My Grandmother’s Recipes: Part 1, Round Challah.

Years ago, when my grandmother was still around, it has occurred to me that only my mother and I knew her recipes, and we knew them by heart; they were not written anywhere. I decided to write them down, organizing them by Jewish holidays. Then my memories took over, plunging me into family stories, and the book acquired a life of its own, going away from the actual recipes into post-war Odessa realities.

title pageIn 1992 my son Alex (Arkady, in Russian), then a junior at Brandeis University, was awarded an Undergraduate Fellowship for translation of a collection of stories by Russian authors, compiled by Professor Inna Braude. A year later, this book was published by Hermitage Publishers, illustrated by a prominent Russian artist Alexander Okun. It is available on Amazon (https://www.amazon.com/Times-Turmoil-Collection-Stories/dp/1557790655/ref=sr_1_1?). I am tremendously honored that my story made it into this distinguished line-up of authors, translated by my son. To quote Professor Braude, “the epicenter of the narrative is concentrated on the past – on the rapt and loving view of it” (Introduction).

Due to popular demands, specifically prompted by a dear blogofriend, an immensely talented and creative Judy of https://judydykstrabrown.com, I am embarking on a two-week project, posting one chapter every other day. But don’t feel deprived, Beautiful People; I will not leave you without recipes. At the end of each post there will be my grandmother’s actual holiday recipes. Warning: sometimes you will find next chapter starting at the end of a page and you’ll have to wait until  the following week to find out what happens!

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  1. Moidodyr: Literally means “wash until you have holes. The reference is made to a famous poem of the same name by Korney Chukovsky in which a large washbasin encourages cleanliness of little children.

You can watch a cute Russian cartoon based on this poem.

And here is the first recipe of the series: 

Round Challah for a Sweet Year

We are getting ready for Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, and we are baking traditional round challahs that symbolize the cyclical nature of life, the end which is also the beginning. There are two statements in this sentence that fall into the “everybody knows” category. However, as everybody knows, most of the things known to everybody are not exactly the way they seem. Let’s take them one by one.

Time flows. People impose their own markers on it arbitrarily, for their own convenience. In fact, there are four Jewish New Years prescribed by law (Mishnah Rosh Hashanah 1:1), and Rosh Hashana actually means “the Head of the Year” rather than New Year. In the Gemorrah (Rosh Hashana 8a) it is stated that Rosh Hashana is the anniversary of creation – Happy Birthday, Adam! It isn’t called New Year anywhere; it is called The Day of Remembrance. What are we remembering? Everything! The good, the bad, the ugly, the intentional, and the honestly erroneous.

In Yiddish, we wish each other L’Shoneh Toiveh  v’Sikoseivu – may you be inscribed for a good year. Even the greeting cards used to be called leshonehtoivehs, as in, “Did you send a leshonetoiveh to your uncle?” We believe that this is the time when our deeds (and thoughts!) are examined, we are given ten days, until Yom Kippur, to right the wrongs, and on Yom Kippur, our fate for the upcoming year is inscribed in the Book of Life. Because He is kind and compassionate, we are given an additional reprieve and one more chance, and on the last day of Sukkos, our fate is sealed.

round20challah

What about the round challah, and anyway, does it look round to you? To me, it looks more like a spiral, or a curled-up snake. In the Torah (Bamidbar 21:5-9), we find that Moses was commanded to make a copper serpent and affix it to a pole. When a sick person looked at the serpent, he was instantly cured. What a strange story: a snake whose bite brings death, a serpent who is blamed for luring Adam and Eve into transgression, all of a sudden becomes a source of healing?  Says the Gemorrah: “Could a snake [on a pole] cause death [by not looking at it] or give life [by looking at it]? Rather, when Israel would look upward and subject their hearts to their Father in Heaven, they would be cured; but if not, they would waste away.” In other words, the shiny copper snake was there to attract the eye heavenward, rather then down, and bring “a miracle within a miracle” (Rambam) – healing by a symbol of harm.

Most importantly, at this time we bentch mehilah  – ask forgiveness of all our relatives, friends, and especially enemies, for anything and everything we may have done to cause them harm. Please consider this post as my way of asking mehilah of family, friends, and especially enemies, even though I am not aware of any, but with my fighter personality, I am sure they exist. Please forgive me for anything, intentional or committed by mistake, that has caused you any harm or even inconvenience!

So let’s make this year beautiful!

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I start the healing process by baking spelt round challahs, as opposed to my usual combination of spelt and whole wheat, to make them gluten free. I also replace agave with honey, as is customary on Rosh Hashana, to make my challahs sweeter than usual. Finally, most of the time during the year I put in a handful of chocolate chips, but these challahs want only raisins. Other than that, it’s a usual process. Put all your wet ingredients into the bread machine first, followed by spelt flour, make a well in the center of flour mound, and put your yeast there. Salt goes somewhere in the corner, and raisins top it all off. Set the machine on DOUGH cycle and go do something else for an hour.

Rnd Chla 1.jpg

Flour a board and take your dough out. It should come out easily, but if it sticks to the sides a little, sprinkle some flour to the stuck spots, and scrape it out. Don’t forget to take your challah out, with the Brocho; that’s where we got the name, after all. The dough should feel soft and pliant, but not airy. If you feel that it is too dense, you can add some water. If it’s too liquefied, add some flour. In both cases, you’ll have to knead by hand, but very gently. Divide your dough into equal parts (this recipe is for six, but you can double it if your machine is larger, or if you do it by hand) and start rolling your “snakes.” Tuck the bottom end underneath securely.

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Glaze by gently brushing them with egg wash, sprinkle some sesame or poppy seeds, and put them in a warm place for about an hour, or until they double in size. Bake them for 30 – 35 minutes until golden and crusty.

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Dip your challahs in honey, and let’s wish each other and the entire world a beautiful, healthy, and sweet year, full of joy! L’shoneh Toiveh v’Sikoseivu!

INGREDIENTS

  • 1 1/2 cups soy milk
  • 2 eggs and 1 more egg for glazing
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 4 tablespoons honey
  • 3 3/4 cups white organic spelt flour and 1/4 cup more to flour board and knife
  • 1/4 cup raisins
  • 3 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • Pinch of salt
  • Optional sesame or poppy seeds

PROCEDURE

  • Pour wet ingredients into bread machine bowl first in this order: soy milk, eggs, olive oil, honey.
  • Sift flour and carefully pour it on top of liquids making sure it spreads evenly.
  • Make a well in the center and add yeast.
  • Add salt.
  • Add raisins at this point.
  • Set bread machine on DOUGH.
  • When ready, remove dough onto floured board. Add either water or flour and re-knead, if needed.
  • Rub knife with flour and divide dough into six equal parts.  Roll each part and form spirals. Securely tuck bottom ends underneath. Place on oiled shallow baking pan.
  • Whisk remaining egg with a few drops of water, use a brush to glaze.
  • Sprinkle sesame or poppy seeds and place baking pan in a warm place. Let rise for about an hour or until double in size.
  • Preheat oven to 350, bake for 40 – 45 minutes, or until golden and crusty.
  • Remove and let cool completely before taking out of the pan

Enjoy!

Part 2Part 3, Part 4, Part 5, Part 6, Part 7. 

51 Comments Add yours

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging, Edward.

      Liked by 2 people

  1. What a wonderful way to honor your grandmother. 🙂 Do you still have copies of that book? If so, Can i purchase one; an autographed copy of course. 🙂

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I don’t have any copies left, but if you purchase it on Amazon to be sent to me, I’ll autograph and send it to you. I thank you for your interest, dear Jeanne!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Shall do. Send me your address in an email, ljbjej@q.com and I will do that. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      2. Thank you – just did. 😻

        Liked by 2 people

      3. Got it. Thank you. 🙂

        Liked by 2 people

      4. My pleasure. 🙂 🙂 🙂

        Liked by 1 person

  2. Each year, i think, you post these and i always enjoy reading them so much! You have a wonderful family, and if i ever retire and have more time to cook, i want to learn to cook my way through these recipes.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Mimi; you are very kind.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Sowmya says:

    A great way to celebrate and honour your grand mom.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Sowmya.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Congratulations, Dolly. The story of your Grandfather and the kitchen reminds me of a loft conversion we installed in our London house. This contained a well built sleeping alcove for visitors. We were told to board it up because it was inches too low. We didn’t comply and none came to inspect. A friend of ours in difficulty lived in it for a year.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. You were lucky that nobody came to inspect, Derrick. You owned the house, though, so you were within your rights to remodel, while in communist Russia houses belonged to the government, so what my grandfather did was patently illegal.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. Such a different regime, Dolly. Thank you very much

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I thank YOU for your interest, Derrick.

        Liked by 2 people

  5. Lulu: “Our Dada says it’s time to make French toast!”

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Our Mama says your Dada has the right idea.
      The Cat Gang.

      Like

  6. I believe I read this story on your blog… you’ve posted it before, right, Dolly?


    David

    Liked by 1 person

    1. I have, last year, and I usually repeat all my holiday recipes before every Yom Tov, since they do not change. Once I have attached the story to Rosh haShana recipes, I am repeating in this format because I suspect there are quite a few new followers I have gained during the year.

      Like

  7. chattykerry says:

    Bentch mehilah – I love this concept and it inspires me for a future post. Is your recipe gluten free for your personal choice or part of Judaism? I am gluten free to feel better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Mu husband has adult ADHD. Years ago I have discovered that specific foods help or, on the contrary, exacerbate this condition. I have implemented this diet in my school with significant results. Then I implemented it at home for my husband. Spelt is gluten free for his purposes but it might not be for people who suffer from gluten allergy. Even gluten-reduced foods, such as combining spelt and whole wheat flour, is better for him than white wheat.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. chattykerry says:

        That’s really interesting Dolly – thank you for sharing. Gluten seems to exacerbate my anxiety. I might try spelt as I don’t have an allergy.

        Liked by 1 person

      2. I am not surprised, but I will stop at giving the entire scientific explanation of your brain emotional functioning, dear Kerry. I would suggest that you also try to stay away from sugar, hypoglycemic foods (e.g. potatoes), and food coloring.
        On the other hand, blueberries, cantaloupes, and all kinds of leafy greens are your friends.

        Liked by 1 person

      3. chattykerry says:

        Thank you so much! I am on a very basic almost raw diet right now for my cholesterol.

        Liked by 1 person

      4. My husband also has to watch his cholesterol, or, rather, I watch his cholesterol. This diet has done wonders for that as well.

        Liked by 1 person

      5. chattykerry says:

        That’s great to know. I think I have familial cholesterol problems but will know at next check up. Genetics, eh? 😀

        Liked by 1 person

      6. Cholesterol usually is genetic, and nothing you can do about it but watch your diet and take your meds.

        Liked by 2 people

      7. chattykerry says:

        I am about to turn into a squirrel with all the healthy food I am eating…😍

        Liked by 2 people

      8. LOL I have already turned into a rabbit, don’t worry, darling!

        Liked by 1 person

  8. lghiggins says:

    I love the video. It is perfect for any time, but especially in our crazy world today.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. You are so right, dear Linda! Thank you so much for stopping by.

      Liked by 1 person

  9. I love u you our son’s tribute to your writings. Your grandpa and grandma were amazing. The bread and animation are added treats. The animation reminded me of Beauty and the Beast.♥️

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for a lovely comment, darling!

      Liked by 2 people

      1. You are welcome. Please excuse the errors. Thanks

        Liked by 2 people

      2. What errors? I didn’t see any. You are so sweet!

        Liked by 1 person

      3. Good. That indicates that it’s on aoc” s end. Thank you too for your sweetness.💕

        Liked by 1 person

      4. Thank YOU for stopping by, darling!

        Liked by 1 person

  10. CarolCooks2 says:

    A wonderful tribute in honour of your grandmothers memory it is lovely to see you baking her recipes which look delicious by the way Hugs xx

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much, dear Carol! I keep repeating my holiday recipes every year because they are all my grandmother’s recipes. As much as I love experimenting in the kitchen, my holiday menus are very traditional and never change.

      Liked by 2 people

      1. CarolCooks2 says:

        I’m same with my holiday recipes, dear Dolly which I have been making every year for ever and my mother and grandmother did…I like tradition although I also accept change but believe we shouldn’t lose sight of who we are and where we came from x

        Liked by 1 person

  11. What a wonderful project! And how generous of you to share your grandmother’s recipes, Dolly. Blessings, A. ❤ ❤ ❤

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thank you so much for a lovely comment, dear Anna!

      Liked by 2 people

    1. Thank you so much for reblogging, dear Michael.

      Like

  12. Thank you for sharing the Amazon link to the elder book, Dolly! Great to getit on Amazon. I have to read these posting again, in the right direction, because i started with the newest part 6. 😉 xx Michael

    Liked by 2 people

    1. Please realize that the book is an anthology, and my story is one of 12 stories in it. There is quite a line up of prominent authors there!

      Liked by 1 person

  13. Colleen says:

    What a wonderful way to remember family stories! I tend to think of my grandmother when cooking things she made as well, and it makes the meals even better.

    Liked by 2 people

    1. I am so glad you understand the feeling behind it, dear Colleen!

      Liked by 1 person

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