaves in case rotation needs to happen sooner for even color). Bake 5-10 more minutes. Watch bread to make sure it doesn’t overbake. It should be nicely browned all over. Bake time is 35-40 minutes
11. Allow to cool then enjoy the most delicious Sourdough Whole Wheat Challah ever!
If using white bread flour, reduce water in final dough to 80g. Recipe for white standard version is in my youtube Challah Bread video description.