For the Jewish New Year, we eat round challah instead of our typical braided challah to symbolize the circular rhythms of the globe turning and time itself revolving around. We love our symbolic foods! We also eat foods associated with fertility like pomegranates (so many seeds!!!) and harvest delicacies like dates.
I make a lot of different kinds of challah—vegan challah is actually not that difficult and it tastes delicious! This year I realized after I activated the yeast (which IS vegan FYI) that I only had whole wheat flour in the pantry. It’s harder to get whole wheat challah to be light and fluffy, that’s for sure.
Anyway, this batch came out pretty darn good. It’s a bit of labor to encourage fluffiness but it’s worth it. And for the record, I believe in kneading by hand because I’m old school, yo. Use a bread maker if you want; no judgment here.
This recipe makes 4 medium sized challahs, but you can obviously halve the ingredients for 2! It’s adapted from the fantastic Jewish recipe book to end all recipe books: The Taste of Shabbos: The Complete Sabbath Cookbook.
Disclaimer: this recipe involves 3 risings. Don’t sit there and be bored and hate your life during rising time. Take a walk. Read a book. Nap. Cook other things. Let the process be a part of your life, not the cause for lamenting it. Baking is fun. And baking challah is so rewarding. And delicious.
Vegan Whole Wheat Challah
- 2 oz. yeast
- 3 cups warm water (not hot!)
- 1 tsp sugar
- 10 cups whole wheat flour
- 1/3 cup oil (I use safflower. Don’t use olive oil. It’s not for baking challah!)
- 1/3 cup agave (or honey if you eat honey)
- Equivalent of 2 eggs (I use Bob’s or Ener-G)
- 1 Tbsp salt
- Activate the yeast by putting into 1/2 cup of warm water with the sugar.
- Then beat in the rest of the water (2 1/2 cups), 5 cups of the flour, the oil, honey, egg substitute, and salt. The dough will look like cake batter.
- Let it rise 30-45 min. It may not get big and fluffy yet. Don’t worry. Punch it down or shake the bowl so it “deflates” after the 30-45 min. Add the other 5 cups of flour slowly while mixing with your hands. Knead it for at least 5 minutes as you add enough flour so that it doesn’t stick to your fingers. This should be fun. Put it on a floured surface and keep turning it over and over and pushing down with the heels of your hands. You may get sweaty. I know I do. If you make 10 cups of flour worth of challah, there is a blessing traditional Jewish women say while removing a small piece in memory of when we baked for the priests when the Great Temple in Jerusalem existed. Google “separating challah” on the internet if you’re curious about why and how to do it! (I do it when I make this much!)
- Cover the dough with a damp (not wet) towel and put it in a bowl and let it rise again. This time, it should get big and fluffy; it will take about another 30 min to about double in size. I let mine rise in a window with sun coming in. You can also get your oven a little toasty and let it rise in the oven after you TURN IT OFF!
- Punch it down. Make loaves. Or braid it. Or do like I did and braid it in a long braid and twist it around and bake it in a 9 inch round pan. Put an oven safe glass bowl in the middle and it will leave a pretty hole. (Grease the bowl first so it doesn’t stick!) Make sure to grease the pans first with cooking spray or a little oil. I like to cut parchment paper for the bottom of the pans so they pop out easily.
- Optional: if you eat eggs and like a shiny egg wash, beat an egg yolk and brush it on. Add poppy seeds or sesame seeds if you want.
- Let the challahs rise in their pans another 20 minutes or so.
- Bake at 350 for 30 min. If the bottom looks toasty and brown, it’s done. Let cool on a rack and enjoy!