Shanah tovah! A very happy New Year to you! Rosh Hashanah begins tonight at sunset. It is the first of ten high holy days, a time of reflection and celebration. We at the Spy Test Kitchens are always eager to honor cultures and faiths with food, and traditionally Rosh Hashanah is observed with many festive dishes.
You can begin your Rosh Hashanah meal with sliced apples dipped in honey, with the honey symbolizing the sweet possibilities of a new year. You can serve apple slices to dip in honey, or you can incorporate apple cider into a beef brisket. Apple cider brisket
It’s still a little too warm outside for me to think about cooking, let alone eating, brisket, but there is always a place at the table for Apple and Honey Muffins. Or you can bake some challah.
You might think of challah with candlelight, wine, family and blessings on Friday nights. It is a flavorful bread, almost a brioche, and makes divine toast. I baked a test loaf of challah last weekend, because we can never have enough carbs. There is a lot about bread baking that I have to learn, in tiny incremental stages. Like finding a reliable recipe. For my very first, time-consuming loaf of challah I tried the Youtube-famous “Challah in a Bag” which was indeed fun to do – but it produced an awful loaf of bread.
It turns out that kneading is necessary, and so is the correct oven temperature. I measured, weighed, poured and shook the ingredients. I heated water, then dipped and submerged the bag o’dough. I spent a lovely, sunny afternoon glued to my stool in the kitchen, waiting through various proofs and bag flips. Then I dusted with flour, rolled, pinched, and plaited. I let it rise again. I washed the surface with egg. I dutifully set a timer for the 40-minute baking process. I was amazed to peek in the oven and see a nicely shaped, almost-raw, beige pile of dough. The recipe had said to bake at 300°F. (Nothing is going to brown at 300°F. Silly me.) I popped the temp up to 350°F and the loaf finally browned, but the damage was done. It tasted like lightly-singed pile of Play-doh. Read your new recipes closely, she typed sagely. Don’t take anything for granted on the internet. Bon Appétit and Food52 have folks who proof read and test, and re-test, all of the recipes they publish. Careers can be ruined by a typo. Self-published sites are a lot more casual about these details, which can make all the difference in how your time and resources are spent. Challah in a Bag
Thank you, Food52: Honey Challah I wish I had found this recipe first, which also incorporates symbolic honey, before being lured by the siren song of Challah in a Bag. Baking temperature: 375°F.
Thank you, Bon Appétit: Challah Baking temperature: 325°F – 400°F.
La Boite has a very ambitious and beautiful Holiday Challah, which includes niches for bowls of honey and apple slices. Baking temperature: 400°F.
And a kosher recipe from Kosher.com: Best Challah Ever (This recipe is HUGE! It make 6 challahs. This is in case you need to feed the masses this holiday season, or if you want to bake loaves ahead of time and freeze them. Baking temperature: 350°F.
Happy baking, happy new year!
“The smell of good bread baking, like the sound of lightly flowing water, is indescribable in its evocation of innocence and delight.”
–M. F. K. Fisher