Today I talked with Matt Swaim on the Sonrise Morning Show on Sacred Heart Radio. It was all about Rosh Hashana. Here’s some info about this important Jewish holilday. And I’m wondering what my webmaster, John, will prepare for his family feast…..
Rosh Hashana literally means “head of the year” in Hebrew. In some Jewish communities it is traditional to eat the head of a fish during the Rosh Hashana holiday meal.
Fish is also eaten because it is an ancient symbol of fertility and abundance.
Rosh Hashana is the beginning of the Jewish New Year and this year the 2 day celebration starts on Wed, Sept 24. Over the centuries it has become associated with many food customs, for instance, eating sweet foods and sweet egg bread to symbolize hopes for a “Sweet New Year.”
Along with fish, since honey is mentioned often in the Bible, it is used a lot, like in the challah bread recipe I’m sharing. Honey represented good living and wealth. Israel is often called the land of “milk and honey” in the Bible.
On the first night of Rosh Hashanah, people dip challah, that sweet egg and honey bread, into honey and say the blessing over the challah. Then they dip apple slices into honey and say a prayer asking God for a sweet year. Slices of apple dipped in honey are often served at religious school – as a special Rosh Hashanah snack.
Challah is one of the most recognizable food symbols of Rosh Hashana. One of my colleagues is Jewish and she told me one doesn’t say “Challa Bread”, since, she said, challa means a loaf of bread. It’s a braided egg bread traditionally served on Shabbat, the Jewish Sabbath. But during Rosh Hashanah, instead of the regular long braid, the bread is shaped into rounds. That shape symbolizes the continuity of creation.
Sometimes dried fruit is added.
If you like that extra sweetness, raisins are the traditional dried fruit. But today, some people add dried apricots, cranberries, or other dried fruit.
Part of the celebration is eating a “new fruit”.
The new fruit, eaten on the second night, would be a fruit that has recently come into season but which no one has eaten yet. When the fruit is eaten, a blessing thanking God is given. This ritual reminds them to appreciate the fruits of the earth and being alive to enjoy them.
A pomegranate is often used as this new fruit. It’s said that this fruit contains 613 seeds just as there are 613 divine commandments. Another reason given for is that they wish their good deeds in the new year will be as plentiful as the seeds of the pomegranate.
Lots of Jewish households make honey cakes. It’s another way to wish for a sweet new year. It’s a generational food, like challah, and some families pass down the special recipes.
We just got a quart of honey from our beekeeper, so today I’m sharing a really good recipe for challah. It’s adapted from Joan Nathan’s, an expert on Jewish cuisine. Grandson Jack loves this bread!
Note that the dough is very sticky but as you knead it and add a bit more flour while doing so, it becomes a beautiful, soft dough. This makes 2 loaves.
Some people like to sprinkle it with poppy or sesame seeds before baking.
2-1/2 cups warm water, 110 degrees – I put the water in my large mixing bowl (make sure it stays at 110 – rinse bowl out with hot water first)
1 tablespoon active dry yeast
1/2 cup honey
1/4 cup Canola or vegetable oil
3 large eggs, room temperature
1 tablespoon salt
8 cups unbleached all purpose flour – I like King Arthur brand
Egg wash – 1 or 2 whole eggs, beaten until blended
1. Sprinkle yeast over warm water. On low speed, stir in honey, oil, eggs and salt until well blended.
2. Add flour, one cup at a time, beating after each addition. You may wind up having to beat by hand, depending upon the size of the bowl, if you’re using a hand or stand mixer, etc.
Put on lightly floured surface. Dough will be sticky. Knead until smooth and elastic (like a baby’s bottom, my friend Carol says) and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed. Be careful here – don’t add too much flour or the bread will be dry. Cover with damp clean cloth and let rise until doubled in bulk – up to 1-1/2 hours or so.
3. Punch dough down and again place on lightly floured surface. Divide in half and again knead each half for a few more minutes, adding more flour if needed. Again, be careful here – too much flour and the bread will be dry. Just add enough to keep it from being sticky.
4. Divide each half into thirds and roll into ropes about 1-1/2” wide. Pinch top ends of each 3 rolls together. Then, starting from the middle, start braiding, again pinching ends after braiding. Either leave as is or curve braid into a circle and pinch ends together very well. I pinch and tuck ends under.
5. Spray 2 baking sheets. Put braids on. Brush with egg wash. Cover with towel and let rise again until doubled, about an hour or so. Preheat oven to 375 degrees.
6. After second rise, if you want a lacquered finish, brush GENTLY again with egg wash. Bake for 30-40 minutes. If you insert a thermometer into the center on the bottom, the bread will register 190 degrees when done. Or tap it on the bottom – it should sound hollow.
Even easier: Buy a loaf of frozen bread dough, thaw, braid and if you want brush with egg wash. Follow instructions on label for rising, baking, etc.