Challah, the sweet bread braid for Jewish Shabbat, is one of the recipes for which this site is most well-known for. Perhaps, it is because Manuel and I teach it to almost all cooking classes, or maybe because it is so good that it wins over anyone who tries it … who knows. However, whatever the reason, challah is always amazingly successful, and has become, over time, our obsession.
Since a lot of people have asked us to help them prepare gluten-free challah, suitable for those with Celiac disease, we got to work and … here it is, this is the result.
In our opinion, this gluten-free challah is truly delicious: of course, the texture is not exactly like that of challah with gluten, and you can’t expect a miracle exactly imitating the original, but it’s as close as we can get! To give you an idea, the texture is a cross between durum wheat bread and panettone, and the taste is definitely sweet. Try it, and let me know how it comes out!
Over the years we have shared many challah recipes: the classic challah, whole-wheat challah, mother dough challah, pumpkin challah, and the one with honey, not to mention the desserts prepared with this basic bread dough, like cinnamon rolls, and pangoccioli. Now, it was time to get to work, and find a variant of our favorite bread also suitable for those who, for health reasons, can no longer eat it in its original version, don’t you think?
The gluten-free challah recipe that I share with you today is a mix of different recipes: I have modified an already excellent, and super tested, gluten-free challah recipe for Rosh Hashanah published on Lisa Stander-Horel’s blog (author, among other things, of the book “Nosh On This: Gluten-Free Baking from a Jewish-American Kitchen“, which I strongly recommend); Lisa, in turn, was referring to Joan Nathan’s essential Jewish cook book “Jewish Holiday Cookbook“, from which she derived the basic recipe and the method to prepare the challah.
I must warn you that it will not be easy to find the ingredients to prepare this bread, which as you will see requires unusual flours and a few other exotic ingredients, but you can do it. Once the ingredients are collected, the process is very easy.
You will be able to find
- the necessary flour (rice and tapioca) in well-stocked organic stores
- xanthan (or xanthan gum, or E415), upon order, at the pharmacy
In case you were wondering what xanthan is, I’ll explain right away: it is a natural powdered gum thickening agent able to make gluten-free flour sticky just like gluten flour in normal dough mixes. Dissolved in water it immediately becomes viscous and sticky, somewhat like the white of the egg, which in fact has the same “agglutinating” effect, being rich in proteins.
Do not even think about making this bread without xanthan, it will be a complete failure. Particularly if you have Celiac disease, invest in this small purchase. You will need xanthan to prepare many other leavened products, and a package will last for a long time.
Another small clarification, this time on a Jewish topic, before moving on to the recipe. If it doesn’t interest you, you can skip it.
Technically challah can be defined as such if it is made of wheat, barley, rye, oats, or spelt flour, for at least 51% of its weight. Thus for those strictly practicing the faith, this rice challah is not suitable to be blessed when doing hafrashat challah and kiddush. If you have this issue, I suggest you to replace part of the rice flour with oat flour, keeping in mind that this may be contaminated by gluten, thus you should carefully check that it is Gluten-Free before using it.
In general, you can replace the flours indicated with other gluten-free flours, just keep the proportion of flour (rice flour in our case) and starch (tapioca in our case), unchanged.
- 100 ml of warm water
- 12 g of dry brewers yeast
- 30 g of sugar
- 4 tablespoons of acacia honey
- 150 g of extra-fine brown rice flour sifted
- 100 g of extra-fine white rice flour sifted
- 200 g of tapioca flour sifted
- 1 teaspoon of salt
- 6 grams of xanthan
- 5 eggs at room temperature
- 60 g of peanut or sunflower oil
- In a bowl mix the yeast, water, and sugar, and wait for the yeast to reactivate for a few minutes. If it froths on the surface you can use it, otherwise, thrown it away. When the liquid containing the yeast is active, add the honey, and set it aside. As I said, this recipe is definitely sweet. If you want to reduce the amount of sugar, or honey, you can certainly do so.
- In the bowl of the mixer with the dough hook accessory (or, if you work by hand, in a large bowl with a wooden spoon) mix the flour, salt, and xanthan, then add the oil, the eggs, and the liquid containing the yeast.
- This dough will not in any way resemble the bread dough that you are usually accustomed to. What you need to obtain is a dense, and sticky dough, very similar, to give you an idea, to that for panettone, if you've ever made one, or cake (somewhat).
- Cover the bowl containing the dough with some plastic wrap, and transfer it to a warm and cozy place to allow the dough to rise, for a minimum of one hour, and a maximum of two.
- With the help of a spatula, or a spoon, press down on the dough to allow the air incorporated during the leavening to escape, then transfer it into a well-greased pan or mold covered with parchment paper in which you intend to bake the bread. As I already stated, but it is worth repeating, and you will understand this once you see the dough with your own eyes, it is impossible to bake this shapeless mixture, unless you have a silicone mold, or a metal pan like those used for plumcake.
- Speaking of mold, I used a beautiful silicone mold made especially for gluten-free challah that I bought on Amazon , but any other pan you choose will be fine, as long as you fill no more than 2/3.
- Let the dough rise for another hour in a warm place, until it reaches the edge of the mold.
- Preheat the oven to 190°C and place within a Pyrex bowl filled with water; it will create the perfect moisture for our bread.
- Bake the bread for 30/40 minutes, until it is golden brown. The top part of the bread tends to brown more quickly than the bottom in the mold; if this happens, cover it with foil to protect it, or move the pan to the lower half of the oven.
- When the bread is baked, take it out of the oven, gently remove it from the pan, and let it cool completely on a wire rack.
- Do not try to cut the bread immediately, and do not put it away until it is completely cold, otherwise it will remain too moist inside. If you prefer, you can keep it wrapped in foil whole or sliced, and warm it a few minutes in the oven before serving.