The Fresh Loaf

News & Information for Amateur Bakers and Artisan Bread Enthusiasts

whole wheat challah

ns's picture

whole wheat challah

Has anyone tried the whole wheat challah in Peter Reinhart's Whole Grain Bread book? I am new to this forum, but not new to bread baking. I recently received Reinhart's book as a gift and have loved all of the bread I have tried from it. But I am only familiar with challah using white flour. I would appreciate any opinions on this bread. Thanks!

Janknitz's picture

My understanding of Challah is that it was a very special bread reserved for the Sabbath.  The rest of the week, our eastern European Jewish forebears ate coarse brown bread, but they would make it a point to use fine white flour for challah to be yet another way to set the Sabbath off as special and different from the rest of the week.  And along we come and make it brown again.  LOL!

So maybe this should be called a "whole wheat braided loaf" or something like that instead of a challah.

I haven't tried this recipe, but it sounds interesting to see what texture is actually acheived with whole wheat. 

There is a recipe for a tri-colored braid in one of the Sunset Bread books.  One strand is the usual enriched egg dough, one strand is rye, and one strand is whole wheat.  It makes a beautiful loaf and since it is so special I'm OK with calling that a challah. 

ivyb's picture

As I was always given to understand, there are two words for bread in Hebrew: lechem and Challah. Lechem is the everyday bread...Challah is the special, white (flour) egg bread reserved for the Sabbath. With that in mind, I am not certain that the use of any other flour would still constitute the final product as a Challah.  By the same token, you are not supposed to use butter, as it is supposed to be Pareve.  My problem, personally, with that, is... but if I don't eat meat, then why CAN'T my Challah have butter in it? .... :-) Needless to say however, if I am making the Challah for my parents, etc, you can bet it will be pareve...:) Funny thing, one can get into so many semantics over this delicious bread..... say - 3-braids, 4, 5, 6. The 3 braids are symbolic, but the rest of them? Well.... they certainly LOOK nice!


Ivyb, ny


ns's picture

Thanks for your input. I am not Jewish, and only want to make this bread because I have loved the eggy goodness of challah.
So, I won't feel too bound by tradition when making this bread.
But, if you think that I should not call it "challah" then I will simply call it a braided loaf. Will let you know how it turns out. It is my plan to make it in a couple of weeks when my parents are visiting. And I do intend to do the 6-strand braid -- apparently another break from tradition.
I would love more information about the tri-color braid, as that sounds fantastic!

ivyb's picture

I am tuly sorry if I gave you the impression that you couldn't call it a challah.... I thought I was only giving some background, not meaning to sound standoffish or anything.  Please accept my apologies if that was the impression I gave you. The six strand is by no means, a break from tradition.  I only stated (I thought) that the 3 strands were symbolical. Please, make the challah any which way, feel free to share and PLEASE know that I meant you no disrepect, I only thought to share - as I put for lack of a better word at the moment - background that I'd been raised with. 



ivyb, ny


ns's picture

Please know that I was not offended by anything you said -- merely grateful for the historical/traditional information. I made my first challah under the tutelage of a master baker who is Irish/Catholic. She was married to a Russian Jewish man, and learned to make it for him. She always referred to it as "holly bread" and I never knew if it was a joke or just her pronunciation.
So, I really know nothing of the sacred nature of this bread. But I have never met a bread that I didn't like!
So, I will continue to bake and to learn from other bakers.
All the best to you . . .

Smita's picture

Heidi Swanson of shares her version of Peter Reinhart's whole wheat challah. Personally, I have had VERY good luck with Heidi's recipes. I am a complete novice bread baker and usually need a couple trials before I decide if its me or the recipe. So this challah recipe was particularly promising:


As an alternative, theres also the 'No Knead Challah". I've substituted whole wheat bread flour for all-purpose flour and the results were pretty good. Again, I am a rookie, and my expectations are pretty low :-)

Link here:

Hope this helps, good luck!




smeredith's picture

I made the "transitional" version from that book: 50/50 whole wheat / white flour. The results were really good.



108 breads's picture
108 breads

I recently made this bread and I have yet to write up my notes. We used to call challah "holly" or "chally" in "the city" and I am Jewish. My household is definitely divided on whether a bread can be whole wheat and be considered a challah. As for the number of braids, I believe that traditional would be six braids. According to my rabbi, a big baker of challahs and other breads, the six strands symbolize the six days of the week we work before Shabbat. It is also traditional to make two loaves. I usually make a small roll with each loaf. You can take a girl out of Brooklyn, but you cannot take Brooklyn out of the girl.