Gluten-free and Sugar-free Challah for Rosh Hashanah

OK, I’m a tad on the late side with this, but not too late:  Rosh Hashanah started last night (Wed. the 28th), and will run until Shabbat, aka Friday nightfall, on the 30th.  So if you’re heading out to any Rosh Hashanah dinners, or even hosting one, it’s not too late to consider a gluten-free and refined sugar-free challah for this year.  Who knows?- the odds aren’t so small that a member at your dinner table will be maintaining a gluten-free diet, whether he/she has Celiac’s or not, and will be thrilled to discover that a gluten-free challah has been provided.

Heaven Mills Challa and Challa dinner roll

I combed through more than 20 blogs and websites offering gluten-free challah in search of the holy grail of gluten-free bread:  a challah with a list of ingredients that did not include sugar.

If any nutritionists or food chemists out there would like to explain it to me, I’m more than happy to listen:  why is it that you can have traditional, gluten-based breads with no sugar, but when it comes to gluten-free breads, sugar becomes a necessity?  From my perspective, it seems that the qualities of gluten – that element of stretchiness and elasticity that differentiates ‘real’ bread from gluten-free bread – would not be replicated via sugar, but by some other ingredient…what I’m not sure.

In any case, just about all of the numerous challah ingredients I perused, whether homemade or pre-made, included sugar in their gluten-free challah, often a fair amount of it, like ¼ cup.  And many of them added honey as well.  I found two notable exceptions, one a homemade recipe, the other made by a company.

Homemade and pre-made Gluten-free and sugar-free challah winners

Gluten Free in the Greens‘ gluten-free challah uses a solid variety of non-gluten flours, including sorghum, tapioca, brown and white rice flours.  It’s sweetened with ¼ cup of honey, which equals a fair amount of sugars, even though they’re unrefined.  If you try the recipe yourself, I highly recommend you make the effort to get a raw, unpasteurized/unprocessed honey from a reliable health food store or farmers’ market seller.  It won’t mean that there will be any less sugars in the recipe, technically speaking, but not only does raw honey have a much lower glycemic index than processed honey, but also I believe that our bodies are more accepting of raw honey than the processed variety (yes, this sounds far from scientific, but it is based on personal observation).

The all-out clear winner, meanwhile, at least in terms of ingredients, is the challah made be a company called Heaven Mills, which is kosher-certified and operates out of Brooklyn (which makes me wonder if they’re filling a need for gluten-free breads from the orthodox Jewish community nearby, thereby filling that niche).  While I couldn’t find any feedback or reviews of their challa (as they spell it), you have to be impressed by their variety:  they offer no less than eight different variations of the traditional Sabbath and High Holiday bread.

There’s everything from just plain ‘Gluten-Free Challa,’ to gluten- and egg free, gluten- and sugar-free, and gluten-, egg-, and sugar-free challa; plus they have those same variations in a ‘Mini Challa Dinner Roll.’  This level of variety can please everyone, from the vegans to the ovo-lactos to just the plain ol’ gluten-freers.  If you happen to have had Heaven Mills’ gluten-free challah (aka challa), in any of its incarnations, please let me know.  In the meantime, whether you’re celebrating or not, have a happy Rosh Hashanah, and a sweet new year to you!


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