At this point in our “Challah-it-Forward” journey, we have established rhythms, both in terms of when we make the challah (Thursday night and Friday morning before school) and a recipe (after trying a variety, we settled on a honey whole-wheat version from Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day as our standard go-to).
But this past week, change was in the air, as we were invited over to one of Aviva’s friend’s homes for dinner on Friday. Milo is the newest and youngest member of Aviva’s preschool class, and from the moment he arrived, he and Aviva have been fast friends. They enjoy creative play, making music together (they both love Peter, Paul, and Mary), and making each other laugh.
It didn’t take long for Aviva to learn something very important about Milo--he’s allergic to eggs! And after seeing how her school enthusiastically accommodates his special diet, she was very eager to try making an egg-free challah for our dinner together.
How to make an egg-free challah? Search the Internet far and wide, and then hope that you’ve picked the right recipe. After trolling for a bit, I found a fairly straightforward recipe from Nava Atlas’ Vegkitchen website, submitted by Rachel Ornstein Packer. She created it for her son, who is also allergic to eggs, and tweaked and refined it before sharing.
For this recipe, instead of egg serving as a binding agent, the replacement includes combining canola oil, warm water, and baking powder, which are mixed and then added to the yeast slurry right before adding the flour. Aviva loved the bubbling action from the baking powder, and it almost felt like we were conducting a science experiment.
The resulting dough definitely felt different from our usual, and lacked some of the springiness and elasticity of our standby. But though I had my doubts, it rose, both before being placed in the oven, and during its 25-minute bake, and when finally taken out, the brushing of canola oil (as opposed to the traditional egg-wash) had done its trick, with a soft brown sheen seen throughout the crust.
The true test, of course, was how it tasted! And you know, it was surprisingly soft, chewy, and sweet. The parents enjoyed it, but the kids devoured it, and that says a lot, yes?!
A few takeaways that stuck with me from this experience:
First, I never appreciated just how much of our food contains egg products. To be restricted to egg-free fare takes a LOT of effort, and I can imagine folks could feel “left out” at times when navigating culinary offerings out in the world. And for those who are gluten-intolerant, the same lesson applies.
Second, there are alternatives to dishes with eggs that are not too difficult. It just takes a little research and a little flexibility, and patience with oneself as one ventures into this new territory.
And finally, accommodating someone’s food allergy can make the receiver feel appreciative, but it also makes the maker or provider of the food feel good as well, knowing that everyone, and not just most, can partake of and enjoy the meal at hand. It happened on Friday night with challah, and it happened on Sunday, when we served vegan cupcakes for Aviva’s Birthday celebration, with Milo in mind when ordering. My, how those Saturn Café delicacies (both chocolate and carrot varieties) were literally out-of-this world, pun intended!