I done did it.
I done made you the best homemade bread in the entire world. Before you get all skeptical and tell me to stop using so many superlatives, hear me out. First of all, this is challah, so it’s automatically better than all other bread, just by virtue of BEING challah. Second, there are NO bleached or processed flours WHATSOEVER in this recipe. Still not sold? It’s soft and warm on the inside and golden brown on the outside. AND, it has herbs and cranberries in it.
I knew you’d come around.
This week, I went around telling everyone I possibly could about this challah because it came out perfectly. To my surprise, I got the question, “What is a challah?” several times. So, just in case, here’s the Merriam-Webster definition:
1) egg-rich yeast-leavened bread that is usually braided or twisted before baking and is traditionally eaten by Jews on the Sabbath and holidays
2) the most fantastic food in the universe
Ok, so I may have put that last part in there. I know, I know, the superlatives.
This month’s Recipe Redux challenge was to recreate a healthy version of a dish that we associate with happy memories. As a child, having gone to my synagogue’s preschool and having been raised in a Reform Jewish household, challah was one of the first foods I can remember eating regularly. Every Friday morning, my parents would buy a challah from the bagel shop and bring it home for Shabbat in the evening. We would say the “hamotzi” blessing all together (or in some cases, sing, because singing is one of the only ways you can get a 4-year-old to do anything), and then pass around the eggy end piece, each tearing off a bite. This was always my favorite part of the Shabbat blessings, because the end piece of the challah is pretty much the BEST. It also meant that afterward, we would sit down to a beautiful meal as a family. Even if it was just takeout, it was always a given that we’d be eating it together. (Crying yet, mom? :D)
On top of all these fond memories, challah has always been my ultimate sicky-time comfort food. Any time I come down with a cold, bug, or food poisoning, even when I can’t fathom the idea of putting anything into my stomach, the one food I will always agree to eat is challah. And, I’m always fine to eat it again once I recover. Challah may not be physically capable of having any bad memories attached to it. This has been true for 22 years, and I don’t see it changing.
As with all great comfort foods though, challah isn’t always the best for you. Most challahs you will find for sale are made with processed white flours and sugars. If you’re like me and are trying to limit your processed food intake, comfort foods like these are often very hard to give up. Like, what if I want to eat challah more often than once every few months?
Well, I’ve found a solution. At least for me! This recipe uses roughly 2 parts whole wheat flour and 1 part whole wheat pastry flour. Originally, I was petrified that the dough wouldn’t rise like I wanted due to the heavier consistency of the flours I put in the dough. Instead, the baked end result was just as fluffy in the middle as the challah I grew up eating. Only it was nuttier, sweeter, and filled with herbs and cranberries.
I’m still shocked, but I won’t question it. I’ll just make my own challah from now on, and hope I don’t sick of it. Eh, who am I kidding. I could never be sick of challah.
Also, by the way, this recipe would impress the pants off your Thanksgiving guests, and would be even MORE amazing if made into individual dinner rolls. AHHHH THE POSSIBILITIES! When is the next Thanksgivukkah happening again?
*This recipe makes two loaves. I made one traditional three-strand braided loaf and one with a round braid. You can read up on how to do both here and here.
Whole Wheat Cranberry Herb Challah
- 1 packet active dry yeast (1/4 oz)
- 3/4 cup warm water
- 1/4 cup + 1 tbs. honey
- 1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
- 3 eggs (2 for dough, 1 for egg wash)
- 1 tsp. salt
- 2 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
- 1 cup whole wheat pastry flour
- 1 tbs. fresh thyme leaves, finely chopped
- 1/4 cup fresh rosemary leaves, finely chopped
- 1/2 cup dried cranberries, chopped
- Empty yeast into a large bowl and add warm (NOT hot) water.
- Whisk in 1 tbs. of honey until mixture is thoroughly combined. Let sit until yeast is foamy, about 10 minutes.
- Whisk in 2 eggs, remaining honey, oil, and salt until combined.
- In a separate bowl, combine both flours.
- Add flour to yeast mixture gradually, kneading with your hands until fully combined and there are no spots of dry flour left.
- Let dough stand in an oiled bowl and in a warm place until doubled in size, about 2 hours.
- Once dough has risen, deflate and add cranberries, thyme, and rosemary. Knead until incorporated.
- Divide the dough in half. Each half will be one loaf, so depending on what braiding you want, divide each half again accordingly.
- Braid loaves, and transfer them to a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Let sit for one more hour to rise.
- Preheat oven to 350˚F.
- Brush each loaf with remaining egg, and bake for about 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Do not overbake!
Adapted from What Jew Wanna Eat