Monday, April 2, 2012

Vegan Challah

Oh, my.  Has it really been a month since my last post?  Yikes!  Let me also apologize for my negligence responding to your questions in the comment section of the blog.  If you have an outstanding question on an old post, just fire me an email (see the sidebar on the right).

Today's post is this delicious vegan challah.  I've never had non-vegan challah, so I am blissfully unaware if this measures up to its egg-filled counterpart.  I do know, though, that this is a remarkably tender and delicious (and beautiful) loaf.  According to my Jewish friend, the recipient of one of the loaves, "you'd never know there were no eggs in this!"  Basically, the eggs in challah work to enrich the dough.  The yeast and flour provide rise and structure, so replacing the eggs is not a big deal.  I went with Tofutti cream cheese, because that is what I had on hand, but you could also use soy yogurt or whizzed silken tofu.  As per usual, this is a veganized Peter Reinhart recipe.  Just a word of warning: this makes 2 substantial loaves.  Cut in half if you don't have the fridge space for a huge bowl of dough (or if you don't want that much challah).  You don't have to refrigerate it, of course, but it makes for a much tastier dough and makes the dough easier to work with.

- 18 oz (510g/2.25 cups) lukewarm water
- 1.5 tbsp instant yeast
- 2 tbsp ground flax seed
- 2 oz (56.5g/1/4 cup) warm water
- 1/8 tsp turmeric
- 4 oz (113g/1/2 cup) vegan cream cheese, or soy yogurt, or whizzed silken tofu
- 2.5 oz (71g/5 tbsp) oil
- 3 oz (85g/6 tbsp) sugar
- 1 tbsp vanilla extract
- 34 oz (964g/7.5 cups) white bread flour
- 2.5 tsp salt
- plain soy milk, for brushing
- poppy and sesame seeds, for garnish

1. Pour water into a mixing bowl, then sprinkle yeast over top.  Whisk to dissolve.
2. Whisk the flax seed, the 1/2 cup of water, and turmeric in a medium separate bowl.  Let sit for a few mins to thicken, then whisk again. Add cream cheese (or whatever you are using) and whisk until smooth.  Then add oil and whisk until smooth.
3. Add flax mixture to the yeast/water mixture.  Add sugar, extract, flour, and salt then bring together into a rough dough.  Let sit for 5 mins to let the flour absorb the liquid.
4. Mix with a dough hook on med-lo speed for 4 minutes, or with by hand with a large, wet, spoon.  Transfer to a floured surface and knead for 1 to 2 mins, until you get a very soft and tacky (but not sticky) dough.  Add flour sparingly as needed.  Place dough into a very large, oiled bowl, cover, and refrigerate overnight.  The dough will keep for up to 4 days in the fridge and will rise like crazy.
5. On baking day, remove the dough from the fridge and immediately divide into 10 equal pieces on a lightly floured surface (i.e. 5 pieces for each loaf).  Roll each piece into a 14 inch rope with tapered ends.  Braid 5 ropes into a loaf, as per this video.  Repeat with remaining 5 ropes.
6.  Place loaves on a baking tray (or two smaller trays if they can both fit on one shelf in your oven) lined with parchment.  Brush loaves with soy milk (I actually mist them with a spray bottle filled with soy milk).  Let sit for 2 mins, then brush again.  Top with seeds.  Let sit, uncovered, for 1 hour (or until risen about 1.5 times in size).
7. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees.  When loaves have risen, bake on the middle shelf for 20 mins.  Rotate the pan, then bake for another 15-20 mins (or until loaves are golden brown and register at least 190 degrees in the middle.
8.  Cool on a wire rack for 45 mins before slicing.  Enjoy!