Celiac Disease / Recipes / Uncategorized

Cooking For God: Gluten-Free Challah

Oh, Lord. I’m trying to figure out how to celebrate religion through food this week, so I’ve got a lot of God-inspired recipes coming your way. In fact, a triptych of God recipes, if you will. You know this is going to be challenging because of the whole “bread of life” thing, right?

First up, gluten-free challah! Because ever since my daughter went to pre-school at Wilshire Boulevard Temple, those kids can’t get enough of the official bread of the Sabbath. She brings it home every Friday, and my son basically rips what’s left out of her hands and devours it and asks for more. The kid wasn’t even two years old and he was begging me for “challah” — with the Hebrew inflection. I’m not even Jewish, but my kids obviously are.

Lucky for me, the amazing Chef Toby Berkow of Cooking School 101 was dedicated to helping out a celiac during her most recent class at WBT on making your own challah. That’s right, Chef Berkow, who is also a fellow mom at the school, helped me make gluten-free challah. Here’s how all that went down.

Honestly, how nice is it that she brought special flour to this class just for me? Instead of the rest of the class with their gluten-y bread flour; I worked the rice flour, potato starch, and soy flour. (Note — soy flour smells like crap. I’m sorry, but it does.)

The good news with this particular mixture, is that we were able to braid the challah. Chef Berkow made another gf  challah the night before, with tapioca flour, and it was too sticky to braid. So I learned how to make a three-braid challah! Look at what a great job she did. And then, we cooked it . . .

No, it’s not as beautiful as the gluten-filled challah made by the other people in class, but doesn’t it look like some kind of crazy Ezekiel type of challah? I feel like I could sell this at a Farmer’s Market in Berkeley for $10.

While it’s fun to braid, egg wash, and generally pretend you can eat like a normal person, I do have to admit that the tapioca flour challah (the pretty square one in the photo above) tasted much better. Also, soy flour challah weighs about 500 pounds. So what I’m trying to say is that gluten-free challah may not be the Belle of the Ball, but if you need something on your table for Shabbat, and you can’t have the gluten — it can totally happen. In fact, Berkow gave me some advice on how to marry these two challahs in perfect harmony, as seen in the recipe below.

Gluten-Free Challah

via Chef Toby Berkow, Cooking School 101

Prep time: 2 hours Cook time: 1 hour


3 cups rice flour

1 cup tapioca flour

1 cup potato starch

1/2 cup sugar

2 teaspoons sugar

3 teaspoons xanthan gum

1/2 teaspoon salt

2/3 cup lukewarm water

1 cup lukewarm water

3 tablespoons yeast

4 tablespoons melted butter

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

4 eggs

Egg Wash:

1 egg

1 teaspoon sugar

Sesame seeds (optional)

1. Preheat oven to 400 degrees. In mixer, combine the flours, 1/2 cup sugar, xanthan gum, and salt.

2. Dissolve the 2 teaspoons of sugar in the 2/3 cup of water, and mix in the yeast. In a separate bowl, combine the butter with the additional 1 cup of water and vinegar.

3. With mixer on low speed, blend the dry ingredients. Slowly add the butter/water mixture. Blend in the eggs, one at a time. The dough should feel slightly warm. Pour the yeast mixture into the ingredients in the bowl and beat at the highest speed for two minutes.

4. Place the bowl in a warm spot, cover with greased plastic wrap and a towel, and let rise approximately one hour.

5. Return the dough to the mixer and beat on high for three minutes.

6. Flour your hands and board, with rice flour and shape into loaf. Cut into thirds, and roll out to make even three strands. Roll until the seams are smooth, and gently roll the strands between your hands until the middle is rounder than the tapered ends. Take the three strands and pinch the three separate ends together, and braid. When the three strands are braided, pinch the bottom ends together as well.

7. Mix together the egg wash, and brush on top of your challah. Sprinkle with sesame seeds, if desired.

8. Bake challah for approximately one hour. When you can tap the bottom of the challah and it sounds “hollow,” it is done.


7 thoughts on “Cooking For God: Gluten-Free Challah

  1. Yay! My GF non-Jewish kiddo also goes to a Jewish preschool, and is left out of snack every Friday. She calls all bread “challah” with the proper pronunciation 🙂

    We’re soy free too, so I’m happy to hear that it isn’t a necessary ingredient here. You mentioned that the tapioca dough was too sticky to braid, but the instructions are to braid it? I can’t wait to try it!

    • Spourtsmama, Toby thinks the potato starch did the trick with the braiding, not the soy flour. So you can leave out the soy, but be sure to use the starch! Let me know how she likes it.

      • Thanks, I’m unreasonably excited! I think I’ve got all these ingredients on hand, and will try to juggle things so I can bake one for pre-school shabbat on Friday!

  2. Pingback: Gluten-Free Kugel & Brisket When You’re Allergic to Hanukkah | Gluten Is My Bitch

  3. I was seriously crying when I found this website….because we are Jewish and observant and keep a kosher, GF home, and have been so frustrated with Challah!!!! I’ve tried so many recipes and my 9 year old son (Celiac) is so sad that so far none are even decent. I am going to try this recipe this Shabbat and will let you know if you saved “HaMotzi” in our home 🙂 THANK YOU!!!

    • Jennifer, I do have to warn you. When I made this I was newly gluten-free and very excited about any bread options. HOWEVER, now that I’ve been living with it for awhile, I’m not loving it. Still, it’s worth it to try to see if it’s an acceptable substitute for your family. Good luck!

  4. Pingback: Sorry About This Gluten-Free Cinnamon Roll Cake | Gluten Is My Bitch

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