It took months and months and a gazillion attempts but I finally succeeded in making a delicious gluten-free and vegan challah. And just in time for Rosh Hashanah which is less than 2 weeks away. Mazel Tov!
I was very excited when I came up with a recipe for vegan challah. It was light, tender and delicious. It was like getting back a beloved piece of my childhood. But it wasn’t gluten-free and I wanted to make a challah that would be good for people who are both vegan and gluten-free. I tried to just adapt my regular vegan challah recipe using gluten-free flour mixes and xanthan gum but they weren’t good. They were dry, crumbly and felt so heavy. I was almost ready to give up!
But I kept trying because my followers, my beloved V-Gang, kept asking for a recipe – whether it was for their child who was gluten-free and feeling left out at school or for a special occasion coming up like Jewish New Year. Well, my persistence paid off. This challah is perfect! I’m so glad I have the tenacity of a terrier 🙂
I will spare you the details of all my attempts but let me share some of the highlights of the lessons I learned from this:
1 – Gluten-free baking requires A LOT of extra moisture or else it gets hard and dry.
2 – There is a rule that when replacing a lot of eggs in a recipe, you shouldn’t use more than 2 methods of doing that. Yeah, I broke that rule. I replaced the 4 eggs that would be used with 3 methods that equaled replacing 6 eggs: commercial egg replacer, a flax gel (you can use chia instead) and mayonnaise. Yes, mayo – 3 Tbs. of vegan mayo replaces 1 egg.
3 – Don’t expect a gluten-free bread to taste EXACTLY like the gluten version. But this comes very close.
4 – Don’t give up! I was ready to accept my last attempt as “good enough.” I’m so glad I didn’t.
Since gluten-free bread dough is really more of a batter, you can’t braid it. If you want your challah to look like traditional challah, you need a challah mold. I got my mold on Amazon. They have various sizes to make large loaves, small loaves and rolls. Search on Amazon for the best prices. Of course, if you don’t care about what it looks like, you can bake your challah in whatever loaf pans you have.
I made this recipe to be acceptable for hamotzi, the blessing over challah, and hafrashat challah, the separating and ritual burning of a small piece of bread or “taking challah.” According to Jewish law, in order to say hamotzi or to take challah, the bread must be made from one of the five grains named in the Bible: barley, wheat, rye, oats, spelt. Challah made from other grains may be kosher but you can’t use it for these rituals. Four out of five of these grains contain gluten so that leaves us with oats. While there is no teshuva yet written, Rabbis suggest the oat flour be at a minimum of 51% of the total flour used in the bread.
Just make sure you are getting gluten-free oats – that is, oats that are grown, harvested and processed separately from wheat. And make sure the gluten-free person can tolerate oats because not all people can.
On the other hand, if you are not making this challah for religious purposes, feel free to reduce or omit the oat flour and just use the all-purpose blend. The bread would probably come out even lighter than it did with the oat flour.
Yes, I used the word “light” to describe a gluten-free bread. My vegan and gluten-free challah is soft, moist, light and tender. And it was still soft and tender the next day when it made delicious French toast (recipe to come soon). It even held together on the 3rd day when sliced thinly and put in the toaster.
I couldn’t think of a better way to begin the Jewish New Year than by saying prayers over a beautiful vegan AND gluten-free challah. I hope this recipe helps make your New Year a bit sweeter and happier. Enjoy!
Gluten-Free, Vegan Challah
GF, SF if soy-free mayo and butter is used
Makes 1 large plus 2 rolls or 3 small loaves
2 tsp. egg replacer + 6 Tbs. warm water
2 Tbs. ground flax (or chia) + 6 Tbs. warm water
2/3 cup warm water + 2 tsp. sugar + 1 ½ Tbs. or 2 packets active dry yeast
2 ¼ cups gluten-free oat flour
2 cups gluten-free, all-purpose flour blend (I used Bob’s Red Mill)
1/4 cup sugar
1 Tbs. guar gum (or xanthan gum)
1 tsp. kosher salt
½ tsp. turmeric
1 cup warm water
4 Tbs. melted vegan butter or ¼ cup oil
1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
1/3 cup vegan mayonnaise
Non-dairy milk or oil for brushing
Sesame and/or poppy seeds
In a mug or small bowl, combine the egg replacer with warm water. Stir and let sit for 5 minutes. In a 2nd mug or small bowl, combine the flax and warm water. Stir and let sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes a thick gel. In a 3rd bowl, combine the warm water with the sugar. Add the yeast, mix and let sit for 5-10 minutes until it becomes very frothy.
In a large mixing bowl, combine the flours, sugar, guar gum, salt and turmeric. Mix well so everything is well combined. Push the dry ingredients to the sides of the bowl to form a well.
In another bowl (yes, there are a lot of bowls to wash but not on Shabbos),mix the warm water, butter or oil and vinegar. It will look a little clumpy from the vinegar. Add these wet ingredients to the well of the dry ingredients but don’t mix yet.
To the well add the egg replacer mixture, the flax gel and the mayonnaise. Using a whisk, mix these wet ingredients in the well a bit. Lastly, add the yeast mixture to the well. Using a spatula, mix the ingredients in the well, incorporating the flour more and more until all the flour has been mixed with the wet ingredients. It will not form a dough but a very thick and sticky batter. You can mix it with your hand but wet your hand first.
When the batter is thoroughly mixed, cover the bowl with plastic wrap and a damp towel. Put the bowl in a warm area and allow it to rise for 1 hour or until doubled in size. While you’re waiting, line a baking sheet with parchment paper and oil the challah mold or baking pan.
After the hour, wet your hand and mix the batter again for a minute. It will deflate. Fill the mold or pan with the batter between 1/2 and 2/3 full. This is important because the batter will rise again now and again in the oven. If you fill it higher than 2/3, it will overflow. If you have extra batter, put it in another pan to make another small loaf or in an oiled muffin tin to make little challah muffins. Cover the mold with plastic wrap and the damp towel and allow it to rise another 30 minutes or until it almost reaches the top of the mold. If you let it rise to the very top of the mold, it may overflow when it rises again in the oven.
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Remove the towel and plastic wrap and place the mold on the baking sheet. Bake for 20 minutes until the top (which is really the bottom of the loaf) is browned. Take the baking sheet out of the oven. Using potholders (the mold will be very hot), carefully turn the mold over so the challah releases and is on the parchment paper.
Brush the top of the loaf with milk or oil and sprinkle the poppy and/or sesame seeds on top. Return the challah to the oven and bake for another 30 -35 minutes or until the challah is golden brown and has a hollow sound when you thump on it. The time may vary depending on your oven and the size loaves you are making.
Let the challah cool on the baking sheet for 10 minutes before moving it to a wire cooling rack. Allow to cool completely before slicing or saying prayers over. Shabbat Shalom.
The “V” Word: Say it. Eat it. Live it.