There is nothing quite like a fresh loaf of bread, and nothing even close to a warm challah just pulled from the oven. Golden in color, dotted with sesame seeds, and enveloped in a delicious sweet aroma that fills the whole house. Pulling those challahs from the oven is my favorite part of Friday afternoon.
When guests walk into our home, the first thing they say is “WOW, it smells so good in here!” It’s the bread, folks.
Hot from the oven, I line the loaves up on the counter(out of reach from little challah lover-toddler hands), so I can marvel over my beautiful creations and make myself even more hungry than I normally am.
For the perfect meal, serve alongside this spicy Moroccan fish and dip into our favorite Candied Jalapeños.
There are tons of challah recipes out there, and I encourage you to try them all!
But- this is the only recipe you will ever need. Did I mention it is vegan and totally egg-free? In the Jewish world we call this babe a water challah.
You might think that because challah is- by definition- Jewish Egg Bread, it doesn’t really make sense to have an egg bread with no eggs. Well. Sometimes we run out of eggs on Friday afternoon folks! (Sadly, a true story told too often in our house). Anyways, with lots of water substituting the eggs, this challah ends up being light and fluffy and downright addictive.
This vegan challah recipe was passed down to Izzy Massre- balabusta extraordinaire- from her mother. Check out her instagram for lots of Sephardi recipes. @schugspiceandeverythingrice. She’s fabulous.
What does Izzy say about her moms recipe?
“Whenever I serve my challah to guests, everyone is always shocked that my challah doesn’t have any eggs in it. The texture, fluffiness and overall taste is so similar to the usual egg based challot that my guests have eaten before. My mom developed this egg free version years ago and it has been a staple at our family table ever since.”
I have been making this challah for months now, and it comes out soft and fluffy every time. The dough is an absolute pleasure to work with, and the braids hold their shape perfectly. It’s great savory or sweet- you can even use some of the dough for a babka!
I love decorating the challahs, some of my favorites? – everything topping, sweet crumb, cinnamon sugar filling, and a garlic & rosemary bottom.
We’ve been hooked on water challah for some time now. While most challah recipes call for eggs- some as many as 5 eggs per two braids- this challah is totally egg free! And guess what. No one would ever know. Many people have told me this is the best challah they have ever had- and that’s saying something over here because every other household has their own “favourite recipe”.
To make this challah 100% vegan, you can brush the top with olive oil or a spoonful of honey thinned out with a bit of water.
OR use an egg for the top brush before placing the loaves in the oven.
What does challah making look like in our house?
- I love getting my kids involved
When it comes time for braiding, I call my daughter into the kitchen and giving her a chunk of dough to roll out with me. She also loves to sprinkle sesame seeds on top- you can bet we always know which is hers!
2. I take time to pray while kneading the dough
Fridays are so hectic with Shabbat preparations, I find I don’t have a second to think the whole day. I love to take a deep breath before I begin to knead my dough. I remember that I am sustaining my family by cooking and providing for them, and that Hashem is in turn sustaining us. He creates and nurtures the land, brings rain, and enables wheat to grow. That wheat is ground to flour and- He makes sure we have income and the means (parnasah) to buy that flour. I daven for the health of my family, and for those that need some kind of healing(refuah). I ask that like the sugar I poured into the dough, our lives should be filled with sweet memories and good things. And..I try to not think about all the 30 other things I have to cook for dinner..
Taking challah- Hafrashat Challah
This is a huge mitzvah for women(mainly) and a lovely way to honor the shabbos. Taking challah is only necessary when you are using over a certain amount of flour- usually over 12 cups, such as with this recipe.
In the time of the Temple(Beis Hamikdash), the separated piece of dough was baked into a loaf and given to the Priests(kohanim). Nowadays, because there is no temple, we do not bake the taken piece. But, because it is holy, we don’t just throw it away, we burn it in the oven or on the stovetop.
HOW TO DO THIS MITZVAH:
- pull off a small piece from the main dough- about the size of an egg- and hold it in your right hand, with your hand resting against the main dough, so they are touching.
- recite the blessing “Baruch Ata Ado-nai Elo’hainu Melech Ha-Olam Asher Kidishanu B-Mitzvotav Vitzivanu L-Hafrish Challah Min-Haisa”
- wrap the challah you took in aluminum foil and bake in an empty oven till burnt, or place carefully over an open flame.
SO, are you ready to make some delicious Vegan Water Challah?!
Let’s check out the process…
First mix warm water and yeast with a little sugar..
It will get very bubbly! It might even overflow like mine.
While the yeast is working, mix boiling water with the sugar and salt till its totally dissolved. This extra step makes your finished challah slices EXTRA soft!
Now add everything together and begin to knead.
When you think you’re done, knead another 3 minutes.
The dough is ready when all the flour in incorporated, it’s nice and soft, and easy to work with.
Now braid your challah- (these are 6 strand braids)-
Brush with egg wash or honey+water- and add toppings..
Let rest, and bake!
Aren’t they beautiful?!
Fluffy Challah Bread
- 4 Tbs dry instant yeast
- 2 Tbs salt
- 3.5 cups warm water
- 1 cup boiling hot water
- 1 cup sugar
- 1 cup Oil
- 12-14 cups sifted flour
- egg for brushing tops
- mix yeast with one cup warm water and a sprinkle of sugar. let sit and bubble
BOILING WATER & SUGAR
- combine one cup of water- boiling- in a bowl with 1 cup sugar and 2 Tbs salt. this will give a great soft texture to your challah!
- mix until sugar dissolves.
- add in remaining 2.5 cups water-warm-
- add in oil and yeast mixture.
- add in flour- mix after 6 cups- to create a soft dough.
- turn onto a clean floured surface and knead, adding flour as necessary, till the dough is soft and easy to work with. this takes around 10 min- yes it is a workout!
- place dough in a lightly floured or oiled bowl and cover with a kitchen towel for about 1 hour- or until doubled in size.
BRAID AND LET REST
- after taking challah, braid all the dough- recipe yields around 6 loaves.
- *for Garlic Bottom Challah drizzle olive oil onto the baking sheet or loaf pan. Spread 2-4 crushed garlic cloves evenly on top, and if desired, add a sprinkle of rosemary.
- place challah on baking sheets or in loaf pans, brush with egg, and sprinkle with sesame seeds/ everything topping/sweet crumb topping.
- let challahs rest for 30-45 min. they should puff up quite a bit. because they have been brushed with egg there is no need to cover them.
- preheat oven to 175 celcius.
- place challahs in pre-heated oven and bake for 30-45 minutes, until a lovely golden color on top.
- *TIP*If they tops are desired color but challah needs to cook on the inside a little more, cover loosely with aluminum foil.