This was a tough week at work, ladies and gentlemen. And whether it is good or bad, one thing that helps me feel better after a really rough day is baking. It doesn’t happen often, but Jason knows that if I come home and bake something on a regular week night, it has been a truly trying and miserable day. Last Thursday was just such a day and after a series of events that worked me up into a tizzy, I determined that it was going to be a baking night. But what to bake? I mulled a few options over in my head, but then it came to me: “I know! I can make a shlissel challah!”
Uh, a what???
Let me guess, you’re with me on “challah,” but I lost you a “shlissel,” right? Well, it is a custom on the Shabbat after Passover to make what is called “shlissel challah.” The word “shlissel” means “key” in Yiddish, and people will usually make a challah in the shape of a key or even bake a key to their home inside the challah. This custom is believed to help one’s “parnassa,” which can be translated as “livelihood,” but that doesn’t quite capture it’s meaning completely. Basically, the hope is that the baking of this special challah will unlock your good fortune when it comes to your livelihood or how you make a living.
Now, normally when I bake, bread is not my go-to. I love bread, but I feel like I can never get it right, even when I follow the recipe. “Then why did you decide to make a shlissel challah after a rough day if it is something you have so much trouble with?” Yeah, I know. I don’t know why I do things sometimes, but it felt right, so I went with it. I did a little research on active dry yeast vs. instant yeast, picked up any ingredients at the store that I didn’t already have at the house, and headed home to get proofin’ (the yeast, that is).
Last year, the Chabad that Jason and I are involved with had a challah baking event and the rebbetzin (wife of the rabbi) gave out a challah recipe. I figured this would be as good a place as any to start. I went through the recipe, made a few tweaks (switched out some of the sugar for honey), and in no time, I had myself some good, old-fashioned dough.
And let me tell you, the kneading was just as cathartic as I was hoping it was going to be. I let the dough rise for an hour, punched it back down, then covered it and put it in the fridge for braiding and baking on Friday before Shabbat because it was getting pretty late.
When I pulled it out on Friday, the dough was super poofy and looking good.
I separated it into a few pieces, rolled it out, and got to braiding. As I mentioned before, people will sometimes place a key to their home in the challah. Because we will soon be leaving our current home and have no key for a new home yet, I thought it would be a good idea to put the key to my parents’ house in the bread instead. Hopefully they will reap the blessings!
Overall, I think the challah turned out pretty well, but it may be difficult to tell that it was supposed to be a key, haha. (That is a little crown at the top of the key, by the way.) Regardless, it was still delicious and I think my bread curse has been broken!