As we near the very end of this blog, I’m so glad to have Hadass writing again, as she is one of the best reminders to me of the community that has come out of this project. Though she’s far away from Philly in Winnipeg, it’s nice to have made a friend through sharing our Shabbat experiences.
Speaking of community and Philly and the end of the blog, if you’ll be in my hood next Shabbat and want to celebrate the end of these two years, please let me know, and I’ll send you the details on the festivities.
Up here above the 49th parallel, in the heart of the continent, extremes are the name of the game. From the temperatures (over +30C [86F] in the summer, below -40 in the winter) to the length of the day (over 16 hours at the summer solstice, to 8 hours at the winter solstice), we definitely have seasons up here.
This was the paragraph with which I started my previous blog post, back on July 22nd of this year. What a difference five months make. This week, on the winter solstice, Shabbat came in at 4:13 and went out at 5:17. This is actually not the earliest time, due to the Earth’s orbit not being entirely circular we actually had our earliest times last week (4:09 in, 5:14 out). It is, however, the shortest day – just over 8 hours of daylight here in Winnipeg. Very different from the summer, when Shabbat is the blessing that never ends. Even though Shabbat is always the same 25 hours long, it seems shorter in the winter. My kids come out of school early (the blessing of a Jewish school), we rush like crazy to get ready, the evening seems to fly by (and we usually end up in bed early, exhausted from our busy week). The next day we sleep in or go to shul, hang out, read books, play games, and then it is Havdallah before I can even think of making dinner.
With outside temperatures well below freezing day and night, there’s no problem with leaving the oven on at 200F. While the food we eat is much the same (vegetable soup, quiche, grilled cheese for the kids), the timing is very different from the summer. I now make our Friday night dinner beforehand and warm it up in the oven (soup in the crockpot as you are not allowed to warm up liquids), and Saturday night’s meal is prepared after Havdallah (although it is often leftovers). Our dessert was Toblerone, yum, rather than home-made ice cream. I do often make ice cream in the winter, but not when I have such a short lead time on Friday. Of course, if I were really organised I would have made it on Thursday.
One thing that is always the same, winter and summer, is my homemade Challah. That is the recipe I am going to share with you today. I cheat and use my bread machine to make the dough, but I always braid it by hand. I was given the recipe by a friend many years ago and modified it to our family’s taste. I don’t usually use white flour in my baking, but I tried making it once with all whole wheat. My husband very kindly said, “It’s very nice, dear, but it’s not challah.” Hence the compromise.
Arielle’s Killer Challah
¼ cup olive oil
1 cup water
2 tbsp honey
3 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
1/3 cup sugar
2 tsp salt
2 ½ tsp yeast
Put everything in the bread machine bucket in order, and run it on the dough setting. When it beeps, take it out and plop it out to rest for about 10 minutes or so, then cut it up for braiding.
I cover it with a kitchen towel and let it rise again for a few hours. In the winter, when the kitchen can be quite chilly, I put it in the oven with just the light on – it rises much better there than out on the counter.
When it has risen to your satisfaction, in my case usually about half an hour before Shabbat, bake it at 350F for about 15-20 minutes, depending on how dense it is. It won’t win any competitions for looks, but it tastes delicious and fresh!
In many ways, the winter Shabbat is even more restorative than the summer one, coming as it does at a busy time, kids in school and everyone working hard. It is our refuge every week, and I hope yours is, too.