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Whole Grain Challah Bread

Healthier Spelt Challah with Silan

Our goal was to create a whole wheat challah that was not only healthy but also delicious. This is it! Our challah is faintly sweet and versatile. Perfect for Shabbat. Tasty for sandwiches and as Jamie would say, Ahmazing for French toast.

This dough produces big, fluffy and faintly nutty flavored challahs. Enjoy!

  • Duration
  • Cook Time
  • Prep Time
  • 2 loaves (12 slices each)Servings



  • 1 tablespoon yeast
  • 1 ½ cups warm water
  • 1 cup whole wheat or whole spelt flour


  • 3 whole eggs
  • 2 egg yolks at room temperature
  • 2 ½ teaspoons kosher or sea salt
  • ½ cup evoo
  • ½ cup Jamie Geller Honey or Date Honey
  • 4-5 cups whole wheat or whole spelt flour

Egg wash:

  • 1 whole egg, whisked
  • 2 teaspoons water
  • Toppings: poppy seeds, sesame seeds, oats, pumpkin seeds,



  1. Mix the ingredients together and cover for at least 30-40 minutes and as long as 2 hours to create a sponge.


  1. Whisk eggs and egg whites with salt, honey and oil, add to sponge and mix.
  2. Slowly mix in the flour. You may not need all the flour depending upon the humidity and water content of the flour.
  3. When the dough starts to pull together stop adding flour. The dough should be tacky but not stick to your fingers (flour needs to rehydrate and that doesn’t happen all at once, so keep dough a bit “damp”.) Knead for a few minutes and then place in the bowl to rise.
  4. Allow the dough to rise at least 1 hour at room temperature, until doubled in volume or cover with plastic and refrigerate overnight. If refrigerate dough, allow it to come to room temp and rise before braiding.
  5. Braid or pan the dough, cover with a clean towel and allow it to rise 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350F.

  1. Egg wash and allow the wash to dry for 10 minutes and then brush the challah again. If you are using any toppings, sprinkle toppings on challah and bake for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and continue baking for another 12-15 minutes or until medium brown.

The sponge and dough method is a two-step bread making process: in the first step a sponge is made and allowed to ferment for a period of time, and in the second step the sponge is added to the final dough's ingredients, creating the total formula. In this usage, synonyms for sponge are yeast starter or yeast pre-ferment. In French baking the sponge and dough method is known as levain-levure. The method is reminiscent of the sourdough or brioche methods;

A sponge ferment is usually a sticky process that uses part of the flour, part or all of the water, and part or all of the yeast of a total- or straight-dough formula. This sponge is allowed to ferment for a period of time. When the sponge's fermentation time has elapsed, the final dough's ingredients are added. The gluten is developed in the mixing or kneading process, and it may then be processed through further work and rest cycles before being proofed then baked.

The purpose of the sponge is for 3 reasons: taste, chemistry and texture.

The flavor that is created is dependent on the ingredients used and the fermenting yeast. Just like sourdough, the longer the ferment, the greater the taste. Texture is partly a byproduct of the chemistry going on in the fermentation, which does several important things such as activate the different enzymes (protease and amylase) needed to leaven bread.

Honey instead of sugar

Honey has a 150% more sweetening power than sugar when added to foods. To obtain the sweetening power of honey you need 1 ½ times the amount of processed sugar. Honey is basically unprocessed.

Honey also has a high moisture content which keeps breads and baked good moist.

Extra Virgin Olive oil instead of canola oil

Canola oil is highly processed. Canola oil has a neutral flavor ONLY after being deodorized. Evoo is basically squeezed from olives right off the tree and then bottled.


Active Dry Yeast (recommended)
This is probably what comes to mind when you think of yeast. It's dry and granular, about the consistency of cornmeal. To use it, you dissolve a few teaspoons in warm water (110-degrees or cooler) and then add it to the rest of the ingredients. This yeast will behave 'typically' and will give your dough two rises.

Instant Active Dry Yeast (recommended)
This is also known as "bread machine yeast." This yeast is milled into finer particles and it does not need to be dissolved in water like active dry yeast does so you can add it along with the dry ingredients.

This yeast also gives you two separate rises and it can be used interchangeably with active dry yeast. Measure out the same amount of yeast and skip the water-activation step.

Rapid-Rise Yeast (NOT recommended)
This yeast has also been milled into smaller particles so that it doesn't need to be dissolved into water. In addition, enzymes and other additives are included to make the dough rise faster. With this yeast, you can skip the first rise of the dough and shape the loaves right after kneading.

What you save in time, you lose in flavor and structure. Your final loaf will be fairly bland and commercial tasting, with a tight, uniform crumb. Since it behaves so differently, this yeast cannot be substituted for either active dry or instant active dry yeasts.

Fresh Compressed Cake Yeast (not recommended)
This is the kind of yeast that commercial bakers tend to use. It's a solid block with a clay-like consistency, is more dependable, and dissolves easily. However, it's 2-week shelf life makes it less ideal for home bakers to use (the granular yeasts above have a shelf-life of about a year in the fridge).

Nutrition Information

  • Serving Size: 1 slice (12 slices in a loaf)
  • Calories: 110
  • Carbohydrate Content: 13 g
  • Cholesterol Content: 45 mg
  • Fat Content: 6 g
  • Fiber Content: 1 g
  • Protein Content: 3 g
  • Saturated Fat Content: 1 g
  • Sodium Content: 207 mg
  • Sugar Content: 6 g