Jane’s Sweets & Baking Journal -- janessweets.blogspot.com -- July 2013

Honey Whole-Wheat Challah with Dried Cherries

(Please note: This recipe has been adapted from Daniel Leader’s book, Simply Great Breads: Sweet and Savory Yeasted Treats from America’s Premier Artisan Baker. The Taunton Press, 2011. Please see pages 71-72 for his original recipe, “Whole Wheat Challah with Apricots.” Co-author Lauren Chattman; photos by Ditte Isager.)

Honey Whole-Wheat Challah Bread with Dried Cherries

Yield: One large braided loaf, or two smaller standard size loaves baked in 9"x5" pans

Ingredients:

2 cups whole wheat flour (about 8.5 oz)

1 cup bread flour

3/4 cup unbleached all-purpose flour

2 and 1/4 teaspoons instant yeast

1 and 1/2 teaspoons fine sea salt or kosher salt

3/4 cup luke warm water

2 large eggs, room temperature and lightly beaten

1/2 cup canola oil

3 tablespoons of honey

1/4 cup of well-chopped dried cherries

For egg wash: 1 large egg, lightly beaten with two teaspoons water (to brush on the unbaked loaf before putting it in the oven)

* * * * *

In the large bowl from your mixer, lightly whisk together the three flours, the yeast, and the salt. Into that, pour the water, eggs, oil, and honey. Using a spatula, stir this up by hand for a few seconds. Now put the bowl back on the mixer and, using the dough hook, mix the dough for about five minutes on the lowest speed, sprinkling in the chopped cherries after the first couple of minutes. Take the bowl off the mixer and dump the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Flour your hands and finish the kneading by hand, for a couple more minutes, until the dough feels soft, smooth, and spongy. It should tacky but not wet/sticky.

Put the dough into a large, clean bowl that's been oiled/sprayed. Cover it with plastic wrap that's also been oiled/sprayed, and let the dough rise at room temperature for about 90 minutes or up to 2 hours, until it's obviously doubled in size.

On a very lightly floured work surface, dump out the risen dough and deflate it by pressing on it with your palms. Divide the dough into three equal parts (I suggest weighing the dough first; my ball of dough weighed about 35 oz. total, so each of the three dough chunks for the braids weighed a little over 11 oz.). Roll each piece into a rope that's 15 inches long; be assertive and don't worry if the dough tries to shrink back a little as you're doing this.

On a large baking sheet, spread a sheet of parchment paper. Place the three ropes of dough in the middle of the parchment, right next to each other, and pinch the ends together tightly at the top. Proceed to braid the dough snugly (starting from the top with the right braid over the middle braid, then the left one over the center, etc.) until you reach the bottom end; tightly pinch the bottom ends together and tuck the pinched part underneath.

Dust the top of the braided dough with a pinch of flour (the bread flour or all-purpose flour) and cover it with a clean piece of plastic wrap. Let it proof for up to 2 hours, until it looks almost doubled in size. While its proofing, preheat your oven to 350 degrees.

Just before the bread is ready to bake, whisk together the egg and water to make a wash; brush some of the egg wash generously onto the top of the loaf and lightly down the sides. Bake the bread for up to about 40 minutes, until the internal temperature reaches 200 degrees (use an instant-read thermometer to check if you're not sure; I often do this), and the color is deeply golden brown all over. Let the baked bread cool on a rack for a while before slicing.