Challah Gone a Rye
Here’s what happened when I tried to test a bread recipe during Passover:
I snuck out of my house and hoping no one would see me, I sheepishly bought flour at the corner store. I watched in utter guilt as the yeast proofed and took a few deep breaths as the dough hook began to work its way through the mix of ingredients. I started to think: maybe there’s still time to just make matzo. Then the phone rang, interrupting my thought, telling me I was late and that I needed to leave right that very second.
As I fled for my appointment and the dough leavened, I couldn’t help but wonder if frogs would start falling from the sky. This Passover felt all too real. But I followed through so that my boyfriend’s mom could have challah on her Easter table — and you could use this recipe for a post-Passover challah.
In this twist on traditional challah, the earthy and slightly peppery taste of rye flour and the sprinkling of pungent caraway seeds might evoke a Pavlovian response making you crave pastrami. While the low gluten levels in rye, a close relative of barley, make for a somewhat dense loaf of challah, you’ll find that this is still fluffier than traditional rye bread. The crust is soft like challah’s and it pairs well with a nice brisket or other hearty meat. Leftovers may not lend themselves as well to French toast as classic challah, but toast some up with a few slices of pastrami and squeeze of mustard for a delicious Shabbat afternoon snack — without all of the Passover guilt.
Makes 1 loaf
2 1/4 teaspoons (or 1 packet) dry active yeast
3/4 cup warm water
2 tablespoons + 1 teaspoon sugar
2 cups all-purpose flour, plus more for dusting
1 cup rye flour*
1 teaspoon kosher salt
2 tablespoons caraway seeds
3 large eggs
1/3 cup canola or vegetable oil
3 tablespoons honey
Pour warm water into a bowl with 1 teaspoon of sugar and sprinkle the yeast on top. Let it sit and proof for 5 minutes, until it becomes foamy. (If it doesn’t foam, start again)
While the yeast mixture is proofing, combine the remaining 2 tablespoons of sugar, both flours, the salt, and the caraway seeds in a large bowl or bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. Give the mixture a quick stir so everything is combined.
In a separate medium bowl, whisk together 2 of the eggs, the oil, and 2 tablespoons of honey.
Make a well in the center of the dry ingredients and pour in the wet ingredients and the yeast mixture. Stir with a spoon or paddle attachment until just combined and then let the mixture sit for 20 minutes on the counter, uncovered.
If kneading by hand, transfer to a floured work surface and knead. If using a stand mixer, switch to a dough hook and knead. Knead for 7-10 minutes, adding more flour as necessary, until you have a smooth dough.
Transfer to a large oiled bowl, cover with a damp towel, and let rise for 2-3 hours, or until doubled in size.
Preheat oven to 375.
Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface, divide into 3 equal logs, and braid them, tucking the ends under. Place the loaf on a baking sheet that is lined with parchment paper. Cover with a damp towel and let rise for 30 more minutes.
In a small bowl, whisk together the remaining egg and tablespoon of honey. Brush it evenly over the loaf and bake for 25-35 minutes, until browned and cooked through. You can test if it’s done by thumping the bottom of the loaf and listening for a hollow sound. Let cool slightly and serve.
*Some grocery and health food stores carry rye flour, but if you have difficulty finding it, you can order it online.
Photos by Molly Yeh