Gluten-Free Challah-style bread
Even though I was vegetarian for almost ten years, discovering my gluten allergy was probably the most difficult rupture between my diet and the Jewish food I was raised with. No more bagels, biales, rugalech, hamentaschen, babka, marble rye, black and white cookies, my mom's savory noodle kugel, and my dad's perfect homemade challah. Since then I have learned to make gluten-free hamentaschen and rugalech, but yeast breads—especially beautifully shaped ones—are very difficult. Gluten free yeasted breads almost always have a batter-type dough that can't be shaped. This recipe is not a "kosher" challah in the sense that it is not made of oat flour—the only gluten-free flour that can be blessed with a motzi—but the dough is braidable, and it actually tastes like challah! I will also be making a variation with a similar dough for babka.
This recipe only works with dry active yeast, not instant yeast. I had success with Pamela's gluten-free bread flour, but I cannot confirm that other blends will work as well. If you do use another, choose one specifically for bread and not a cup 4 cup blend. You will also need sorghum flour as the additional flour here; you can find it at Indian and African grocery stores, and Bob's Red Mill makes one.
The trick with making a braidable dough here is that you actually don't let it rise at all before you shape it. It makes a full sized challah like you would get at a bakery, perhaps slightly smaller. This is definitely on the sweeter side; sorghum has a sweetness to it, and the large amount of honey really helps the texture. You could add raisins to make it extra sweet for the high holidays. I live in Texas and let my bread rise in a shady area outside when it is hot out—I have made the mistake of leaving it to rise in the sun, and it actually started to cook!
1 package dry active yeast (many gluten-free bread flour blends will come with one)
1 and 1/4 cup warm water
1 teaspoon sugar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/3 cup honey
2 eggs, plus a third for the egg wash
2.5 teaspoons salt
1 package Pamela's gluten-free bread flour blend (about 3 cups)
1/3 cup sorghum flour, plus more to reach the right texture
1 tablespoon poppy seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon toasted sesame seeds (optional)
Proof the yeast by combining the yeast, water, and sugar in a large bowl. It should get very bubbly.
Add in the eggs, oil, salt, and honey and whisk it all together.
Slowly add the gluten-free flour blend and stir to combine. It will have the texture of a thick cake batter. Add sorghum flour and incorporate with your hands (but don't fully knead it/overwork it because that will make gluten free dough very tough). Continue to add sorghum flour and mix with your hands until the dough holds an indent. It will still be slightly wetter/stickier than glutenous dough. Dip your fingers in water or oil to test the firmness to make sure it is workable.
Lay out some parchment paper. Separate the dough equally three ways. Roll out the dough into logs. You can dip your fingers in oil to keep the dough from sticking to your hands too much while you work it. Using flour to help—as you would with glutenous dough—will make the dough too dry, and it will crumble while you are rolling it. Pinch the three ends together and braid, delicately lifting the rolls over each other. If the dough rips, gently massage the ruptures so they are smooth again.
Put the parchment paper with the bread on it on a baking pan. Drape plastic wrap over the challah and let rise in a warm place for at least an hour. It should nearly double in size. The humidity and warmth will affect how long this takes.
Preheat oven to 375ºF. Remove the plastic from the challah. While the oven is preheating, whisk the egg wash egg with a tablespoon of water, then brush it over the challah. Sprinkle with the poppy and/or sesame seeds.
Bake for 25-30 minutes, until the challah is cooked through and glossy and brown on the top. Let rest at least 30 minutes before ripping/slicing.