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Gluten-Free Sourdough Challah Bread

Makes two loaves

Challah (pronounced HAH-lah) is the braided bread traditionally eaten on Jewish holidays and at Shabbat, the weekly Sabbath meal. The taste and texture, as well as symbolism, of this bread are rich and heavenly.

The three strands of the braid can mean truth, peace, and justice; and the twists of the braid can signify our intertwining love for one another. Seeds sprinkled over the loaf are a reminder of the manna – sprinkled down from heaven – during the Israelite’s 40 years of wandering. Two loaves represent the double measure provided in preparation for the Sabbath.

This gluten-free sourdough version is inspired by Sandor Katz’ recipe for Sourdough Challah Bread in his book Wild Fermentation. It’s excellent sopped in extra-virgin olive oil and a balsamic vinegar.

1 cup mature Gluten-Free Natural Levain Starter Culture

1 cup whole coconut milk, at room temperature

3 large eggs, lightly beaten

2 ½ cups tapioca flour, plus more for rolling out the dough

2 cups arrowroot powder

¼ cup whole cane, date, or palm sugar

1 tablespoon, plus 1 teaspoon xanthan gum

1 ½ teaspoons unrefined sea salt, finely ground

¼ cup sunflower oil or extra-virgin olive oil, plus more for oiling the pan

1 large egg, lightly beaten (for the glaze)

1 tablespoon poppy seeds or sesame seeds (or a mixture of poppy and sesame seeds)

In a large mixing bowl combine the mature starter, coconut milk, and eggs. Whisk until combined. In a medium bowl combine the tapioca flour, arrowroot powder, sugar, xanthan gum, and sea salt. Add the flour mixture by the cupful to the starter mixture. Use a wooden spoon or the dough hook to mix until each addition of flour is fully incorporated. Continue to mix until a sticky dough forms, about 2 minutes. Slowly add the oil. Continue to mix until all of the oil is incorporated into the dough, about 2 more minutes.

Line a cookie sheet or jelly roll pan with parchment paper.  Lightly oil the paper. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured work surface. Use a bench scraper or knife to cut the dough into 6 equal pieces.  Using floured hands, gently roll and form each piece of dough into a strand about 14 inches long and slightly tapered at each end.

Place 3 strands onto the lined cookie sheet. Braid the strands of dough by starting in the middle. Braid the first end by gently lifting alternating strands to the center of the braid. Use your entire hand to support the dough. Next, braid the opposite end. Move alternating strands to the center of the braid by braiding in reverse (underhanded). (Pass alternating outside strands under the center strand.) Pinch together and fold under the ends. Repeat with the other 3 strands of dough. Separate the loaves by 2-3 inches on the pan.

The right side of this loaf is braided in reverse (underhanded).

Set in a warm (about 75 degrees F) place to rise until puffed by 1-2 inches, about 2-3 hours.

Center the oven rack. Pre-heat the oven to 425 degrees F.  Brush the tops of the challah with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with poppy or sesame seeds. Bake for 20-25 minutes until golden brown on the top. Remove from the pan. Cool on a rack. Serve immediately or store tightly covered in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

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