The morning began on 28th street, which ironic because I was supposed to be on 18th. Sunny and crisp, I had the whole day ahead of me to learn something new and meet a new neighbor. Rebecca responded to an advertisement I posted on our “Buy Nothing” Facebook group page*, and this morning I was walking up to her front door. She’s the first neighbor I’ll be featuring on the blog here. I knew I wanted to feature recipes from my past, my friends, and also my neighbors. But I had no idea what I had in store when I went to ring Rebecca’s doorbell.
I brought along a friend, Bria, and we anxiously chatted on the doorstep. The door swung open and there was Rebecca. She welcomed us in and we awkwardly made our introductions. As I sat on her couch next to Bria, I instantly noticed all the greenery, the art, and the well thought-out chotchkies surrounding us. My mom kept a sparse home growing up, lacking many decorations but not warmth! Rebecca's home, on the other hand lacked neither. I was fascinated by the objects I found around her house and enjoyed hearing stories of their significance.
Rebecca’s husband made us coffee, and she explained that they kept a Kosher home. Bria had to run back out to put the coffee she had made back in the car. So here’s a tip to everyone here, if you are going to a home that is Kosher ask about the dos & don’ts first (if you don’t know already). My goodness, if we weren’t uneasy enough, we were sure nervous by that point. But Rebecca was super gracious to us and quickly distracted the conversation from our faux pas.
While the dishwasher was being unloaded, the three of us got to know each other a little better. Rebecca has been making challah bread every week since Rosh Hashanah, which is in September. Her plan is to continue to make it every week until next September. A whole year of challah! And she shared her recipe with me. Today, I share it with you.
- 1 cup water
- 1/2 cup vegetable oil
- 2 eggs
- 1 tablespoon honey
- 4 cups flour
- 1/2 cup sugar
- 2.5 teaspoons salt
- 2.25 teaspoons yeast
1. Mix all in bread maker. Use "quick dough" without timer OR "regular dough" with timer
2. Braid, and then let rise OR bake immediately
3. Bake at 350 degrees F for 30 minutes
4. Glaze with egg yolk and add sesame seeds if desired
As you may expect, making challah on a regular basis for Friday night dinners can get monotonous. So Rebecca has gotten creative over the years, making heart shaped challah on Valentines Day, tree shapes, 12th Man shapes, and so much more. Her friends practically expect something new and exciting each week, so they challenged her to do so, every week for a year.
Growing up, Rebecca’s mother didn’t have much time for cooking or baking. She was too busy paving the way for her daughter, going graduate school and building her career. Today, Rebecca is a PhD in Disability Studies and works at a local college. Rebecca learned how to make challah from her brother who used to make it for his entire dorm during his university years. He still makes it for his family by hand, no bread maker for him. As Rebecca invited us into her kitchen, she pointed to her bread maker and said, “he says I cheat by making it this way, but I don’t care!”
We loaded all the ingredients into the bread machine and pressed start. The challah needed 45 minutes to knead and rise. This gave us time to meet Rebecca’s chickens, who also happened to have provided the eggs for the day. We met General Tso, Chicken Nugget, Stir Fry, and Casserole. Bria almost had a cow. She peppered Rebecca with questions about keeping chickens in the city and fawned over the hens for the next half hour. The gal is from Minnesota and just moved to Seattle four months ago, but she is meant to live on a farm.
Once the bread was done, Rebecca explained the sort of clever challah we were making. In a couple days would be the holiday of Purim, which celebrates the story of Esther. She saved the Jews a long time ago from an evil man named Haman. He wanted to kill them, but he was killed instead because of her courage to tell the king to stop him. The challah we made was Moroccan inspired. We braided in eggs, which represent Haman’s eyes. Like a cartoon character, we put the dough in the shape of X’s over his eyes. Then we decorated everything with pastel colored fennel seeds and traditional sesame seeds. Funny and spring inspired, I present to you Purim Challah, featured by the kindness of Rebecca.
The morning Bria and I spent with Rebecca was the most inspiring time I have had in a really long time. We not only learned how to make a new recipe, we learned how culturally significant meals can be. Today, I encourage you to take a step back before stepping into the kitchen. Food must nourish our bodies, but let me challenge you to think how it can nourish your soul, your mind.
To learn more about Rebecca and to see all of her amazing creations, visit her site and stay up to date: https://challahchallenge.wordpress.com/
If you want to know more about Purim, go ask your neighbor who is Jewish! Get in a conversation about it. But here’s a sneak peak. The four customs for this holiday are as follows, you must:
- Read the story of Esther
- Give presents of food to other people
- Give to charity
- Make a feast and get so drunk that you cannot tell apart your friends from your enemies. (That last part may vary from family to family, but is my favorite)
- AND BONUS: Traditionally kids dress in costumes on this day and even some adults do too. What a bonus!
*Side note: I do understand the rules of Buy Nothing and I do not advise advertising anything without looking into your group’s rules and/or contacting the moderator’s first.