This week I looked to Joan Nathan for inspiration. She spoke at our Temple two years ago and signed my copy of her cookbook The Jewish Holiday Kitchen: 250 Recipes from Around the World to Make Your Celebrations Special. I picked it up this morning and turned to a recipe that caught my eye that night- Sonia Greenberg’s Low Cholesterol Hallah. How could challah be low-cholesterol? Greenberg’s recipe which yields two nice-sized loaves calls for only one egg in the dough and one as the egg-wash.

I prepared the dough with Emily and left it to rise while dropping her off at preschool. Upon my return home there was still an hour left to rise. The house was cleaned yesterday, a recent gift that I appreciate more and more, so there was nothing urgent to straighten. We had dinner plans at temple tonight for Molly’s Shabbaton Celebration so there was no need to run to the market or start dinner preparations. How incredibly liberating to have an hour to my self. Once again I was so thankful to "have to" sit around and wait for bread to rise. Instead of tying me down, it freed me to do with that hour as I pleased. I sat at the piano and played whatever came into my head. No requests, no need to be quiet, just good old playing. This is sadly a treat that I rarely make time for, but something that brings me joy. There are pieces I learned in high school that still mysteriously, magically flow from my fingers and others that I attempt, much more bravely when noone’s around. The timer beeped and I made my way to the kitchen, punched down the dough, sliced it in half, then each half again into thirds and rolled out six snakes and braided two nice sized loaves. Another rise, I sat back at the piano until a friend arrived and we set out for a walk around the neighborhood.

It was a perfect day for a walk, flowers in bloom, tiny leaves peeking out in every shade of green imaginable and the occasional deer watched us as we made our way up and down the hills and down a path in the woods. I have known this friend since our fourth graders were in "the two’s" at the JCC but I’m pretty sure this was the first time the two of us have had on our own. We walked and talked and something occurred to me as we sat down for berries on the deck looking out on the woods. In all these years of really liking this friend, she’s a phenomenal mother of three bright and beautiful girls, incredibly honest and real, my challah-day waiting-for-dough-to-rise-time gave me permission to set aside this time to be together. Our daughters rarely see each other. We live in different towns and with various commitments their schedules are wholly incompatible but when they do get together at birthdays or the rare get-together it’s as if they were still best friends in pre-school. They are able to reconnect in a moment and to this day if asked to list her best friends Sarah is near the top of the list. It thrills me that grown-ups can reconnect this way too.

What does this have to do with baking challah? Nothing, but everything. In the past, such a ritual seemed old-fashioned and unnecessary, why bake a challah when you can buy one at the bakery or grocery store. So much of my life is spent rushing to get the kids to school, doing the laundry, and running errands, how could I find the time? It turns out that by baking my challah each week, time has found me.  The bread itself is enjoyable, but the process is delicious.

So, what about the bread?

The dough definitely felt different, slightly pebbly but rose nicely, braided easily and baked to a crisp, golden brown. It was tasty, but it wasn’t challah. I couldn’t quite figure it out but my friend Tobi took a nibble tonight and she instantly said what had eluded me. "Croissant" This challah has a crispy, flaky crust and is light and airy. Not quite challah, but not so bad.

So if you’re hesitant to bake a challah because of your cholesterol level give this one a try. If you’re not convinced you have the time, you’ll be amazed how much more time you’ll have.

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