Several things come together brilliantly with the sprouted wheat challah for this holiday season. The use of sprouted wheat flour, all egg yolks and no butter for those observing a kosher diet. This sprouted wheat challah can be found in Peter Reinhart’s Bread Revolution. Reinhart points out that the challah, defined primarily by enrichment with eggs, always seems better with more yolks and fewer whites. The egg yolks, rich in natural oils and lecithin, help keep the bread moist and give it a creamy mouthfeel.
A baker’s job is to bring out the full potential of flavor trapped in the grain. Many techniques help to accomplish that. For example: the use of pre-ferment such as poolish, biga or sponge, as well as long and cold fermentation. All to coax more flavor and to develop acidity. Sprouted flour bypasses all that because it has already been preconditioned. In fact, sprouted flour may seem odd but it’s easy to get your arms around it.
The benefits for using the sprouted flour are clear:
- the whole grain is used;
- germinating the grain enhances its nutritional value;
- sprouting softens the bran, reduces it’s bitterness while making the grain’s minerals more bioavailable.
I bought some King Arthur Flour sprouted wheat which makes it much easier to get baking underway and skips the time-consuming process of sprouting, drying and milling the grains. (I know, I know, artisan bakers almost always insist on freshly milled flour because they produce better tasting bread.) Following Reinhart’s sprouted wheat challah recipe can’t be more straight forward. No biga or preferment to deal with. It is like making most enriched yeast breads; bakers of all skill levels will be happy baking these. Start by mixing in a Kitchen Aid mixer followed by series of stretch-and-folds to add strength to the dough. The rest is letting the dough rest.
The other technique that gets an intense work out, at least for me, is making the braids for the challah. Divide the dough evenly into the desired number of pieces. I did a four-strand braid because it’s a step beyond the three-strand braid that I’m most familiar with. That was fun to find a new pattern. Nothing to the technique; just mileage in rolling and braiding.
To shape a four-braid loaf, connect 4 strands of equal weight and length at one end, spreading the other ends out with the tips facing you. From the left, number the strands 1, 2, 3, 4. Following this pattern: 4 over 3, 1 under 2 over 4, and 3 over 1, 2 under 4 over 3. Repeat until you get to the ends of the strands, then pinch the tips together to seal.
As expected, the challah is soft, creamy and pillowy. You forget you’re eating 100% whole wheat bread without any of its typical close crumb structure. I believe that the sprouted wheat challah fully expresses the potential of the sprouted wheat flour. Revolutionary, maybe! Ground breaking, certainly!
Baking notes: The challah spreads out in the oven as it rises. I could see using a baguette pan during proofing and baking. That may help shape the challah to get taller rather than flatter. Just a thought; I haven’t actually tried it.
I have linked this post to the Fresh Loaf for comments. It’s a community of bakers who are incredibly helpful and knowledgeable with all things bread.
Sprouted Wheat ChallahPrint Recipe
- 4 1/2 cups or 510 grams sprouted whole wheat flour
- 1 1/4 teaspoons or 9 grams salt
- 2 1/4 teaspoons or 7 grams instant yeast
- 3 tablespoons (or 2 tablespoons plus 3/4 teaspoons) or 42.5 grams sugar (or honey or agave nectar)
- 1 1/4 cups plus 2 tablespoons or 312 grams water, lukewarm (95°F / 35°C)
- 5 or 106 grams egg yolks, slightly beaten
- 3 tablespoons or 42.5 grams vegetable oil
- egg wash (1 egg whisked with 1 tablespoon water)
- sesame or poppy seeds for topping (optional)
In the bowl of a stand mixer or a large bowl, stir together the flour, salt and yeast. Stir in the sugar (if using honey or agave nectar, add it to the water in the next step.) In a separate bowl, whisk together the water, egg yolks, and oil, then pour into the flour mixture and mix on low speed until the flour is hydrated and a coarse, sticky dough forms, about 1 minute.
Let the dough rest, uncovered for 5 minutes. Use the dough hook and mix for 1 to 2 minutes, on medium-low speed. The dough should be smooth but still slightly soft and sticky. Add a bit more water or flour if necessary to achieve the texture, but bear in mind that the dough will firm up during the stretch and fold process.
Spread about 1 teaspoon of vegetable oil or olive oil on a work surface. Using a wet or oiled bowl scraper or rubber spatula, transfer the dough to the oiled area. Lightly oil your hands, stretch and fold the dough, folding it over itself four times: once each from the top, bottom, and sides. The dough will firm up slightly but still be soft and slightly sticky. Cover the dough with the mixing bowl and then, at intervals of 5 minutes or up to 20 minutes, perform three additional sequences of stretching and folding. The dough will firm up a bit more with each stretch and fold. After the final fold, it should be only slightly tacky and firmer than many doughs, because it must hold up to the braiding and retain the braided appearance when baked. That said, it must also be supple and extensible enough to roll out for braiding.
Oil a large bowl and put the dough in the bowl. Mist the top of the dough with vegetable spray oil and cover the bowl with a lid or plastic wrap. Ferment the dough at room temperature for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until double in size.
Oil the work surface again and transfer the dough to the oiled area. Divide the dough in two, then divide each evenly into the desired number of pieces. The number of strands in the braid is up to you, with the main rule being that the strands should each be the same weight and be rolled out to the same length. Flatten each piece with the palms of your hands, then roll each into a cigar shape about 3 inches in length. Let rest for 2 minutes, then roll each piece into a tapered strand 8 to 10 inches in length. Braid the strands until you get to the ends, then pinch the tips together to seal.
Line a sheet pan with parchment paper or silicone mat and mist with vegetable spray oil. Transfer the braided dough to the baking pan. Lay the loaves side by side, allowing enough room between them. Brush the top and side surfaces with the egg wash. Mist the top with vegetable spray oil and cover loosely with plastic wrap. Let proof for about 1 hour at room temperature. Brush with the more egg wash and generously sprinkle with seeds if you like. Proof for 10 to 15 minutes longer, until the dough increases in size by nearly 1 1/2 times. (It will rise further in the oven.)
Position a rack in the middle of the oven and preheat the oven to 350°C (177°C).
Bake for 20 minutes, then rotate and bake for 10 minutes longer until the crust is rich golden brown and the bread sounds hallow when thumped on the bottom. The internal temperature should be about 190°F (88°C).
Transfer to a wire rack and let cool for at least 30 minutes before slicing and serving.
Adapted from Bread Revolution by Peter Reinhart