Vegan Challah

>> Monday, December 21, 2009

As mentioned in the marathon post, I devoured a hearty helping of challah French toast in Philly last month after the race. It was seriously the best French toast I've ever, ever had -- fluffy, filling, and extremely flavorful. Naturally, I wanted to replicate the taste in my own kitchen.

But make my own challah? It looks so difficult!

Not only that . . . when I opened my trusty Martha Stewart baking bible to the challah recipe, I noticed that not just 1, not just 2, not just 3, but EIGHT egg yolks were required to make her version. Yes, I do eat eggs. Eight of them, though, seemed excessive. (And I get it, challah is braided egg bread -- hence the large number of eggs -- but I ultimately planned to make French toast with it, so I opted to go a bit lighter.)

Post Punk Kitchen to the rescue! I knew there must be some type of vegan recipe floating around blogland. So when I found the vegan challah recipe on PPK, I smiled, jumped up and down a bit, and dug my hands -- elbow-deep -- into a big bowl of flour. (If you'd like to make challah using eggs, but would also like a healthier result, check out Laura's version -- made with whole wheat flour and multigrain hot cereal -- yum!)

What you'll need . . .

  • 2 1/2 Tbsp dry active yeast
  • 1/3 cup warm water
  • 5 cups all-purpose flour
  • 2 cups wheat pastry flour
  • 1 Tbsp salt
  • 1/2 cup dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup canola oil
  • 2 overripe (mostly black) bananas -- I actually used one banana and one extra-ripe plantain
  • 1 cup boiling water
  • 1/2 cup cold water
  • another half cup of boiling water for brushing braids
  • sesame seeds

Method . . .

  1. In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in the warm water (I whisked mine with a fork until frothy), put to the side to stand for approx. 10 minutes.
  2. Mash bananas in your electric mixer until runny, like egg yolks.
  3. In large bowl mix together the canola oil, brown sugar, salt, and boiling water. Stir until well incorporated.
  4. Add the cold water to the large bowl. Stir in yeast mix.
  5. Add bananas.
  6. Add flour, one cup at a time -- this part is important. I used a spatula to mix mine, carefully one cup at a time. Near the end (last two cups), I used my hands.
  7. Turn out onto lightly floured surface. Knead for 5-10 min, dough should be smooth and elastic.
  8. Lightly coat the large mixing bowl in oil, turn the dough in it to just coat it with oil, place a damp towel or plastic wrap over the dough in the bowl and let it rise for about 1 hr (double in size).
  9. Punch dough down, turn out and knead again 2-3 min.
  10. Divide dough into 2 large balls. Then divide each ball into 3 sections, roll each section into long ropes and make 2 braids. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F.
  11. Let the braids rise on a baking sheet for 45 min. Boil a little more water. Just before putting braids in the oven, brush them with boiling water, then sprinkle with sesame seeds.
  12. Bake 30 min -- that's all the time you'll need. PPK says, "You'll know they're done when you tap them on the bottom and they sound hollow."
  13. Let cool on a drying rack for 10 min before slicing.

The resulting challah is lightly sweet with a slight banana-y taste. If you're planning, like we were, on using it for French toast (or maybe a grilled peanut butter sandwich? say yes!), this flavor note is well appreciated! If not, deal with it. It's vegan challah, and it's amazing!

Note: This recipe yields two hefty loaves. One is still sitting in our freezer waiting for its trip to PA where -- get this mom and dad -- we'll be making MORE breakfast deliciousness for X-mas morning. And I've already received a request to make more. Guess I know what I'll be doing next week.

Overall, don't let bread baking intimidate you. EVEN when the bread is fancy and braided. If I had shied away, I wouldn't have all these glamour shots to share with you. Or two buxom brag-worthy loaves. Don't think I'm leaving you hanging, either. Tomorrow I plan to share part two of this magnificent festival of flavor: the cinnamon French toast post.

What else is new? If you haven't already, go check out Part 1 (ice cream) and Part 2 (brownies) of the Great Nutella Weekend.

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