When I was kid, people tended to shun eggs for fear that they'd raise one's cholesterol. Lots of kosher bakeries turned out so-called "water challahs" to cater to the egg abstainers. But as nutrition science advanced, the egg was vindicated, and for many, the water challah was forgotten.
Well, one day, I went to bake challah for Shabbat, and realized I was totally out of eggs. I was dubious about baking challah without them -- there's a reason it's often called an egg bread! -- but the results were pretty spectacular. The dough rose beautifully, was easy to work with, and the family tore through the warm loaves in record time. Crusty, chewy, and a bit sweet, this recipe has become my go-to challah -- even though I know there probably won't be any leftovers for French toast.
- For the Challah:
- 1 1/4 cup water
- 2 1/2 teaspoons active dry yeast
- 6 tablespoons sugar
- 1/4 cup neutral flavored oil, such as grapeseed or canola, plus additional for oiling the bowl
- 4 to 4 1/2 cups all purpose flour
- 2 teaspoons salt (I use pink Himalayan sea salt or kosher salt)
- For the Glaze:
- 1 1/2 teaspoons pure maple syrup
- 1 1/2 teaspoons soy milk or other non-dairy milk substitute
Hand or Stand Mixer Method:
1. Place the warm water in a large bowl or stand mixer. Add a pinch of the sugar to the bowl, and sprinkle with the yeast. Set aside in a warm place for 5 to 10 minutes, until the mixture is foamy. (If your yeast doesn't proof properly, discard the mixture and start again with fresh yeast).
2. With a hand whisk or the mixer's whisk attachment, mix in the sugar, oil, 2 cups of flour, and salt.
Switch to a sturdy wooden spoon or the mixer's dough hook, and add the remaining flour 1 cup at a time, mixing well after each addition until a shaggy dough forms and begins to pull into a ball. (You may or may not need the last 1/2 cup of flour. If the dough is very wet or sticky, add it. If not, use some of it to dust your work surface.)
3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. With clean, floured hands, knead the dough until it is smooth and elastic, about 5 to 10 minutes. Allow the dough to rest for a few minutes while you clean and dry the large mixing bowl. Grease the inside of the bowl with a bit of oil. Place the challah dough in the bowl and turn to coat with the oil. Cover the bowl with a damp tea towel or plastic wrap and set aside in a warm place until the dough has risen to at least double its bulk, about 1 hour and 45 minutes.
5. Punch the dough down. Lightly grease one or two baking sheets, or line with parchment paper. Shape or braid the dough as desired. (The recipe will make 1 large challah, 2 medium challot, 1 medium challah plus 6 challah rolls, or 12 rolls.)
6. Place the shaped challot and/or rolls on the baking sheet(s) and cover with clean, dry tea towels. Allow to rise until doubled, about 45 minutes to 1 hour.
7. Preheat the oven to 350°F. While the oven is heating, make the maple wash: whisk together the maple syrup and soy milk. Brush over the challah with a pastry brush. Bake the challah until the crust is a deep golden brown, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 to 35 minutes for a large challah, 20 to 25 minutes for a medium challah, and 15 to 20 minutes for rolls.
Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!
Bread Machine Method: Place the ingredients in the bread machine in the order recommended by the manufacturer (my bread machine suggest adding liquid ingredients, then flour, then yeast). Select "Dough Cycle." When the cycle ends, remove the dough from the machine.
Shape as desired and transfer to prepared baking pans. Allow the challot to rise, covered lightly with a clean, slightly damp tea towel, for 30 minutes to an hour, or until doubled in size. Brush with the maple mixture. Bake in a preheated 350° F oven until the crust is golden, and the loaf sounds hollow when tapped, about 30 to 35 minutes for a large challah, 20 to 25 minutes for a medium challah, and 15 to 20 minutes for rolls. Cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!