Dairy-Free Challah

The original recipe came from Swedish Saffron Pretzel Buns - King Arthur Flour/Bakers Catalogue September 2006. The recipe has been modified extensively to be gluten free and then further modifications were needed to improve texture, reliability and freedom from dairy ingredients. The first attempt resulted in a product that was barely eatable. Modifications were inspired by an email discussion with a member of the ICORS Celiac List Server and a local San Jose CA baker and graduate of the California Culinary Academy. There have been eight modification to get the recipe right, and I'm still working on perfections.

This recipe comes in two versions - a version with dairy (click here) and a version without. This dairy-free version was inspired by the author of the Gluten Free Bay blog. She uses a milk substitute product.

These bread is not difficult to make. However, you will need to obtain the specialized ingredient - Expandex - for the very best texture. The results, however, are well worth the effort because the taste and texture are extremely close to very good quality wheat-based bread. The texture of the bread makes it adaptable for a sweet dough for jam or cheese filled breakfast rolls. If you decide to make dairy-free rolls , you will want to reduce the water to improve the workability of the dough by 2 - 4 Tablespoons. You could substitute orange juice for water, and you will want to increase the sugar, particularly for the cinnamon rolls. Start out with 1/4 cup more. Follow the directions for rolls by clicking here.

You can also make a pull-apart dinner roll. The method for making these is found on the dairy challah recipe page (click here).

Dry Ingredients

Amount Measure Ingredient
Gluten free flour. See preferred flour mixes below. The best combination so far is to use 2 cups of each flour mixture. If you follow this exactly, deduct 2 tablespoons of the Alternative Bread Flour and replace it with 2 tablespoons Expandex. This will result in 1 tablespoon of Expandex for each cup of flour. From trial and error, this seems to be the best amount of Expandex to use.
Potato flour (not starch) Note: Alternatively, you can use instant mashed potato buds or flakes. Grind potato flakes a Cuisinart mini mill or mortar and pestle . The result will be more grainy, and this will affect the texture of the bread a bit. If you grind your own potato flour, you will need enough potato flakes to make 1/4 cup of potato flour.
1 to 1-1/2
Kosher salt
Instant yeast
Potato starch or a milk substitute such as Vance's DariFree Origin gal Powder. This is credited to Gluten-Free Bay blog.
Saffron (optional) If you use saffron, fill a glass measuring cup to 1/4 with water. Place saffron in the measuring cup and heat in the microwave for 30 seconds. Water will be quite hot. Fill the measuring cup to the proper level with warm water per the wet ingredients section.
Xanthan gum or 50%-50% mix of Xanthan and Guar gums
teaspoon Aluminum-free baking powder
1/2 - 3/4
Cups Raisins, plumped in brandy, hot water or orange juice

Liquid Ingredients

Amount Measure Ingredient


Warm water at 110° F. The exact amount of liquid ingredients is critical for keeping the bread from falling. Very wet bread dough falls. See note under Brandy, below. If making rolls or braided challah, reduce the water by 2 Tablespoons. Keep the water at 1 Cup for a bread that you cook in a bread pan. The dairy-free dough is much stickier than the dairy version.
Cup Earth Balance dairy-free (O-U) margarine. Melt in the microwave oven for 30 seconds
  Egg whites. Reserve 1 egg yolk for glaze and mix the reserved yolk with 1 - 2 Tablespoons water
  Egg yolks
teaspoon Cider or rice vinegar
Tablespoon or more Brandy. If using more than 1 tablespoon, reduce water accordingly.
Level Tablespoons Honey - This is hard to measure exact amounts. The weight is 1 ounce. You can use 5 heaping 1/2 teaspoon measures, or you can scrape the Tablespoon/teaspoon measuring spoons level with a small rubber spatula.

Other Supplies

Brown rice flour for dusting the baking pan if you are not braiding the challah and are making a moist bred

Butter or margarine for coating pans prior to dusting

Olive oil to keep dough from sticking to your hands and the counter top where you roll out the dough snakes
Parchment paper for baking a braided loaf challah

Mixing instructions for all breads


Prepare a 5" X 9" bread loaf pan which the bottom and sides have been coated with margarine and then dusting with rice flour.

If you are making a braided challah, follow the method

Mix dry ingredients in a bowl that is separate from the mixer work bowl.
Put all wet ingredients except butter/margarine and egg yolks into the work bowl of a mixer. Use the "paddle" not the "cage" mixer.
Add the dry ingredient mix 1 cup at a time while mixing on low.
Allow the dough to rest for 10 minutes in the bowl. This is to allow the yeast to begin to ferment with the starches in the flour. You don't want to coat the flour with butter and egg yolk because it will impede the yeast and produce a flat, unappealing result.
Add the melted margarine and egg yolks. Mix on medium-medium high until blended - 3 to 4 minutes. Scrape down the sides half way through.

Forming instructions

If you are making bread braids follow the method in the dairy version (click here).

For loaf bread, scoop out batter into the loaf pan.

Mix egg yolk-water mixture with a whisk until frothy. Use a pastry brush, and coat with egg prior to rising. Cover with plastic wrap.
Allow dough to rise until doubled in bulk in your convection oven on the proofing setting or in a warm location - about an hour.
When the bread has risen, glaze again with the egg yolk-water mixture.
Optionally sprinkle with poppy seed, sesame seed, slivered almonds or cinnamon sugar .

Place bread in 375° F degree oven for the time indicated below or until a cake tester comes out clean or until a digital quick reading thermometer inserted into the loaf reads approximately 190° - 200° F. You will very likely need to cover the bread with aluminum foil half way through the baking process to prevent it from over-browning. Bake bread loaves 47 minutes.

You can also warm fully baked breads and rolls that have been tightly wrapped in aluminum foil for 10 -15 minutes in a 350° F oven .
Alternatively, bake each five minutes less to make brown and serve bread. When you are ready to serve them, bake for 5 -10 minutes at 375° F.

You can also warm fully baked bread in the oven, fully wrapped with aluminum foil. Warm at 350° F

Remove bread from the pans and cool on rack.

GF Flour Mix for 9 Cups1

Amount Measure Ingredient
Cups (9 oz)
Mild navy bean flour. Alternatively you may be able to use garbanzo bean flour, Garfava or Bob's Garbanzo/Fava bean flour, but the result will yield a stronger tasting bread, and you will have to experiment with the liquid amounts.
Cups (9.25 oz) Corn starch (Potato starch will give a different result. It is about 20% heavier. Maintain weight, but decrease volume if substituting.)
Cups (6.25 oz) Conventional tapioca starch (Bob's Red Mill or obtain from Asian store)
Cup (2 oz) Expandex* or tapioca starch if you don't have Expandex . Expandex will give you a properly stretchy bread while normal tapioca will give you a more crumbly result. If you don't have Expandex, then increase Xanthan-Guar gum to 4 teaspoons total. The result will not be the same.
Cups (12 oz)
Sorghum flour

1Carol Fenster's basic GF flour mix, modified for higher protein and Expandex substituted for a portion of the tapioca flour. See Public Domain Carol Fenster recipe for white bread.
* Obtain from a supplier that is listed on the Expandex website.
At the time of this update, Expandex could be obtained from Reinlander Bakery.

Alternative bread flour for those who are intolerant to beans

Note: We use the non-Expandex version of this flour for general baking (General baking: use 1 Cup tapioca flour, leave out Expandex). But this recipe has not been tested using the alternative flour exclusively. I suspect that the amount of water or other liquids will need to be adjusted.

Amount Measure Ingredient
1-1/2 Cups Sorghum flour
1-1/2 Cups Corn starch
1/2 Cups Corn flour (This is Masa Harina. Bob's Red Mill has two types of corn flour, just finely ground corn and masa which is ground corn that has been treated with lime. You want masa. Also you can get masa at a Latino grocery. For the story behind corn flour, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hominy )
4-1/2 Tablespoons Expandex in a 1 Cup measure
Remainder Cup Conventional tapioca flour: Put 4-1/2 tablespoons of Expandex in a 1 cup measure, and then fill the rest up with conventional tapioca flour.