fbpx
Tuesday, June 2, 2020

How Challah Changed My Life

Enjoying this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

This is a story about bread. This is a story of how learning to make this bread changed my life; maybe even saved my life. 

As a busy physician, mother, wife and daughter, I had been overwhelmed. Taking care of everyone else, I had somehow forgotten to take care of myself, too. Until one Rosh Hashanah over a decade ago, when a friend suggested that I make challah for the holidays. To me, it was such an absurd suggestion. How was making a challah going to help? 

And over 10 years later, I am still making challah. This journey has meant so much to me that I’ve written a book about it, “Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs,” which fittingly is being published during the Days of Awe this year.

Every Friday, I make challah in time for Shabbat dinner that night. Often, I even make it on the road when we are traveling over Shabbat. When I started making challah, I just made three-strand braided loaves. I didn’t initially realize that challah shapes vary for so many reasons: There are round challahs and hand-shaped challahs; there are challahs shaped like Moses’ tablets and Haman’s triangular hat. Each shape has a meaning, yet another reason that I love this bread that not only nourishes us physically but also nourishes us spiritually.

Growing up, I knew of two different shapes: round challah at the New Year and the more frequently available braided loaves, usually three- or six-braided. There really is a time and place for everything, including the shape of challah. At the New Year (Rosh Hashanah) and for the start of each new month (Rosh Chodesh), we create round-shaped challah. No debate. Circular shapes signify the cycle of life. No beginning, no end, just straight-up continuity. Not wanting to mess with that, I finally mastered the round challah after a few misguided attempts during several previous Rosh Hashanah holidays.

The first try a few years ago consisted of me rolling the dough out into two long snakes, twisting them into a long coiled rope and then wrapping that up in a circular shape. It worked. Sort of. I couldn’t replicate how lovely a similarly rounded challah looked at my local bakery and the inside did not cook all the way through without making the outside too crispy. I had not yet discovered the role of the thermometer!

Later on, I took my responsibility more seriously. I researched it, I practiced and, ultimately, I let go of my original method. Getting serious is complicated business. No more two-snake round challahs for me; I use four pieces of dough per challah now. Once rolled out, I spread out the four coils, two by two. Next, I crisscross two coils over and under the other two. Now I have a grid: imagine it — almost like a cross or an X shape with two coils sticking out in all four directions. 

Then the fun begins. Choosing to go counterclockwise the first time (though you could choose either direction), I cross one end over the other end of each pair, then reverse direction and do it all over again. Sounds complicated, and the first time the execution frustrated me. But, oh, the results looked divine. Pulling the oven door open ever so slowly, I saw inside a perfectly golden round challah with a crisscross pattern on top. Hooked, I made round challahs that entire week for all of our visiting friends and family. Each time, it worked; each time, I couldn’t believe it worked.

With Rosh Hashanah just around the corner once more, I am already getting excited to try my hand again at a round challah. It may take me a few lopsided attempts to get it right, but that’s OK. That’s what making challah every week has taught me.

Adapted from the book “Braided: A Journey of a Thousand Challahs,” to be published by She Writes Press in September.

Beth Ricanati is a Los Angeles-based physician and writer.

Enjoyed this article?

You'll love our roundtable.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

Latest Articles

LAPD Chief Apologizes For Saying George Floyd’s Death Was on Looters’ Hands

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore came under fire for claiming that the death of George Floyd was on the hands of those “capitalizing”...

Steven Lowenstein, Distinguished Jewish Historian and National Book Award Winner, Dies at 75

Steven Lowenstein, a distinguished Jewish historian and accomplished social worker died on May 31, the 8th day of Sivan at the age of 75. Born...

We Must Sweep Away the Racism Along with the Broken Glass

Jews know that broken glass always means more than one thing.

Shakshuka: The Breakfast of Kings

The bright azure and gentle waves of the Mediterranean beckon from beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows but there is a more tempting challenge from where...

ADL Report Highlights Extremist Groups Participating in George Floyd Demonstrations

On June 1, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report highlighting the various extremist groups infiltrating the protests and commenting on them against the...

Jews Are Fasting to Honor George Floyd

"There will be no point in the day that I will not be thinking about George Floyd, Antwon Rose Jr., and my black friends and neighbors."

Downtown L.A. Jewish-Owned Bike Store Looted

Yehuda Masjedi, who lives in Pico-Robertson, turned off his phone in the run-up to the Shavuot holiday on May 28. When Shabbat ended, he...

Local Organization Sets Up Fund for Looted, Jewish-Owned Stores

As looters made their way down Beverly Boulevard during the George Floyd protests on Saturday May 30, they broke into Jewish businesses, sprayed graffiti...

My Shabbat of Shattered Glass

On Shabbat morning May 30, my father, a proud Jew, woke up to see six missed calls telling him his store was looted.

Home Shalom Monday Message #10

Home Shalom is dedicated to raising awareness of domestic abuse in the Jewish community, encouraging every synagogue and Jewish institution to become a safe...

Culture

Steven Lowenstein, Distinguished Jewish Historian and National Book Award Winner, Dies at 75

Steven Lowenstein, a distinguished Jewish historian and accomplished social worker died on May 31, the 8th day of Sivan at the age of 75. Born...

Shakshuka: The Breakfast of Kings

The bright azure and gentle waves of the Mediterranean beckon from beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows but there is a more tempting challenge from where...

My Shabbat of Shattered Glass

On Shabbat morning May 30, my father, a proud Jew, woke up to see six missed calls telling him his store was looted.

Singer Dua Lipa Shares Instagram Post Calling the Israeli Gov’t Fake Jews

British singer Dua Lipa shared a now deleted Instagram post on May 31 calling Israeli government officials fake Jews and accusing the United States...

When A Jewish Girl Enters a Church

Jesus' looming, bloody statues, paintings and depictions of him on the crucifix, dripping blood from the places where the nails went in always scared me.

Latest Articles
Latest

LAPD Chief Apologizes For Saying George Floyd’s Death Was on Looters’ Hands

Los Angeles Police Chief Michel Moore came under fire for claiming that the death of George Floyd was on the hands of those “capitalizing”...

Steven Lowenstein, Distinguished Jewish Historian and National Book Award Winner, Dies at 75

Steven Lowenstein, a distinguished Jewish historian and accomplished social worker died on May 31, the 8th day of Sivan at the age of 75. Born...

We Must Sweep Away the Racism Along with the Broken Glass

Jews know that broken glass always means more than one thing.

Shakshuka: The Breakfast of Kings

The bright azure and gentle waves of the Mediterranean beckon from beyond the floor-to-ceiling windows but there is a more tempting challenge from where...

ADL Report Highlights Extremist Groups Participating in George Floyd Demonstrations

On June 1, the Anti-Defamation League (ADL) released a report highlighting the various extremist groups infiltrating the protests and commenting on them against the...

Hollywood

Harvey Weinstein Accused of Sexual Assault by 4 More Women, Including Minor in New York Lawsuit

A new lawsuit filed against Harvey Weinstein in New York city accuses the former film producer of raping four women, including one who was...

Lil Dicky Is the Larry David of Rap in His Show ‘Dave’

If you haven’t heard of the comic rapper Lil Dicky, and you are at least tangentially interested in rap or comedy, you should familiarize...


‘Love & Stuff’ Sees Life, Death and Motherhood Through a Jewish Lens

How do you cope with both the death of a parent and the artifacts she left behind, while preparing to become a mother yourself...

Podcasts

Pandemic Times Episode 49: Civil Unrest Takes Over the Pandemic News

New David Suissa Podcast Every Morning. Reflections on the violent protests that have swept the nation in the wake of another police killing. How do we...

Never Have We Ever Applauded Mandy Patinkin’s Twitter and Criticized Seinfeld

Erin and Esther are still wading through the content rapids, wearing their masks and pickling in their preferences. From adoring Mandy Patinkin's Twitter videos...

More news and opinions than at a Shabbat dinner, right in your inbox.


By submitting this form, you are consenting to receive marketing emails from: Jewish Journal, 3250 Wilshire Boulevard, Los Angeles, CA, 90010, http://www.jewishjournal.com. You can revoke your consent to receive emails at any time by using the SafeUnsubscribe® link, found at the bottom of every email. Emails are serviced by Constant Contact

x