It All Rests On The Challah

Another topic I never knew I would be posting about, but here we go! Before we go deep into this whole story, I want to start off by saying I’ve always considered myself more spiritual than religious and I think I have found a bit of a balance between the two at this point in my life. I also want to say, there has always been an aspect of me that has considered Judaism as part of my heritage, my makeup, part of just who I am and not so much has my religion. I think that too also applies to me today. 

I was raised in a reform (VERY reform) Jewish household. My Mother is Jewish, my Father is not religious. We attended services at our synagogue, which I was very active in for quite a lot of my childhood/early adolescence), we did Shabbat prayers at home every Friday night, we celebrated the high holidays, but also ate bacon as well as meat and cheese together. I had a Bat Mitzvah when I was 12 and slowly I started to slip away from the community. 

For quite a while I bounced back and forth between Judaism and Christianity, just wandering a little while. It wasn’t anything special and eventually I just kind of faded away from both, choosing to be spiritual, to pray, but not to follow anything specific religion wise. And that was ok! I was ok, things were great, all was well. 

Then a few things happened in short succession. I’m not a big believer in “signs” or what not, but I do kind of feel like things aligned a little bit to point me in the right direction. 

The first thing was visiting the Synagogue in Rome.

We stopped in the Great Synagogue of Rome and walked through both the museum and the Synagogue and there was something about being presented, front and center, with my heritage that just had me longing for some of it back. So many memories came flooding back, singing in temple, the Friday Night prayers and meal, Challah, the Torah, and the feeling of just having a bit of my “people” back. I don’t know if I realized how much I missed that until that moment. 

Shortly after we got back I started thinking about it a bit more, and then a bit more, and then a bit more. I did a little soul searching to understand what Judaism meant to me and what role I would want it to play in my life. I realized how disconnected I had become to that (even in the reform upbringing that I had). We aren’t a very religious family (in the sense that we don’t go to church, synagogue, follow any of the “rules” of organized religion). My husband is a Catholic and we just kind of blend in the fact of not really practicing anything to much of an extent. I should say- I don’t think that will change, we aren’t going to suddenly become church or synagogue goers, BUT I wanted to know for myself where that longing could fit back in. 

As I was thinking about all of this (I am a notorious over thinker), we experienced one of those things where you can’t help but take it as a “sign” of something. We experienced the most incredible rainbows over the span of a few days, and one night included a double rainbow.

It was one of those moments where the sky is still storming, but the rainbow just breaks through and BAM it just strikes you as an incredible moment. A true feat. I just knew it was a sign. Maybe not necessarily relating to my internal conversations, but a sign of something. 

So, in comes my Challah test. 

One of my favorite things about the Jewish Culture is the food and the meals that are had centering around the food. I LOVED every high holiday as we would gather with friends and family and feast over wonderful hand-crafted meals (until Passover that is). It was just such a warm time and full of fuzzy feelings. Now, I’m a bread lover and one of my favorite additions to the Jewish Meal is Challah. This sweet eggy bread is just…chef’s kiss and when I realized that making this bread was much easier than I originally thought I knew that I had to try and make it. 

My wonderful, irrational, mind turned my making Challah attempt from just a fun thing to try to a high stakes turning point of my internal debate. In my irrational mind, if this worked then that would seal the deal with my faith, heritage, and that part of myself. If it didn’t work, I was lost from that for good. Everything rested on my ability to make this Challah and make it right (aka exactly as I remembered it from my childhood). Really rational, huh?

I gave myself two attempts (because the first attempt was garbage – I had gotten everything but the consistency right – and I didn’t want to “fail myself” based on just that) and it was my second attempt that sealed it. 

*Warning- I’m going to toot my own horn now*

My second attempt at Challah was…incredible. Chef’s Kiss. Beautifully golden, hand crafted with love (and it shows) and tastes exactly like it should. It tasted like something that I had long forgotten, and I felt so…complete in making it. And I knew, that while I wouldn’t be running off to Synagogue tomorrow, that Judaism is still a massive part of who I am. 

Now, I know this all sounds kind of hokey and like I’m walking this fine line of lunacy, BUT I feel like sometimes we fall into that. Sometimes life just brings all of these different, random, moments together to remind us of parts of who we are. And being Jewish is a part of who I am. 

All The Holiday Treats

Every year around this time we all go a little mad with sugar. It is part of that time of year, to consume cookies, chocolate, and candy in large amounts. Now this post is not going to be about being healthy, stick to serving or portion sizes, or any of that (although I do believe it). No, this post is going to break down all of the holiday goodness that we have cooked up or bought this year.

IMG_6536I am going to start with what we buy from stores. There are a couple of “staples” that we have to get for the Holiday season every year and those are: Cordial Cherries (dark chocolate) and a Terry’s Chocolate Orange (again in dark chocolate). This is a staple every November/December in our home and the holidays don’t seem the same without them.

We all know that every year the chocolate/candy companies come out with new ideas of what to pair with their candy. This year the craze was Hot Chocolate! Now, I’m not a huge Hot Cocoa drinker, but I do have it every once in a while. I was quite intrigued, so I tried to sample what was offered and keep an open mind. I picked up the Hot Chocolate Kisses, Hot Chocolate M&M’s, Hot Cocoa Pillsbury Rolls (Like Cinnamon Rolls, but Hot Cocoa), and we also picked up the Mint M&M’s.

Overall, of the new candies I think my favorite was the Hot Chocolate Kisses. They were really nice. I felt the Hot Cocoa M&M’s didn’t really taste any different, I disliked the Mint M&M’s and Hot Cocoa.

As far as baking goes, we stick with our standard chocolate cookies around this time of year. I usually will make a chocolate chip (this year being dark chocolate chip), a chocolate mint cookie, and I always make Oreo Bon Bons (these are a favorite and staple year round in our home). I also will make one non chocolate option when we want something a little different and this year that was Snickerdoodles.

IMG_8391This may seem like a lot (and it actually is), but I make them at the start of the month for the entire month! We will offer these to friends, family, and any coworkers at times as well as visitors to our home. When you are storing them, you place a small piece of bread in with the cookies to keep them moist and chewy. If we run out of any cookies, I’ll top us off with another batch.