Just when things seem to be on the verge of coming together—or a split second from spinning wildly out of control—that’s when a lot of people would turn to God and pray for strength, wisdom, guidance.
It’s not even that I don’t believe in God—it’s just that to me prayer often feels more like really pointless thinking. And I do enough of that already.
So my tendency is to go for the comfort, and calm, and certainty, of the kitchen. Make something. This weekend, when I had one of those weekends, I took Adi into the kitchen and made challah.
This is how much succor I needed—I left the Kitchenaid in the cupboard. I did it on a Sunday, and by hand, in a big wood bowl Naomi and I got for our wedding. Adi videoed it because it appears that’s his form of devotion.
Here’s the place I could go on about braiding the three strands of dough, bringing together the varying strands of my life into a unified whole, blah blah blah. But it wasn’t like that. I braided them quickly, automatically. Brushed them with a beaten egg. And after the loaves were baked and cooled, I felt better. Not holier. Not wiser. Just a bit more grounded and calm. What prayer does.
Here’s the recipe:
2 packages active dry yeast (2 tablespoons)
1 ¾ ciups lukewarm water
1 tablespoon plus 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
Poppy or sesame seeds for sprinkling (optional)
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
2. Whisk the oil, 4 eggs, sugar and salt into yeast/water.
3. Gradually add flour, stirring with spoon or mixer paddle. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading.
3. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, about 7-10 minutes. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Dough may also rise in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. Punch down dough, cover and let rise again in a warm place for another half-hour.
4. Braid challah. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Let rise another hour.
6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using.
7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden.
Here’s the Video: