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Sep 19 2014

The Challah Recipe That Changed My Life

By at 9:38 am


It was a no-brainer for me to send my daughters to a Jewish preschool. I loved the program, the teachers, and the sense of Jewish community. The school didn’t celebrate Halloween or Christmas and the students dipped apples in honey for Rosh Hashanah and made latkes (OK, they were frozen from a bag) for Chanukah. They ate lunch in a pre-fab sukkah once or twice every fall and sang Jewish songs and read Jewish-themed books. I knew my kids would go to public school starting in kindergarten, but at least they would go to Jewish preschool.

The school sent home lots of things about being Jewish–Jewish parenting articles and Jewish activities we could do at home. And then one day, when my older daughter was 3, they sent home a challah recipe.

My daughter and I had enjoyed some simple baking projects before, and I wondered what baking a challah would be like. Of course, baking a challah is more complex than, say, chocolate chip cookies, but I was willing to try it. So that Friday, I set about making my first-ever challah. I didn’t own a Kitchen Aid mixer at the time, so I mixed and kneaded the entire thing by hand. With risings, it took about four hours from start to finish. I made a roast chicken, carrots, and potatoes to go along with it. Read the rest of this entry →

May 8 2014

Which Foods Best Represent American Jews?

By at 12:06 pm


My first job was in Brooklyn, in a school building where the students were mostly from the Caribbean. The neighborhood restaurants reflected the community. It was there that I was introduced to beef patties and Pepper Pot. Strangers on the street were probably surprised to see a petite Jewish woman snacking on rice and peas with a side of fried plantains, but I never cared. I love all kinds of food.

It started with my father. He tried to get all of his children to try different dishes. When one of us looked at him, eyebrow cocked, unwilling to try what he offered, he always responded the same way: “How bad could it possibly be?” We took bites to appease him. I realized that my father was right, and learned that everything had the potential to be delicious.

With the notable exception of skydiving at 19, I’m not the adventurous type. I drive the speed limit. When my husband took me hiking on Camelback Mountain in Phoneix, I had a small panic attack. But food is different. I will try almost anything once. It was always my way to experiment and to learn about people. Food is easy. Food is fun. Food always tells a story. Read the rest of this entry →

Jan 10 2014

Friday Night: Learning to Bake & Braid at the Same Time

By at 12:14 pm

photo (7) copy

I learned to braid and to bake at the same time. At my mother’s side, we mixed packets of yeast with warm water to let it proof, melted butter and stirred it together with eggs, milk, and honey, and added flour to make it a soft, pliable dough. She got the recipe for this sweetened and enriched challah from a roommate’s great-grandmother, who brought it with her from Europe.

“Push it away with the heel of your hands, then fold it over and pull it towards you,” she instructed, teaching me how to knead the dough. After the dough was springy and resilient, we placed it in a greased bowl to rise in a warm place. In the fall and winter, which is when we most often made honey-egg bread, we placed it on the edge of the kitchen counter, closest to the woodstove in the next room. We swaddled the bowl in a dishtowel.

After an hour, we lifted back the towel to see the dough, puffed out to double its size. My mother told me to punch it down, and we pried it out of the bowl and kneaded some more. She then cut it into equal pieces, three or six, depending on how many loaves we were making, or if we were making one big braid with a baby braid on top. We shaped each piece into a long, skinny snake, rolling on a floured board or between our hands in the air. Our golden retriever lay at our feet, hopeful for a dropped piece of dough. Read the rest of this entry →

Sep 3 2013

Can I Really Survive a Rosh Hashanah Without Challah?

By at 3:56 pm

no challah for rosh hashanah5774 is right around the corner and I’ve already been making my resolutions. I always love “The Jewish Holidays.” Yes, I know there are about a million Jewish Holidays, but my family (and I’m sure many others) dubs Rosh Hashanah/Yom Kippur time THE Jewish holidays.

While Passover will always be my favorite (call me when you’ve got 10 plague finger puppets, Tu Bishvat) THE Jewish Holidays are always special. In our family, it’s all about the FOOD. As with any holiday (or special occasion, or a Tuesday), when my mom is at the helm creating the menu you know that everyone will be overfed the most delicious food. And Rosh dinner is no exception. There are essentially three staples:

Staple 1: Mushroom and Barley Soup Read the rest of this entry →

Aug 30 2013

Happy Long Weekend, Now Go Grill Some Challah

By at 4:14 pm

It’s the Shabbat of Labor Day weekend, which begs the question: if you don’t grill your challah today, when will you?!

From Food52

From Food52

Food52 has detailed directions for baking your challah on the grill here. Or you can try out this Balsamic Apple Date Challah in preparation for Rosh Hashanah. Happy Labor Day/end of summer to you all. We’ll be here next Tuesday with some great last minute recipes, tips and ideas for Rosh Hashanah. Shabbat shalom!

Nov 20 2012

Turkey-Shaped Challah for Thanksgiving

By at 8:01 pm

turkey shaped challah for thanksgivingIt’s that time of year when people are talking a lot, a LOT, about food, so why should challah miss out on all the fun?

This year, we’re revisiting one of our favorite turkey time traditions: the turkey-shaped challah from Kveller contributer Ariela Pelaia. What could be more fun than gathering the kids around to help make this fun and delicious treat?

Be sure to check out Ariela’s blog for more amazing recipes and fun ideas to do with your kids. And if anybody winds up making their turkey challah, we officially invite you to kvell over it by posting a photo to our Facebook wall. Happy Thanksgiving!

Nov 2 2012

Saturday Morning Breakfast Traditions: Challah French Toast!

By at 9:46 am

Right now we have two adults and one picky toddler eating solid foods in our house and on Friday night, we always have lots of left over challah.

One of our family traditions is to make challah French toast on Saturday morning. Literally, the first thing my son says when he opens his eyes on Saturday morning is, “Challah French toast day!” (God forbid I attempt to serve him cereal.) Read the rest of this entry →

Apr 27 2012

Friday Night: The Key to a Good Challah

By at 3:51 pm

key-shaped challahLast Friday, exhausted and still jet lagged from our Passover travels to Canada, I found myself up at the crack of dawn, elbow-deep in challah dough and determined to make a challah–in the shape of a giant key! Apparently there is a custom before the first Shabbat after Passover to bake challah with a house key stuck inside of it and/or in the shape of a key. Known as “Shlissel Challah,” (shlissel means key in Yiddish), this custom is supposed to be asegulah, or good luck for sustentance or financial success for the coming year. Read the rest of this entry →

Nov 18 2011

Friday Night: Turkey Challah

By at 2:23 pm

Delicious AND fun!

I don’t know about you, but now that I have a kid, I’m much more into holidays. I’m loving teaching my daughter family traditions–and making up new ones. Recently, I’ve been trying to figure out how to explain Thanksgiving to her. Taking it down to a 2-year-old level is a bit tough, but I think for now we’re going to stick with the basics: we’re thankful for what we have, we get to see our family, and we eat a big turkey.

Earlier this week Jordana Horn posted a request for some Thanksgiving recipe help, and I think I might have found the best Jewish Thanksgiving recipe on the planet. Are you ready for this?

Turkey Challah. That’s right. Our friend and Kveller contributor Ariela Pelaia does some incredibly inventive things with her challah (and her toddler) and recently, they made this gorgeous turkey-shaped challah. Though it’s time-intensive, it’s also fun-intensive. Sounds like a perfect project for the Shabbat before Thanksgiving–or even to make for Thanksgiving itself. Who says challah and Thanksgiving don’t go together?

Enjoy–and Shabbat Shalom!

Oct 28 2011

Friday Night: Shabbat Fail

By at 4:11 pm

Our challah didn't quite look like that...

As you may have read, my family’s been trying to create our own Friday night traditions for a while now. Some have worked, some have not. And last week… well…

Last week we had all the best intentions. There’s a new butcher in the neighborhood, and my husband’s been wanting to make his mom’s brisket recipe ever since we didn’t get it over the High Holidays. So he bought a brisket, marinated it, cooked it. (It was delicious–this isn’t the failure part yet.)

But we decided we might as well go all-out. We’ve been meaning to make challah for months, and last Friday seemed like a perfect time.

So we used a recipe that we’d gotten from a friend. As we made it, my husband retold one of his favorite stories–of a time when he was a camp counselor and his friend tried to make challah with her bunk. She ordered all the ingredients for the recipe through the camp kitchen. She followed the recipe exactly… not realizing that the “packet of yeast” called for in the recipe was quite different than the industrial-sized packet the camp kitchen had provided her. But when the dough started taking on a life of its own, she realized there’d been a problem. Funny story, right?

Well, it’s less funny when you consider what happened here. We let the dough rise (no yeast issues here), and braided it together with our 2-year-old daughter. She was really excited to eat the challah when it was done. We were too.

A few hours later, we lit candles, made kiddush over the wine, said a special blessing over our daughter, and said the hamotzi blessing over the bread. And then we tried to eat it. And discovered that it had about five times the amount of salt a challah should ever have. Entirely inedible, which made for a very sad 2-year-old.

But, on the plus side? When we told Abigail that we were going to have Shabbat, she said, “We light da candles!” So it seems our weeks of Tot Shabbats and Kveller singalongs have paid off.

Here’s hoping that we find a better challah recipe for this week… or at least learn how to FOLLOW a recipe! Shabbat Shalom!


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