For generations, Jewish women (and, increasingly, Jewish men) have looked into a mixing bowl on a Friday and seen more than just eggs and flour. In the makings of a batch of challah, we have seen the oncoming shabbat, bringing with it rest and reflection. We have seen the community of people we will meet or pray with, the reading we’ll get done, perhaps the nap we’ll take when all that’s over. And, of course, we have seen ourselves a few hours hence tearing into some really tasty chometz.
My mom and I brought back the challah-making tradition at my house when I last went to visit. We teamed up to churn out a big batch of loaves she could save for future Sabbaths. Every time I’ve made challah, actually, it’s been a community effort. The first time was with a group from Gallaudet learning from a local rabbi. And it wasn’t just me and my mom baking this last time — we consulted with a woman who makes challah every week at the local Chabad house, getting details and tips while we shared tidbits about our Thanksgiving plans.
I must say the result was delicious, and ever so cute. Although we were making single-serving rolls, we preserved the traditional braided shape. The outcome looked like the regular forearm-length loaves had been hit with a shrink ray and I could just imagine Ken and Barbie (or may Chen and Sari) putting two of these darlings back to back and saying the hamotzi in their tiny doll voices.
I did not come away with a recipe I can recommend, mostly because the one we used gave the quantity of flour in pounds instead of cups. So if you would like to create your own challah, try one of these.
Another interesting note: there’s no Jewish law that says challah (literally meaning separate, not bread) should be braided or full of sugar and eggs. It tastes mighty good that way, though. Although studies have yet to prove that the bumps of the braid improve the flavor, I’m convinced this is true.