, today we made challah at home. I find
that I am generally unsuccessful when making round challahs. I know
what to do, but it doesn't seem to translate into normal looking round challahs.
I usually roll out the dough into a long snake-like shape. Then I just roll it up in a
spiral and put it on the baking sheet, and yet, every time, without fail, the
challahs come out of the oven in a round blob shape, with no definition at all.
So today I tried something different. It's a little hard to see because
unfortunately, my counter top is the same color as the dough, but look
carefully and you shall see.
Instead of rolling each piece of dough into one long thin line, I rolled three
pieces of dough into long thin lines, about 18" long each.
Then I braided the pieces together, which had the whole thing looking something
like the old kind of havdallah candle.
And then I rolled the dough up into a spiral.
And it worked out so well. The braids kept their shape in the oven and I
was rewarded with a bunch of round challas that don't look like I just threw the
dough onto a tray and hoped for the best. A new round challah idea for a new
This is the recipe I used, straight from my cousin Chani in Israel. I've
shared it before, but it's really good and worth sharing again.
2 packets of yeast
2 cups warm water*
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup oil
1 tbsp salt
7 cups flour
This recipe, unlike many challah recipes is so easy that a small child can
make it because all you do is dump** it all into the bowl of a mixer, turn it on
for 5-7 minutes and walk away. Or watch the mixer go round and round like my
kids do. Hey, it's an activity. Either way, after those 5-7 minutes, you're
done. Cover the bowl with a damp towel and set a timer for two hours, because
surprise surprise, all you have to do is come back when the timer dings. No
punching down the dough, no checking, nothing. Just braid, use an egg wash and
bake at 350 for 25 minutes (depending on the size of the challahs) and eat.
I tripled the recipe and was able to make 9 large round challahs plus two more
challahs, jelly roll style, filled with brown sugar, chopped apples and
chopped dates, special for Rosh Hashana. But more about that tomorrow.
*Maybe 2.5 cups, depending on the humidity outside. More humid, less
water. That's a life lesson in baking.
** That's right, you don't even need to proof the yeast. I'm telling
you, it's like magic.
Thanks for reading! And if you liked what you saw, please leave a comment!
Today I had the super-fun opportunity to bake challah for Rosh Hashana with
my daughter's nursery class. The kids are adorable, the teachers wonderful and
we all had fun getting covered in flour. Some kids say soil instead of
oil. Some kids like the taste of straight up flour. And some kids were
practically licking the table when some sugar escaped the measuring cup.
They all washed their hands before helping and they all kneaded the dough -
except for one little boy who told me, in a totally horrified voice, that he
wasn't going to stick his hands into the dough to knead it. My mommy uses a
machine for that. This way is messy. Truth is, at home, I use a machine too
and it was very messy to do it this way, but it's been years since I have
actually kneaded dough by hand and been up to my elbows in flour, and I miss it.
It was awesome and very Fiddler-on-the-Roofish. Kneaded dough on a table with a
pile of flour is very mother earth, very Birkenstocks and tiered flowered
skirts. All things I love.
With the dough finished, the baby and I left for home so she could nap. And then
three hours later, after the dough has risen, we headed back to nursery to shape
the challahs. Each nursery kid got a big piece of dough and we taught them to
make round challahs, the shape used especially for Rosh Hashana.
Why round challahs? There are several reasons. One is that the round
challah sort of look like a crown, a crown that Hashem wears as the ultimate
Another reason for the round challahs is to illustrate the cyclical nature
of the year. Each year or shana, in Hebrew, draws to a close and
another begins with Rosh Hashana, literally meaning, the head of the year. But,
and I remember learning this in high school (thanks Rabbi L.!) the word
shana also means to change, as in the Hebrew word mishaneh. As
in, we should take stock of how our year has gone and look inward to see what
positive changes we can make this coming year.
If one looks at the round Rosh Hashana challahs, one will find that many
are round and braided but many are in the shape of a spiral - a shape that
repeats itself as it goes around and around. So the question remains, do we want
this coming year to be a spiral, one that repeats itself like last year or do we
want this year to be one in which we make positive changes - whether they be
personal changes or changes in how we treat others or changes in how we connect
with our Creator.
All excellent questions. Just something to think about as you make challah
Wishing everyone everywhere - and especially everyone who reads this blog
(and we've recently hit an average of 120 a day!) a happy and sweet new year, filled with health, happiness and love
and all good things but especially peace in the Holyland.
Thanks for reading! And if you liked what you saw, please leave a comment!
Rosh Hashanah is in like five minutes. Really it's in three days, but it
feels like five minutes. The only cooking I have done so far is none. But I've
baked, so if nothing else, we'll have dessert, which is all that really matters
I started the day with chocolate chip cookies. Everyone says their recipe
is the best but mine really is. Really. And I will share it with you, just not today.
Cookie Tueday will be back after the holidays and the sharing with happen then.
The other cookies I made today came to me from my good friend, Chai. She
sent me this recipe for Honey Cookies ages ago, but I never seem to have honey
in the house, except around Rosh Hashana. And as luck would have it, I
remembered to pick some up at Shoprite last week so we were good to go.
I followed the directions exactly and yet, I'm pretty sure that something
went wrong somewhere, I'm just not sure where.
The original recipe says to form the dough into small balls and roll them
in sugar. Except my dough didn't come out like dough, it came out more like a
batter. I stuck the bowl with the batter/dough into the fridge for half an hour
but it didn't really help, so I skipped the shaping of the dough and the rolling
in the sugar and just used a teaspoon to drop the batter onto the cookie sheet.
These cookies spread - a lot. So much so that a) I was very happy I used a
teaspoon and not a tablespoon to ladle them out because otherwise I would have
been in big trouble and b)I had to use the edge of a spatula to cut the cookies
apart when they came out of the oven, which would explain why many of the
cookies are square in shape instead of round.
One thing that I noticed that was strangely fascinating - despite the huge
amount of honey in the recipe, the batter was strangely pale in color. And yet once the
cookies were baked, they were a beautiful golden honey color. Weird. I'll have
to ask Josh, my scientist, about that one.
But all in all, these cookies are actually pretty good - and this coming
from someone who doesn't like honey. None of us do. We don't like honey cake, we
don't like honey in our tea and with the exception of Josh who eats just a
little, none of us put honey on our challah over the Rosh Hashanah through
Here is the recipe, straight from Chai (unless I wrote it down wrong, which
is entirely possible. Then it's just my sightly off version of her yummy
1 and 1/3 cups oil
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
4 tablespoons baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
4 cups flour
Preheat the oven to 375 degrees. Foil and grease 5 cookie sheets (or
however many you have). I used three and rotated them in and out, but my point
here is that no more than 12 cookies should be baked per sheet and I got 5 dozen
cookies out of this recipe.
Mix all the ingredients together, except for the flour. Once everything is
mixed well, add the flour and mix until just combined. Roll the dough into
balls and roll the balls in a plate of sugar. (I skipped this part as my batter
was not rollable.) Bake for 10 minutes. Allow to cool and transfer to a cooling
rack. These freeze well - and I know this because I have four and half dozen of
them in the freezer right now and I just took some out to stick into the
lunchboxes and they are totally fine.
Thanks for reading! And if you liked what you saw, please leave a comment!
I meant to share this during the summer, but I forgot. I guess we were too
busy going to the movies - cause they were a buck a person. Yeah, you heard me.
One dollar per person.
There are caveats here though - these weren't the blockbusters of the
summer and they were at an awkward time of day, but who cares, cause they were
one dollar. One more time, all together now! One dollar! Woohoo! Regal Movie theaters
, along with United Artists theaters - depending on where you live - were offering dollar kiddie movies all summer long, on various mornings, depending on what theater you go to.
Josh and my dad took the three older kids and they had the best time. My
kids had never been to the movies before. I was always reluctant to take them
because who wants to pay $10 a ticket* when the kids will, most likely, be scared of
the dark, the noise and be crying when they spill their popcorn and sit on
something sticky on their seat. Also, you really need many adults to go along
if there is more than one kid involved unless you want to take everybody
bathroom every time someone has to go. You might as well all just pile into the
bathroom at home and watch a movie on the DVD player in there. It's much cheaper that way.
But these one dollar movies changed everything. And the theater had video
games in the lobby. What more could they ask for? They went, they ate, they
visited the bathroom many many times, they talked loudly - and it didn't matter
because not only was the theater mostly empty**, but the other people that were
there were also pint sized. Perfect.
Just a little something to file away for next summer.
*Is it $10 a ticket? I have no idea. The last time Josh and I went to the
movies we had no kids and saw Shrek 2. That was a looong time ago.
** Because really, who goes to the movies at 10am on a random Tuesday?
I think I've spent a little too much time talking about this birthday party
because random mommies from school are stopping me in Shoprite and asking me how
So how did it go? It went well, thanks for asking. But I'm tired. So in this case it's
the pictures that can tell the story. Okay, maybe some words too. I can't help myself. Here we go.
The Birthday Cake. Two dozen donuts piled up with some candles stuck inside.
Very. Very. Easy.
The Party Games. Notice the inflatabale donuts (tires) hanging from the ceiling.
My awesome brother dressed as a donut.
The balloon pinata filled with candy.
My wonderful brother-in-law and niece performing a magic show.
Making "donut" necklaces out of Froot Loops.
And the party aftermath. Heaven.
We're back to the birthday parties. As I have mentioned once or twice (or fifty
times) my five year old's birthday party was a Dunkin Donuts Carnival. And as
part of the carnival, he really wanted to have some sort of game that involved
darts - sounding, to me, very dangerous. Josh didn't think so, he thought it was
an awesome idea. And then I came across this Balloon Pinata
helped me realize how all my boys can have their dart game and I can keep my
sanity - and the darts - under control.
We started with a huge piece of mdf. I want to explain what mdf is, but I am not
sure what it is exactly. It looks like wood, it acts like wood but it's not wood*. Also, we already had it in the basement so technically, it was free which is what we were going for. Balloons were to be blown up, filled with candy and attached to the board.
There were about 15 kids coming so Josh made a good 25 balloons, not so much
because he thought they'd pop before they were attached to the board, but more
because he likes candy.
Days before the party, my kids had painted the "wood" and we let it dry, leaning
it against the wall in the basement because the party was only a few days away
and what could happen, right? A lot. Hurricane Irene happened. And the basement
flooded. And the party was postponed - twice. And we were so busy doing
hurricane cleanup we weren't paying attention to the huge board in the basement.
And the whole bottom of the board got moldy. Of course, no one realized that until
Josh went down there during the party to attach the balloons to the
board and had to stop and saw eight inches off the bottom. It still worked out
well but it wasn't as huge as I thought it would be.
The goal was to fill balloons with candy and have the kids throw the darts
and pop the balloons - each kid getting the candy that exploded from his
balloon, thereby avoiding the need for a first aid kit after all the kids bump
heads, trying to grab the candy that falls from a regular pinata. But the whole
dart thing didn't really sit well with me, and in the end, I forgot to get darts
anyway. No really, I did forget. So instead of darts, Josh mc'ed the game by
using one clean, new nail. No tetanus shots needed. The contestant was given the
nail as he came up and it was promptly taken away from him as soon as the
balloon was popped.
It all worked out very well and the kids had a blast. But I think Josh had
the biggest blast of all. You see, in the original instructions for the balloon
pinata, the author did not indicate how to fill the balloons with candy, she
only alluded to her husband being an engineer and having great fun with a rented
wet-vac. My husband, who, in his heart of hearts, will always be the MIT trained
engineer that he is, heard this and right away, it was a competition. With a guy
he doesn't know. And most likely will never meet. But the gauntlet had been
thrown down. Or the PVC pipe, as the case may be. And in this case, it
was PVC pipe. Because that's what Josh came home from Home Depot with.
Some PVC pipes, some black thing he screwed on top of the PVC pipe - and a
borrowed electrical air pump (which reminds me, we must return that...) I didn't
stick around for all of it because it was taking a really long time with all the
candy eating breaks (one for Josh, one for the balloon) but he did it. He got
the candy - we used fizzers because they were long and thin and fit through the
PVC pipe without getting stuck - into the balloons. The laffy taffys, not so much. And the lollipops, forget it, I don't know what I was thinking. They have sticks, of
course they would pop the balloons.
Anyway, I can't give specifics on the hows of the balloon making, but if
you would like the instructions, just leave a comment and Josh'll get back to
* So I guess that old saying, "If it walks like a duck and talks like a
duck, then it's a duck" ain't all that true...
The morning started with a flat tire, except we only noticed it once
everyone was in the car and all booster and car seats were buckled and ready to
go. I was backing out of the driveway, commenting on how early we were this
morning, listening to the sounds of pretzel-filled sandwich bags being opened
for car snacks*, when Josh sensed something wrong - and lo and behold, the whole
front passenger side tire had deflated.
After walking everyone to school, baby and I came home and called AAA. They
were so nice. I didn't have my card, I have no idea where it is, and I am pretty
sure I am still covered under my father's name, using my maiden name, but the
nice lady named Carol found me in the system, gave me my reference number, #152
- did 151 other people really have car trouble before 9am this morning?! - and
said that the guy would be here within the hour. And shocker of shockers, 22
minutes later he pulled up to my house.
Meet George. Well, George's truck, anyway. George, himself, was a bit camera-shy.
This is my car that he backed into the street at an alarming MPH considering he
was moving it maybe a hundred feet, not even.
This is my car up on the jack (is that how you say it? I have no idea.) And
there is the tire that caused all the problems.
Oh, and here is the humongous truck that came barrelling down my block,
only to stop short because it could not fit through the narrow space George left
on the street when he backed my van out of the driveway. I was too far away to
hear the exchange between the truck driver and George, but I can tell you, from
the hand gestures it was a heated conversation that contained
Anyway, long story short, George was awesome, he had the tire changed in
ten minutes, and left, parting with these words - "Lady, if you don't want me
back here tomorrow, get some air for your back tires and for the spare because
that one's almost flat too." Excellent. I'll just pass that message on to Josh.
George left and the baby and I came inside and into the kitchen because, well, because everytime we walk into the house we head to the kitchen. Snacktime is all the time in our house. We get to the kitchen and we hear dripping. I'm walking around the whole kitchen trying to figure it out when I see it. The kitchen toilet is overflowing - not from the actual toilet part but from the tank. Hmmm. And no one even flushed. And I know that because there was no one there. We were outside with George. So I call Josh to tell him the good news and just as he is telling me how to shut the water off, the overflowing stops. Whew. I just closed the bathroom door and backed away - and made the kids use the upstairs bathroom after school.
*Yes, I know we live very close to school and shouldn't even be
driving, let alone be having car snacks. We should be power walking the few
blocks, but, as I learned this morning, walking to school with three kids and
one more in a stroller does not make for a kvetch-free morning, and really, who
needs that? Not me. So we have snacks for our commute - and I use the term
I don't want to judge or anything, and I know, in my heart of hearts that
boys will be boys but this just blew me away, and made me vaguely nauseous.
I was going through my five year old's backpack after school the other day
and made the mistake of reaching into the side pocket. It just looked so full
and I couldn't imagine what he had in there. And this is what I pulled out:
It's not that easy to see, so I'll just tell you. A dirty tissue (normal),
a dollar (normal, but where'd he get it?), a nasty old bag of mashed m&m's
(weird, but still, I don't like to waste perfectly good chocolate either) and -
wait for it - a bar of Dial soap. And I will tell you - even in the face of
sharing too much information - Josh uses Irish Spring soap. So where this bar of
soap came from is a mystery, and one that I am not entirely sure I want to
solve. (Hey, wait, Ma, do you guys use Dial? Please tell me you do. Please.)
I asked the boy where all this stuff came from. He had answers for
everything except the soap. Said he didn't remember where he got it but he did
say that sometimes school smells funny and the soap makes his backpack smell
nice. Brilliant answer. Brilliant boy. (And why does school smell funny?!)
So I let him keep it. It makes him happy, and if he's happy, I'm happy.
I also believe these weird hoarding things (and they are weird) are
hereditary - unfortunately for blaming purposes - from both sides of the family.
Years ago, when I was in Israel, one of my aunt's little boys came home
from school with olive pits and toenails in his pocket. (Did you just throw up
in your mouth a little? Cause I did.) And please don't ask whose toenails they
were, my aunt didn't.
But wait, there's more! I have heard this story countless times but since I
did not know Josh when he was little, I have no way to verify the truth of it,
but apparently, as a little boy, Josh would carry chicken bones, left from
dinner, in his pocket. Gross, yes. But not as bad as toenails. If one of my kids
came home carrying something like that, I would throw the pants straight into
the garbage. Right?
The birthday parties are over and the cleanup is almost done. I looked
around the house the morning after, and I wasn't sure which caused more mess -
the hurricane or the party. But they were great.
We started the day with the most important part: Mommy's coffee.
From there, we headed to the Home Depot, where Andrea, the wonderful and
amazing woman who works at the Home Depot and who pulled this whole thing together, met us there with a huge bunch of balloons in her hand and a huge smile on her face.
The kids had an awesome time. They got to glue, hammer and use stickers to
build race cars that really worked. Each birthday party guest was given their
own wood kit, which included all the pieces they would need and with the help of
Andrea and a couple of her co-workers and with the blessed help of some
wonderful parents who stayed to pitch in, each child was able to build their own
car, and shocking, no one banged any of their fingers with a hammer. That was my
big fear. Well, that, and someone throwing a hammer but they restrained
themselves and all was well.
From there the guests all took turns hitting the very-candy-filled-pinata.
There was no space in the party room to do the pinata game so Andrea moved it out to
the hallway, which really, was an just an aisle in Home Depot. I was very nervous
taking the kids out of the party room and into an aisle - what if someone walked
away? or what if one of the customers was not, you know, child-friendly, but
this being Home Depot, where you can apparently find anything you need to run a
day care center (pinata stick? no problem. plastic bag for each kid's stuff?
also, no problem. Sharpie marker to label the cars? Here's one!), there were all
of a sudden two of those huge orange gates that are used to close off an aisle
for repairs or whatever. And Andrea closed off the area around the pinata.
Each boy had a chance to hit the pinata and when that candy finally flew out,
bam, those kids were on the floor as if they hadn't eaten in well, ever. They
all grabbed their candy and sat back down at the table while the adults enjoyed
five minutes of quiet - or as quiet as kids can be when they are slurping their
Laffy Taffys and crinkling wrappers everywhere. At least they were all sitting.
Next up, (and last) was the birthday cupcakes. I made these*.
I didn't make them up, I saw them on the Bakerella
website, so huge thanks there, but they did come out pretty cool and some of the kids were convinced they were real mini hamburgers and french fries. That's why I like six year olds.
They ate, they drank their juice and went home. And we were off to the next
party! *Easy and quick instructions are coming! No really, they are. I made 24 of them in one evening. All from cake mixes and containers of frosting...
Yeah, so when your roofer shows up in a bathing suit to look
at your house, that should really be the tipoff that you have a problem.
My blogging time has been nil this week. I've been meeting with
contractors, roofers, siding guys and drywall guys. And not because I am looking
to do any work on the house, I'm just looking to get it to stop raining
in the house.
So here's the thing, my boys both have birthdays in the summer and we have
been planning their parties for weeks and weeks - not because our parties need
that much planning, it's more because the parties kept getting postponed - first
we had Hurricane Irene visit us on the day of the party. Irene, ever the lovely
house guest, brought with her a flooded basement and lots and lots of water
pouring into the porch. She also brought tons of debris in the backyard, so Plan A
of having the party in the backyard was nixed, as was Plan B, having the party
in the porch. We weren't cleaned up by the following Sunday, so once again, the
party was postponed. And now, as this Sunday is looming right in front of me, I
still have water pouring into the basement (maybe it'll wash the mold away!) and
a very wet carpet in the porch that we are trying to dry out. But no more
postponing because, frankly, at this point, I think I am the one causing it to
rain. Every time I pick a new date for the party, it rains. It also rains the
four days before the new date. There is some message here, I am just
not understanding what it is. But we did briefly consider changing the party to
some kind of Shrek/Swamp themed party so we could use the backyard, but the
mosquitoes beat us back inside, so we're back to to our original plan.
And what would that original plan be? I'll tell ya.
My six year old, bless him, asked for a Home Depot themed party. I wasn't
quite sure how to do that, so what else could I do but google it, right? Googled
and this is what I found - apparently, you can have a birthday party IN Home
Depot. Who knew? Not me, that's for sure. I wasn't even sure the Home Depots on
the east coast would do it, the parties I found online were in middle America,
but if you don't ask, you don't get. So we asked, and finally, we got. Oh, and
wait, get this. It's free. A free birthday party in Home Depot. I'll say it
again. A free birthday party in Home Depot.
So you know how Home Depot has these free workshops for kids on Saturdays?
No? So they do. So we asked if they could run one of those workshops on a Sunday
for a party, and lo and behold, after calling every single Home Depot in the
county and the next county over, we hit on one that would do it for us. Most of
the stores we called weren't quite sure what to do with us. A party? Here?
In the store? But we got lucky and found one woman willing to help us and
from there, it was all too easy. She set it all up and we just have to show up
on Sunday morning. Easy peasy.
My five year old (bless him too, of course, just in a different way)
insisted on a Dunkin Donuts party. In Dunkin Donuts. Except there was no way I
was taking all the boys in his class - about 20 - to Dunkin Donuts. Our local DD
is small and there are other people there and not a place for many many five
year olds. And besides, what would we do there besides eat? I mean, how many times can you visit the bathroom, you know? And I'm not so sure DD would be happy to have us come in there with a pinata and an art project. So we compromised. We we planned on having a Dunkin Donuts Carnival - at home. In the backyard. And if it was raining, in the porch and basement. Except now, it's none of those places. Now it's going to be in the living room and dining room,
and possibly the kitchen. Fun for all.
So what's a Dunkin Donuts Carnival? Imagine a regular carnival birthday
party - throwing beans bags through hoops, pin the tail on the donkey, fishing
for magnets - except that here we will, if all goes well, be throwing bean bags
through donuts, pinning the sprinkle on the donut and fishing for donuts. The
cake will be a bunch of donuts from DD and the party bags will be brown paper
bags from DD. I felt a little funny about asking the manager there for the bags
and straws and napkins for the party, but then my mom and I took the kids there
for lunch one day and we dropped almost fifty bucks on their sandwiches* and
drinks and donuts and whatevers, so I didn't feel so bad anymore. I asked and
was granted my wish. So now I have a stash of DD bags, straws and other stuff
and we're ready to roll. Almost. We still need to put together the party bags,
finish the balloon pinata, blow up a gazillion balloons and set up the whole
house for the carnival. Hmm, now that I think about it, all we've done is make
posters for each carnival game. Okay, gotta go do some carnivally-type things.
Pictures to follow.
*my kids don't get cheap cream cheese bagels like other kids. My kids
walk in there and order tuna bagels with sliced tomatoes and egg white omellete
sandwiches on lightly toasted bagels.