Challah

Rosh Hashanah No-Knead Challah

Most of us have plenty of cooking and baking to do for Rosh Hashanah, so an easy-to-do Challah recipe is much appreciated.

Mix the dough with a spoon, form it into a loose ball with your hands, let it rise and then braid it.  Relatively high in eggs, sugar and oil (healthy olive oil!), this recipe produces a sweet, cake-like challah especially appropriate for the chagim. If you prefer honey to sugar, cut back on the amount of water in the recipe.

1 package (2 ½ teaspoons) instant dry yeast
1 tablespoon sugar
½ cup warm water
2 eggs
½ cup warm water
⅓ cup sugar
1 ½ teaspoons salt
⅓ cup mild-flavored extra-virgin olive oil
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups white flour
Handful of raisins (optional)

Mix the yeast, sugar and water in a large bowl to soften the yeast. After a few minutes, add the eggs, remaining ½ cup of water, sugar, salt and olive oil. Mix well, and start adding the flour, one cup at a time. When all of the flour is mixed in, add the raisins and mix with your hands to form a loose ball of dough.

Let the dough rise for about 2 hours, or until double in size.

Turn the dough onto a floured surface and shape into equal parts to braid or twist. Make one large challah, two smaller ones or lots of rolls. This dough tends to spread rather than rise in the oven, so I like to bake it in a pan with sides. That way there’s less spreading space and there’s no where else for the dough to go than up!

Bake at 325 F (165 C) for 20-25 minutes, depending on the size of your challot.

Wishing all of you a happy, healthy and quiet New Year.
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Challah Baking Questions

Returning to the subject of flour, here are some challah baking questions from another reader.

Hello Chana!

I have spent several years searching for a really great whole-wheat challah recipe that has great taste and texture. I am also interested in sweetening with agave rather than sugar or honey because of the low glycemic index. Finally, if I could use and egg substitute to lower the cholesterol, that would be great too. Do you happen to have any suggestions? If I had do make a choice between the agave and the eggs, I would prefer to keep the agave and use whole eggs. Thanks in advance for any help you can provide.

Sarah

Dear Sarah,

Kol hakavod – I applaud your efforts to bake a delicious loaf of whole-wheat challah.

With so many bread baking variables, it’s hard to give you a simple answer. And everyone has their preferences. Some people enjoy a dense loaf made with 100% whole-wheat flour, no sweetener, no eggs, no fat and no yeast. (They probably use a starter of some sort.) Others like their challah light and airy.

My current favorite challah recipe uses an Italian-style biga (a simple starter that’s prepared ahead of time), olive oil, a little sugar, eggs, three-quarters whole-wheat flour and one-quarter white flour.

To lighten whole-wheat breads, including challah, I often use gluten (also called vital wheat gluten) – 1 tablespoon per cup of whole-wheat flour. If you want to use a high percentage of whole-wheat flour and prefer an airier loaf, this is one way to achieve it. Using a starter will also give you a lighter loaf.

Agave syrup is a plant-based sweetener that’s sweeter than sugar and less viscous than honey. It does have a lower glycemic index than sugar and honey, but it’s also high in fructose.

You could try substituting it for the honey in your challah recipe, but you may need to adjust the amount of flour and liquid.

I’m more comfortable using sugar (which has been around for a long time!) than some of the “health-food” alternatives, which can also be very expensive. Keep in mind that these sweeteners, including agave, are all pretty much the same calorically (4 calories per gram), and none of them have much to offer nutritionally.

What’s most important is to cut down on the total amount of sugar in your diet.

And I wouldn’t be too concerned about the glycemic index of the sugar or honey in your challah, especially if you’re using whole-wheat flour and eating the challah with a meal. The protein, fat and fiber in the other food you’re eating will moderate the spike in blood sugar from the small amount of sweetener.

If you’re diabetic or have particularly high cholesterol levels, you can substitute commercial egg-substitute for the eggs in your favorite challah recipe. Or use two egg whites in place of each whole egg.

But most people shouldn’t have to worry about a few eggs in their challah. It’s more important to avoid trans fat (unhealthy fat found in commercial baked goods and snacks containing partially-hydrogenated vegetable oil) and saturated fat from high-fat meat and dairy products.

I hope this information is helpful. Happy challah baking!

Chana

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Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

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