A few weeks ago a woman in my book club who had heard that I have a food blog asked me “So, do you eat healthy food?”
Now, I know that for some people “healthy” in the context of food is a bad word—even to those who know better. So I proceeded carefully, “What do you mean by “healthy” food?”
… and then I preached to her my philosophy in short. Mainly, I believe that healthy food is all food that is grown in a healthy way. From soil and seeds it has everything to do with the way food is treated in all the steps of the process until it reaches the plate. So, yes, I in that sense, I do try to eat as healthy as I can.
However, like “those people”, I also tended to believe that “healthy food” tastes, if we put it gently, not-as-delicious as the “regular”, or “normal” food. (And this is what I thought she meant—which she did.)
But I didn’t start to eat, and love, kale, chard, and other green stuff because I eat “healthy”. I did it because as a fairly adventurous eater, in the 40 years that I’ve been living and eating, I tried many types of foods (like raw, local oysters and sustainably farmed mussels) and I get bored sometimes with food—GASP—there, I’ve said it! After all, it’s been 40+ years of eating a couple of times a day. Every day!!!
Sometimes I wish I could take a break from eating and then I could come back to it refreshed, with a new approach, like you (supposedly) feel after a vacation. Unfortunately, not eating cannot turn into a long vacation…
So, whole wheat… I have approached it out of boredom ‘cause I already know what white flour can do and tastes like. I was mentally ready to try something new. And I’m glad I did.
Of course reading that “The whiter the bread, the sooner you’ll be dead.” (Rule #37, page 81) in Michael Pollan’s Food Rules also served as a little nudge.
I highly recommend the book—it’s like a little handbook—and the introduction alone makes it a worthwhile read. Especially if you don’t have the time to read his In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto or The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals. It’s easy to read and has lots of common sense advice.
And this is how I found myself buying whole wheat flour and substituting some of the white all-purpose flour with it. (Now my spouse and kid play with it too, making whole wheat fired calamari.)
The result was a bread with more body, more depth, far more interesting taste and bite to it. Not at all a yucky “healthy” food.
What can I tell you? I’m definitely hooked on whole wheat flour now.
As for that specific challa, I didn’t have the time to let the dough rise the second time so instead I started the baking in a cold oven, believing the slowly preheating oven will give the yeast some boost and make it rise more than if I had baked it in an already preheated oven… I never tried this experiment with a “control group” but the bread turned out great. Better than store-bought where I have seen flatter and denser ones… and this one had more flavor—nutty.
The original recipe was given to me by a friend and I think she got it from someone living in a kibbutz in Israel.
The preparation is simple and straightforward. Next time I’ll try to make the dough the night before and let it sit in the fridge to rise slowly and develop more flavor—it’s my favorite way to make yeasted breads and cakes.
I haven’t made challa in such a long, long time that at first shot, I forgot how to braid! This is how the first challa turned out
But at the second try the result looked prettier, don’t you think?
Whole wheat Challa bread
Makes 2 loaves
1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour
4 cups all-purpose flour
1/2 cup sugar
1 1/4 teaspoons salt
1 packet (7 grams) active dry yeast
7 tablespoons oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
400 ml lukewarm water
1 egg, lightly beaten to make an egg wash
Sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds
Place all the ingredients in a mixer bowl and let it knead on low speed (a rhyme!) for 10 minutes.
Scrape the dough out of the bowl and work it into a ball. Oil the bowl and turn the dough ball inside to coat. (Bowl, ball… did I confuse you?) Cover the top of the bowl with foil and place in a warm spot to rise for 1-2 hours (depending on temperature), or until it doubles in volume.
Divide the dough into 2 parts. Divide each dough into 3 pieces and work each one to make a long strand. Make a braid. Do the same with the second half of the dough.
Place both braids on a large baking sheet with space between them. Brush each challa with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and/or poppy seeds. Let rise in a warm spot*.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Bake challas for 35 minutes.
* I did not have time for a second rise so I placed the challas in a cold oven and heated it to 350 F, baked for 45 minutes or so.
Next time try to add 1 egg to the dough.
Try honey instead of sugar.
Try 1 packet (7 grams) active dry yeast.
Let dough rise overnight in the fridge.
See more here: How to bake Challa bread at home?