Challah and how it is made has always had a mystique to me. Raised in a non-observant Jewish household, I never saw anyone make the golden, braided bread. As an adult, I bought it often, figuring baking a loaf of challah was beyond my reach. This year, as a secular New Year’s resolution, I made a vow I had avoided for years: I would learn how to make challah.
The New Year is just a few months old, and I have made challah, not once, but twice. Making challah, I now know, is not so much about the end product. It is about the joy and at times, the cracks, in the process.
Challah Baking Part 1: Laura gathers me and her 6-year-old son, Benjamin, in their Culver City, Calif., kitchen on New Year’s Day. Following a Joan Nathan recipe, aptly titled Best Challah, we dissolved yeast and sugar in warm water. Benjamin, a long-time challah-baking assistant, banged eggs slightly against a bowl, and I finished the cracking as we mixed the eggs with the yeast. Skipping some ingredients to avoid boring you with too much minute detail.
Benjamin and I kneaded the dough, then my son Simon, almost 3 at the time, joined in. Laura urged Simon to play with the dough as much as he wanted. Poking fingers in the dough? No problem. Hand prints? Sure.