The Whole Foods Kosher kitchen

Spelt Challah Recipe and Variations

Posted on 4th of March, 2010 by Lévana

Challah

It is no wonder the public often thinks there is no way to enjoy a delicious slice of spelt challah or bread, as it always comes brick-heavy in stores: Mine is light and delicious! It’s not so much in the recipe, no matter how good; it’s in the kneading!

Spelt is my flour of choice not only for baking bread but for all baked goods. I use whole grain spelt flour. If you would rather use wheat flour, all-purpose will do, as well as whole wheat pastry flour, ground much finer than whole wheat flour and yielding a much lighter dough.

Kneading spelt dough is somewhat different from kneading the regular wheat dough you might be used to, as the lower-gluten spelt dough behaves differently with the liquid absorption (it will be understandably slower). Be patient: Practice makes perfect!

Ingredients:

4 tablespoons active dry yeast
4 cups warm water
1/2 cup honey, sugar or sucanat
4 eggs
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1 tablespoon salt
12 cups spelt flour, a little more  only if needed

Topping:
1 egg, beaten with 1/4 cup water
Sesame or poppy seeds (optional)

Instructions:

Mix the yeast, water and honey or sugar in a big bowl, and let the mixture bubble for about 5 minutes. Add the eggs, oil and salt, and beat. Add the flour, and mix thoroughly. Transfer the mixture to a lightly-floured flat working surface, and knead for about 15 minutes, turning the dough a quarter of a turn every 2-3 minutes and punching it down often to eliminate any air pockets (or transfer the mixture to the bowl of a dough maker. Set for 10 minutes of kneading). Transfer the kneaded dough into a big mixing bowl (remember, it will expand). Sprinkle flour all around the dough. Let rise, covered with a cloth, in a warm draft-free area for 2 hours.

Shape the Challah: divide the dough into 4 pieces. Divide each piece into thirds and roll each third into a long thin rope. Pinch the 3 ropes together at one end to hold them in place. Braid, and place the braid on a foil-covered cookie sheet. Repeat with the rest of the dough. Place the loaves well apart in the pan (you might need more than a pan: Bake one at a time). Brush each loaf with the egg-and-water mixture, and top with seeds if desired. Bake in a preheated 350*F oven for 45 minutes to 1 hour.

Raisin Challah: Served on Rosh Hashanah. Add two cups of raisins to the dough, shape it into 4 round loaves (for each loaf, make a long thin rope, and roll it into a coil)

 

Filed under: Bread Recipes, Challah Recipes, Kosher Recipes, Low Gluten Recipes, Spelt Baking

74 Responses

  1. Anna Coussons, on Said:

    I was so excited to see your Challah recipe with Spelt flour but it was WAY too big for a family. My breadmaker would never hold 12 cups of flour. Would you be able to publish a recipe that would make one or two loaves rather than 4? It would be so appreciated!!

    Reply
  2. heftziba chase, on Said:

    Dear Levana, I finally made Aliya. We arrived last day of December. I just got your spelt Challah recipe from Michelle Gross, fabulous friend of mine. I can’t wait to try it. I have only just recently achieved a light Challah, but I mix the spelt with potatoe flour. And it isn’t as fluffy as I want, so I am very excited to try this. I am wondering if I should let the dough rise a second time after braiding, before baking it?? Gluton free is anything but free here in Israel, so I don’t want to mess this up. I look forward to hearing from you. And much love from the Chase family. Shabbat Shalom, Heftziba Chase

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Shavua tov, all the way in the Holy Land! How wonderful that you made Aliya! May all of you encounter nothing but nachas and success!

      Spelt is not gluten-free, but it is low-gluten: In otehr words, not suitable for the celiac community but suitable and highly desirable for everyone else: low gluten, high fiber, high protein and pleasing nutty flavor.

      The recipe is tried and true. Do as you are told, you will be rewarded!

      Where in Israel did you settle? Have you found work? Please stay in touch! I will be sending you my weekly newsletter, so don’t hesitate to ask me for anything!
      Love and best wishes to all,

  3. Heftziba, on Said:

    Shavua tov, all the way in the Holy Land! How wonderful that you made Aliya! May all of you encounter nothing but nachas and success!

    Spelt is not gluten-free, but it is low-gluten: In otehr words, not suitable for the celiac community but suitable and highly desirable for everyone else: low gluten, high fiber, high protein and pleasing nutty flavor.

    The recipe is tried and true. Do as you are told, you will be rewarded!

    Where in Israel did you settle? Have you found work? Please stay in touch! I will be sending you my weekly newsletter, so don’t hesitate to ask me for anything!
    Love and best wishes to all,

    Reply
  4. Simcha, on Said:

    I was wondering if this recipe calls for white spelt or whole spelt. I would really like to use whole spelt. If I do so do I need to do anything different. Will it still come out as fluffy?

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Of course whole grain spelt flour: Who needs white spelt? It will be just another white grain, and very expensive. Whole spelt is ground extra fine and therefore behaves just like a white flour. I make absolutely everything with whole grain spelt: cookies, cakes, breads, pizza, pasta. My new cookbook is chock full of recipes using spelt! http://www.levanacooks.com/my-upcoming-cookbook/

  5. Tanya K, on Said:

    I was really excited to experiment with this Challah, as I had guests visiting this Shabbat who only eat spelt, and your recipe sounded amazing. Unfortunately, it was a total disaster!! I couldn’t get the ingredients to form any kind of dough whatsoever, instead I was left with sticky liquid goop all over the place and lots of wasted ingredients. Really disappointed! Found another recipe that worked just fine.

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Tanya, so sorry for your mishap, but I must tell you here: my recipe is tried and true, and you are totally outnumbered. So many people make my bread recipe and love it: just look at some of the comments. Just this past Monday at my cooking demo (Moroccan Salad Buffet), I made my spelt bread recipe, with all appropriate comments on how to adjust it for both water challah and egg challah, and it was delicious. That demo was taped and will soon be posted on YouTube.
      With bread and dough, what counts the most is not the recipe, it is understanding how to make dough. With just a little patience, bread baking with become a pleasure.

  6. sarah, on Said:

    i’m going to try making this recipe this week, for a crowd! my whole wheat challah turned out well and this is a similar recipe so i’m hoping it works out similar.

    Reply
  7. kevin brooks, on Said:

    I did use your recipe; halved. It was difficult to work with the dough and I ended up using 7-8 cups. It rose beautifully but fell just as quickly. Next time I would use my regular recipe with the spelt flour and see how it works. The taste was fine by the way but the texture was far too crumbly which I believe was from too much flour. Unfortunately the dough was so sticky it could not be handled until there was enough flour to keep it from sticking relentlessly from the kneading surface (wood) It was beautiful to look at albeit wide rather than tall. All challah is beautiful though isn’t it? We bake it as a gift and gifts are not to be judged; just received! If you would like to know how mine turns out next week I am happy to let you know. I am currently thinking that perhaps the oil is not a good addition with spelt given it has such little gluten….

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Hi Kevin,
      In my new cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple, http://www.levanacooks.com/cookbooks/, I devote a whole chapter to some very important pointers on bread baking. Here’s one of the simple secrets: Resist, resist, resist, adding flour. the dough may look like it will remain gooey and sticky and never come together: big mistake. A lot of the gluten will mix with the moisture during rising, resulting in a smooth firm dough. I must gently but firmly tell you, my recipe is tried and true. In bread-baking, the recipe is only a very small part of the story; the rest is, knowing to work with dough. Just like developing a green thumb! Also, it sounds like you let it rise too long, or it wouldn’t have fallen (make sure you don’t let it rise anywhere too warm). It is wide rather than tall, that’s perfectly understandable: it has lower gluten content! Wood surfaces are not ideal for kneading dough as they are porous and very annoying. Stainless steel, granite etc… is much better.

  8. Shira, on Said:

    Dear Levana,
    The Challah was delicious! Though, the dough was hard to handle. How do I stop it from becoming too sticky?

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      This is the concession we have to make for using spelt flour. Great rewards, so be patient: Remember, low gluten. Soon enough everything takes perfect shape and flavor. Well worth it!

  9. LJW, on Said:

    I have to agree with the other posters who said that the dough would not come together. I had to add a lot of extra flour to get it to be anywhere near braidable. I weighed all of my ingredients perfectly. Perhaps there is a clerical error on this particular page? If not, then do share a couple of your expert tips to level the playing field a bit on this one.

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Naryia your comment arrived right after this one, take a look:
      “Hi Levana, Thank you so much for getting back to me so efficiently. You were actually my inspiration for cooking daily.
      My parents worked a lot when I was younger and as a result of late dinners I took up cooking as an eleven year old girl. I have been cooking lots of your recipes for a while! One of the all time favorites is your spelt challah recipe. Its phenomenal. The consistency is perfect and the taste is wonderful! I do not eat wheat so I really enjoy your spelt recipes. This summer I was at JLI with my mother and sister and I sat in all your cooking demos that I loved. Along with watching, taking notes, being awe inspired, and tasting the food, I really loved it. I did not get a chance to buy any of your cook books. I am for ever borrowing them from my neighbor but I think I will buy the new one. Sarah Rider ” ”
      There is no error in the recipe. If the finished loaf doesn’t look as pristine as wheat bread loaves, it will still look great, and it is a small concession to make for the sake of eating a much healthier bread. Bread baking will never be an exact science. If you need to add a little flour, add a little flour! If you approach breadbaking in a flexible way, you will soon be a pro!

  10. Liora Jacob, on Said:

    Hi Levana, can I one-third the recipe and make it in my bread machine (obviously with ingredients in the proper order for the bread machine)? Thanks.

    Reply
  11. miri, on Said:

    hi levana i have been baking your recipe for almost a year comes out amazing its the first spelt challah recipe that i LOVE. i have made the recipe EXACTLY and havent changed anything and my dough smells sour it only recently started happening i am from america and moved to the holy land a year ago maybe i dont know how to work the dough in the heat here in the winter i let it rise for 2 hours no problem it was amazing now in the summer i let it rise half hour and it smells so bad what should i do? i changed my yeast that didnt help i changed my flour that didnt help and i dont want to find a new recipe i love this one
    pleaseeeeeeee help

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Miri I am wondering if, quite simply, one of your ingredients might be off: The yeast, or the flour. If the reeecipe is good in the US, it should be good anywhere. Check your ingredients again for freshness!

  12. miri, on Said:

    all my recipes are 100 percent okay i checked dates and smelled everything before i have used it i never tried the recipe in america only in israel and it always comes out amazing except for the past 3 weeks every week i buy new ingredients same as i always have used the first challah i make of the batch comes out delicious the rest of the dough smells sour can you maybe tell me what flour and yeast you use here?

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      There is no way I can do this since I don’t live in Israel. Why not ask someone in your neighborhood? Plenty devoted bread bakers in the holy land, and lots of them make my challah recipe:-)))

  13. Leslie, on Said:

    Hello Levana,
    Do you think I can use fresh yeast for this recipe. If yes how much would be equal to 4 cups of dry yeast?

    Cheers,
    Hava.

    Reply
  14. Ariela, on Said:

    I’ve made your Challah several times and it is delicious. I make it into small rolls and freeze them fresh.
    Thanks for the recipe.
    Shana Tova!

    Ariela

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Way to go Ariela! I also shape this dough into long thin loaves, because I and my whole family prefer lots of crust and very little center

  15. devorah, on Said:

    Thanks for posting. I have your cookbook and love it. Firstly, could I adjust this to mix the dough in my mixer (bosch)? Also, I like to bake 5 pounds of flour at a time would this recipe work doubled or so? Do I need to make any adjustments?

    Reply
  16. Devorah Leah, on Said:

    Hi levana,
    I don’t eat wheat so I am excited to try this recipe. Question: can u substitute the vegetable oil for olive oil ? Would rather use a healthier option.
    Thanks
    Dl

    Reply
  17. Gabriella, on Said:

    Levana! I was nervous after reading people who couldnt get their dough together but I just had to try because i LOVE your recipes. I must say you were totally right its all about PATIENCE! my challas came out gorgeous and I was sad I only made half the recipes…
    I wanted to know, can I use this dough to make a pizza crust? and if not, can you direct me to a recipe?
    Thanks!

    Reply
  18. Izzy, on Said:

    I’m the “challah lady” at our congregation, and there’s one member who can’t eat wheat products so this gives me hope so that I can provide challah for her as well. Thanks for the recipe I’m really grateful that there’s an alteernative to wheat flours.

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Izzy I absolutely love spelt. Low gluten, this is what everyone (beside of course those with GF conditions that can have no gluten whatsoever) should explore.

  19. Batia, on Said:

    Sorry but this was a total failure. I did exactly what you said but the dough was way too light and sticky and i couldn’t even braid this. I could suggest a spelt challah recipe that my friend gave me that did work. I see others had the same exact problem as i did. I spend a lot of time and effort and it didn’t work. If you want my friends recipe I could get it for you because i know it works. Chodesh tov and Shabbat Shalom.

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Batia since you are in the great minority about this recipe, all I can say is, I don’t know what happened. Kneading a spelt dough needs a little getting used to. I always advice adding flour only if absolutely necessary. Since Spelt has less gluten than wheat, it will need a little more kneading. And when shaping challah, roll the shape ropes lightly in flour so they keep their shape. In other words, as always with bread dough, work with this a little more, don’t just follow a recipe, there’s no exact recipe for bread baking, as there are too many variables. You must leave a little room for those variables. It’s all in the kneading, much more than in the recipe. I have much experience with spelt bread, and mine comes out delicious, as well as that of many people who made it several times. i hope this advice helps.

  20. Lynney, on Said:

    Thanks for your recipe. I accomplished the huge amount. I’m new at Challah so am trying many recipes. I love Spelt and the dough was very nice and smooth. But, unfortunately, I used coconut oil and the bread did not have its usual softness and pull-apart-ness after baked. It was a little dry but it rised (?) nicely. Shalom Lynney

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Lynney good for you. when you are new at kneading, don’t get too adventurous with the dough, until you master some of the major steps.

  21. suzanne, on Said:

    i just made this recipe for the second time, and it turned out great this time! good taste and texture. so happy to have a low gluten option for a bread i love.
    key this time was not adding more flour, and for me, starting the “kneading” using a wooden spoon.

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      There you go Suzanne! Im so glad you persisted, as I encouraged you to. Different flour, different hints. it will become your best friend, just as it is mine and many other fans’

  22. Chaya, on Said:

    BS”D
    Hi Levana,
    I have cut the recipe down to 1/4. Do I cut down any of the times? ie, kneading time, rising time, baking time?
    Kind regards,
    Chaya

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Chaya, nothing changes. But I would still recommend not dividing the recipe by more than two, because you will be spending just as much time for much less product.

  23. Chaya, on Said:

    BS”D
    Thanks Levana,

    I just thought I would add that I make the recipe in half and I discovered with my regular challah that if I knead it with powder free disposable plastic gloves, that I don’t need to add extra flour. I am kneading it in the glass bowl itself, not even flouring it and it rises like crazy! Then I braid it and bake it in loaf pans and my husband love it B”H! Chag Sameach and Shabbat Shalom From Aus

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Chaya There you go, you will see that much more than a strict recipe, just as long as the recipe is indeed sensible, practice makes perfect! I do think you should transfer the dough to a flat surface (counter) as opposed to kneading it in a bowl, where you might miss some spots that will go un-kneaded.

  24. esther, on Said:

    Do you think I can 1/2 the recipe and make the dough in the bread machine, braid and bake in the oven? Also, do you recommend baking in a challah pan so that the challah does not spread out too much? Thanks! Would love to try the recipe, having eaten only spelt matzoh over pesach and felt soo much better!

    Reply
  25. esther, on Said:

    What a success! I made half the recipe on the dough cycle in the bread machine and took it out to braid and baked in the oven! As I “babysat” the dough at the beginning of the cycle, i was tempted to add flour b/c it looked so gooey, but I held out and was glad I did! The dough was perfect! Easy to braid and great to work with! I made 2 dozen challah rolls on two cookie sheets, baked for 30 minutes. They have a great texture, not crumbly at all! Delicious!!!!!!!!!!

    Reply
  26. Suzie Massey, on Said:

    So excited to find this recipe, Levana. I’m not doing wheat these days, but spelt is my friend. I was relieved to see you used whole spelt. I’ll report back when I finally get baking. Found some whole spelt yesterday.

    Reply
  27. Sima, on Said:

    Baked this Challah dozens of times. It’s fantastic! The only Challah my husband will touch. So the dough is a lil sticky b/c spelt is such a fine flour but it’s totally worth the effort!!!

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Sima, of course I agree! Besides, the finished baked loaf holds its shape and is feather-light. I confess that like your husband I never go near the conventional challah, homemade or store bought. To me, nothing but nothing is worth all the calories and the white flour. I don’t do “white”:-)

  28. Danielle, on Said:

    Hey,

    I just got spelt flour and I came across your recipe. I was wondering if this recipe makes 5 pounds. I dont like measuring out the flour and that would make things so much easier. Thank you so much.

    Danielle

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Danielle so sorry the question is not clear to me. Do you mean is this recipe made with 5 pounds of flour? Not quite. 12 cups is about 3.75 pounds of flour. I highly recommend you measure your flour. 12 cups is 3 times a 4-cup measuring cup, so: Quite simple. Your 5-pound bag flour measures about 16.25 cups, if that can serve as a guide to you. You will love this recipe, a huge favorite:-)

  29. Shannon, on Said:

    I’ve been experimenting with Kamut and spelt flours. I just tried this recipe and I should have read the comments first!

    First, let me say that I am NOT an experienced baker by any means.

    Like some others I found the dough difficult to work with. When all the ingredients were well mixed it was more liquid-like than dough-like. Still, I turned it out onto my lightly floured granite, dusted my hands in flour and attempted to knead. The dough was too “thin” to knead – and it just got all over me and the counter. I scraped it back together and re-dusted my granite.

    I came back, read the comments and made another attempt. I have no clue how to knead when it sticks to my hands so much!

    In the end, I popped it into the bread machine for several minutes of beating on the “dough” cycle. It looked more doughy, so I tried again. It was most certainly more dough-like, but still VERY sticky. I kneaded it more, but I never did figure out how to do the quarter turn – it kept sticking to the counter (and me).

    We’ll see how things go. It’s rising now.

    The “tricks” I figured out were to use a blunt knife to scape the dough off the kneading surface (and my hands).

    Now my questions: Should it be much more sticky than “normal” dough when it’s done being kneaded? How do you START the kneading and get it going until it starts to develop? That is, how do you handle the dough and keep it from just sticking to your hands?

    Reply
    • Shannon, on Said:

      It smells lovely, but the crust pulled apart while baking. Sort of like the pieces of the braid moved away from each other. Not nearly so pretty as the ones in the photo on the top of this page!

    • Lévana, on Said:

      Shannon after you will make it a couple times, it will look better each time. If the sacrifice we must make is a slight loss in good looks, against getting a fabulous and fabulously nutritious loaf of bread, it doesn’t sound like a terrible loss, does it?

    • Lévana, on Said:

      Shannon, as you keep kneading the dough will start pulling away from your hands and your counter. OK to add a little flour, but only after you see that it’s still sticky after kneading it. Remember, spelt has much less gluten than wheat, so some adjustments are in order, but you will find it very rewarding.

  30. Devorah, on Said:

    I made this challah, and although dough was very sticky, after it baked the consistency was great.
    However, the challah tastes and smells very yeasty. What could have gone wrong? Why would this happen:(

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Devorah it sounds like it might have been left to rise a little too long. You’ll see, practice will make perfect. Because spelt is low gluten, it takes a little practice. Spelt Challah is so much more valuable nutrition-wise and so easily digested. If your dough is very sticky after kneading it a while, add a little flour, just a little, to absorb excess moisture.

  31. Chaya Suri, on Said:

    I tried a lot of different spelt challah recipes until I stumbled upon this one while searching online for spelt recipes, my family loves it. This is a winner in our house! Thank you for the great recipes and advice!

    Reply
    • Chaya Suri, on Said:

      Thanks to you I learnt that I can use spelt flour for everything! Now I only use spelt flour and my family loves all my baked goodies!(even some of my guest who were hesitant at first..) I also like that most of your recipes are not extremely sweet and I don’t have to cut down on the sugar. Thanks again!

    • Lévana, on Said:

      Chaya Suri, Way to go! After all the fuss about gluten-free (not everyone is celiac!) it’s great to know there’s a wonderful grain out there that does the job of regular wheat, across the board, but with much less gluten, and much superior nutritionally. Wondering if you have my latest cookbook? My dessert section is quite extensive, and I introduce it by listing all my baking ingredient preferences (flours, sweeteners, flavorings etc….) http://www.levanacooks.com/cookbooks/the-whole-foods-kosher-kitchen/

  32. Esther, on Said:

    I made this last week, it was great

    Can it be made without eggs? I have a child with an egg allergy.

    (I’m trying to consolidate my challah baking with one challah recipe that works for most :)

    Reply
  33. Sylvia, on Said:

    Hi. The Challahs look really fluffy and tasty. Id like to use your Challah recipe using Whole Spelt flour, but Id like to use 5 pounds of flour. How would I adapt your recipe for 5 pounds of Whole Spelt Flour? So far, all my atempts at Challah baking with Whole Spelt flour have been good, but not as fluffy as Id like. Thanks in advance!

    Reply
    • Lévana, on Said:

      Sylvia, Wheat flour is fluffy because it is very high in gluten, the stuff we all love to hate because it is so delicious and so bad for so many of us! So, we must make a concession: Less fluffy, but every bit as delicious (much more delicious in my view and that of many fans. Spelt is all I ever use for absolutely everything), and infinitely more delicious! You want to use the whole 5 pound bag. No problem. Simple math: see how many cups of flour that makes you (with regular wheat, 3 1/4 cups flour = 1 pound, it might vary slightly for whole grain spelt. According to how many cups are in a pound, upgrade all your ingredients accordingly.

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