This year we had to make Challah bread. But, to make it gluten-free and have it taste right, now that was the trick. Yes, there are gluten-free recipes out there, but to be honest, I didn’t trust them to taste good. SO, I adapted the recipe from another, Cooking Bread’s Classic Challah Bread.
We made this bread using Wholesome Chows All-Purpose Gluten-Free Flour, which already contains 1/2 tsp baking soda and 1/2 tsp salt per cup and xantham gum. If you are using a different gluten-free all-purpose flour, please add a 1/2 tsp baking soda and a 1/2 tsp salt to the recipe. If the flour blend does not contain xantham gum, add it according to the directions on the package.
Here it is; my notes are in italics:
1 cup lukewarm water
2 egg yolks
2 Tbs oil
3 Tbs honey
4 1/2 cups bread flour – we used Wholesome Chows All Purpose Gluten Free Flour
1 tsp salt – omitted
sesame seeds (optional) – omitted
2 egg whites
1. In a bowl combine lukewarm water, eggs, honey and oil. Whisk together until liquid. It will take a minute or two to dissolve the honey. Mix well.
2. Pour mixture into a large bowl, enough to hold 4 cups of flour with room to stir. Add in 2 cups of flour, yeast and salt. Mix together until smooth and very well mixed. **If you are using a stand mixer, remember to push the batter down the sides every now and then. When you are finished mixing, lift the paddle and scrap the bottom of the bowl to make sure everything was incorporated.
3. Let rest for 15 minutes uncovered. I just left it in the mixing stand and removed the paddle. If you do choose to do this, make sure that you scrape the extra batter on the paddle back into the mixture and wash the paddle with warm water to remove anything left on it. This will ensure no dried batter, i.e. “crusties”, get into the mix.
4. After 15 minutes, add the rest of the flour, 1/2 a cup at a time. Once the dough becomes firm enough to work with your hands, pour out onto a flat surface and knead for 10 minutes till the dough becomes soft and elastic. You may need more flour, that’s OK just add it 1 heaping tablespoon at a time till the dough is workable without sticking to your hands. But, not to dry either. Like I always say if your not sure it’s better to be on the sticky side rather then the dry side.
As you may or may not know, baking with gluten free flour changes the definition of “firmness”. This dough will be slightly sticky, but will pull back when you lift out the paddle. If it doesn’t right away, but looks like “dough”, then don’t worry about it. Scrape the dough out of the mixer onto a very well floured surface. (We used some of the gluten-free all purpose flour we baked with. ) After the lump of dough is on the counter, sprinkle more flour on top of the pile and begin kneading like you would gluten bread. Remember to flip and turn the dough, each time sprinkling a little flour on top and keeping it under the mound of dough. Keeping flour under the mound will keep it from sticking to the counter. After a few moments the dough will loose its tackiness/stickiness and feel and look like the old fashion dough you remember. At this point, back off on the flour so the dough doesn’t dry out and keep kneading it for the remainder of the time. Like she said, “it is better to be on the (slightly) sticky side rather then the dry side”.
What happens if it is a little dry, or too dry? When you cover the dough with plastic wrap in the next step, use butter instead of oil to grease the bowl. The extra fat in the butter will help. Yes, it does make it harder to roll the dough in it, but it should work, or at least it did for me.
5. After the dough has been kneaded, place into a greased bowl and turn dough over to lightly coat all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise till double in bulk. We use the old oven method: light on, dough in, door shut. This will take an hour to an hour and a half (ours took an hour and a half and maybe could have gone a longer, but the troops were getting restless).
6. After the dough has risen, place onto a flat surface and cut into three equal parts. we used our cake lifter as a “knife” and cut the dough. If you do not have one, kitchen sheers, or a pair of scissors you don’t mind getting gunky, work great. The author continues to say she uses a scale to weigh each mound to approx 13 oz. we just eye balled it and adjusted it as needed. – a.k.a, tore off the longer parts of the braids and added them to another mound.
7. Roll out each piece of dough into a 15 inch rope. This barely fits on a standard cookie sheet.
7b. Now, connect the three pieces of dough at one end. Start to braid the dough starting from the right side. Once the dough has been braided pinch the ends and tuck them under the braid to make a clean and stunning braid. Place the braid onto a parchemnt lined cookie sheet. This sounds harder than it is, promise! I would recommend moving the “long snakes” over to the cookie sheet before braiding though. The hardest part for me was remembering how to braid on something that isn’t attached to a head. You would think it is the same, but for some reason it too my head a while to figure out. IF you mess up, gently coax the “snake” up and off the dough underneath it and re-braid it. To “pinch the end”, push all three pieces together and lift up the bottom of the pinched dough and turn it under. And Voíla!
8. Take the egg whites and using a wire whisk, beat the egg whites till they become foamy. Using just the foam, brush the Challah bread till all the dough has some egg wash. I used my fingers and gently lifted the foam off to the top of the frothed whites and gently wiped the bread down. For me, this was much faster than using a brush brush. Set the remaining egg was aside because you will need to do this again before baking.
9. Cover the braid with plastic wrap and allow to rise til double in bulk, about an hour to an hour and a half.
10. After the dough has risen remove the plastic wrap and whisk the remaining egg wash again and brush the foam on the braid again. Sprinkle sesame seeds or poppy seeds and place into a pre-heated 400 degree oven for 20 minutes, then rotate the bread and turn the heat down to 375. Bake for another 15 to 20 minutes or unti lthe loaf is deliciously browned. Cool on a wire rack.
We couldn’t wait for it to cool down on a wire rack, so when it had cooled enough so I could move it with my hands, we moved it onto a plate, whipped up some honey butter and dug in!