A Taste of Challah
By Tamar Ansh Feldheim
206 pages; $34.99
The Secret of Challah
By Shira Wiener and Ayelet Yifrach
120 pages; $24.95
There is something relaxing about a form of cooking that can't be rushed. Halla-baking is the perfect antidote to the hasty meal preparations many people resort to at the end of a long day. Other tasks can be carried out while the bread is rising, but none of the steps can be hurried or skipped.
Two new books serve as guides to the bread-making art that baffles many cooks, but judging by the growing number of halla workshops advertised, more and more people are embracing.
Tamar Ansh's A Taste of Challah recommends that, including dough-making, shaping, rising and baking, hallot take four to six hours to make. She describes the mitzva of separating halla, and gives instructions for performing it. Useful tips for halla-making and a step-by-step description of the process are also provided.
Her creative recipes go beyond the conventional halla to Dijon rye bread, onion bagel strips and sweet zucchini bread. There are chapters on health halla and breads, specialty breads, Middle Eastern breads and accompaniments and fun and different ideas. In fact, if there is one thing this book lacks, it is a traditional, sweet egg halla recipe.
But the highlight of Ansh's books are the chapters on shaping hallot. Though the taste of homemade halla might far outstrip store bought, their sometimes-alien shape can render them unappealing.
I long ago mastered the simple three-strand halla, but the book inspired me to try a four-strand halla, which I found to be quite easy and much more impressive. The less artistically challenged can try the six-strand loaf, pull-apart halla or even bread baskets.
Those looking for more traditional halla recipes should turn to The Secret of Challah by Shira Wiener and Ayelet Yifrach. In addition to innovations such as date, za'atar and rosemary breads, this book also gives recipes for raisin halla, whole-wheat halla, and several for sweet halla.
Here, too, the mitzva of separating halla is demonstrated, along with different opinions on the necessary measurements for performing the commandment with and without a blessing. Directions for shaping hallot are provided at the end of the book.
Both these books can serve as easy-to-follow guides for beginners to halla-baking. More experienced bread makers can use them for inspirations for new recipes and shaping techniques.