This recipe evolved because I wanted my niece, who has a severe egg allergy, to experience my Challah recipe without fear of getting sick. My Challah recipe, while eggy, is sweet and fluffy. Obviously, I had to ditch the eggs, but I wanted my niece to still get the sweet and fluffy aspects. This Vegan Challah recipe makes one challah, although you could certainly make two small ones. I specifically wanted just one average sized challah because I generally make a Vegan Challah for my niece and my egg Challah for the rest of the family. That said, you can most certainly double (or triple…) this recipe for as much Vegan Challah (Water Challah) as you desire! (Note: Many people who maintain a vegan diet do not consume honey, which is one of the ingredients in this recipe. I have included an easy substitution if you want to exclude the honey.)
What is Water Challah?
As with many Jewish concepts, there is no one answer to this question. Some say that Water Challah is a challah where the eggs are replaced with water. Others say that Water Challah, in addition to no eggs, has little sugar and little to no oil. This recipe falls into the first category since I replaced the eggs with water, but I maintained the amount of sugar/honey and oil from my Challah recipe.
Whether you call this a Water Challah or a Vegan Challah, the result is a delicious, sweet and fluffy challah. Most importantly, my niece and others with egg allergies, as well as those who maintain a vegan diet, are able to safely enjoy challah. (Oh, and my niece loves it!)
How to Make Vegan Challah
Making Vegan Challah is quite simple. While I recommend using an electric mixer to knead the dough, you can certainly knead it by hand.
As for measuring the ingredients, I strongly urge you to weigh the ingredients rather than measuring them with measuring cups. The reason is that weighing them is much more precise. While I provide measurements in this recipe, you are more likely to obtain the desired result by weighing the ingredients. If you do not own a scale, buy one! They are inexpensive. This is my go-to scale, which I own in a few different colors. For more about the importance of weighing your ingredients rather than measuring them, check out my Weighing vs. Measuring post.
1. Active Dry Yeast or Instant Yeast
You can use either active dry yeast or instant yeast in this Vegan Challah. If using active dry yeast, dissolve it in the warm water with a pinch of the sugar. Once it is foaming (approximately 5-10 minutes), you are ready to mix it with the rest of the ingredients (except the salt). If you use instant yeast, there is no need to proof it in warm water. Just simply add it in with the rest of the ingredients, except the salt. (If you have yeast that is called bread machine yeast or rapid rise yeast, those are simply other names for instant yeast.)
2. Knead the Dough
Combine all the ingredients, except the salt. If using a mixer, simply use the dough hook and knead. If kneading by hand, use a wood spoon or a Danish dough whisk (I love these whisks!) to mix the dough before kneading by hand. Be sure to knead the dough thoroughly. After a few minutes, knead in the salt. (Adding salt directly to the yeast could kill or slow down the yeast, so it is best to add the salt once the yeast is mixed in well with the rest of the ingredients.) It will take approximately 10 minutes using the electric mixer, and at least a few minutes longer by hand. You will know that you can stop kneading once the dough passes the windowpane test, which simply means that when you take a small piece of dough and stretch it between your fingers, it becomes very thin and translucent without ripping. If it rips, continue kneading. You can see my dough pass the windowpane test in the video included with this post.
3. First Rise
This Vegan Challah dough will take approximately three hours for the first rise. Because this dough is sweet, it takes what seems to be a long time to rise. The taste is well worth it! With a three hour hands-off period, you can take on other tasks.
4. Shape the Vegan Challah
Divide the dough into equal portions, preferably by weight. For the best looking challah, having equal portions of dough for braiding is important. If the dough is too sticky, lightly dust it with a little flour. (You can use all purpose flour for dusting.) Shape the dough into strands by rolling it against your work surface with the palms of your hands. If the strands start pulling back, set them aside and cover them loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel for 5-10 minutes to allow the gluten to rest. You will then be able to continue rolling out the strands without much pullback.
In the video, I did a 4-strand braid. You can braid or shape the Vegan Challah however you like. Cover the braided loaf loosely with plastic wrap or a tea towel and allow to rise at room temperature for approximately 1½ hours. The dough should appear puffy.
5. Substitute Egg Wash
Since this is an egg-free challah, I had to use something to “egg wash” the top of the challah, mostly to give the Vegan Challah a browned exterior. For this purpose, people use honey, maple syrup, or apricot jam. I took a slightly different route and used non-diastatic malt powder, which I use in all of my bagel recipes. Non-diastatic malt powder is a sweet derivative or roasted malt barley that adds a light sweetness and creates a browned exterior. It adds wonderful flavor to the Vegan Challah, just as it does to bagels. You can also use barley malt syrup, which is basically a liquid version of non-diastatic malt powder.
This Vegan Challah will need to bake for approximately 35-40 minutes. Because ovens vary, I highly recommend taking the internal temperature of the challah before removing it from the oven. The internal temperature should reach 200° F. I us and am a big fan of Thermapen thermometers.
Frequently Asked Questions About Making Vegan Challah (Water Challah)
As a vegan, I do not eat honey. Can I make this challah without honey?
Yes. Skip the honey and increase the total amount of sugar to 98 grams (½ cup).
Can I knead vegan challah dough by hand?
Absolutely. Use a wood spoon or a Danish Dough Whisk to mix the ingredients, adding the salt a few minutes after the rest of the ingredients are mixed together. It will take 10-15 minutes of kneading.
Are there substitutes for the egg-free “egg wash”?
If you do not have non-diastatic malt powder or malt barley syrup, you can mix together 1 Tablespoon of honey or maple syrup with 1 teaspoon of water. Alternatively, slowly heat up 1-2 Tablespoons of apricot jam with 1 teaspoon of water and brush the top of the vegan challah with the warm jam just prior to baking.
- 171 grams warm water, between 105°F and 110°F (¾ cup less 1 teaspoon)
- 4 grams active dry yeast or instant yeast (1½ teaspoons)
- 43 grams neutral oil such as canola, vegetable, sunflower, grapeseed (3 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon)
- 68 grams honey* (3 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon)
- 30 grams sugar (2 Tablespoons plus 1 teaspoon)
- 378 grams bread flour (2¾ cups)
- 7 grams salt (1¼ teaspoons)
- 7 grams non-diastatic malt powder** (1 Tablespoon)
- 7 grams water (½ Tablespoon)
- If using active dry yeast, pour water into mixing bowl of electric mixer. Cover with yeast and about ½ teaspoon of the sugar. Stir gently to hydrate the yeast. Let it sit for 5-10 minutes to get foamy. (If using instant yeast, skip this step and mix your yeast and water in with the other ingredients in the next step.)
- Add the oil, honey, sugar and bread flour. With the dough hook attachment, knead the mixture for about 4-5 minutes until the dough is formed. You may need to turn the mixer off and scrape down the sides of the bowl a few times. Decrease the mixer speed to low and slowly add the salt a little at a time, allowing each portion to knead into the dough a bit before adding more. Increase the speed and continue kneading for 4-5 minutes. The dough, which will be slightly sticky, should pass the windowpane test, meaning if you take a small piece of it and stretch it between your fingers, it should be translucent without ripping.
- Cover with plastic wrap and allow to rest for 3 hours, until the dough has doubled in size.
- Fold the dough over itself to gently deflate it. Divide dough into as many portions for the type of braid you are making. If making two smaller challahs, divide the dough in half and then divide each half into the number of portions needed for braiding. If the dough is too sticky, sprinkle it with a little all purpose flour.
- Shape challah as desired. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and allow to rise for 1¼ - 1½ hours. The challah should be puffy.
- Preheat oven to 350° F.
- Mix together the non-drastic malt powder with the water* and brush it all over the challah. Bake 35-40 minutes. The internal temperature should be 200° F.
- Allow to cool before slicing.