Learn the art of crafting beautifully braided challah bread that's free from eggs, butter, and dairy. This vegan challah recipe is a Shabbat favorite among the growing community of Jewish vegans and goyim alike.
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Challah, the golden braided bread synonymous with Jewish tradition, is cherished for its rich history and delectable taste. Yet, what happens when you’re devoted to a vegan lifestyle and crave the warmth of freshly baked challah? Fear not, for we have your answers.
In this comprehensive guide, we’ll delve into the origins of challah, its classic ingredients, the non-vegan hurdle, vegan alternatives, an impeccable vegan challah recipe, innovative braiding methods, the Challah vs. Brioche debate, a delightful cinnamon sugar variation, and more.
Challah, pronounced as “hah-lah,” is a soft and slightly sweet bread that originates from Jewish tradition. Its distinctive braided shape, often resembling a beautifully woven loaf, is a symbol of unity and togetherness in many Jewish households.
Challah is a staple during Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath, and is also enjoyed during various holidays and special occasions.
Why Isn’t Challah Vegan?
Challah’s non-vegan status stems from its reliance on eggs, which imbue the bread with its characteristic richness and golden crust. Eggs also play the role of binding agents, keeping the bread together.
But don’t worry; there’s a vegan light at the end of the loaf. Vegan challah is not only achievable but also delicious, thanks to a range of alternatives and substitutions.
Challah Ingredients: The Usual Suspects
Traditional challah relies on a straightforward list of ingredients, including:
Flour: High-gluten bread flour is commonly used, giving challah its soft and chewy texture.
Water: Provides moisture to create the dough.
Yeast: The leavening agent responsible for the bread’s rise and fluffy texture.
Sugar: Adds sweetness to the dough and activates the yeast.
Salt: Enhances the flavor and strengthens the dough.
Oil or Butter: Typically used to make the bread richer and tender.
Eggs: The quintessential ingredient, providing texture and that golden allure. But of course, eggs are not vegan. “Water challah” refers to challah made without eggs!
Where to Find Vegan Challah
Store-bought vegan challah is not yet widely available at most local vegan bakeries; but you may get lucky! If you have a bakery in your neighborhood, you can also make a special request that they carry vegan challah. Send them this recipe as a resource!
Special Occasions to Break (Challah) Bread
Challah can be enjoyed any time of the year, by anyone, but it really takes the spotlight during the following Jewish holidays:
Shabbat (Sabbath): The cherished bread for Friday night and Saturday morning meals.
Rosh Hashanah: Symbolic round challah represents the cyclical nature of life.
Yom Kippur: A special challah variant called “kelach” is often enjoyed before the fast.
Hanukkah: Challah joins the Festival of Lights festivities.
How to Make Eggless Vegan Challah
Creating a vegan challah is easier than you might think, and we’ve included our favorite easy challah recipe below! Here are some common plant-based substitutes for the animal ingredients in traditional challah:
Aquafaba: The liquid from a can of chickpeas can be whipped up as a suitable egg replacement, providing structure and moisture.
Silken Tofu: Blended silken tofu can mimic the binding properties of eggs in your vegan challah recipe.
Plant-Based Milk: Soy Milk, Almond Milk, or Oat Milk: These plant-based milk options can replace dairy milk to achieve the same richness.
Vegan Butter or Margarine: Look for vegan butter or margarine options to replace dairy-based varieties in your recipe.
With these substitutions in mind, let’s dive into a mouthwatering vegan challah recipe that will leave your taste buds dancing.
Step By Step Process To Make Vegan Challah
Making challah (or any bread, for that matter) is a labor of love, but the outcome is worth it! There’s nothing like the delicious aroma of freshly baked bread wafting through your home. To make it as easy as possible, we’ve provided these process photos!
Activate Yeast: Warm water in a microwave-safe bowl for about 1 minute until warm but not hot. Add 1 teaspoon of sugar and dissolve. Sprinkle yeast over it, and allow the yeast to activate for 7 minutes.
Prepare Dough Base: Meanwhile, Heat coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds or until liquid. Set aside. In a large bowl, mix half the flour, ½ cup of sugar, baking powder, salt, and turmeric.
Combine Ingredients: Add the yeast mixture and melted coconut oil to the dry ingredients. Stir until combined. Slowly add the remaining flour and knead the dough for 10 minutes until smooth.
Let Dough Rise: Grease a bowl, place the dough inside, cover loosely with a damp towel, and let it rise for about 1 ½ hours in a warm spot.
Shape and Bread: Roll the dough in a long, thick snake (14 to 16 inches). Cut into thirds and roll each piece into 14 to 14-inch strands. Braid the strands, tucking the ends.
Second Rise: Place the braided dough on a baking sheet, cover it with a damp towel, and let it rise for 50 minutes.
Preheat and Glaze: Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Spread agave evenly on the loaf, and sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds over top. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes until golden brown.
Cool and Enjoy: Allow the challah to cool completely before serving. Tear or slice and enjoy!
Masterful Braiding: Challah’s Visual Artistry
Braiding challah is not just a technique; it’s an art form. Try different methods to create captivating designs:
Three-Strand Braid: The classic and elegant choice.
Four-Strand Braid: A step up in complexity, yielding a stunning result.
Six-Strand Braid: The pièce de résistance, perfect for special occasions like an elaborate 6-braided challah.
How To Store Vegan Challah
Challah is best enjoyed fresh but if you have some leftover here are the best ways to store it:
Room temperature: Once the challah is cooled, store it in an airtight container or bag at room temperature in a cool, dry place away from direct sunlight for up to 2-3 days.
Refrigerator: If you intend to keep the challah fresh for up to a week, consider refrigerating it, keeping it in an airtight container or resealable bag for maximum fresh ness.
Freezer: For extended storage, you can freeze it. Slice the loaf and store it in a freezer-safe container or bag so you can pull out a slice to toast whenever the urge hits.
Beyond the Basics: Tasty Additions to Challah
Challah Dough Additions Challah dough is a blank canvas for culinary creativity. Consider enhancing it with:
Raisins or Currants: Add a touch of sweetness and texture.
Cinnamon and Sugar: Turn your challah into a cinnamon roll by folding cinnamon, sugar, and butter into the dough.
Sesame Seeds or Poppy Seeds: Elevate flavor and aesthetics.
Chopped Nuts: For a delightful crunch and nutty undertones.
Herbs: Infuse savory depth with rosemary, thyme, or basil.
Dried Fruits: Introduce bursts of flavor with apricots, cranberries, or figs.
Chocolate Chips: Embrace sweetness and indulgence.
Challah vs. Brioche—What’s The Difference?
Challah and brioche are like bread’s dynamic duo. While both share a slight sweetness, they have distinct differences. Brioche cranks up the richness with extra butter and eggs, resulting in a denser, more indulgent texture. Challah, on the other hand, maintains its unique character, with a slightly different flavor profile and a lighter crumb. Brioche gets the nod for pastries like croissants, while challah stands out with its iconic braids.
Vegan challah is a delightful twist on tradition that allows individuals with diverse dietary preferences to savor the flavors and symbolism of this beloved bread. By making simple ingredient substitutions, you can create a vegan challah that’s just as soft, sweet, and satisfying as the original.
Whether you’re celebrating Shabbat, a special occasion, or simply want to enjoy a slice of homemade goodness, this vegan challah recipe will surely become a staple in your kitchen. Share the love, share the bread, and enjoy the wonderful world of vegan challah.
More Vegan Bread Recipes
If you’re looking to expand your vegan baking repertoire, here are more amazing vegan bread recipes to try:
This Pesto Pull-Apart Bread is dreamy pesto bread perfection. It’s not only easy to make but is so good it’s guaranteed to be gobbled up in one sitting!
If you’re new to bread making, our Vegan Focaccia Bread recipe is beginner-friendly and it’s easy to customize with your favorite toppings!
For a gluten-free option that’s downright irresistible, you’ve got to try this Spelt Bread. The recipe is simple to make and quite forgiving for novice bakers, and it’s perfect for dipping into some olive oil and balsamic vinegar.
Fancy something sweeter? Vegan Chocolate Zucchini Bread tastes like chocolate cake but with some sneaky hidden veggies that you’d never know were there!
A harmonious blend of soft and chewy, light and fluffy, and slightly sweet, this vegan challah bread is nothing short of pure indulgence. Our eggless challah recipe is easy enough for beginners—and even kids! The loaf can be artfully braided and shaped into your own custom bread tapestry, and served for Shabbat dinners, Jewish gatherings, or just because you want to slow down, bake bread, and make your house smell heavenly.
In a small microwave-safe bowl, warm the water in the microwave for about 1 minute. (It should be warm but not hot to the touch; if you have a food thermometer, it should register 105 to 110 degrees F.) Sprinkle in 1 teaspoon of the sugar and swirl it around so it dissolves. Lightly sprinkle the yeast into the sugar water and allow the yeast to awaken for 7 minutes.
In another small microwave-safe bowl, heat the coconut oil in the microwave for 30 seconds or just long enough to bring it to a liquid state. Set aside.
In a large bowl, combine 2 cups of the flour with the remaining 1⁄2 cup of sugar, baking powder, salt, and turmeric and mix with a fork.
Add the yeast mixture and melted coconut oil to the dry ingredient mixture and stir until combined. Slowly add the remaining 2 cups of flour and, using your hands, knead the dough for a full 10 minutes, until all the flour is incorporated and you have a smooth dough.
Grease a large bowl. Place the dough ball in the bowl, cover loosely with a damp towel, place in a warm area (such as near the oven or in the sun), and allow to rise for about 1 1⁄2 hours.
After the time has passed, very lightly flour a flat surface and roll your risen dough into a long, thick snake 14 to 16 inches long. To make a classic three- strand braid, cut the dough into equal thirds. Starting in the center of the dough piece and using your hands to gently roll outward, roll each piece into a strand that is 12 to 14 inches long with the ends slightly tapered. Once all three dough pieces are rolled out, bring one end of each strand together and massage them firmly together to stick. Just as in a traditional braid, bring the left strand over the center one, making the left strand the new center strand. Then bring the right strand over the center strand, making that the new center strand. Repeat this pattern (left to center, right to center, and so on) until you reach the end of your strands. Press the ends together and tuck them under the end of your loaf. Go back and tuck the top of the loaf as well to produce rounded ends.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a silicone mat. Place your loaf on the baking sheet, cover with a damp towel, and allow to rise for another 50 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
Once your loaf is looking nice and puffy, remove the cloth. Using a basting brush, lightly spread the agave evenly across the entire loaf, including the sides. Sprinkle the loaf with the sesame or poppy seeds. Bake for 35 to 40 minutes, until the top is hardened and a rich golden brown.
Allow to fully cool before wrapping with a challah cover or towel. Tear (or slice) and enjoy!
Storage: Challah freezes beautifully. Slice the loaf before popping it into the freezer so you can pull out a slice to toast whenever the fancy strikes.Stand Mixer: This vegan challah recipe works beautifully in a stand mixer, which will save you both time and effort! Instead of kneading by hand for 10 minutes, you can run the stand mixer with a dough hook for 5 minutes and get the same effect.
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