I have so many memories of sitting on the counter in our California kitchen, face and hands covered in flour. In front of me lay three balls of dough. I would grab a ball of dough and roll it between my hands until it formed a small and wide log of dough. I would then grab each end of the log with my tiny hands and swing it in circles, similar to swinging a jumprope, until if formed a long rope. After the rope was long enough, I would move on to the next ball. After all the balls were rolled into even ropes, I would attach them together at one end and begin to braid. I don’t remember ever learning how to braid challah, only already knowing how to do it. Once the three ropes were perfectly braided together, we would use an ‘egg white wash’ to coat the top of the challah and then set aside the loaf to rise. Finally, we would place the braided loaf in the oven and 40 minutes later my mom would pull out a perfect, gorgeous challah.
As I grew up, we made less and less challah. Four years ago, my mom went gluten-free, minimizing our challah-making tradition. Since today is Friday, and I have the day off school, I was reminiscing about the days of my childhood when I would be making challah. On my way home from an orientation for a college course I am taking at John Jay College, I stopped by Gristedes to buy ingredients for a separate recipe that I was planning on preparing and I stumbled across gluten-free yeast. I quickly grabbed the yeast (I obviously didn’t steal it) and ran home to make gluten-free challah. Since I was expecting the challah to come out tasteless and dry, I was ecstatic to find that I LOVEDDDDD it!
1/3 cup+ warm water
1 package rapid rise gf yeast
1 tsp. granulated cane sugar
1 cup full-fat coconut milk
1 tablespoon + 1 tsp. apple cider vinegar
5 large egg yolks at room temperature (slightly mixed)
1/3 cup canola oil, coconut oil (warmed to liquid) or extra virgin olive oil
4 Tbs. honey, agave nectar or molasses
4 cups all-purpose gluten-free flour
3 Tbs. + 2 tsp. granulated cane sugar
1 1/4 tsp. kosher salt
1/2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. gluten-free baking powder
1 large egg, mixed
chia seeds, sprinkles, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, raisins, chocolate chips etc.
- Preheat your oven to 200º F, then turn it off and leave the oven door closed. Prepare a baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper.
- In a small bowl, mix together the warm water, yeast and 1 teaspoon of sugar to proof the yeast; set aside. It should take around five minutes to bubble/proof. If no change is seen by then, through it out and start again with new yeast, sugar and water.
- In the bowl of your stand mixer, mix the coconut milk, apple cider vinegar, egg yolks, oil and honey together until completely combined.
- Whisk together the flour, sugar, salt baking soda and baking power in a separate bowl.
- Stir in the proofed water/yeast mixture into the bowl of the stand mixture. Then, gradually stir in the dry ingredients until fully integrated, adding more warm water by the tablespoon as needed to get the dough soft and so that the dough is not tight or stiff, then mix 1-2 minutes more on medium speed.
- Once the dough is combined, divide it in half and divide each half into three equally-sized balls. The dough will be sticky, so use extra gluten-free flour on your hands and rolling surface. Roll each ball out into an 18-inch coil or log on a clean, flat surface dusted lightly with Flour.
- Pinch together one end of each coil, possibly wetting them slightly with water to help them join together at the top if necessary. Braid the three coils together, pinching together at the end.
- Gently transfer it to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Repeat for the second set of three balls.
- In a small bowl, mix the extra egg together and brush over each loaf well, coating the entire top surface. Sprinkle the seeds or any toppings at this point, then place the tray (covering the loaves with wax paper sprayed with cooking oil) into the preheated oven for approximately 20 – 30 minutes. (Don’t expect the bread to rise much at this stage).
- Once risen slightly, place the uncovered tray in an oven preheated to 350º F (static) or 325º F (convection) for 20 minutes. Remove to cool on a wire rack.
Original recipe credit to GFJules [fun fact: my mom also goes by jules and is gluten free! How weird]