Thursday, December 1, 2011

Whole Wheat Challah Dough... and Buns

I know that I said in my post, More Dough Play, that I was planning to 'perfect' the all-purpose flour challah recipe before attempting a whole wheat, or partial whole wheat version.  But I was out of all-purpose flour, needed hamburger buns, and had the overwhelming urge to try making them out of challah dough... so dove in with both feet to make a fully whole-wheat version.

I used the whole recipe that friend, Caroline (AKA Trailrunner), had posted on the Gardenweb Kitchen forum, making 2 braided loaves out of half, and hamburger buns of the rest. --She'd shared with me that the challah recipe makes great buns, and I'd been eager to try ever since.

Milling 1 full batch (8 cups) of hard white wheat berries in my Wondermill produces 12 1/2 cups of flour.  That, plus 1/2 cup of vital wheat gluten, made just exactly what I needed to replace 13 cups of all-purpose flour in the recipe, with the extra gluten boost I'd need for the whole grain flour.  Since those are the amounts I use for my sandwich bread recipe, I was confident that I'd at least come out with something edible, even if it wasn't close to the traditional challah.

Whole Wheat Challah
adapted from the recipe provided me by Caroline/Trailrunner
I updated the water amount, per her instructions, and changed the type of flour

In a 13-quart stainless bowl, mix
12 1/2 cups hard white whole wheat flour 
1/2 cup vital wheat gluten

In a medium bowl, whisk together
4 cups water 
3 Tablespoons instant yeast 
1/2 cup sugar  
Completely moist this time
6 eggs 
1 cube (1/2 cup) softened butter 
1 - 1 1/2 Tablespoon Kosher salt 
then mix it into the flour with a large spoon, just until the flour is all moistened.

Cover and let sit for 30 minutes to autolyse. (The dry ingredients absorb the moisture.)

Turn out on lightly floured surface and knead for 12 minutes, plus or minus, dusting with just enough more flour, as necessary, to keep it from sticking to the counter or your hands.  (When I finished kneading, the dough was still just a little moist/sticky, but not enough to be a problem to handle)

Form into a large ball and place in oiled bowl.  Spray with Pam, or oil, then cover and let rise until double for 1 hour.

At this point, I weighed the dough and divided it in half.  I placed one piece back in the bowl, resprayed with Pam and covered it to wait as I formed the buns.   

For hamburger buns, I divided the remaining half of the dough into 15 pieces that weighed approximately 3.5 ounces each.  Pull the sides of each piece down and under, pinching on the underside and forming a ball.  

When all the balls are formed and placed with plenty of space in between on a greased baking sheet, flatten each with the palm of your hand to about 3/4" thick.  Cover and let rise until double, about 1 hour.

Meanwhile, divide the other half of the dough into 6 equal pieces, form ropes of each piece approximately 18 - 20 inches long.  Braid 3 at a time into 2 loaves.  -- Or form more buns instead. Cover and let those rise for 1 hour.
Since the baking sheets were full of buns,
I tried my French Bread Pan for the loaves.
This gave them nicely browned, but rounded
bottoms, so it won't be my first choice in the future.

Preheat the oven on convection to 350 degrees.

1 egg yolk 
1 Tablespoon cream

and brush on the tops of the doubled items.  (Make more egg wash if necessary... I did.) Sprinkle with your choice of seeds (sesame or poppy), and, for the buns, quickly slice across the tops 1/4" deep or so with a sharp knife blade... I prefer to do 2 parallel slices, or a criss-cross pattern.

Bake the buns for about 10 minutes, and the loaves approximately 25 minutes... until the internal temperature is 200 degrees.


Wow.  Not being a challah expert, I can't say how they'd measure up for those of you more familiar with this bread... But, these are the best hamburger buns I've made.  
Much lighter and fluffier than previous recipes, so it didn't feel like we were eating so much bread, or that the bread was in competition with the heartiness of the meat patty.  I think this will be the family-favorite method for sandwich buns from now on.

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