Vegan Challah (Braided Yeast Bread)

   reading time: 5 min






Like Dany's Dragon Eggs that I shared with you last week, this soft, sweet, sexy challah is another recipe that I've been waiting, even yearning to make for weeks, almost months now! ūü§™

Sounds a bit crazy?

Yep, that's me!

(Did I just describe a baked good as "sexy"? Anywho ...)

I used to despise having to knead dough with my hands. Now – it's one of my favourite parts of baking! I just love the soft, smooth, elastic feeling of a good yeast dough ☺️ I'm not joking, I've actually been looking forward to making this recipe since February!!

But enough about my weird obsession with challah.

(It's all thanks to Rachel Talbott and her vlog where she makes challah that sparked this passion off, by the way!)


This vegan challah bread is made without eggs (obviously), but is nonetheless perfectly soft, fluffy, doughy, cloudy, almost cuddly (um, what?), slightly sweet, and basically like a hug from a loved one (anyone feeling lonely and in need of a hug lately?). Plus, it's so pretty!

Let's make this baked bliss that is vegan challah!



VEGAN CHALLAH

Preparation time: 50 mins + 2 hours proofing time
Main ingredients: flour, yeast, non-dairy milk
difficulty level: easy
makes: 1 large or 2 medium-sized braided loafs
suitable for: vegan, lactose-free, wheat-free, low in sugar

Ingredients

1 cube of fresh yeast (or 2 1/2 tsp dry active yeast)
1/2 cup lukewarm water
3/4 cup lukewarm non-dairy milk

1/4 cup light sugar
2 tbsp extra virgin olive oil or refined coconut oil
3 tbsp vegan butter, softened
2 tbsp pumpkin puree (or sub for more vegan butter or vegan Greek yogurt)
1 tbsp vegan Greek yogurt (you can also make your own vegan yogurt and drain overnight)
5 cups spelt flour (I used 3 1/2 cups type 630 spelt flour and 1 1/2 cups type 1050 spelt flour), plus extra for kneading
1 tsp kosher salt
(optional) a pinch of kala namak salt, for that eggy taste


For brushing:
1 tbsp plant-based milk
1 tbsp pure maple syrup or golden syrup


Optional: sesame seeds, poppy seeds, almond flakes or pearl sugar, for sprinkling



Instructions

To a bowl add lukewarm water, non-dairy milk, sugar, and yeast. Stir until well combined, and set aside for about 5-10 minutes for the yeast to feed off the sugar and activate. This is called "blooming" :)

To a large mixing bowl, add flour and kosher salt.

Add olive oil, vegan butter, pumpkin puree and vegan yogurt to the activated yeast mixture, and stir to combine.

Slowly add the wet ingredients to the dry ingredients mixer. Stir until a rough shaggy dough forms. Using an electric mixer with a dough hook, knead for 5-6 minutes, or until the dough pulls away from the bowl and climb up the hook as it's mixing.

Using your clean, lightly oiled hands, knead the dough a couple of times (it should feel elastic, tacky, but no longer like bubblegum, and stretchy – if the dough is too sticky, add some more flour), then gently roll doll into a ball and place in an oiled bowl.

Cover with a clean damp kitchen towel, and leave to rise in a warm, dry place for about 1 1/2 hours until doubled in size.

If you are doing this in the evening and want to continue the baking process the next day, store the dough overnight in the fridge instead, then continue with the rest later in the morning.

Once the dough has risen and doubled or tripled in size, lightly dust a clean counter top with flour.
Punch dough down and knead again. It will be very tender, soft and easy to work with! Again, add more flour if the dough is too sticky.

Divide the dough into 3 to 8 equal pieces, depending on the type of braid you'd like to do. Roll each piece into a long log, roughly 1 inch thick. Arrange your ropes parallel to each other, and gather the tips on one end. Pinch together tightly so they stick together. Begin braiding.

If making a 4-stranded braid like I am, take the far left strand and move it over two strands to the middle (spread the strand apart if you need to make room). Weave it around that second strand, going back underneath. Now take the right-hand strand and move it to the left over two strands, around that second strand and back underneath again. Repeat, alternating between left-hand and right-hand until the loaf is done. (See pictures below!)

Once braided, squeeze the ends of the braid together to form a butt. Tuck the ends of the loaf underneath, and carefully transfer the braid to a parchment paper lined baking sheet.

Cover with the clean kitchen towel again. Let rise for another 30 minutes until puffy.

When the dough has expanded even more, preheat the oven to 190 °C / 375 °F.

In a small bowl, mix together 1 tbsp non-dairy milk with 1 tbsp of maple syrup or golden syrup to make the glaze. Brush the mixture onto the top of the braided dough. Save the remaining glaze for after baking.

Sprinkle heavily with sesame or poppy seeds, if desired.

Bake in the centre rack of the
190 °C / 375 °F preheated oven for about 25 minutes, or until the top is golden brown. If you tap the loaf, it should sound hollow.

Remove the challah from the oven and immediately brush it with the remaining glaze for a shiny crust.

Transfer the challah to a wire rack to cool for about 15–20 minutes before slicing and serving. Enjoy warm!

Stored in sealable plastic bags at room temperature the challah will keep for up to 4 days.
 


TIPS & NOTES:

- Instead of braiding the challah, you can also make pull-apart challah. Divide the risen and punched down dough into 8 equal parts, and roll each part into a round ball. Place one ball in the middle of a parchment-lined baking tray, and surround with the remaining balls, forming a cluster similar to my homemade breakfast rolls. I also love Kudos Kitchen's version where they place a slightly smaller braid on top of a larger braid. My recipe definitely provides enough dough to do this!
- Instead of making one big challah, you can also make three small ones. Eat one, freeze or gift the other two, or the other way around! Plus, you can try different shapes, for example one 4-strand braid, one braided wreath, and one pull-apart cluster, or whatever you like.

- Feel free to add 1 cup (150 g) raisins, soaked in water for 10 minutes, to the dough.
- You could also put a bit of ground cardamom in the dough.
- Instead of the maple/milk glaze, you can also mix 1 tbsp apricot jam (or golden syrup or honey) with 2 tsp water to make a glaze, like I did with my vegan hot cross buns.
- Any leftovers can be made into French toast!
 


 
Other doughy deliciousness you might enjoy:

Vegan Sweet Yeast Braid for the Holidays

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