Springtime isn’t the same without a vegan challah, or zopf in German, a sweet braided bread made with a rich yeast dough. This one is made with vanilla and lemon for a traditional cake flavour in bread form, and we treat it like cake (this makes excellent lemon french toast, though).
Usually sweet breads use eggs but they’re just as delicious without if you don’t eat eggs, and the most perfect spring treat. I always use spelt flour, usually light (or sifted) spelt to make bread, and find it works well.
I know I always talk about how home bakers are often a little worried about making bread at home, but it just needs a bit of practice and then it’s second nature. The only really important things are making sure your yeast is fresh and knowing when to stop adding flour. The second bit is what needs a little more practice, but can be skipped right over if you weigh the ingredients.
There are a few other sweet bread recipes on OE that are also great for spring holidays. This chocolate banana babka is a reader favourite, rhubarb streusel cake is great if you can get some forced rhubarb, or make good old vegan cinnamon rolls.
Ingredient Notes and Substitutions
- Yeast: this method works with any type of yeast, dry, fresh, traditional, quick, instant. If using instant yeast, you can skip the blooming step and add it with the dry ingredients to save a bit of time.
- Spelt flour: use plain white flour if preferred. I recommend using sifted light or white spelt flour for this recipe rather than whole grain.
- Coconut oil: substitute another oil or use a vegan butter if you like. Use refined coconut oil to avoid any slight coconut flavour in the bread.
- Vanilla: if you don’t have vanilla powder, extract can be used, but it will be a little less noticeable.
- Non-dairy milk: I use oat milk for most baking, but any type can be used. Canned coconut milk will make for a more pastry-like bread.
A six-strand braid, used here, looks much trickier than it actually is. This is the video I used when I first learned how to do a six-strand braid, and it’s a pretty simple concept once you get the hang of it.
If it seems a bit too complicated, do a three strand braid, or twist two together and avoid braiding altogether. Every once in a while I make individual buns by making a double knot with a long strand of dough and tucking the ends underneath, a bit like cardamom buns.
The recipe accounts for cup measurements being used and assumes that those measurements will be different from person to person. If you are using the metric measurements and weighing the ingredients, there’s no need to slowly add the flour, as it’s exact. I recommend using weights for baking.
How to Store
Storage: place any leftover bread in a sealed container and store at room temperature for up to three days. The bread will dry out slightly as it’s stored but makes good toast.
Freezing: freeze a whole loaf or individual slices in an airtight container for up to three months. Individual slices can be thawed easily in the toaster.
- Use a standing mixer: a mixer can be used for this recipe, but keep in mind that spelt flour doesn’t require as much kneading as plain or bread flour, so the kneading time will have to be reduced.
- Test your yeast: if you’re not sure the yeast you’re using is still active, test it by adding a pinch to a glass of warm water and waiting ten minutes. If it doesn’t foam up at all, it’s done for, and you need to buy new yeast.
- Refrigerate yeast: this extends the shelf life and makes it more likely that your dry yeast will still be alive the next time you use it. Definitely don’t store yeast anywhere warm, like above the stove.
More Spring Lemon Recipes
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Vegan Vanilla and Lemon Challah
- 250 ml non-dairy milk
- 3 tablespoons coconut oil
- 3 tablespoons maple syrup
- Zest of two lemons
- Seeds of one vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder
- 2 ¼ teaspoons dry yeast*
- 440 grams light spelt flour**
- ¼ teaspoon sea salt
- Add the milk to a small saucepan and bring to a low simmer. Whisk in the coconut oil, maple syrup, lemon zest, and vanilla, then pour into a large heatproof bowl. It should be just warm to the touch (if it’s too hot, leave it to cool slightly). Stir the yeast in and let it rest for about 15 minutes, or until foamy.250 ml non-dairy milk, 3 tablespoons coconut oil, 3 tablespoons maple syrup, Zest of two lemons, Seeds of one vanilla bean or 1/2 teaspoon vanilla powder, 2 1/4 teaspoons dry yeast*
- Stir in 1 cup of flour and the salt. Add the remaining flour in 1/2 cup increments, stirring between each addition, until it becomes too difficult to stir. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead, adding more flour as required, until a soft and smooth dough forms, about ten minutes.440 grams light spelt flour**, 1/4 teaspoon sea salt
- Oil a large bowl and place the dough into it, turning a few times to coat to prevent the top from drying out. Cover the bowl with a plate or board and set it in a warm place to rise until doubled in rise, about an hour.
- Line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. Follow the directions in this video to make a six strand braided bread – rolling out the strands a bit thinner than the ones shown in the video. Place the finished product onto the baking sheet and cover with a tea towel, and set it in a warm place to rise again for about 30-45 minutes, or until significantly larger but not quite doubled.
- Preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). Bake the bread for 25-30 minutes, or until golden. Remove and cool on a wire rack before serving. The bread will keep well for a couple of days in a sealed container.
* For American cup measurements, please click the pink link text above the ingredient list that says ‘American’.
Nutrition is provided as a courtesy and is an estimate. If this information is important to you, please have it verified independently.