Challah Limits

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Challah Limits

Phone in hand, I upload a photo of a three-braided round and a five-strand long that just came out of my oven.

Confirmation—“The large one looks really complex”—comes with a photo of hers. 

Coincidentally, this week, she, too, made a round and a long.

Our Friday-night-challah-texting club started during the pandemic.

“I experimented,” continues Ann’s text. She sends a photo of her round, cut open, revealing chocolate chips.

Pushing boundaries can be fun.

 

Last week, I sent her a picture of the royal blue loaves my daughter and I made with an unholy amount of food coloring.

My question as to how she rolled the dough to keep the chocolate chips inside leads to a conversation about filling combinations.

Leeks and spinach?

Apple and cinnamon? 

Cheese, garlic, and sun-dried tomatoes? 

Ann asks: “When is it a calzone? Is there a point where it stops being challah?”

I don’t answer that question.

Obviously, I’m a rabbi. I know about challah.

I don’t answer because the traditional answers—“this is what makes a challah a challah”—make some “challah” into “not-challah.” 

Officially, a challah is a challah only if there is the presence of a second loaf (lechem mishneh) and a portion of the pre-cooked dough is thrown into the oven to burn (hafrashat challah).

I don’t always make two. 

And I’ve never done the burnt-offering part.

According to this rabbi, there are no wrong types of challah.

A challah is a challah even if it is egg-free, gluten-free, or sugar-free.

A challah is a challah, whether it is braided or not. 

I’ve said motzi—the traditional prayer before eating challah—when I had only a ciabatta loaf on hand. It was challah enough for me.

This is why I didn’t answer Ann.

I have found that when I give people the picayune details—a challah can come into being only if more than 16½  cups of flour (although some say 12¼ ) are combined with one of Judaism’s six approved moistening liquids—the focus on this minutiae distracts from the point of the whole thing.

Our question ought not be “What makes it challah?” 

Our questions about challah should be “Is it being enjoyed?” or “Does this bread help people find a Sabbath/restful mindset?”

That’s what it’s all about.

My next challah will attempt Ann’s folding-in technique. I’ll add raspberry jelly, which will leak out. The loaves will come out a bit sweet and pink-hued. 

Ann’s next challah will be an asiago, which she recommends. 

If neither of those feel like the right challah to you, maybe you want to try making Apple Stuffed Challah Popovers.

 

To join me for an online (more traditional) challah-making experience, click here. I’m thinking it could be fun.

 

Rabbi Brian Zachary Mayer resides in Portland, Oregon. He is the founder and head of Religion-Outside-The-Box oldrotb.wpengine.com, an internet-based, global group of 3.3K+ digital-age seekers. ROTB produces excellent spiritual content.

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