Okay, I know I’ve said this before, but you all. YOU ALL. If you are vegan and haven’t had challah bread in forever because you can’t tolerate the gluten or haven’t found a recipe you like, this is THE ONE. It is just the right amount of sweet (you can add to it, though, if you prefer a sweeter one), has the perfect texture and challah presentation. This bread is a keeper and I am going to keep playing with it because unlike a lot of gluten-free bread recipes, it’s not fussy at all and the dough behaves just like one with gluten, except it rises a little less (can’t have it all – this is still nice and soft on the inside with a gentle crust), which is to be expected, but you also have error room because there’s no gluten to have to activate or toughen up. If you haven’t had challah before, you are in for a treat. It is a rich, sweet brioche-like yeasted bread (kind of between cake and bread but more like bread) that is braided and originated with the Ashkenazi Jews. Challah is often served on Shabbat and other holidays except Passover.
If you desire a sweeter challah, consider adding some more sweetener by the tablespoon. Do be mindful that I developed this recipe with specific amounts of ingredients and if you change that, you might need to modify in other ways or end up with different results.
This challah was made possible with the new King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Flour (not all-purpose mix), which is made with wheat starch with the gluten removed (somehow???) and other ingredients in a dedicated gluten-free facility. The result is a blend that really behaves like bread flour. I don’t recommend using a different gluten-free bread flour mix unless you are prepared for it to not taste as much like authentic challah bread or willing to modify here and there. I did experiment with Bob’s Red Mill All-Purpose Baking Flour (not the one-for-one) and while it was tasty and we ate it, it was a denser, heavier loaf, more like a whole grain one, which is fine but not what I was looking for here.
The other thing that may rock your world is the yeast is mixed with all the dough ingredients, not proofed separately. I recommend getting a new packet of yeast to bake sure it’s still active and fresh. As a seasoned bread baker, this may be totally unorthodox to you but as long as the yeast is alive, you should be good! Last but not least, JUST egg and a bit of sweet potato purée add the color and sweet flavor we associate with challah bread.
Okay, all that said, it’s shockingly easy and rewarding to make. Happy braiding! I hope you enjoy it very much!
3 cups King Arthur Gluten-Free Bread Flour blend, plus extra for dusting 1 packet instant yeast 1 cup lukewarm water 6 tablespoons JUST egg, mixed before measuring ¼ cup sweet potato purée ¼ cup extra virgin olive oil 3 tablespoons pure maple syrup, agave nectar or vegan light honey 1 teaspoon salt 1 extra tablespoon JUST egg for brushing 2 - 3 tablespoons poppyseeds or sesame seeds Salt
In a large bowl, combine the flour, yeast, water, six tablespoons of JUST egg, sweet potato purée, olive oil, sweetener and salt. Stir with a sturdy spoon until combined. It’s okay at this stage to have some lumps. Cover the bowl with a clean dish towel and set aside for 20 minutes.
Transfer the dough to a lightly dusted surface and knead until the dough becomes smoother, less sticker and firmer, about 12 times. Transfer the dough to a bowl, cover with the dish towel and allow to rise undisturbed for 40 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment or a silicone mat. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.
Gently punch the dough down on a floured surface and knead again for about a minute. Shape into a ball and cut into three equal amounts. One at a time, roll each amount out to a rope that is equal width all around, about 14-inches long. I find it easiest to roll with my hands in the middle and then shaping it out as I go. Dust gently if it’s sticking. Gently move each dough rope to your prepared baking sheet, side by side longways.
At one end, pinch together the ends of your three ropes into one end and shape it a little to look like the end of a loaf. Move one outside rope over the middle rope and move what was the middle rope to replace that position. Now, cross the other outside rope over the middle, and keep doing this crossing and replacing the middle strand, until you are near the end. Pinch the three separate strands together again and shape like the end of a loaf. The weave should be gentle but without air between the different ropes.
Brush the loaf with your remaining JUST egg and sprinkle with poppyseeds or sesame seeds and then just a pinch of salt over the top. Bake for 30 minutes and check for doneness. It should be a golden brown. Remove from the oven when done and cool on a rack. Slice after completely cool.