The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

Whole wheat bread: Can it be considered a challah?

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108 breads's picture
108 breads

Whole wheat bread: Can it be considered a challah?

Bread #45 is a gorgeous whole wheat challah. This, of course, raises the question of whether a 100 percent, or any percentage, whole wheat renders a dough ineligible for being considered a challah. My answer: It depends whom you ask. I say yes, but the rest of the household disagrees. My dog is staying neutral so he can continue to sample all breads. Recipe is from Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. I have yet to make a good challah with sourdough starter. And then there's the braiding challenge.

richkaimd's picture

...are these:  I'm pretty sure that challah is the Hebrew word for the little piece of dough thrown into the baking chamber (oven) as the baker's sacrifice to God; I am also pretty sure that there is no one who can be absolutely certain that when modern challah was first developed (by Ashkenzai Jews in Poland, when for sure?) they had the white flour we have now; I have made hundreds of challahs over the years using all sorts of flours alone and in combination, limiting my making of all white flours challahs to those occasions when I know the eaters are not likely to be adventurous; I think that, in today's world, you can call challah any Northern European-style bread you make with eggs and a source of the sweet (any granulated sugar, honey, malt syrup, what have you); I'm pretty sure that concentrated yeast was not around when the Poles (or whomever it was) starting making modern challah so the first challahs in the Northern European form had to be sourdough; challah is not limited to a braided form; and then "there's no accounting for (your husband's) taste".  That's not to say that he should like your whole wheat challah; he just doesn't.  But he seems to like you!

srulybpsyd's picture

Especially if you subscribe to the colloquial definition of Challah which is basically any bread that is used at the traditional Friday night Shabbos meal:) I brought rye bread to my in-laws once for Shabbos and they used it at the meal. Everyone ended up referring to it as Challah even though by official bread standards it was not.

richkaimd, you are correct that the word challah really refers to the small piece of dough that is torn off and burned separate from the bread. Though this is not technically a sacrifice to G-d; in olden times, this was a potion of dough that was given to a kohen (priest) in the temple in Jerusalem as a gift.

My wife and I bake a big batch of whole wheat challah every few weeks and throw the loaves in the freezer to pull out when we have guests. Unfortunately we used to be a little less "in the know" about baking bread and used to substitute WW flour for ALL of the AP flour in a family recipe without changing the hydration, The loaves were usually tasty but really dense and sometimes super dry. We're due for a bake soon and I can't wait to try a WW challah recipe that has been formulated precisely for 100% WW (probably a recipe from "A Blessing of Bread" by Maggie Glezer).

108 breads's picture
108 breads

You are both open-minded bakers and tolerant of different challah ideas. My family has picky eaters who have been treated to the same, very conventional, challah pretty much every week for years. They are united that nothing should change. I am sneaking in these attempts at different challahs now while my daughters are away and the voices are not in my kitchen in unison against my little rebellion.

I am also in an adult bat mitzvah class and I will be doing a drash in class about references to leavened and unleavened bread, other than Passover references, and bread-related sacrifices. I am uncovering very interesting information.