Whole wheat sourdough challah, fragrant with olive oil and honey, is a nourishing bread – rich, flavorful and worth the extra effort it takes to lovingly prepare the dough, roll out the strands and intricately braid the loaves. While typically prepared from refined white flour, vegetable oil or margarine and refined white sugar, challah is, indeed, a loaf for special occasions – but preparing this traditional bread from wholesome ingredients elevates challah beyond the mundane to something that truly nourishes the body and spirit while satisfying the tastebuds.
In this version of challah, we use soft white wheat flour. Soft white wheat is a whole grain, differing from hard red wheat which is typically used for bread, in that it is softer, with lower protein content, and is better suited to preparing pastries. When transforming your family’s favorite treats and sweets made from refined white flour, to more nutrient-dense whole-grain alternatives, choosing whole soft white wheat flour enables you to maintain the baking qualities of white flour while nourishing your family with the myriad vitamins and minerals typically found in whole grains. Of course, whole grain is rife with antinutrients including enzyme inhibitors which inhibit good digestion as well as food phytates which bind up minerals in the digestive tract inhibiting your body from fully absorbing all the micronutrients whole grain can offer so the proper preparation of flours and bread is essential not only for improving flavor but also in protecting from mineral deficiencies. Fortunately, sourdough fermentation as called for in this recipe for whole wheat challah dramatically improves the nutritive qualities of whole grains by neutralizing enzyme inhibitors and degrading phytic acid.
Using Freshly Ground Flour
If you’re serious about bread baking, you might also consider purchasing a grain grinder for your home. After the whole grain is milled, packed, and allowed to sit in bulk bins or on the shelves of your local grocery store, nutrients are lost – vitamin E and other vitamins slowly degrade the longer the flour sits. When you grind grain fresh, not only is the flavor vastly improved, but many of the fragile vitamins and enzymes remain intact. Bread, like this whole wheat challah, becomes a true luxury when prepared from freshly ground flour.