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Sweet Potato Challah

December 31, 2010

I think it’s fitting that my last post of 2010 is challah — a recipe that I’ve been working on for some time. Before I went vegan I made challah every Thursday night or Friday morning. The smell ushered me in to Shabbat and signaled the end of the week. The recipe I used required eggs and I was never a big fan of water challah so I was initially hesitant about vegan challah. But then I found this recipe on VegNews that uses sweet potatoes (or yams) for flavor and color (one of my main issues with water challah was the color).

I tried a few adaptation, but none of them got the fluffiness and sweetness that I craved. I wanted to keep it as healthy as possible meaning absolutely no sugar. My sister-in-law Dani (a pastry chef who knows what she’s talking about) recommended I add a bit of oil and that really helped. She also made a fair point — this challah is a bit more labor intensive than non-vegan challah — but I definitely think it’s worth it. One last thing — I used spelt flour, whcih I’ve recently fallen in love with after baking these cookies, but you can use white flour if you prefer. [You will need a food processor in order to make this recipe.]

Sweet Potato Challah
(makes 3 loaves)

1 medium sized sweet potato
at least 2 cups water
1/2 tbs salt
1/2 cup agave nectar + 1 tbs
2 tbs baking yeast
1/2 cup canola oil + 1 tbs
6-7 cups spelt flour
1/4 cup soy milk
sesame/poppy seeds (optional)

Peel and dice the sweet potato then boil in water until soft — around 15 minutes.

Drain the potatoes and reserve at least 2 cups of the cooking water.

Combine the 2 cups of cooking water and the sweet potatoes in food processor and blend till smooth.

Place in a large mixing bowl. Depending on the quality of your food processor, you might need to pick out some clumps like I did. I used a spoon, but you can simply strain it.

Mix in salt and 7 tbs agave nectar and allow to cool for around 10-15 minutes or until lukewarm. Stir in the 2 tbs yeast and let sit for another 10 minutes until it “bubbles” — or looks like this.

Add in 1/2 cup canola oil and mix. Stir in flour 1 cup at a time — continue stirring in bowl till the dough is too thick to stir with a spoon. Begin kneading with your hands and move the dough to the counter.

Continue kneading dough until it is soft and smooth. Knead into a ball and coat with 1 tbs canola oil and let rise for 2 hours. You can cover the dough with a damp cloth while rising. It should double in size.

Separate the dough into 3 equal size pieces. Everyone has their own way of braiding — my favorite involves 2 long strands combined to create an X. The left strand crosses over and goes left to bottom, top to right — see photos below.

Eventually it will look like this.

Let rise for another 1 hour and preheat oven to 350. Mix together 1/4 cup soy milk with 1 tbs agave and coat the challahs. You can sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds — I went with sesame.

Bake in middle rack for 20 minutes and then turn tray around. Bake for another 15 minutes or until brown.

Let cool and enjoy!

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