For it is customary on the first day of Rosh Ha’shanah
to cast a stone into the depths of the sea,
to weep and pray to weep no more.
—from “For I Will Consider Your Dog Molly” by David Lehman
Lillia has Jewish ancestors on her father’s side of the family, and for the past few years she has been learning about both the religion and culture her forbears. She has come to strongly identify with this facet of her heritage and this year she wanted to celebrate Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. Since I’m not Jewish, this is all new territory for me, but I’ve never met a holiday or family celebration I didn’t like so I was totally on board. I let Lillia take the lead and offered my assistance where needed.
I had previously given Lillia a copy of The Family Treasury of Jewish Holidays, written by Malka Drucker and illustrated by Nancy Patz. This is a beautiful book that offers stories, recipes, and ideas for celebrating the feasts, festivals, and holy days of the Jewish year, much like books of the same type that I use when preparing to celebrate throughout the Christian year. Based on ideas from Drucker’s book, as well as suggestions we found online, we developed a feast menu consisting of challah, apples dipped in honey, a chickpea tagine, and honey cake. Sweet foods, especially those made with honey, traditionally are eaten at Rosh Hashanah in the hopes that the coming year will be sweet and happy.
The best part of the day (for me) was making the challah with Lillia (recipe follows photos). Because I’m not a world-class baker, we used the bread machine to make the dough, and then Lillia shaped it into a beautiful braided loaf. She was really proud of herself, and it was a special mother-daughter bonding moment for us. I know sometimes Lillia probably wishes we shared the same religion, and I do wish I could be more of a mentor for her in that regard. But, at the end of the day I think the important thing is that we are finding ways to celebrate together and to bridge the gaps—in our faith traditions and our relationship—with family, food, and love.
Bread Machine Challah Bread
1 c warm water
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 c honey
1 whole egg + 1 egg yolk, beaten
2 1/2 Tbsp olive oil
4 2/3 c bread flour
1 1/4 tsp bread machine yeast
1 egg, beaten (for egg wash)
1. Add ingredients to bread machine pan in the following order: Water, salt, oil, honey, whole egg, and egg yolk. Add flour on top, but do not stir. Make a small well in the flour and add yeast.
2. Place pan in bread machine, select “dough” cycle, and start machine.
3. When cycle is finished, remove dough from machine and place on floured surface. Divide into three equal parts and roll into ropes approximately 12-15 inches long.
4. Arrange ropes in three parallel lines—close but not touching—and pinch the ropes together on one end to secure. Braid ropes together as you would hair and pinch the other end to close. Tuck the ends under to finish the loaf.
5. Place loaf on greased pan and cover with greased plastic wrap or tinfoil. Allow to rise until doubled in size (time varies). When doubled, brush top of loaf with egg wash.
6. Bake at 350 degrees until bread is cooked through and top is a chestnut brown color, about 35 to 45 minutes. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack. Enjoy!