Wednesday, September 26, 2007

Gluten-Free Challah (Pareve / Dairy-Free): Version 1.0

gluten-free challah

gluten-free challah

gluten-free challah
Oh, my friends, this is the craziest of crazy times, this 4 week period of one Jewish holy day after another! A veritable Jewish spiritual marathon, really, and it's not over yet- Sukkot is nearly upon us and Simchat Torah is right around the corner. The cooking I've been doing has been under time constraints not to mention religious ones - The food has been wonderful and well-appreciated, but there's been little time for photographing and blogging. This fabulous insanity will continue for a while yet.

But you know, it's okay. There is some grace to be found in all this, and some joy in cooking for the sake of cooking rather than for the sake of blogging. And what better way to spend my cooking energy and celebrate the approach of autumn than on preparing a multi-course feast for friends and family on erev Rosh Hashanah? The Rosh Hashanah menu included a terrific beef tzimmes (basically my vegetarian tzimmes with big, tender chunks of beef cooked into it); Roasted Butternut Squash, Marcona Almond and Pomegranate Salad which is a spectacular celebration of fall; the Lacy Potato Kugel I've been making at every holiday since I fell in love with it; steamed green beans tossed with lemon oil; a pareve gluten-free Honey Cake drizzled with local honey and topped with slivers of toasted almonds; and ginger-poached pears (recipe forthcoming) which truly surprised me by stealing the show. Oh, and P.S. I also made gluten-free challah!

I based this recipe roughly upon Sara Nussbaum's gluten-free challah recipe, which Ellen posted her version of a while back. Is this the perfect gluten-free challah, that Jewish celiac equivalent of a holy grail which tastes just like what you remember from your childhood? No, it's not perfect - It's a work in progress. But is it delicious? Oh yes, it most certainly is. It turned out more challah-like than I expected, and it was delicious dipped in honey on Rosh Hashanah and made into the loveliest challah French toast in the days that followed.

To get the most challah-like texture without gluten, you need to have a dough with a high liquid content, which would be more like a batter than a dough and thus unable to be handled. This is why most gluten-free challah recipes can't be braided. Most gluten-free recipes that I've seen which create braid-able doughs use dough conditioners that are not easily available / kosher. Making a bread pareve further impacts the moisture. So, in order to make a bread I could shape into something vaguely resembling a traditional shape, I used far less liquid than your usual GF bread recipe would call for. The result is a dough that can be (very carefully) handled, perhaps even braided by a very skilled and well-greased hand - But this also resulted in a bread that was quite a bit less moist than what I'm used to. It was absolutely wonderful when it was still warm out of the oven, but after it cooled completely, I found it needed some light toasting to restore its texture.

I created it in a pull-apart challah style. You can see Bureka Boy's photographs of what a gluten-y pull-apart challah looks like here. It's obvious from my photos that the pull-apart idea didn't really work with this dough, but that forming the challah from balls of dough helped give the top of the bread the bumpy shape that looks similar to how braided round challahs appear. If you don't care how your challah looks, skip that step and just pour the dough into the cake pan at once, smooth the top, glaze it, and bake it.

I considered not sharing this recipe until I improved upon it, but I realized there is no reason to not let you in on my process. The journey that a recipe goes through as it is perfected is often a long one, and I will keep you posted as I improve upon this recipe in the coming months.

It was so nice to get to eat challah along with everyone else on Rosh Hashanah this year. It made me feel downright almost normal. (Yes, even weirdos can occasionally feel normal.)


[ Gluten-Free / Dairy-Free / Soy-Free /
Vegetarian / Pareve ]

1 package active dry yeast
2 tsp sugar
1 cup warm water
1 1/2 cups cornstarch
3/4 cup brown rice flour
3/4 cup white rice flour
1/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp tapioca starch
1/4 cup Vance's Foods DariFree Original Powder (or other powdered non-dairy milk substitute)
1 Tbsp guar gum
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1 Tbsp dry potato flakes
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/4 cup honey
4 eggs + 1 extra egg yolk (at room temperature)
1 egg yolk beaten with 1 Tbsp water, for glaze
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)
Baking spray / vegetable oil spray (non-dairy)

Turn oven on 200 F for 10 minutes, then turn oven off. Mix yeast and sugar with warm water in a small bowl. Cover with tin foil, and place in the oven for 10 minutes or until the top becomes bubbly.

In the bowl of a standing mixer, combine cornstarch, white and brown rice flours, tapioca starch, guar gum, salt, baking powder, powdered non-dairy milk and potato flakes. Add yeast mixture, oil, honey and eggs (except for reserved egg glaze). Blend thoroughly on high speed. If you are adding raisins, fold them in with the mixer set to a low setting until they are evenly dispersed throughout the dough.

Grease an 8- or 9-inch round cake pan (preferably silicone). Spray baking spray all over the palms of your hands, and place a ball of dough of about 3" diameter in the center of the cake pan. Continue to roll dough into balls, placing them in concentric circles around the center ball until they reach the edge of the cake pan. Do not pack them in too tightly, they should touch each other but some spaces should be visible. The dough is very sticky, so you will need to spray oil on your hands frequently in order to be able to handle the dough and roll it into balls (if you get too much dough sticking to your hands, wash them off, dry them, and re-oil them).

Using a pastry brush, brush half of the egg glaze over the top of the dough. Cover with a dish cloth and place in oven, which should still be warm but should not be on. Allow to rise for 1 hour. It should rise to the top of the cake pan or higher.

Remove the pan from the oven, and set oven to 350 F. Remove the towel from the pan, and brush the remaining egg glaze on the dough. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds, if desired. Return pan to oven, uncovered. Bake for 20 minutes, then cover with foil and bake for another 25 minutes.

Allow bread to cool slightly before transferring it to a cooling rack. Eat while warm, or slice and toast it. Will keep for up to a week at room temperature in a ziploc storage bag, or you can slice and freeze it for longer storage.


Penny said...

a belated l'shanah tovah. that challah looks so scrumptious! i'll have to see if my kitchen can handle it or if i'll have to wait (ever so impatiently) for our new one to arrive and be installed. chag sameach!

Anonymous said...

שנה טובה וחג שמח

looks great considering it's GF :)

thanks for the mention.

Sea said...

Looks great, period! Yum, wish i could have some. :)


Rochelle said...

It looks beautiful -- thanks for sharing the rolled ball technique.

Anonymous said...

Very pretty!

Rachel said...

I thought you might be interested to know that a cooking class is being organized by a Schenectady synagogue and the last class is about cooking for Passover, with mention of gluten-free recipes! Maybe you could teach a class there in the future?

Here's the link:


Anonymous said...

Wow - That Challah is beautiful!

I can't wait to try it!



Mrs. G.F. said...

That looks beautiful.

It's amazing how nice it is to be able to join in with everyone else. I am sure you are helping others feel normal while celebrating this occasion.

Carrie said...

wow!!! That looks beautiful! And it doesn't look GF at ALL!!! Thanks for sharing!! I've always wanted to make Challah!

Natalie, aka "Sheltie Girl" said...

The challah is absolutely gorgeous.

By the way, I added you to the Bread Baking Bonanza Roundup message. Thank you very much for participating!

Take Care,
Sheltie Girl

Flamenco Mom said...

The Challah looks great! I'll have to try it. Before giving up gluten, we used to make french toast out of challah bread; I may have to try it with this gf version. Thanks!

Anonymous said...

Are you going to be at the walk in Rye coming up? Would love to finally meet you. Look for me at a vendor table and please introduce yourself, since I don't know what you look like! ;)

Vintage Blue Studio said...

It's dairy free? Thank you thank you thank! I dont have celiac, however I'm lactose intolerant like you wouldnt believe! So again, thank you!


I Am Gluten Free said...

Looks fab - will try with soy milk powder. Love how it looks like the real thing!

Gluten Free In the Greens said...

Your challah looks awesome! I was inspired to make my first blog post ever about my GF challah recipe that I adapted from Sara's and Bette Hagman's recipes. Thanks for all the inspiring Jewish food!

Anonymous said...

I am having trouble finding the non-dairy powdered milk substitute. Would you recommend powdered soy milk? Other ideas? Thanks,

ByTheBay said...

Suzanne: If you want to order it online you can find it here. That's how I got it. I haven't tried it with anything else so I can't make any promises but I imagine you could try using powdered soy milk (or buttermilk / nonfat milk if you don't mind it being dairy). I believe someone told me they simply left this ingredient out and it was fine, but since I haven't tried it myself I can't vouch for it. Please let me know how it turns out!

Chef Penny said...

Well I tried this today but had to substitute almond flour (no rice), xanthan gum (no guar), and my dried milk wasn't dairy free, and I didn't use any honey (dont eat sugar) It was DELISH! Thanx for your help :) As a pastry chef I was pretty determined this wouldn't fail! Looking forward to reading more of your recipes.

Diana said...

THANK YOU!!! Just made this for Rosh Hashanah 2009 for my 9-year-old GF daughter and it was not only a hit with her, but with others as well! However I changed the flour and used 1 3/4 cups of a homemade version of Bette Hagman's GF flour (superfine brown rice flour, potato flour and tapioca flour) and then 3 extra tablespoons of tapioca flour. Also already had xanthan gum, so I used that instead of guar gum. And - I used butter instead of oil since I didn't care if it was pareve. The idea to put the dough into balls in the pan is brilliant!! Gives it much lighter texture and those beautiful bumps on top! It looked GORGEOUS and was a smash hit! The only problem with it is that I now think that I'll be making GF challah a lot!

Ella Cohen said...

Have you tried this by chance with an egg replacement? I have been a weekly challah baker for years but now that my son has been diagnosed with multiple food allergies I am looking for alternatives. He isn't able to do eggs in addition to gluten and dairy. I will give it a whirl and let you know how it comes out!

Linda Cohen

ByTheBay said...

Sorry Linda, I haven't ever had reason to make it egg-free. And for me challah is an egg bread so if I needed to make an egg-free bread, I would probably make a different kind of loaf where the lack of egg wouldn't be so noticeable. But I totally encourage you to give it a shot - it might turn out delicious, who knows? Just make sure you make up for the moisture of the egg. I wonder if adding some ground flaxseed would help since it helps bread be more pliable and moist. Please do let me know how it turns out, because I'll make a new post letting folks know what you did - As this is not the first request of this kind that I've gotten.

Anonymous said...

I tried this for Shabbat (how can I make long loaves?) and was blown away. I simply could not believe how nice it turned out. I had to adjust for elevation (7,000') and I'm still working on that, but wow! Wonderful recipe!

Kas55 said...

Try using chia seeds as a substitute for eggs. Apple sauce should also work.

I make gluten free meatballs and use chia to bind them and they are delicious! If you want my recipe let me know.

Kate said...

Would this be a recipe you can braid?

Kate said...

Would this be a recipe you can braid?

Anonymous said...

Hi! I made this twice - both times it LOOKED incredible. The first time, however, it was inedible. SO dry! The second time, it didn't rise. Still not delicious - but edible. What am I doing wrong???

Anonymous said...

This was delicious! I did make one small change that I thought I would share. I used a small single serving vanilla soy yogurt instead of the dairy substitute. It turned out amazing. Moist and light. And it even smelled like traditional challah when it was baking! thanks for sharing this!

Anonymous said...

I'm afraid that most people are not checking with their rabbis before saying a brachah over a gluten-free challah.
You cannot make something, call it bread and have that be good enough.
My orthodox rabbi has confirmed that in order to be considered for ha motzi it must be at least 1/2 gluten-free oat flour. I understand that not everyone can tolerate g.f. oat flour, and for that I've heard of no alternative.
You can't assume such things. Please check with your rabbi.