Whole Wheat Challah Back Girl

“Education doesn’t make you happy. Nor does freedom. We don’t become happy just because we’re free – if we are. Or because we’ve been educated – if we have. But because education may be the means by which we realize we are happy. It opens our eyes, our ears, tells us where delights are lurking, convinces us that there is only one freedom of any importance whatsoever, that of the mind, and gives us the assurance – the confidence – to walk the path our mind, our educated mind, offers.”

― Iris Murdoch


In my case, delights just so happen to be lurking in Fort Lauderdale, somewhere between the palm-treed sunrise and the Harbor Beach hotel where the Academy of Psychosomatic Medicine has me enraptured, my curiosity sated by the second. Methinks, as my mentor puts it, “Rachel, these are your people.”

whole wheat challah finish

Whole Wheat Challah

Adapted from Penzeys Spices Magazine

1 ½ cup sourdough starter

1 ½ cup warm water, divided

2 TB. sugar

1/2 Cup olive oil

1/2 Cup honey

3 large eggs

3-4 Cups whole wheat flour

1 tsp. salt

2-3 Cups whole wheat pastry flour

1-2 tsp. oil for the bowl the dough will rise in


1 egg

1 tsp. water

1-2 tsp. poppy or sesame seeds, optional

In a small bowl, combine the starter, one cup warm water and sugar. Stir and let sit for a few minutes until bubbly.

In a large bowl, combine 1/2 cup of warm water, olive oil, honey and eggs. Stir until blended. Add the yeast mixture and stir. Begin adding 1 cup of whole wheat flour at a time. Stir in thoroughly after each cup. After 2 cups have been mixed in, add the salt. Add in another 1-2 cups of whole wheat flour and then switch to either whole wheat pastry flour or unbleached white flour. Stir until the dough is so stiff you can’t stir any more. Then, dump 1 cup of pastry or white flour onto the counter and put the dough on top. Knead for about 10 minutes, turning the dough over and shaking more flour on the table as the dough absorbs the flour and gets sticky. Place in an oiled bowl and let sit for 1 1/2-2 hours.

whole wheat challah dough

When doubled in bulk, punch down the dough and then divide and roll into strands for braiding. Make strands about 18″ long. This recipe makes 2 large challah or 3 medium ones, so divide the dough into 6 or 9 strands. Challah traditionally is a doubled braided loaf so you want the strands twice as long as your bread loaf will be. Cover the baking sheets with parchment paper or foil and then lay 3 strands on each pan with the edges hanging off. Start braiding from the middle down to the end.

whole wheat challah glaze

Cover again to rise at least 1 hour. Beat the whole egg with the water. Brush the loaves with the egg wash, sprinkle with poppy seeds or sesame seeds, if desired, about 1 tsp. per loaf. For 3 loaves bake at 375° for about 20 minutes, for 2 larger loaves we dropped the temperature to 350° and baked a few minutes longer.

whole wheat challah bread

May I also say, for the record, that it is nice to be catcalled. Walking the two miles between the dive motel I chose to stay in and the luxury resort where the conference is held, I have subjected myself to the lurid stares of idle beach bum college(?) guys who balk at my choice of black corduroy pants and mint suit coat jacket. “Girl, you are too fine to not have a swimsuit on! I like yo’ leggings, tho! You still pretty.” And I blush, because Minnesota bashfulness is contagious, and I say, “Thank you” with a red-face grin. Been too long since the streets called me pretty. And that’s a shame.

And, as it turns out, in my own special way, I am a challah back girl.

good morning Floria

One thought on “Whole Wheat Challah Back Girl

  1. Oooh, I can totally see you digging psychosomatic medicine, as you are so naturally good at making connections of all sorts! I’m so happy for you, getting to be with “your people” at this conference, and soaking up the sunshine and catcalls, as well as a bit of fashion critique 🙂 Black cords and mint green blazer sounds pretty darn foxy if you ask me! Also, that bread looks divine. I’d never considered the possibility of whole wheat challah, but now that I think about it it sounds marvelous!

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