This week we continue the Guest Challah Bloggah! tradition with a post from the incomparable Elizheva Hurvich. The artist, educator, and mother of Max was the winner of Week 25's "Butterfly Challenge". As such, I sponsored, in her honor, a $50 Butterfly Grant, ensuring more “Butterfly Effects.” She, in return, committed to two simple things:
1) Doing something kind (it did NOT need to include baking) for others, a la the Butterfly Effect;
2) Sharing it with the wider community by writing a “Guest Challah Bloggah” post over the coming months.
Here is the blog she wrote! Enjoy!
"My friend Daniel called last week to tell me he was going on vacation and to ask if I would bake Challah, "Challah-it-Forward" and be a Guest Blogger for the week.
"Oh," I replied, "We're going out of town too, to my in-laws ...." Not taking the hint (or "no" for an answer,) he said "Perfect! You can do it together!" And added, "Don't forget to take pictures!!"
I called my mother-in-law who agreed to the project, with the caveat that when the weather is humid, as it often is on Cape Cod in August, the dough does not rise properly. Also, she wasn't in the habit of giving food to others on the Cape and was not quite sure how we would fulfill this part of the challah-it-forward challenge.
Although I have baked challah a few times in my life- and even did a workshop with Daniel and Aviva- I still was unsure how engaged my 3-year-old would be. To prepare him, I pulled up G-dcast's "Let's Bake Challah!" App, letting him add the ingredients, mix, roll, braid, and decorate a virtual challah before getting his hands dirty. (He really liked it).
Friday morning arrived.
Grandma told us to get start early so we would have time for a double rising and so it would not be too hot. Grandma pulled out her favorite recipe (Racheli's challah found in Mollie Katzen's Still Life With Menu cookbook.) Max and I washed hands then stayed at the sink to find the proper temperature to activate our yeast. "Not too hot, not too cold," Grandma warned, as she came over and ran water on her wrists, teaching us how to determine the right temperature.
As we emptied the envelope of dry active yeast into our bowl of just-the-right-temperature-water, my 16 year-old-niece Maddie, who had seated herself at the far end of the table for breakfast, philosophized aloud, "Yeast is fascinating; it has some of the qualities of being alive, but not all of them?"
"What's missing?" Asked her dad, articulating my question.
"Let me guess!" Piped in Talia, Maddie's younger sister, "it doesn't reproduce!"
"Yes it does," answered Maddie, as the khaki colored experiment in our bowl begin to expand.
Having forgotten the details of the yeast's strange-but-not-quite-alive-state she asked Siri. And as we added honey, cups of flour, salt, eggs, and oil, we talked about yeast and biology and dormancy and seeds and ground flour versus grains.
And with each addition to our batter, Max asked with a twinkle in his eye if he could taste it?
Finally our dough was mixed and ready to rise. Now came the most challenging part--how do we navigate the timing and get to play at the beach?
By the time the first rising was ready to be pounded down, our friend Tom had arrived. We floured our board, punched, and divided the dough. Luckily Max's G-dcast App reminded us of the blessing to say when pinching off a portion of dough to make it "challah" (though one might argue that since we no longer give it to the Biblical Temple Priests as in days of old, and because we are planning to donate an entire challah, the ritual pinch of dough is not necessary, but that's another argument for another time).
It turns out that Tom was an excellent challah roller. Max wanted to eat dough. I wanted to divide and braid.
We were able to make four nice loaves and began to contemplate where we would give them. My nieces came from Philadelphia and from Westchester county. There are plenty of hungry people there--but they only donate non-perishables. No fresh bread.
So what to do? One for us, one for Tom, and one each for friends we plan to see in Boston, with an invitation to each of them to "Challah-it-Forward" too.
We put four loaves in the oven and 40 minutes later the house smelled heavenly. The golden loaves came out beautifully! And while they cooled, we headed off to the beach to play.
The bread was so delicious! we only put out one loaf for Shabbat that night--there was not a crumb left. On Saturday afternoon my nephew walked in for lunch asking for some more Challah- "it was so good!"
We head to Boston Monday and will share the other loaves with Shirah, Bret, Eliora, Hadara, Morissa, Jason, and Yaela.
In sharing it with others, the Challah will continue to rise!"