The bread Jews bake for the Shabbos following Pesach is known as “Shlissel Challah” – the Key Challah. Across the globe, braided loaves have a key pressed into the dough before baking. And at the meal, the loaf is cut in the hope of slicing down on it.
While the tradition calls forth creative designs and moves many who don’t usually bake their own bread to do so, I suspect the reason that this week is designated as the Key Challah eludes most of us. In a year of Saturdays, why now?
Since the advent of quick activating yeast, wheat allergies have been on the rise. But quick-and-easy is not good for the gut. In fact, the code of Jewish law states that one should eat only wheat that is prepared by fermentation and baked in an oven. So much for boiled pasta and chik-chuk loaves. Our bellies and brains would be better off baking it as has been done for millennia – with a fermented starter.
Which brings us to the Key Challah.
Leavened bread is forbidden on Passover. In fact, all leaven (including fermented starters) must be removed from the home for the holiday. What that meant until recent history is that for the loaves following the Passover holiday, a new starter had to be prepared. I suspect that herein lies the reason for this week being designated the one to mark the rich tradition of baking the ceremonial breads.
If you want some design inspiration or simply to feast your eyes, check out my friend Gitty Salomon’s Instagram page of Challah Art.
Interested in making your own Sourdough? Devori Nussbaum is a therapist and health-and-wellness practitioner. You may remember her from the Macrobiotic retreats we did together in France and England some years back.
Both Devori and I have been taught by Amanda Wright. Amanda is a remarkable shiatsu practitioner who travels the world helping others regain their innate health. Below are two of her delicious recipes.
Amanda’s Steamed Sourdough Bread
(Easier to digest than baked so makes us less irritable, foggy brained and sore in the neck!)
2 Tbsp miso
3 cups leftover rice or grains
2 ½ cups whole spelt flour
½ cup other flour
Raisins/seeds/onion/grated carrots or whatever your imagination conjures!
Add miso to rice, mix well and leave in warm place 2-3 days. Massage once a day to aid fermentation. Smelly and wet is fine. The night before you want to cook it, add the flour and water a little at a time and knead to a dense but flexible dough. Divide into 2 small loaves, spread with corn oil, cover with cheesecloth and a warm damp towel. Leave overnight. Leaving it in the cheesecloth, place the dough into a bamboo or stainless steel steamer above the pot of boiling water. Steam for 1 hour, checking every 15 minutes that there is still has water in the pot. Eat cool!
Sweet Batter Bread
2 ½ cups spelt flour
1 cup millet flour
1 cup rice flour
½ tsp salt
1 Tbsp oil
3 cups water
Combine all flours and salt. Rub in oil. Stir in water and mix till heavy. Let stand for 8 hours or overnight. Add a pureed mix of any of following: squash, sweet potatoes, raisins, cinnamon, cardamom, vanilla, anise, ginger, and orange or lemon peel. Bake 1 hour.
Before you go, on the topic of bread, you may be interested in my article on the bread, manna, money and meaning. Yes, the etymology of “money” finds its source in “manna.” You can check that out here.
To your health!