Sweet Sundays: Challah is typically parve (unlike brioche and other traditional egg-heavy loaves), so we can usually count on the recipes for this sweet braided bread to be dairy-free. But, even with this simple recipe there can be many variations.
Levana, author of Levana Cooks Dairy-Free!, opted to up the nutrition factor of traditional Challah by substituting spelt flour for the white flour and honey for the white sugar. She says, "It is no wonder the public often thinks there is no way to enjoy a delicious slice of spelt challah or bread, as it always comes brick-heavy in stores: Mine is light and delicious!"
If whole spelt flour still seems a bit heavy for your tastes, then seek out white spelt flour, which is a bit more refined, but will produce lighter results in both color and texture.
Levana's recipe includes two variations. The original long braided loaf that is enjoyed year round, and the round raisin-studded loaf that is served for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year.
Spelt Challah (with Raisin Version)
- 4 tablespoons active dry yeast
- 4 cups warm water
- 1/2 cup honey, sugar or sucanat
- 4 eggs
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 1 tablespoon salt
- 12 cups spelt flour
- 1 egg, beaten with 1/4 cup water
- Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)
Mix the yeast, water and honey or sugar in a big bowl, and let the mixture bubble for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, oil and salt, and beat. Add the flour, and mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to a lightly-floured flat working surface, and knead for about 15 minutes, turning the dough a quarter of a turn every 2-3 minutes and punching it down often to eliminate any air pockets (or transfer the mixture to the bowl of a dough maker. Set for 10 minutes of kneading). Transfer the kneaded dough into a big mixing bowl (remember, it will expand). Sprinkle flour all around the dough. Let rise, covered with a cloth, in a warm draft-free area for 2 hours.
Shape the Challah: divide the dough into 4 pieces. Divide each piece into thirds and roll each third into a long thin rope. Pinch the 3 ropes together at one end to hold them in place. Braid, and place the braid on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place the loaves well apart in the pan (you might need more than a pan: Bake one at a time). Brush each loaf with the egg-and-water mixture, and top with seeds if desired. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.
Raisin Challah: Served on Rosh Hashanah. Add two cups of raisins to the dough, shape it into 4 round loaves (for each loaf, make a long thin rope, and roll it into a coil)