Friday Food and Favorites-Challah and Chanel

Friday, January 09, 2015

Last night I baked challah for the first time in a long time. My son, who just finished his 16 month intensive training in the IDF is home for a little break, and I was cooking away, preparing wonderful food for his last Shabbos at home before going back to Israel and the army. I wanted to make sure he would leave with the delicious flavors of a homemade Shabbos lingering in his memory. 

At about 7 pm I checked my cabinets and found I had just enough of the ingredients to bake a batch of challah. After all, what's a perfect Shabbos meal without homemade challah? More than just loaves of bread, challah has a special spiritual significance and is one of a Jewish woman's special mitzvos.  

But why?

There's really nothing special about challah's ingredients individually...flour, sugar, yeast, eggs, oil, salt...they are barely edible on their own. But when combined in the proper formulation, kneaded with strength, given time to rise; when challah has been taken and the brocha (blessing) has been made; when they are intricately formed and baked in a hot oven, the results are incredibly miraculous. 

This reminds me of a similar process: raising children.

While kneading the dough and waiting for it to rise, I think of the hard work it takes to raise children, waiting and watching as they go through each stage of their personal journeys. While taking challah and making the brocha, I think of the sacrifices we make for our children and all the prayers said. And while forming the challah and baking it, I think of all the times we gently try to form our children into the most beautiful people they can be. And even after all that, even if we try to keep them from it, they still need to experience the heat of life's inevitable pain to reach their ultimate potential.

This metaphor resonates very deeply with me as a mother, and so as I bake, I feel the spirituality of it all and pray. 

And here's the lesson that I take from it all: Life is not always easy, it takes hard work, patience, and sometimes uncomfortable situations to reach our highest selves. So, I watch my dough rise slowly, almost impossibly, and I imagine my children rising, I imagine myself rising, and I remind myself to be a little more patient, because wonderful things are on the way. 

Fashion-isha's Challah
Makes 4-5 rich, cake-like challahs


4 1/4 cups of warm water
2 cups of sugar
5 packets of dry yeast
3 extra large or 4 large eggs
1 cup of oil
2 T. salt
1 5lb bag of high gluten flour (I like Heckers)

Egg Wash:

1 egg
1 T. vanilla sugar

Place warm water and sugar in the mixing bowl of your heavy duty mixer with dough hook attachment. Sprinkle the yeast on top of the water/sugar mixture and wait 10 minutes until activated. Pour in the oil and turn mixer on low. Add eggs and 1/2 bag of flour. Sprinkle in the salt as the dough is mixing. Add the rest of the flour and turn mixer up to highest speed for about 1-2 minutes. 

Remove dough from mixer bowl and knead gently for a few minutes while thinking positive thoughts and intentions. Say some quiet prayers.

Let rise for an hour in a warm spot. Punch down and let rise for another 1/2 hr. Take challah (the size of an egg, to be burnt and discarded) and make the brocha, praying for whoever may need refuos (healing) and blessings. Divide the rest of the challah into 4 or 5 pieces then divide each piece into 3 or 6 pieces depending on your method of braiding. Braid challah and place in well greased loaf pans. Brush with egg wash and allow to rise for another 1/2 hour.

Bake challahs at 350 degrees for 30-35 minutes.

If challah is the loftiest of Jewish foods, well, Chanel is the loftiest of fashion. Now let's go ahead and enjoy some Chanel eye candy that's almost as heavenly as homemade challah!

Oh, isn't that the truth!
Stay classy and fabulous, and have a beautiful Shabbos and weekend!

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  1. I really love the juxtaposition of the jewels on the ivory (as seen in the pic of the closet with the shoes at the bottom). I think This feminine touch coupled with sneakers (or a more casual shoe) is going to be very big for spring.

    Thanks also for sharing your challah recipe. I think challah is something I really love about Shabbat and can make or break the whole dinner.