Thoughtful Thursday: Challah

September 8, 2010

Thoughtful ThursdayThere’s been a lot of death and gloom in the past few Thoughtful Thursdays. I actually could keep going, due to some major health issues my family is dealing with right now, but it’s too much. I don’t know if it’s too much for you, but it’s too much for me. It’s all just too much. When you’re packing your luggage for an out-of-nowhere emergency trip and you have to examine at your babies’ wardrobes and consider what would be the most appropriate funeral attire just in case, it’s time to change the subject. This week I’ll spare you from the impossibly hard questions that I can’t get out of my own mind.

Instead, since it’s Rosh Hashanah, I will tell you a happy little story about my first Rosh Hashanah.

Not having grown up Jewish, I never baked a challah with a bubbe or a Hebrew school class. Instead, for my first Rosh Hashanah, also my first as a wife in a Jewish household, I taught myself to bake challah.

It turns out that I bake fantastic challah. Delicious flavor, wonderful hard shell and sweet pillowy inside, beautiful aesthetics. Great, except for the dimensions.

The recipe I used was normally designed to make three small braided challahs. Instead, I wanted to make a round challah as is the tradition for Rosh Hashanah, so I did.

I knew that yeasted bread expands as it rises, and again as it bakes, but I did not realize the extent of the growth for this particular recipe, nor did I comprehend that the rate of growth gets disproportionately larger the more dough you use.

When I put the challah in the oven, it was perfectly round, about 12 inches in diameter.

When I took it out of the oven, it was no longer perfectly round… because it had grown so large that it hit the walls of the oven and became closer to a square. It was probably about 30 inches in diameter. Comically enormous. On the way to our friends’ Rosh Hashanah dinner, I couldn’t hold it on my lap in the car as I normally would; instead, I had to wrap it up and put it in the trunk. When we got there, I could barely get it through the door. Everyone saw me and burst out laughing. We couldn’t fit it on the table without moving all of the other food. It was way more awesome than some normal challah.

Later it occurred to me: It was just like that episode of I Love Lucy!

Has there ever been a moment in your life where you realized, “Oh, it’s just like that thing on TV” (or movie, or book…)?


Has there ever been a time when things didn’t turn out the way you expected, but instead were way more awesome?

Shana tova, my friends.


13 Responses to “Thoughtful Thursday: Challah”

  1. N&J Says:

    This story made my NIGHT! Shana Tovah.

  2. WiseGuy Says:

    Shana tova!

    Yep…has happened to me…sometimes things fizzle out and leave us disappointed, and sometimes things happen that leave us wondering like great!

    I remember an instance of appreciation I received from a higher-up. I had improved on the sponsorship collection for an even from the previous couple of years, but I had not quite reached the figure I was hoping for. Also, one cheque we received, got bounced in the bank. But at the review he praised my effort expressly, and since it was unexpected, it was even more amazing than had I been prepared to expect it.


  3. a Says:

    Shana tova – I hope your new year brings better things.

    Hilarious story…I would have loved to see that!

    My husband frequently sees his life in fictional stories (TV, books, etc.) but I don’t really.

    My husband and a friend of ours remind me of the Guard Duck in the comic strip Pearls Before Swine. Actually, come to think of it, I find myself relating very well to Rat on many occasions – especially when he pulls out the Mallet O’ Understanding.

  4. Kristin Says:

    I had an I Love Lucy like moment when I was pregnant with my middle son. One night, I decided I MUST make an apple pie. It didn’t matter that it was 9 at night. It had to be done right then. I made such a gorgeous pie. The crust was perfect. The apples were thinly sliced. The cinnamon smell wafted through our apartment. I pulled it out of the oven and cut a slice for my hubby…but, he didn’t look nearly as enthusiastic as he normally did while he was chewing that first bite. And, he didn’t immediately get a second forkful. Of course, I asked him how it was because it sure did smell fabulous. You could see him searching for the words that wouldn’t send my hormone laden self into a tizzy. Since he wasn’t quickly forthcoming with an opinion, I took a bite and promptly dumped the whole pie in the garbage. Yes, I made a fabulous crust and the smell of apples and cinnamon and nutmeg smelled divine. But, I had forgotten one ingredient that is oh so important. I made the whole pie with out sugar. The cinnamon and tart Granny Smith apples smelled so damned good but they made your mouth pucker like you had been sucking on a lemon.

  5. Ana Says:

    Lol on the challah & the apple pie! I can think of nothing better in life than a good laugh—and something that you can remember and laugh at over & over again is even better. I get frustrated when things go slightly wrong, but when they go horribly gloriously wrong, its actually just hilarious!

    I did NOT like it when we moved into our new urban neighborhood and life reminded me of “The Wire”.

  6. Idraena Says:

    That story made my morning. Thanks for sharing! πŸ˜€

    I frequently see my own life in stories or shows, books and movies. They’re usually pretty minor, so I can’t recall any specific moment right now. But I think it’s because that’s kind of how I see my life — as a story, just like in the countless books I read as a child. And I also believe it’s important to draw connections between pieces of work. So my life is often compared to another story I’ve read, or another show I’ve seen. As a child, this led to me being disproportionately disappointed with my life — where were the crazy magic fights or the epic quests other people got to go on? But I have since become a little more realistic πŸ˜‰

    As for a mistake that turned out to be way more awesome than otherwise? Pretty much any of my failures in French have that potential. I recall I was trying to say “the socks” once and ended up accidentally saying “the rite of the shoe stores.” My partner and I had an entire spin-off conversation from that one. Or the time I mispronounced “pullover” (lit. pullover/sweater) and it sounded like “poulet vert” (green chicken). It’s still an inside joke to this day.

  7. Shana Tova to you, too!

    First off, I’m abiding with you while you face what you’re facing. XO

    Second, that’s a great story! I love the image of you walking in with a 30″ hunk of bread.

    I think that, in many ways, experiencing IF led me to a way more amazing life than I might have had. Besides my children, it led me to blogging, which led me to you and other amazing women.


  8. Rebecca Says:

    Nothing I can think of, but hahaha I love the idea of massive challah bread!

  9. strongblonde Says:

    so sorry about what’s going on right now. when i worked wards we used to say that things happened in 3’s. (and sometimes 7’s depending on who was working).

    mmmm….challah. i would love to make a 30 inch bread πŸ™‚ that sounds sooo good. there’s a little local jewish deli here (that’s been featured on the food network and oprah) and they make AWESOME challah. i get all my sandwiches on it!

    mmmm…thoughtful thursday is hard for me this week. i do often feel like my life is like a movie or tv show. most of the time it is because specific circumstances just seem like there is no way that they could happen to real people (eg: my whole molar pregnancy then cancer thing or B’s crazy parents and how they interact with the world). no situations come to mind that mirror a tv show, but i’m sure they’re there.

    and how can i not say that having these babies turned out better than i could have anticipated. we got very lucky. we got two babies. πŸ™‚

  10. emk808 Says:

    L’shana tova!!! I wish I could think of a single thing that happened that got messed up but turned out so much better. Your challah story could totally have happened in our home…that’s so classic us. I actually forgot to take the challah dough out of the freezer on the 2nd day (in order to have it for that night and Shabbat)…so it didn’t get taken out until about 3:30pm. We put it on top of the stove (which the oven part was on, not the burner…but the top of the stove was still super hot) and put a towel over it praying it would rise appropriately in only 3 hours instead of the usual 4-5. And it did!!! It might have been a little bit smaller than the ones that rose longer, but it was just as yummy. I know it doesn’t really qualify as “better”, but it’s close!

  11. Cat Says:

    I had a similar experience with a cake. I was making my first 16″ round cake for a wedding cake. The pan touched the back and front of the oven at the same time. A cake this big also does not rise the same way as a smaller cake. There’s so much mass that it takes a lot longer to warm up before it’s hot enough to actually set into “cake”. That makes it difficult to know how much batter to pour into the pan. I had a volcano in my oven. I was bailing out the batter with a spoon onto a paper plate. It just kept coming and coming and I kept bailing and bailing. It was ridiculous.

    As for things turning out more awesome, having three almost-toddlers is pretty freaking fantastic. There are definitely moments as they figure out how to assert themselves, but they’re overshadowed by the giggling I hear over the monitor when they wake up, the jabbering to each other in the playroom, how M laughs her hysterical belly laugh when her siblings sit down hard or fall (not very nice, but it’s really funny), how E just laughs and laughs at her siblings until they laugh back, and how they “pet” each others hair when we redirect them from poking each other in the face. I know there will be many hard parts of raising triplets, but there are some pretty awesome parts, too, and I’m loving it.

    I’m sorry you’re having to pic out clothes for your babies to maybe wear to a funeral. I hope you get some easy stuff coming soon instead of all the hard family stuff all the time.

  12. I can’t think of anything right now. Unfortunately I’m still in death and gloom mode – currently at my parents’ to deal with my mother’s brain cancer (metastasized from her uterine cancer that everyone told her was all very contained and would be completely curable).

  13. This happens to me all the time, but more often I bring it up with other people. For example a friend told me this story about a somewhat dramatic breakup, and I was like, “That’s exactly what happened in blank movie, except the lead was a guy…”

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