red flannel pantry

creative pursuits in the kitchen, garden, library and sewing room

a gift begets a gift

Yesterday my neighbor gave me a jar of honey made from her beehives as a thank you for a favor. Her bees are over in my gardens all spring and summer visiting my vegetable and flower gardens–I am appreciative of all of their hard work. To receive a jar containing the fruit of their labors (as well as Kathy and Bill’s) is special.

So to thank her for her sweet gift, I decided to use some of her honey and make challah for her. Today is Rosh Hashanah, so challah is a timely gift for my Jewish neighbors. I made it in the traditional circular form for the New Year. Its round shape symbolizes the yearly cycle and hope for a new year free of sorrow and full of blessings. It is also the easiest way to shape challah–lucky for me!

Although my family is not Jewish, challah is our favorite bread–I make it every week, usually in a four-strand braid shape. I make this shape for a couple of reasons: (1) I find it is easier to divide dough in half and in half again to then make into four bread “ropes” than to try to divide it evenly in three (I am revealing my obsessive tendencies) and (2) when sliced, it is the perfect size and shape for sandwiches, toast and French toast. If you want to learn how to braid a four-strand challah, here are great step-by-step instructions with photos. There are countless recipes for challah, but our favorite appears in the Bread Lover’s Bread Machine Cookbook by Beth Hensperger.

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