The traditional challah bread begins our Shabbat and holiday meals, as has been done in Jewish homes throughout the world for thousands of years. It is full of symbolic meaning dating to the Exodus from Egypt.
Most challah recipes today are loaded with white sugar and refined flour. But it is possible to make a healthy and tasty challah. I have tweaked Susie Fishbein’s Bread Machine Challah recipe from Kosher by Design by replacing the white flour and sugar for whole grain and honey, using coconut oil, and adding herbs and seeds for extra flavor. Fishbein’s recipe uses only the egg yolk- a perfect foundation for converting a recipe to wholegrain. The lecithin in the yolk helps to tenderize the dough; a technique used by Peter Reinhart in his whole grain Challah as well. (You can see his recipe at the 101cookbooks blog).
I like to use a six stranded braid to shape the dough, even when baking in a loaf pan. I learned this technique from Maggie Glezer’s book, A Blessing of Bread, where she explores a variety of Jewish breads from around the world and the rituals surrounding them. (You can also see her demonstrating the six stranded braid in this video.) I recommend this book for any home baker for the photos of the braiding and shaping variations for breads.
It is also one of the few places I have seen a recipe for sourdough challah, which I have yet to master. I have been kneading my sourdough “discards” (about 1/2 cup) into the dough improving both flavor and texture.
This recipe works with any kind of flour; white, whole wheat, sprouted grain, and spelt. You may need to adjust the liquid and/or flour quantities as you knead. Spelt flour always requires less water. The bread machine takes care of the initial kneading and first rise but is not necessary; a stand mixer or your hands work just as well.