Gluten-Free Challah for the Jewish Holidays
There are lots of traditional foods eaten on the different Jewish holidays, but there are 2 foods that are eaten at almost every holiday meal; challah and wine (or grape juice). These foods are part of the structure of the meals and involve special blessings and rituals. I can attest to the fact that it can be challenging to want to eat gluten-free, and participate in these holiday meals.
That is why, I want to take the time to share the recipe I am now using to make delicious gluten-free challah.
Making gluten-free challah is not as simple as making other kinds of gluten-free breads. It is complicated by the fact that it must be made out of at least 51% of a grain on which the blessing of ha’motzi can be said. If that last sentence made no sense to you, let me explain. In Judaism, foods are not all blessed with the same blessing. In fact, there are 6 distinct blessings that are used depending on what food is being eaten. There are different blessings if the food grows from the ground (ha’adama), from a tree (ha’etz), is wine or grape juice (ha’gafen), is fish, eggs, meat, or any beverage that is not made from grapes (she ha’kol), and lastly, there is a distinction between grains which have been made into bread (ha’motzi), and grains products that are cookies, crackers, and cakes (mizanot).
But there is one last nuance for bread. There are 5 grains on which the blessing of ha’motzi can be said: wheat, rye, oats, barley, or spelt. So, for example, if a bread is made out of rice flour, even if it looks like bread, the correct blessing to say would be mizanot, not ha’motzi. For the purposes of Shabbat and holiday meals, the bread must be aligned with the ha’motzi blessing.
If we take a closer look at the 5 grains on which ha’motzi can be said – wheat, rye, oats, barley, and spelt - only the oats are gluten-free. So, for the purposes of ha’motzi, the bread needs to be at least 51% oat flour.
Now, there are several kosher brands of oat-based challah that I have tried, ranging from pretty good to really unpleasant. There is nothing worse than watching others enjoy fresh, home-made challah, while you are trying to chew something that tastes rather like cardboard.
That is why I want to share the recipe I now use to make my own gluten-free challah. I really love it, I don’t feel deprived, and I can easily bring a roll with me to someone else’s home if I am eating a meal out.
The main difference between making gluten-free challah and regular challah is that you cannot make a real dough out of oat flour mixed with other gluten-free grains. It is more of a batter. There is no way to roll the dough out and braid it. I still make home-made wheat challah for my family and guests, so I get to have that special challah-making experience, but don’t expect to do that with this gluten-free oat challah recipe.
I adapted my recipe from Jenny Levine Finke’s recipe on her Good For You Gluten Free website. There are only 2 differences between our recipes. The first is that I use a silicone muffin pan to make individual challah rolls, instead of putting scoops of dough together to form into a larger loaf. The second difference is that I don’t make my own gluten-free flour blend to add to the oat flour. I use a pre-made gluten-free flour blend, and because of that, my proportions end up being slightly different. Basically, my “dough” turns out too runny, so I just add more oat flour to my batter until it gets to the thickness that I want. Now for the recipe!
Gluten-Free Oat Challah Rolls
1 Tbsp active dry yeast
1 ¼ cups warm water
½ cup honey
1 ½ cups gluten-free oat flour (such as Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free Oat Flour), plus extra (around ½ cup) to thicken batter at the end
1 ½ cups grain-free flour mix (such a Rorie’s All Purpose Grain Free Flour)
2 tsp salt (kosher, pink Himalayan, or sea salt)
¼ cup avocado oil
1 tsp apple cider vinegar
Activate the yeast by combining warm water with honey and then sprinkling the yeast on top. Let sit in a warm place for 10 minutes.
In a separate bowl, combine the dry ingredients: oat flour, grain-free flour, and salt.
Combine oil, eggs, and apple cider vinegar, then add to the yeast mixture.
Add dry ingredients to wet ingredients and mix well.
The batter will be very runny at first, so I continue to add oat flour and stir until the batter thickens up. The consistency you want is something very sticky that you can scoop with a spoon.
Grease the muffin pan with either avocado oil, coconut oil, or baking spray. Fill each cup with batter by scooping it with a spoon until the batter is gone.
At this point, the directions from the original recipe call for the dough to be covered with a clean dish towel and let to rise for 2 hours before baking. I have skipped this step and still found the challah to rise and work out, but allowing for the yeast to rise more will create less dense rolls.
The original recipe calls for the rolls to be baked at 375 degrees F for 23-28 minutes. I have done this, but I’ve also done it at 350 degrees F and had them turn out well.
Let cool for 5 minutes, and remove from muffin pan to cool on a wire rack.
Store in an airtight container, until ready to warm for the meal. I wrap in foil and warm in the oven at 200 degrees F, or place on a hot plate or blech to warm for Shabbat. They will stay fresh stored in an airtight container at room temperature for 2 days. If storing for longer than that, it is best to freeze them.
My name is Jillian Bar-av and I am a Registered Herbalist and Licensed Nutritionist who works with busy women to help them have the energy to do what they love. I specialize in conditions that affect the reproductive system and urinary tract, such as PCOS and Interstitial Cystitis. I believe that it takes healthy people to create a healthy planet, and I want to make a difference for both.
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