This so-good-we-inhaled-it bread was made with the "wrong flour" -- or at least not the flours the recipe called for because this Old Mother Hubbard found her cupboards wanting whole wheat flour.
This is adapted from the Honey Whole Wheat Challah in Stanley Ginsberg's and Norman Berg's _Inside the Jewish Bakery_ which is due to hit the bookstores on October 15th, 2011. Since I indexed the book, I've had page proofs for a few months and have been able to make their wonderful whole wheat challah a couple times already.
Well, this time, when I went to make the challah, I was totally out of whole wheat flour! Happily, I did have some NYB Farine de Compagne, which is a blend of artisan bread flour with rye in it distributed by Stan (one of the book's authors) at www.nybakers.com.
A happy accident resulted! What may just be the best bread I've ever made. Dangerous bread, however. So good we ate it all too quickly! I have to make more bread!
Put the flour, salt, and yeast in a large bowl or in the bowl of a heavy duty stand mixer. stir to distribute the yeast and salt.
In another good sized bowl, lightly beat the eggs and add the oil, honey, and water. Measuring the honey after the oil helps the honey slide out. Mix thoroughly to prevent the honey from sinking to the bottom of the mixture.
Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Stir until ingredients are combined or use the flat paddle of the stand mixer and run on slow speed until the mixture comes together.
The next step, called "autolyze" by bread makers will save you kneading time. Let the dough sit for 20 to 30 minutes. This allows the wet ingredients to thoroughly moisten the dry ingredients and starts the process of gluten building.
Knead the dough for about 15 minutes by hand or 12 minutes on medium low speed using the dough hook on the stand mixer. If you must knead by hand, try not to add flour to the dough but rather use an oiled surface. Alternatively, use the stretch and fold method to avoid kneading altogether.
After kneading dough should be stretchy and smooth but will still be sticky. Form it into a ball, place it in a bowl, cover, and allow to double in size (about 1 to 1 1/2 hours).
On a lightly floured surface, divide the risen ball of dough into six equal pieces. Using your hands, on a lightly floured surface, roll each piece of dough into a long cord of dough about 1 inch in diameter.
Take three of the cords and line them up next to each other with a little space in between. Starting halfway down the cords, braid as you would hair and then pinch the ends together. Flip the now half-braided dough upside down and braid the other end, pinching again. Repeat with the other 3 cords.
Place the two braided loaves on parchment paper on a baking sheet. Cover with a dampened tea towel and allow to double in size (about 45 minutes to 1 hour)
Preheat the oven to 400F and make sure a rack is in the middle of the oven.
While the oven is preheating, brush the bread with an egg wash made by whisking an egg with about 1 tablespoon of water.
Optionally, decorate with seeds and/or salt. The loaves pictured above were decorated with black sesame seeds, toasted sesame seeds, and kosher (coarse) salt. For an all-over effect, sprinkle seeds evenly on the loaves. For alternating decorations, use a finger dipped in egg wash and seeds to transfer seeds to the bread.
Bake at 400F 45 minutes or until the bread is golden with an internal temperature between 200F and 210F. The bread should have a hollow sound when thumped on the bottom.
Cool on a rack to prevent steaming the bottom. An upturned muffin tin also works as a rack.
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