Honey Challah Bread

I have entered the crazy, crazy world of yeast. Instead of making lots and lots of cookies and cakes, I'm trying to make, let's call them, practical things. Things I could eat for breakfast or lunch. And its been tricky. I've never been a huge fan of bread making; for some reason it seems to take all day and they never get that light, soft texture I hope for. This challah bread was actually the first homemade bread I was very satisfied with. I used a recipe I found on Food52, a fantastic food forum. The bread was delightfully soft and a tad sweet, perfect for toast with peanut butter in the morning. And because this batch makes two loaves, I froze one and it was fresh and hearty two weeks later!

1 1/2 cup warm water
1/4 cup sugar, plus 2 extra tablespoons divided
2 tablespoons active dry yeast
3 cups all purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat flour
2 teaspoons salt
1/4 cup honey, plus 1 teaspoon extra
2/3 cup vegetable oil (any flavorless works fine)
4 eggs, plus 1 egg yolk for egg-wash

Bake time: 20-25 minutes
Total time: 4 hours

1. To 1 cup of warm water, add 2 teaspoons of sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top. Set aside to proof (bubble).

2. Mix flour and 1/4 cup sugar in a large bowl, slowly to combine without flying in your face.
3. In smaller bowl, mix the remaining water, honey, oil, and eggs. I just used a glass. (Hmm, yummy...)
4. Add the yeast mixture to the flour, then the liquid-egg mixture. Stir with a wooden spoon or a paddle attachment until well combined, about 30 seconds.
5. Add a dough hook and mix for 5-7 minutes, making sure to get all the bits at the bottom. If kneading by hand, drop dough onto a well floured surface and knead 7-10 minutes until smooth and pliable.
6. Split the dough in half and place in a two large bowls. Cover and set aside at room temperature to rise, about 2- 2 1/2 hours. It might take a little longer if the dough is completely whole wheat.
7. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.

 8. When the dough has risen, separate each half into 2 balls (total of 4). Roll each ball into equal lengths.
Put two rolls into a cross pattern.
Place the top right end between the two bottom ends.
Place the left bottom over the two.
Continue picking up one, placing it over one, pick up the other end and place it over two. Until the loaves form.

... Actually just watch this video, it explains plaiting a lot better than I can.

9. Place each loaf on a cookie sheet, and let rise again for about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
10. Make the egg-wash: mix 1 egg yolk with 1 tablespoon of water and 1 tablespoon of honey. Brush the loaves lightly.

11. Bake 20-25 minutes, until the loaves are golden. I was worried mine would be underdone, so I left them in a little longer, and one cracked at the seams. Be careful!


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