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This recipe for high-rising challah comes from Lora Brody, author and long-time King Arthur friend. The loaf was inspired by Lora’s mother, Millie, who long ago discovered the virtue of using whole-wheat pastry flour to make this light-textured golden braid, traditionally served on the Jewish Sabbath and other holidays. Whole wheat gives the challah deeper color and more complex flavor; and using whole wheat pastry flour, ground from softer wheat than traditional whole wheat flour, allows it to retain its feather-light texture.
Yield: One 15- to 16-inch braid, 16 servings
Baking temperature: 375°F
Baking time: 30 minutes
1/2 cup (4 ounces) lukewarm water
6 tablespoons (2 5/8 ounces) vegetable oil
1/4 cup (3 ounces) honey
2 large eggs
2 cups (6 3/4 ounces) whole wheat pastry flour
2 cups (8 1/2 ounces) unbleached bread flour
1 1/2 teaspoons salt
2 1/2 teaspoons instant yeast
Combine all of the ingredients and mix and knead themby hand, mixer, or bread machineuntil you have a soft, smooth dough. Allow the dough to rise, covered, for 1 to 2 hours, or until it’s puffy and nearly doubled in bulk.
Lightly grease (or line with parchment) a baking sheet.
Gently deflate the dough, and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface. Divide it into three equal pieces, shape each piece into a rough log, cover the pieces, and let them rest for 10 minutes.
Roll each piece of dough into an 18-inch rope. Place the three pieces of dough side by side on the prepared pan, and braid them, squeezing the ends together, then tucking them neatly underneath. Cover the braid gently with lightly greased plastic wrap or a proof cover, and allow it to rise for about 1 hour, until it’s puffy, but not doubled in bulk. Near the end of the bread’s rise, preheat the oven to 375°F.
Uncover and bake the bread for 20 minutes, tent it with foil and bake for an additional 10 minutes, until it’s a deep, golden brown, and an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center registers 190°F. Remove it from the oven, and after a minute or so carefully transfer it to a rack. Cool the bread to lukewarm before cutting it.
Variation: For sesame seed challah, reserve about 2 teaspoons egg white from the eggs in the dough. Combine it with 2 teaspoons water, and whisk until smooth. Gently brush this mixture on the risen challah just before baking, and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Nutrition information per serving (1 slice, 52g): 12g whole grains, 165 cal, 6g fat, 4g protein, 20g complex carbohydrates, 4g sugar, 2g dietary fiber, 26mg cholesterol, 210mg sodium, 84mg potassium, 9RE vitamin A, 1mg iron, 7mg calcium, 79mg phosphorus.