Whole wheat challah with sprinkles (or not)
I get four huge loaves and a dozen rolls out of this recipe. I do it in a Bosch with the seven-quart bread bowl; I wouldn't attempt it in anything smaller.
4 cups warm water
3 T yeast
1 cup sugar (sometimes I use brown)
generous squirt of honey or maple syrup
1 cup oil
heaping tablespoon salt
full 5-lb bag King Arthur white whole wheat flour (possibly a little bit more or less, depending on the weather)
Sprinkles, sesame seeds, poppy seeds, or all three
Throw everything but the flour and one of the eggs in the mixer bowl. Then dump in a cup or two of flour and mix until, well, it's mixed. Let it sit there for a few minutes. Then add in most of the rest of the flour and mix some more. If the dough seems too wet, add a bit more flour until it seems right. (Very scientific, I know.) Then mix on the lowest speed you have for about ten minutes. Dump the whole glob of dough--it will be a large glob indeed--into an oiled bowl and let it rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk.
(If you are going to be mafrish the challah, do it now, and if you're going to burn the separated piece on the bottom of the oven floor, for heaven's sake check that you haven't stuck anything in there like, oh, say, your entire set of Pyrex with the lids, because if you turn your oven to 525 all the plastic will melt, filling your apartment with appalling toxic smoke and setting off all nine of your smoke detectors. Wait--what do you mean, you don't have nine smoke detectors?! Doesn't everyone have at least that many?)
Summon your local three-year-old for the fun part, if he's wandered off during the rising stage. Shape the challah however you like and put it into or onto pans lined with parchment paper. (Note to those who have been mafrish the challah but not put it in the oven yet: do not, DO NOT, leave the little separated glob where local three-year-old might see it and innocently lob it back into the bowl of dough. If he does, you will find yourself unpleasantly surprised by the answer to your shaila.) As soon as you've shaped them, beat the remaining egg with a bit of cold water and smear it on top of the loaves. A pastry brush is nice for this, but since I lost mine three moves ago I can attest to the fact that fingers, while messy, work fine.
Sprinkle with topping of your choice. If your sous-chef is a preschooler, dispatch him or her to a different work surface with the challot he or she is authorized to coat with sprinkles, or you may find yourself with six challahs all covered with technicolor sugar. Not that this is a bad thing, necessarily, of course.
Preheat oven to 350 if you have light-colored pans, or 330 if, like me, you use dark Chicago Metallic nonstick pans. If your oven is big enough, just use the middle rack; if, like me, you don't have an industrial-sized oven, you'll probably have to move the challah around mid-bake because the bottoms of the challahs on the bottom rack might start to burn. How long it will take to bake them depends on how big you've shaped them--anywhere from 25 minutes to an hour. If you're not sure if they're done, leave them in for another 5 minutes. Burned bottoms are better than gooey middles.
Let them cool on wire racks. If you're not going to use them right away, freeze them the moment they're cooled in tightly sealed plastic bags with all of the air squeezed out.