Oh goodness, the upcoming winter solstice has me feeling all reflective. And I’m becoming aware that when I’m feeling reflective, I bake challah, a whole lotta challah. While I do love the final product of a house that smells like fresh baked bread and the joy I feel as I prepare to gift it to loved ones, the best part of making the challah is the in-between, the first rise.
It’s that moment when the ingredients have been prepared and mixed, and I’ve done everything I can to set the dough up for whatever it ultimately will become. Of course I question myself. “Did I knead it long enough? Did I add enough salt? Is it too dry, too wet? Was the water at the perfect temperature to work with the yeast?” Then, I release all the worries and concerns as I set it by a window in my kitchen so it can be bathed by the warmth of the sun. This window also happens to be the spiritual corner of my house from Feng Shui perspective, so it is an energetically potent corner filled with pictures of loved ones that have passed and spiritual chatchkies I’ve collective over the years. I like to believe this is really the secret mystical ingredient of the challah. I let it rise, for at least an hour.
I’m realizing, that is what this year has been for me. A first rise. Preparing the ingredients of my life with love, care, ease, and surrender to it all, the fears and uncertainties mixed with opportunities and unexpected joys. I recognize the importance of the separate parts that make the whole. The heat of the water that must be so exact so the yeast can do it’s thing. The combination of the sugar, salt, egg, and sunflower oil to adhere and work together for the big introduction to the flour. And then the mixing (which I prefer by hand), where I pour my energy, strength, and love until the dough feels at a place of which only my intuition tells me its ready to rest and ultimately rise.
After this first rise, I punch the dough down, releasing it of air and braid it into its final form. It will rise another hour as it embodies its new shape and then transmute in the oven for its final revelation, the bake.
Clearly I love a good metaphor, which has become even more apparent this year as new projects, relationships, teachings, and connections I’ve collected begin to take shape. So much of it is currently in the first rise stage and will be coming into new form, for a new year, a new decade, and a new beginning. I’m so grateful for the rest and the rise of this past year. And I can’t wait to share the final bake, knowing that there will continue to be more first rises to nourish my body, mind and spirit.
Have I stretched the challah baking metaphor too far? Perhaps. That’s what binge watching a combo of the Great British Baking Show and Hallmark Holiday movies will do to a gal. But I’m grateful for all of it and all of you. Wishing everyone a wonderful holiday full of love, light, delight and to embracing our bakes in 2020 with ease, joy, laughter, love and flow. Happy Challah Days!
ps. Check out the recipe I use here. A few edits I’ve learned through trial and error are to substitute sunflower oil for canola, make sure the water is at exactly 105 degrees when adding the yeast, and start with four cups of flour and gently add in more until desired consistency. Happy baking!