Soft, fluffy, tender, and delicious, this beautiful Vegan Challah is easy to make even if you’ve never baked bread. Everyone will enjoy this amazing bread!
- 5-6 (800g to 950g) cups unbleached all purpose flour
- 2 + 1/4 tsp active dry yeast (one packet)
- 2 tsp salt
- 1 tsp sugar
- 1/3 cup maple syrup or agave
- 2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flaxseed + 6 tbsp water)
- 1 + 1/2 cups warm water (divided)
Vegan Egg Wash, optional
- 9 tbsp unsweetened non-dairy milk
- 3 tbsp maple syrup or agave
Make the Dough
- Measure out your ingredients. Please properly measure your flour by weighing it (see instructions in the top half of the article). Measuring in cups is inaccurate and may result in dough that is too thick or too loose.
- Make your flax eggs by adding 1 part ground flaxseed to 3 parts water. Let it sit in the fridge for a few minutes or on the counter a little longer, about 10 minutes, to gel.
- Now activate the yeast by mixing it in a small bowl with the sugar and 1/4 cup warm water (110-115 F, 43-46 C) and let it sit for about 10 minutes.
- While yeast is activating, add flax eggs, maple syrup, remaining warm water, and salt to your mixing bowl. Mix it gently, and then add the activated--foamy--yeast mixture to the bowl. Mix it again.
- Note: You can mix this dough by hand--use a strong wooden spoon--but it’s WAY easier to just use a stand mixer if you have one.
- Start your mixer on a low speed with the paddle attachment installed. Add the flour a half cup at a time. You may need to stop and scrape down the sides a few times with a silicone spatula. When the mixture becomes too hard to mix (your machine may stall or the dough doesn’t seem to move), you should switch to your dough hook attachment. If doing this by hand, you may want to switch to just your hands to mix and knead the dough.
- Pay attention to the texture of your dough. If it is too dry and crumbly, add a touch more warm water--just a tablespoon at a time. If your dough is too wet, add a tablespoon or two of flour and continue to knead. I ended up using ABOUT 5.5 cups of flour, but it can vary.
- Note: Start a small pot of water to boil right now. This will help with keeping the dough moist (and therefore make soft bread) while it rises.
- I kneaded my dough at a 4 or 5 on my mixer for just a few minutes, until the dough no longer stuck to the sides of my bowl (it kind of wraps itself around the hook) and it was moist but not too sticky to the touch.
The First Rise
- Grease a large bowl (should be large enough for more than twice the size of your dough) with coconut cream or oil. Turn out your dough into the bowl and flip it once so that both sides are lightly coated.
- Cover the bowl with a damp towel and place it somewhere warm to rise. I like to put it in my oven with the oven light on. To keep things extra moist, I like to place the pot of freshly boiled water I mentioned earlier right below the bowl of dough. So in the oven: the top rack is your dough, covered, and the pot of water below it. Close the door and set a timer for 1 hour.
The Second Rise
- To allow the gluten to develop, we’re going to rise our dough twice. I know, this is a lot of time, but go read a book, exercise, clean the house, or play Animal Crossing (nevermind about that).
- Take your bowl out of the oven. The dough will have more than doubled in size. Reboil your water. I promise it’s worth the effort. Punch down the dough a few times, reshape into a ball, cover once again. Place it back in the oven, the same way you had it, with the boiling water below and the oven light on.
- Set the time for another hour. After the time is up, remove the dough from the oven and punch it down again. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface.
Making the Strands
- Cut your dough into two equal pieces. I like to use my food scale again for this… so if I have total dough that’s, say, 1000 grams, I want each piece to be 500g. Take the piece you aren’t using, put it back in the bowl, and cover it with a cloth but do not put it back in the oven. We’re not letting it rise again right now--only keeping it from drying out while we work with the other half.
- Now that you have your half, cut that into the number of strands you want. When you cut, repeat the process above of weighing each piece. So if I have a 500g ball of dough, and I want 4 strands, then each piece should weigh 125g.
- Now take one of those four pieces. We’re going to make the first strand. On your work surface, knead the ball gently with your hand for just 30 seconds to work out any air bubbles. Use a rolling pin to roll out the dough until it’s about 1/4 inch thick. Along the longest side, roll up the dough so it’s a strand shape. To close the seam, I like to use a tiny bit of water on my fingers to pinch the seam and “erase it” from the dough.
- Now with the palms of your hands, begin rolling the strand out, lengthening it. Start in the middle and work your way out rolling as you move your hands out. It’s OK if your strands are thicker in the middle than on the ends. Actually, it’s preferable, as that’s what gives challah its beautiful shape.
- Repeat this process with each of your strands. Don’t touch your other ball yet--let’s leave that until we let the braided challah rise for the final time before baking.
Braiding the Challah
- This section is about braiding a four-strand challah. If making a three-strand, just braid the outside strands alternately--over, under, over, under.
- Lay your strands on top of parchment paper. It will be much easier to transfer the challah at that point. Take your four strands and line them up no more than an inch apart. If they’re not all the same length, attempt to make them the same length now by rolling out any overly thick sections.
- Start your braid by pinching the four strands together at one end of your challah. You might need a little more water to blend the seam together and enable them to hold. I did, but I just dipped my fingers back in the water for this process.
- Now starting with the right-most strand, bring it over the strand directly to its left, then under the next one, and then over the last one. Repeat that process until you get to the bottom. Keep taking the right strand and weaving it over-under-over.
- When you get to the very bottom and you can’t weave the strands anymore, pinch them together like you did the top. Again, you may need a dab of water to accomplish this.
- Move the braided challah to your lined baking tray. If you braided your challah on top of parchment paper, just slide the whole paper onto your baking tray. If not, grab someone to help and carefully transfer it with your hands.
Rise the Braided Challah and Prepare for Baking
- Let the challah rise on the counter for 45 minutes. It will get much puffier and fuller. I recommend setting a timer.
- If you are making the full recipe, go ahead and repeat the dough cutting, strand making, and braiding with the other half of the dough.
- Set that challah on another lined baking tray and set a separate timer for 45 minutes.
- Preheat your oven to 350 degrees Fahrenheit (177 degrees Celsius) now.
- Once the first challah has risen for 45 minutes, test it before baking. Gently poke a finger into the side--if the indentation stays, it is ready to bake. If it bounces back, let it sit another 10-15 minutes.
- So now mix together the ingredients for the vegan egg wash if you’re using them. For this much challah, I used 3 tablespoons of maple syrup (agave will work) and 9 tablespoons of non-dairy milk. Make about half of that if you halved the recipe.
Bake the Challah
- Brush the vegan egg wash all over the challah. Make sure to get all the crevices and the sides (no need to do the bottom).
- Bake challah in the preheated oven for about 40-45 minutes total. I recommend removing the pan from the oven halfway through and brushing it again with vegan egg wash. This makes it nice and brown. You’ll find that some areas look like they never got the wash during this step. That’s because the challah expands in the oven when it’s baking. Concentrate first on brushing the sections that don’t have the wash, then brush the whole thing again. This is what makes those shiny brown knots on top of the finished challah.
- Bake it until it’s a nice golden brown color. You can take a peak at the bottom--it should be nicely browned but not burnt. If you feel it is browning too much, you may want to tent your challah for the last few minutes of the cooking process.
- Let the challah fully cool before attempting to slice it. You can either easily pull it apart or slice it using a serrated knife / bread knife. Enjoy!
- Store bread in an airtight container (I just use a cake carrier, lol, but a bread box would look nicer) for up to 6 days. Covering it keeps it from getting stale just like any bread. You can freeze your baked challah for up to 3 months--I recommend wrapping it tightly with plastic wrap AND freezer paper or something else freezer safe.
- Category: Bread
- Method: Baking
- Cuisine: Jewish
Keywords: Vegan, Oil-Free, Nut-Free, Soy-Free, Jewish, High Holy Days, Vegan Challah, Vegan Shabbat