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Knead to Know: Challah Making Made Easy

Knead to Know: Challah Making Made Easy

Sunday, January 12, 2014 2:00 pm

This workshop gave guests everything they “kneaded to know”, whether they were new to baking or have years of experience!

Chef Laura Frankel demonstrated the process of making fresh, fragrant, delicious challah — from buying the best yeast to serving your warm-from-the-oven beautifully braided bread.

ChallahWhite or whole wheat? Ashkenazi or Sephardi? Poppy seeds or flax seeds? Chef Laura answered these questions by guiding guests through both traditional versions and new twists on the iconic Sabbath bread.

Laura Frankel is Executive Chef for Spertus Kosher Catering and the author of the Chosen Bites column in the Jerusalem Post. She is a passionate teacher who has made it her mission to reimagine and revitalize the diverse and delicious traditions of Jewish cooking. She has extensive experience in both savory and pastry kitchens, and has cooked for U.S. Presidents Barack Obama and George W. Bush, Soviet President Mikhail Gorbochev, Chicago Mayors Rahm Emanuel and Richard M. Daley, New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg, Hillary Clinton, Al Gore, Steven Spielberg, and Supreme Court Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg.

In 2013, recognition of her dedication to pairing fresh and local food with kosher cooking, she was honored at Kosherfest in New York as a culinary innovator in kosher cuisine. Chef Laura is the author of  Jewish Cooking for All Seasons and Jewish Slow Cooker Recipes.

Challah: What You "Knead to Know"

For many Jews, challah is a Friday night staple. We bless it, eat it, and then use what's left for sandwiches the next day. But this tasty egg bread is loaded with symbolism and folklore. What does it all mean? Let's find out:

  • The name challah is derived from the Hebrew word for "portion" in the Biblical commandment "Of the first of your dough you shall give unto the Lord a portion for a gift throughout your generations."
  • On festive occasions like Shabbat, a blessing is said over two loaves of challah, symbolizing the two portions of manna that were distributed on Fridays to the Israelites during their Exodus from Egypt.
  • The decorative challah cover, used to cover the challah before the blessing is said, represents the dew that collected on the manna in the morning of its arrival.
  • As on occasional adornment to challah, poppy seeds and sesame seeds symbolize raindrops, suggesting that manna, like rain, fell from the heavens.
  • The braids of the challah represent arms embracing, and are meant to invoke love between God and humankind.
  • A challah's three braids signify truth, peace, and justice. Its twelve humps represent the twelve tribes of Israel.
  • The Jewish custom of sprinkling salt on a loaf of challah derives from an ancient Jewish belief that salt, because it does not deteriorate, symbolizes the Jewish people's constant devotion to God.

So there you have it — everything you "knead to know" about challah's symbolism and folklore. Now that's something worth challah-ring about.

Hosting a special event?

Let Chef Laura Frankel, Chicago’s most noted kosher chef, be your guide. Chef Laura will teach your guests to create a gourmet meal, make seasonal cocktails, or give a new twist to holiday traditions. Email to learn more.