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Substituting Whole Wheat Flour Instead of White Flour

A frequent question I receive is about replacing white flour in a recipe with whole wheat flour. Here is today’s question from Suri:

I have made your challah (from A Taste of Challah cookbook) many times and it’s delicious. How can I tweak it by making whole wheat using 5 lb bag of whole wheat flour?!?

Whole wheat challahs are so nice, especially if you make part of the dough as rolls that you or family members can use for sandwiches during the week. When I do that, I measure the dough at 100 grams each and them shape rolls with them. This way they are portion controlled.

5lbs of flour is equal to 16-17 cups flour, which is the amount of flour I used in most of my recipes in A Taste of Challah; on purpose since this is the minimum amount of flour necessary according to rov poskim in order to be mafrish challah with a bracha from the dough.

The substitution:

To make whole wheat challahs just substitute whole wheat for the white flour in any recipe you like and add in another 1/4 – 1/2 cup water to the dough also, as whole wheat absorbs more water than white flour does, especially during the first rise of the dough.

Yeast to Flour Ratio

I have read all your info on yeast, but am still confused!! – I have just bought individual 11g sachets of Instant Dry Yeast (manufacturer Dagan) – how do I use it in my challas????- I look forward to your reply – many thanks,

An 11 gram packet is about 2 teaspoons plus a bit more of yeast. This is not so exact so, since I never buy such small packets, I would suggest measuring it with a teaspoon. See how much it comes out to be. If you only want to do a small amount of challah, then cut down the recipe I gave you to half and this way you will only need one and a half of such packets for about 8-9 cups of flour ratio.

Happy challah baking!

A Word About Types of Whole Wheat Flour

There are several types on the market, both in Israel as well as abroad.

There is regular, stone ground whole wheat flour which is tasty and healthy, but a much heavier, bran-ny kind of consistency.

Then there is something called very finely ground whole wheat flour. It is so fine that it works and even closely resembles white flour. I have found that it can almost universally be substituted for white flour. It is not bleached, it is whole wheat, and it works amazingly well even without mixing it together with white flour.

The difference between this kind of whole wheat and the more stone ground version is that it is fine and also that is has some of the bran taken out of it so that it is not as heavy as the regular whole wheat flour.

When I say “finely ground” I mean this super ground flour, when I say “regular whole wheat”, I am referring to the heavier whole wheat

Hello again! I was about to begin baking my challah using whole wheat flour and without eggs.
Your recipe says to put the ingredients into a mixer bowl and knead for ten minutes with a mixer. Do you mean a hand held mixer like I use for cakes? Or only the heavy duty bread machine type of mixer?
Or another way to ask my question: can I knead by hand for ten minutes?

I’ve been making challos and bread for many decades but every batch comes out different… so I wanted to try to have these be “perfect!”

Whole wheat flour absorbs more liquid than white. And especially if you are taking out the eggs you will then need to add another 1/2 cup of water to the recipe and a bit more oil.

Of course I do NOT mean a small hand held mixer, it would break in a sec. Yes a big machine mixer. But for sure you can knead it by hand, in fact its even preferable because you can knead and pray at the same time…

WHY Don’t My Challahs Rise????

I attended one of your challah demonstrations which I thought was really good. It really inspired me to make challah in a bigger batch so that I can do the mitzva. I used your recipe that you gave out on a printed card and followed it meticulously but the dough didn’t rise, have you got any suggestions for me? My regular challah recipe which is smaller always works out fine…
Many thanks for your inspiring words and fascinating demonstration!

Thank you for your query and for your feedback! If you saw my demonstration then you know that Baruch Hashem the fact that your dough did not rise would have nothing to do with the recipe I showed since the dough I used at that demo most certainly did rise! So let’s analyze what could have happened.

Before anything else – you are sure you did put the yeast into your dough when you were creating it, correct? Don’t laugh – I’ve actually done that mistake before…

Okay, now that we’ve made sure you did, check these steps:

First of all, what kind of yeast did you use, fresh that you bought in the refrigerator section of your store, or dry that came in a closed packet?

Secondly, how old is your yeast? If you bought it fresh, is it past the date printed on the package?
If it was dry yeast, when did you open it?
In my experience, this is usually the problem. If it was one of those large vacuum packed containers of yeast and you opened it a bit ago, even as recently as just a week – when you first used it, it probably worked really amazingly, correct? But then, and here is the important point – where did you store it once it was opened?

I know the packet says you can store it in the cabinet or the refrigerator BUT if you do so, it will lose its original potency very quickly. Try what I say and see for yourself. Once you have opened the package, empty it out into a good quality plastic container with a tight lid. Then, immediately after using it, put it into your freezer, NOT your refrigerator or your cabinet. Every single time you use it after this point, remove it only when you need to use it, measure off your tablespoon or two that you are using and then, again, immediately after using it replace it in your freezer. This will keep the yeast’s potency at its highest for as long as you have it in your freezer and your challahs should once again rise beautifully, now and always!

This answer I have written here is especially important for those who tell me that for their recipe of just 2.25 kilos (17 cups) of flour they are using at least 4 (!!!!! That’s FAR too much!!!) tablespoons of yeast. Heavens!! Have rachmanus on your kishkes! If you need to use so much yeast in order for your challahs to rise, it’s a sign that the yeast is not working anymore. Throw it out and get a new package…and then follow the directions I’ve just listed for how to keep it in storage for future use.

Spelt Flour Questions

How do I get spelt to rise properly?

I let the dough rise once for 20 minutes, shape into rolls and put in oven without rising and it still doesn’t work. They come out flat.

Hello and thank you for writing:
Spelt flour rises and bakes differently than wheat. Keeping this in mind, the first rising of just the dough should be the full hour or ‘until doubled in bulk’. This is what activates the gluten, yeast, etc. After you shape it into rolls, preheat the oven to 400 F. let the rolls rise only about 15 minutes if its hot inside or 20 minutes if not and then bake immediately . This should keep them from spreading and becoming flat. They rise quicker than wheat and spelt is also a much softer flour and dough. Spelt is gentler/ softer on the digestive tract too which is why many who are wheat sensitive, turn to spelt.

If your dough is very soft to begin with you should also decrease the water in it a bit more, start by decreasing by 1/2 cup. Any very wet or loose dough will make your breads spread, and this is especially so with spelt flour doughs.

How much yeast would you use for 4 cps of spelt flour?

4 cups of flour is approximately a bit more than a half kilo. For one kilo (about 2.2 lbs.) I would use for wheat, a tablespoon of dry yeast, for Spelt I would do a bit less, about 2 teaspoons plus another 1/4 teaspoon.

So for a half kilo, I would try 1 teaspoon and a half of dry yeast.

If the dough is too airy after the first rise, you will know for next time to cut down the yeast and the water too, by even a bit more.

I also make my own spelt low sugar bread loaves for weekday use, no bread machine and it comes out great. They are always high and nice. To keep them at their freshest, I slice each loaf after it is cooled and then store it in freezer bags in the freezer sliced and only remove what I need each time.

Just to verify further, how much yeast were you using for 4 cups of spelt flour prior to this email?

1 & 1/2 tablespoons dry yeast to my four cups of spelt flour

NO WONDER your bread over-rose so quickly and flattened out!! This is far too much yeast for so little flour. Plus, just digesting so much yeast is also hard on the system and makes a person tired and is unhealthy. I’m sure once you cut the yeast down — by more than half if you do the 1.5 teaspoons instead of that large amount of yeast, to your four cups, I’m sure you will also feel better after eating the bread, aside from it also looking better

Just to get back to you, I tried your suggestions and they did help a lot. Thank you for your time.

Yeast Questions and Information

What is the difference is between fresh and dry yeast?
Do certain recipes require one particular kind or are they used indiscriminately?
What is the exact conversion from dry yeast to live yeast and vice versa?

There is a scientific difference between fresh and dry yeast. However, I do not have all the information on that. For me, it matters very little since the differences I have interest in is how they work, what the amounts are when you want to substitute one for the other, and why one would prefer one over the other.

There are definite differences when you use fresh or dry yeast. For one thing, many people do not know how to effectively store and use dry yeast so when you want to ensure that your yeast is really, really fresh, they will be told to buy only fresh yeast! Both yeasts have active cultures in them, but you use them slightly differently.

Fresh yeast is something I personally prefer for challahs simply because it works so well and when it’s very fresh, it tastes very nice. A typical challah recipe of 5 lbs. / 2.4 – 2.5 kilos of flour will call for 2.5 – 3 ounces of fresh yeast, depending on who is giving you the recipe. Two ounces of fresh yeast is the basic equivalent of 50 grams (plus a tiny bit more if you want to be very exact), of a fresh yeast cube OR 2 flat tablespoons of dry yeast. Every tablespoon of dry yeast is like 1 ounce of fresh yeast. If you look it up on charts, a scientific chart can give you exact grams and milligrams, but for the purposes of this article, these are the measurements I have been using for years and it always works.

Fresh yeast needs to be activated before being used by placing it in a small pareve bowl with very hot but not boiling water and a bit of sugar. You cover the bowl loosely and wait about 10 minutes. It should foam and bubble. Then you add this mixture to your challah dough in-the-making, and knead it all together.

Dry yeast can be just added into the dough mixture as you are preparing it without bubbling it up.

However, many, many people misuse dry yeast. Although the larger vacuum packs will tell you that you can store it after opening in a closet or in the fridge, if you do so it will not be as fresh or as active after just a few days. If you really want your dry yeast to work just as well as the day you opened it, it is crucial that you pour it out into a good plastic container with a strong lid and store it in the freezer for long term use. This way, every time you need it, you simply remove it from the freezer, twist it open, (I use large peanut butter plastic jars that I have saved and washed out, they work great for something like this!) and measure out the amount of tablespoons that you need for your dough. Presto – it will work great every time.

I don’t know all the reasons that some people prefer one type of yeast over others for different recipes. I just know for myself that I use fresh or dry yeast for challahs all the time, both work great. For ruggelach and yeast doughs I do prefer fresh yeast only and this is probably mostly because my mother and grandmother both did it this way. For flat breads, whole wheat loaves, and many other types of breads I often use dry yeast and it works very well.

Hoping that all your challahs come out excellent!

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