You have questions and we’ve got some answers, based on experience, research on Google, in baking books and answers from Master Bakers. Let’s Go!

  1. How is the Challah shiny without an egg?
    I’m using a mix of Maple Syrup and Oat Milk, in a 50/50 mix. I do a sprint 20 minutes into the bake, brushing on the sweet mix and sprinkling sesame seeds on top. The mix gives the Challah a beautiful shine and helps the seeds to stick to the bread. I’ve tried Honey and it is a bit too sticky, and some vegans eat honey and some don’t, either way, maple syrup is better. Experiment with a little less syrup, different brands of both syrup and oat milk. I generally have Kirkland Oat Milk from Costco and Oatly which has a few varieties of fat in their oatmilk. The practical side is the Costco brand works in my Miele coffee machine for my Oat Milk Lattes, and I prefer the flavor of Oatly and try to use that when possible. That is probably too much information, I am pointing out that your choice maybe for a variety of reasons and all of them are correct for you. These are all sweet and we all have a different love and or tolerance for sweet! I love sweet, and am equally particular in my Maple Syrup, you should be also.
  2. What about the braiding?
    I’m doing a basic 3 section braid, weaving over and under. You can quickly make this 5 braids with thinner lengths. I use the “French Braid,” technique, like you would do with your laughter or friend’s hair. The start is a little struggle, the rhythm sets in, finish by adjusting and cleaning up the braids before the dough sticks too much. I do a little pulling and pushing on the braided challah, moving it around on the parchment paper so the edges are not touching the pan and the shape is closer to what I am looking for, then let her rest for 20-30 minutes before baking.
  3. Does it matter what ingredients you use?
    YES. And, no. Start by any means necessary with whatever you have, remember, we made matzoh in the desert, right? When you can, step it up. I drive up to Petaluma and get Organic Bread Flour from Central Milling, the source of the whet is as important as the process by which it is milled, the grind and speed along with the storage process, creates the experience we call bread. Yes, you should also experiment with every type of flour and even mix them, the secret ingredient is always love, care and attention to what you are doing.
  4. What is the secret to Meditation?
    Do I have to think about nothing? Isn’t that thinking about something? Is meditating hard? Uncomfortable? Yes. No. What?
    It is a process and a habit, the more you do it, the easier it becomes and the more benefit you get from it. So, what is the secret? Thinking about something until it is o.k. – one stage may be the movement of your hands as you knead, the muscles and movement and consistency of the bread and all of the information, until it is gone and sometimes you will see everything and other times the bread will be resting in the bowl and it will be a mystery how the dough got there. This is one meditation. Consistent movement creates peace within. There are many roads to meditation, kneading dough to create Challah is an amazing path.
    The kids be like, IYKYK.
  5. How long do you bake the Challah for?
    I am baking for a 20 minute start at 350 degrees, opening to paint the Challah, and finishing the last 30 minutes at the same temperature. You can vary by the oven, and proximity to the heat source. If you are too close to the bottom, you will get burn marks, or Blackened Challah. This can also make the bottom a little thick and dry. I try and place the rack at about 30% height, maybe 35%, so the bread is located close to the middle of the oven and the heat can surround the bread evenly. Every oven has uneven cooking and specific inconsistencies, know your oven and adjust for results you want. It is a little bit of Go With The Flow and some Adapt To Circumstances. The right temperature and height is a little bit of pay attention and apply your care to getting the baking situation right and your temperature and time working together.