For health reasons I’ve been gluten free for thirteen years, and in all that time, Shabbat has always been the hardest. The sweet smell of challah - like forbidden fruit - has left me wanting many a Friday night. A few months ago I went to a special Shabbat dinner, at the amazing chef Daniela Gerson’s house. While everyone was digging into the steaming challah I thought, “Maybe one bite will be okay…” Of course one bite led to four, and for the next few days I was not feeling so hot.
After wallowing in my gluten-filled sorrows for a while, I thought, “enough is enough!”
It’s important for me to be part of this tradition, and to feel linked to this lineage. I longed for the experience of sharing in this ancient ritual around a table with friends and family, but frozen, crumbly, gluten-free store bought rolls just weren’t doing the trick.
Plus, I felt called to participate in the process itself of making challah, a tradition that has been passed down through generations of Jewish women around the world.
So, I decided: I’m baking my own gluten-free challah!
This recipe is adapted from a strong, wonderful woman named Rachel; I had the privilege of eating Shabbat lunch at her home a few months back. I’ve made adjustments to the original recipe to incorporate even more nourishing ingredients, because as I found on my search to nourish my soul with freshly baked challah, that’s not mutually exclusive with nourishing my body. Finding this connection with my mind, body and spirit around a Shabbat ritual has brought me closer to wholeness this year.
HOLY CHALLAH, THIS IS GLUTEN FREE?!
Makes 12 Challah Muffin rolls, or use these to make them into 4 traditional challah shaped rolls - sadly traditional braiding doesn’t work with this recipe.
While this challah recipe has a few steps that will keep you coming back to it over a couple hours, if you’re home for a morning or afternoon it’s a great practice to serve as a reminder to check in and prepare for Shabbat.
In order to make this as nourishing, sustainable and yummy as possible I recommend using organic ingredients whenever available.
1 envelope of dry yeast
1 tsp raw honey or coconut sugar
1/4 cup warm water
2 1/4 cups Gluten Free oat flour (I use bob’s red mill or bulk, though you can make your own)
½ cup GF rice flour
¼ cup GF potato starch
¼ cup GF tapioca flour
1½ tsp salt
2 rounded tsp xanthan gum
3 large pasture raised eggs + 1 egg yolk divided
1/4 cup raw honey
¼ cup melted coconut oil ( I put mine in the 200 degree oven to get it melty) or olive oil
½ cup almond milk
½ cup warm water
Preheat the oven to 200°F.
Add the coconut sugar or tsp of honey to a bowl and mix it with ¼ cup warm water. Add the yeast and mix well, whisking with a fork until combined. Let the yeast mixture sit for about 5 minutes until frothy.
Meanwhile add the dry ingredients in one large bowl, mixing together gently to combine.
In a separate bowl combine the honey, oil, milk, eggs, and warm water.
Pour the wet mixture into the dry mixture slowly and mix to combine. Then add the yeast mixture.
Mix well for 3-5 minutes, with your hands. Use this time to think about all the women making challah around the world and sit in that space, especially when your hands get tired. You could also use a stand mixer, I’ve used a hand mixer before as well but find the cleanup isn’t always worth it. The dough should be wet feeling but not too wet.
Turn the oven off and cover your mixed dough with parchment paper. Put the dough in the warm but off oven. Let sit for about an hour. The dough should almost double in size.
Take the bowl out and turn the oven back on to preheat to 200°F.
Lightly grease a muffin pan, small loaf pans or the challah silicone pans, see link above, with coconut oil. I like the paper towel method. Give the dough a gentle mix and spoon it into your lightly greased pans.
Turn the oven off. Cover the pans/muffins/challah silicone with parchment paper and put it back in the warm but off oven and let the dough rise for a second time. It should double again, about 40 min-1hr.
Remove the rising challah from the oven.
Preheat oven to 375°F. Once preheated bake your uncovered challah muffins at 375°F for 10 minutes. (15 for small loaf pan or 15-20 for larger challah silicone)
Remove pans from oven and remove the muffins or loaves from the pan, they should be solid enough to take out by now. Place them on a parchment lined cookie sheet, and glaze with egg yolk (I like to use a brush here but a good finger rub will work), add garlic granules, poppy seeds, sesame seeds, honey or any other topping. Lightly glaze loaves with the egg yolk, then return to oven.
Bake uncovered at 375°F for 7-10 minutes for muffin rolls, up to 20 minutes for a whole loaf. Look for a golden top before removing.
Cool on a wire rack and try to hold back from tearing off a piece right then!