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Lifestyle
April 27, 2021

More Than Just Bread

Post By:
Romi Wallach
Financial Services Representative
Guest Contributer:

Life Pre-Covid: I had convinced myself that the earlier I woke up, the more time I would have in the day to work myself to the bone, while doing everything and being everything for everyone. By 4:30 am, I was up and on my Peloton and I didn’t stop until I was in bed at 10pm. And the truth is, I was so busy trying to do so many things that I found myself feeling wound like a coil all the time. But like so many others, the COVID-19 pandemic forced me to reevaluate my life, my priorities and really take stock of what I was doing with my time. Why am I sharing all of this? I will tell you.

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When quarantine was announced, truth be told, I was relieved, excited even.  While everyone else was freaking out about being stuck inside, I was giddy as a school girl over the fact that my family was going to be trapped in the house with me for at least two weeks. My teenage kids were going to have to stay home with us and it wasn’t because of my Jewish mom guilt- the whole world was being forced to stay in!  As a person who lives with anxiety, for the first time in years, I was able to exhale and relax not only because my to-do list had just shrunk, but because of a much needed break from waiting up until ungodly hours for the kids to get home, or worrying about them driving late at night, and all of the angst that that comes with being the parent of teens. 

Once quarantine began, I suddenly had the time to do things that I hadn’t given myself the opportunity to do before, including mindless social media scrolling.  A friend posted on Facebook that she was going to do a live event teaching how to make challah.  I am not a baker.  In fact, I hate to bake because there is no margin for error.  However, I was intrigued and I wanted to learn.  My first challah was beautiful- not edible, but beautiful. My husband and kids were so supportive.  They lied straight to my face and told me how the ‘taste’ was great but it was a little hard.  (Understatement of the year-  I had made a challah brick.)  However, I was determined to make the perfect challah and practiced week after week.  But none of this was about the challah.

I was pouring all of this loving energy into baking this challah so that on Friday nights, we had this labor of love to look forward to and share while we sat around the table connecting in the most meaningful way. Some Friday nights we didn’t eat anything else for dinner but the challah! This simple piece of bread had brought us together in a special way.   We had created this awesome new ritual and it made my heart so full.  Of course I can buy a challah from any number of places.  But I was finding tremendous peace in the act of baking this challah from scratch and found it so incredibly fulfilling.  In fact so much so, that when one of my friends was having a terribly difficult day, I had her come over to bake challah with me.  It was therapeutic and it was very grounding.

The challah baking became symbolic to me for what I was missing in my life before the world came to a halt. Yes, building my business is very important and I love what I do.  And I was never one to take for granted a single second with my kids and family- it was always priority number one.  But somewhere along the way of building my business and taking care of my family, I had equated the insanity of waking up in the wee hours of the morning, and staying busy all day long until going to sleep, as some kind of badge of honor.  What was I proving other than the fact that I could run on fumes? 

The challah baking had brought me back to the simplest and most meaningful things in my life and helped me reframe how I manage my time and my energy.  No one but you is counting the hours you are logging. It is up to us to decide how we make the best use of our time.  I will never go back to waking up at 4:30am and I will continue to find peace and joy in the simplest of acts that bring my family together and represent the love I have for them.  

INGREDIENTS

  • ¾ cups warm water
  • 1/3 cup oil
  • 3 cups flour
  • 2 eggs
  • 1 tsp salt
  • 2 Tablespoons + 1tsp of sugar
  • Active dry yeast as per package
  • Sesame seeds – up to your seed discretion 

 INSTRUCTIONS

  1. Take ¼ of the warm water, add a tsp of sugar and the yeast and let sit for 15 min - should see a foam build
  2. Measure 3 cups of flour and set aside ½ cup to use as needed
  3. Add 1 tsp salt and 2 tablespoons of sugar to the flower and stir
  4. Beat 2 eggs in a small bowl and add the oil and mix altogether
  5. Once yeast has risen after 15 minutes combine the yeast, egg and oil mixture to the flour mixture
  6. Sprinkle some flour on a dry towel and put the dough on the towel and knead for 8-10 minutes
  7. Let sit for 10 minutes
  8. Oil pan – I use two baking sheets, one on top of the other so the bottom of the challah doesn’t burn
  9. Shape challah into braid and then let sit covered on the pan allowing it to rise for 45 minutes to an hour. I like to place it on the warm stove
  10. Make an egg wash and brush it over the challah and then sprinkle a little bit of sea salt and sesame seeds
  11. Bake at 375°F for about 30 minutes, let cool for 5 minutes, then place on rack 

Shabbat Shalom!