Happy new year, everyone! 2011 was a big year. It was a history changing year around the world. It was the year I finally found some direction. And of course, it was the year I started this blog. I can’t tell you how much the experience has exceeded all my expectations, and I just want to thank everyone who has stopped by, left me comment, or told me what you thought about The Inventive Vegetarian. It’s been so encouraging and so rewarding, and I just can’t wait to see what this new year brings.
Anyway, this is actually a post that I had written several months ago, but never got around to putting up. I decided to start the new year off with this one because challah is something that is very near and dear to my heart. It’s one of the very few things I actually willingly, even eagerly, bake on a regular basis. Nothing makes a shabbat meal with friends or family like a warm loaf of homemade challah. What better way to start off a happy and healthy new year?
Over the years, I’ve noticed that there is a big divide in the world of challah (braided bread traditionally eaten at every Jewish meal). It all boils down to egg challah vs. water challah. The big difference, as I’m sure you can guess from the name, is the presence of egg in the dough. Egg challah also tends to be sweeter. I’ve even had loafs that resemble cake. I have to say, I’m not a fan.
I definitely grew up in a water challah family. Even better, in a water challah family that sometimes makes its own. We’ve been following the same basic recipe for as long as I can remember, but with slight changes. Namely, the kind of flour we use. We’ve evolved from white flour to whole wheat flour to this fantastic nine grain flour mix that we love.
The good news about being a water challah kind of gal is that I don’t have to give up my challah as I become more and more vegan. Actually, the only thing I’ve had to change for this recipe is the egg wash, which is easily replaced with a water-agave mixture (I’ve also used soy milk, which works as well).
So here’s the family (not so) secret recipe. I hope you like it as much as I do!
Makes 2 large loafs (or one loaf and 4-6 rolls)
11/2 cups warm water
1/2 cup sugar (though for Rosh Hashana my mom substitutes half of that with honey)
2 pkgs. dry yeast
5 cups flour, you can choose what kind (white, whole wheat, etc – I use 2 -3 cups 9 grain mix)*
1/2 cup oil
2 teaspoons salt
4 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons agave
Toppings of your choice (optional, though I recommend poppy or sesame seeds)
1. Proof the yeast. Pour 1/2 cup warm water into a measuring cup, add 1 tsp sugar and stir, add yeast to water and stir again. Allow to rest until yeast foams and rises to the top, about 10 mins. I’ve found that the more foam, the fluffier the bread.