Bread is one of the most basic foods in the western culture. Toast, sandwich, pita and focaccia are all types of bread that people eat on a daily basis.
But challah bread, well that's a whole different story! Challah bread is traditionally meant to be baked for Shabbat dinner (Friday dinner) and certain festivities and holidays. It’s not an everyday kind of food.
For me, it symbolizes the warm feeling of spending time with your loved ones. When I bake challah, even if I am miles away from home, I immediately get a cozy, warm familiar feeling.
I think that baking bread actually has some therapeutic qualities - you knead the dough, wait for it to rest and rise, roll and braid it, let it rest again and finally bake it. But the best part is when you bring the challah to the table, pass it around and enjoy it with your friends and family.
Challah is Shabbat, and Shabbat is Challah. It’s almost like if Friday night would have a unique fragrance to it, it would be the smell of fresh challah coming out of the oven.
This challah recipe is amazing, it’s made with a mixture of whole and white spelt flour (and it is of course vegan) but it is just as airy, fluffy and sweet as you would want your challah to be.
In order to make sure you really impress your guests or hosts, follow this short "frame-by-frame" tutorial to create a magnificent challah crown >>>
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In a large mixing bowl, combine the whole and white spelt flour, the chia seeds and cane sugar.
In a small bowl, combine the yeast with the warm almond milk and stir to dissolve the yeast.
Add the yeast mixture to the flour mixture, and mix. Add the water and olive oil and knead for 5 minutes until the dough starts to form. Add the salt and mix for an additional 5 minutes. If the dough is very sticky as you knead, add a little bit of flour and continue kneading until the dough is soft and smooth.
Set the dough aside to rest for 5 minutes and then continue kneading for an additional 2 minutes.
Lightly oil the mixing bowl and the dough, and place it in the bowl. Cover with a loose plastic wrap and place it to rise in a warm spot for 1.5 hours. The dough is ready when it has almost doubled in size.
Place the dough on a lightly floured surface and braid the dough into challah. Carefully transfer the braided loaf to a baking sheet lined with parchment paper
In a small bowl, mix together the tbsp of olive oil and maple syrup. Brush the braided challah and sprinkle with poppy/sesame seeds.
Cover the challah loaf with a clean towel or a loose plastic wrap, return to a warm spot for another 30 minutes allowing it to rise again. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 390°F (200°C).
Place a bakingg dish with 1 cup of boiling water on the lowest oven rack to create steam. Place the challah in the oven and bake for 40 minutes.
Allow to cool on a wire rack before cutting.
Divide the dough into four equal pieces (I recommend using a scale) and roll each piece into a ball.
Flatten each ball into a disk, using the rolling pin, and then roll each disk into a strand. Once your strand shape is created, roll it back and forth with both hands to smooth it out and make it longer. Repeat, creating four equally long dough strands.
Place two of the strands next to each other, vertically. Weave the remaining two strands horizontally over and under the vertical strands (see step 5 of the tutorial pictures above).
Take the right strand of each "pair" and cross it over the strand on the left (see steps 6-7). You should now create four new pairs of strands.
Do the same thing going the opposite direction, crossing the left strand on the right strand this time (see step 8).
Repeat crossing the strands over each other, alternating directions until you run out of dough. Pinch the ends together and tuck them under the loaf of challah.
It is possible to use 0.3 ounces (approx. 9 g) of dry yeast instead of the fresh activated yeast.
Instead of kneading the dough by hand you could use a standing mixer with a dough hook attachment and knead on low speed.