The Friday morning before Passover, Jack pored through our cookbooks wanting to choose a very special recipe. He was incredibly excited about the Cinnamon-Sugar Challah recipe in an amazing new cookbook- Kosher by Design Picture Perfect Food for the Holidays and Every Day. The recipe calls for 1 batch of challah dough and to save time I flipped a few pages back to a basic challah recipe and we started measuring and pouring. I should have noticed the quantities seemed rather large but he and Emily were having so much fun and before I knew it we had created an enormous mountain of dough. It was only then that I noticed the comments on the following page "Yield: 6-7 challahs."

Not exactly ideal a few short days from Passover, but a good reminder to read before you proceed. It was wonderful sharing the bread with friends and family. The basic recipe was excellent and the cinnamon sugar variation was simple- roll each strand of dough in cinnamon sugar before braiding and egg-washing. It was also a crowd favorite. Jack proudly sampled his wares and claimed "I think that was the best challah I ever made."

Last Friday, determined to not skip a week, but also to "keep Passover" I decided to attempt baking matzo. It would have been wise to read the recipe and realize that I needed kosher for Passover flour to make kosher for Passover matzo (duh) but I reasoned that if we followed the recipe, were sure to get the matzo in the oven within the 18 minute limit, and since our intent was good that it would be mostly kosher and possible to take a little bite. The end result looked like matzo, smelled like matzo, but was so incredibly hard, that it was truly impossible to eat. We each attempted a tiny nibble after we sang the hamotzi before grabbing the store-bought stuff. Next year we’ll try a new recipe with kosher flour.

This brings us to yesterday. Since I had a hectic day  getting ready for a family ed program at Temple I was determined to not repeat the 6-7 loaf mistake and instead was going to prepare a simple recipe my mother taught me when I was little that yields a single loaf. It came from a bread cookbook that she recently rediscovered, The last time I was visiting I meant to copy it down. Instead, Molly called Mimi and carefully wrote it down. I’d like to say that I learned from our giant batch of cinnamon sugar challah and reviewed the recipe prior to beginning, but I did not. I remembered the smooth dough, tinged yellow with food coloring, the chewy texture, the beautiful double-layer braided loaf that my sister and I loved to create. What I forgot  was that it needs to rise for 90 minutes and then again for an hour. As carefully as I tried to schedule the rising and the baking on a school-day overflowing with Girl Scouts, Torah Explorers and so many other things that pulled me away from home for hours at a time, the braided loaf sat on the counter for too long and when we got home from Temple I had to throw it away, unbaked. I was terribly blue. As I lay in bed I thought, I must remember to read before I knead.

Tonight, after tucking three little ones in I snuck back downstairs and followed Molly’s hand-written directions. While yesterday’s batch was lumpy and bumpy this dough was smooth and elastic. It felt like the dough I used to knead with my mom back in our little kitchen. It won’t finish rising and baking until almost 1:30 a.m. but I can tell you before taking a single bite, "I think that was the best challah I ever made."

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