Vegan Challah (Pecan Sticky-Bunned for That Old: When At First You Don't Succeed Baking Lesson!)

I wanted to bake fresh rolls to have with dinner last Saturday night. And because the planner in me has taken a vacation, I had about three hours to do so. Enter the bread machine. So, I flipped open one of my favorite cookbooks for all things dough, and found a challah recipe: Saffron and Olive Oil from The Bread Lover's Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger. Being a relative newbie to the world of challah, this sounded amazing. I was planning a pasta dish and saffron is one of my very favorite Crocus sativus. And typical of me, I began prepping for my bread machine recipe without giving any thought to reading the recipe all the way through. I'm sure you have a pretty good idea of where this is headed.
 (Well, that's how I knit, too. I just begin. When I come to a part of the pattern I don't "get", well that's why god made yarn shops.) So, anyway, I proceeded with the first part of the instruction on this saffron bread which was to mix the saffron with warm water and allow it to set for about ten minutes or so. Okay. Done. Then I went to reach for my flour, etc. Then the blonde moment happened. I look directly below the first two ingredients of which I'd carefully prepared to find the next ingredient needed was: 1/3 cup Two Week Biga! Really? Two WEEKS? Who the heck has two weeks or for that matter even plans that far ahead for anything bread? I was now officially made angry by one of my fave go-to cookbooks. Even more perturbed by the fact that I'd perhaps just wasted some perfectly good saffron . . . at a million dollars an ounce!

Then I got to thinking a little bit harder on the matter (harder than I'd actually wanted to think at the time). This water/saffron mixture was a lovely golden-orangish hue--sort of like the yellowish hue of egg yolk. Surely I have a recipe somewhere that I could sub this water/saffron mix for a portion of liquid in a recipe calling for quite a bit of egg. Why not just go with another bread/dough recipe, counting on the yellow-ish tint to add an egg-y hue to a vegan bread translation. So, I decided to turn to my next fave bread diva go-to cookbook for help on the matter: The Bread Bible by Rose Levy Beranbaum. She, too, had a recipe for challah. I'm going for it, I thought. In Rose's introduction to her challah recipe, she begins with, "In all my years I was growing up, I cannot remember a Friday night without a loaf of challah sitting the the table and the long serrated bread knife by its side." That was beautiful. Just beautiful. I am well aware of the challah tradition in Jewish homes. I am not, however, Jewish. Well, not that we know (mom was adopted). So for us growing up in our home, I'd probably have said something like this if this were my introduction to challah, "In all my years growing up, I cannot remember a day I EVER had ANY homemade bread sitting at the table. Ever!"

 Alas, we were not to have bread for dinner Saturday evening. But, this time I read the directions Rose details all the way through. (And she is brilliant with her direction whether you're a novice or experienced baker.) However, given the time table I was looking at for the dough preparation, the next thought I had was on the sweet order: cinnamon pecan sticky rolls for breakfast on Sunday. A touch of saffron never hurt anyone, right?! I mean a dough is a dough, right?

And that's how I ended up with this pecan sticky bun challah. To make this challah dough, you will need a starter. Rose's Traditional Challah recipe can be found here. She calls for starter to add to the challah dough. The starter is quite easy to make and all you'll need is a bit of time and counter space to store the bowl while the resting and fermenting takes place. As for the "sticky bun" part, that's easy. A bit of brown sugar and pecans in the bottom of the pan. Then, roll the dough out, sprinkled with a mix of cinnamon and sugar, add some raisins if you feel like it, cut into rolls, place in pan. Bake! (There are several recipes on the internet for both pecan sticky buns and starters.) My starter recipe is a bit different from the one Rose called for in the Bread Bible. I had some vegan adjustments to make. I did end up using my saffron and water mixture.

 I loved the color of the bread once baked, may even be one of my most favorite doughs of all so far. It's quite a stiff dough. That had me worried. There was hand wringing along the way, trust me. But after I had mixed the starter and dough ingredients then allowed it to sit at room temperature for several hours, I could see the transformation of the dough taking place. As for the egg issue--and challah dough does call for some egg--you'll apply the Kelly principle of egg-y problem solving in vegan baking: measure out the Ener-G Egg Replacer mixture--the dry mix calls for 1 1/2 teaspoons per egg, to be mixed with water. In all of Rose's recipes, she gives a weight measurement for the eggs minus the shells. This is my saving grace for baking without eggs! I measure out my powder, then add enough water to equal the weight measurement given for the entire egg amount. *I also end up adding about a half teaspoon of canola oil--I've just found it makes for a better result, adding this bit of fat to the mix. I have found no other egg substitute I am happy with in my vegan baking other than the Ener-G brand. None. And I rely wholeheartedly on Rose's expertise in all things weight when it comes to eggs.

Another adventure in the kitchen with Kelly! Thanks to Rose for helping me dig myself out of a near depressive state over some saffron and water. Lesson learned. I will not proceed with anything bread-ish until I have read through the directions completely! Meantime, the other half of the dough is in the freezer for the next time I feel like whipping up pecan sticky buns. (Which would be every single morning of my life were it not for this Almost Fifty metabolism!)

Pillow-y soft dough. Really amazing and super tasty!

I'm up early this morning because the hormone battle won. I love this time of day, so I'm not too upset over it. Our boy wouldn't touch his food. He's laying by my feet as I type. When I glanced up and saw the sun coming up over the hill through my kitchen window, I had to step outside and capture this beautiful morning to share. Here's hoping for a lovely day.


  1. Your yard is so beautiful. What I wouldn't give to have a view like that.


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