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Rising Expectations for Rosh Hashanah

Just a quick word to say L’Shanah Tova U’metuka! May you have a good and sweet New Year!

Here’s what my daughter and I baked the afternoon before the start of Rosh Hashanah. You can find the basic recipe here.

Crown challah for Rosh Hashanah

Crown challah for Rosh Hashanah

It’s the first time I’ve baked bread since my daughter became diabetic in February, but by now, six months along, we both feel like we have the approximate carb counts down well enough. I tend not to make my challah very sweet anyway, but this year I also left out the raisins, which are about a gram of carb each, to make things a little easier until we were sure we knew how to figure portions. It still came out pretty and tasted good.

Without raisins, we figure, a baked piece of challah is like most other bread, about 50% carb by weight in grams, and it seems to work. Using a simple ratio like this is a lot easier (when we’re home and have a scale handy, anyway) than worrying about exactly how many cups or grams of flour I put in the dough and calculating exact portion carbs–something I still tend to do for desserts and treat foods like berry scones since they’re so variable. Or as our endocrinologist said, “Everyone guesses wrong for birthday cake.” Next time, we’ll try it with raisins and see how it goes.

Challah birds

One thing we like to do with the extra dough–I make sure there is some–is to let my daughter make challah birds. Usually we shape these by making a small 6-inch rope of spare challah dough and tying it into an overhand knot. You can press a raisin into one of the ends for an eye, and the other end becomes the tail, which you can leave alone, stretch out a bit, or score with a knife tip for “feathers”. This year, my daughter went free-form so the rolls came out looking more like bollilos, but she liked them, which is the important thing.

Mine: A lot of people make spiral challahs for Rosh Hashanah with a single thick rope curled around in a turban shape. Tunisians and some other North African and Mizrahi Jews shape the top end into a hand shape. I like to braid my round challahs into a crown, though I admit they’re not always the most even at the joined end. They still seem to even out as they rise to the occasion.

Braided crown challah rising in the oven for Rosh Hashanah

Braided crown challah rising in the oven for Rosh Hashanah

Challah dough is so easy to put together (2 minutes by food processor, plus cleaning, or 5-7 minutes by hand and letting it rise right in the mixing bowl) that if you get the dough ready in the morning and have a couple of hours in the afternoon free for braiding (10-15 minutes unless you’re having too much fun), the second rise (40ish) and baking (another 40ish), it’s a lot of fun and less expensive than store-bought, and more individual too.

B’te’avon! (bon appétit!)

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