It’s ages since I’ve baked challah. DH doesn’t eat bread full stop, so if I make a loaf it’s up to me and Kipper to polish off the lot. So on the whole, I don’t bother.
Although it does annoy me beyond all reasonable measure that it’s so hard to buy wholemeal challah in the UK. Until a year or two ago it was impossible, so I suppose we are making progress. But still. I like my bread to taste of something, and white bread, even challah, tends to be all fluffy softness and not much flavour.
So, when we invited some vegan friends for dinner, I decided this was the perfect opportunity to make some wholemeal challah myself. (Most shop-bought challah contains eggs, making it not vegan-friendly.) I’ve experimented before with using wholemeal flour and experience shows that it needs ‘diluting’ with white flour to avoid solid, stodgy bread. I use a ratio of 3:2 white:wholemeal but you can use half and half, or play about till you find the mixture that you like best.
So, having decided to make a delicious wholemeal vegan challah, I began looking for recipes. I found one in a book which described itself as an ‘eggless challah’ because it only had one egg in it rather than six. Hmmm. Eventually, I settled on a combination of two recipes. And then set about modifying and resizing them. I wanted 2 or 3 loaves of challah, not 12!
Which brings me neatly on to American recipes. If ever there was a time to ditch the cup measurements, it’s when making large quantities of bread. I read several recipes which called for 24 cups of flour (or similar). Seriously? How does anyone have any idea how much that is, really? Can you go to the shops and buy a 24-cup bag of flour? So as well as resizing the recipe, I also had to do conversions from daft approximations into real units. Come on Americans – get with it!
My final concern was with a glaze for the challah, as obviously an egg-wash was out of the question. The wisdom of the Internet suggested maple syrup as an alternative, promising a shiny brown finish without any stickiness. Well, they were half right. The challah did look glossy and gorgeous, but it was slightly sticky. It was also quite sweet, which was fine as a one-off, but I’m not sure I’d want it weekly. I think in future I’ll just leave the glaze off. Consider it optional.
I made round ‘yomtov’ challah, rather than braiding them, and Kipper and a couple of her friends had a go at kneading and shaping some of the dough. They had fun, and were very impressed with what came out of the oven! I wish I had a better photo of Kipper’s beautifully braided challah, but she ate it before I had a chance to take one, so this will have to do. Sorry…
I made the challah in my trusty Kenwood mixer, and it was at the limit of its capacity with this much dough. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to do more than this in a domestic setting anyway, unless you have dozens of children. This made four medium loaves.
- 600g white bread flour
- 400g wholemeal bread flour + some extra
- 550ml warm water
- 100g golden caster sugar
- 1.5 tbsp dry yeast (approximately 2 sachets)
- 125ml vegetable oil + a little extra
- Pinch salt
- Maple syrup to glaze (optional)
- Mix the bread flours in a large bowl and set aside.
- Put 65ml of the warm water, 1 tbsp of the sugar, and the yeast into a large glass or mug, and stir well to dissolve. Set aside while the yeast begins to activate.
- Mix the remaining water and sugar with the oil and salt. Add half the flour and mix well to combine.
- The yeast mixture should now have a foamy layer on top, showing that the yeast is working. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl together with the remaining flour and mix well to make a dough.
- Mix/knead for around 10 minutes until the dough is smooth, soft and elastic. If the dough seems too sticky, add a little of the extra flour.
- Turn out the dough and roll in a little oil. Place into an oiled bowl and cover with cling film or a damp tea towel. Leave in a warm place to rise for at least an hour, until doubled in size.
- Punch down the dough and remove from the bowl. Knead briefly, then cut into four pieces. Allow to rest for 10 minutes.
- Shape the dough as desired. Place on lined trays and allow to rise for about 20 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 180C.
- Brush the loaves with maple syrup, then bake at 180C for 25-35 minutes, until risen, golden brown and glossy. Once cooked, the challah should make a hollow sound when you tap the bottom of the loaf.
- Allow to cool on wire racks. Eat and enjoy!
- These directions assume you are using a stand mixer such as a Kenwood with a dough hook attachment. If you are making the challah by hand, you may need to mix/knead for longer to achieve the same result.