I've always loved to bake. As if it were yesterday, I remember my first time baking cookies as a young girl – the excitement of being in the kitchen, the wondrous magic of turning the mixture of ingredients into tasty crispy cookies; but most of all, I remember the enjoyment of eating and sharing the cookies with my family.
As I grew up, I started dreaming about challahs. Compared to cookies, challah felt like “the Real Thing.” Ever since I was a girl I had a special fondness for anything that had the aroma of Yidishkeit. Challot definitely fit that description. In baking challah, there’s a feeling of baking something of real value – a sensation that is accompanied by the sweet taste of the holiness of Shabbat.
As a beginner in the art of baking, dealing with the yeast was both fascinating and intriguing--a process full of question marks: What is the secret of the yeast bubbling in the bowl? What do you do when the dough sticks to your hands and to everything else around? What does it mean when the recipe book says “Its size will be doubled”? Mistrusting, I would peep under the towel every few minutes to check if the dough had already risen, trying valiantly to assess if it had already doubled its size.
In those early days, I didn’t even think about hafrashat challah. That seemed an operation too complicated for me to tackle. I was afraid I wouldn’t know exactly how to fulfill the mitzvah of separating the challah properly. What was the right quantity needed for hafrashat challah? And what should I do afterwards with the piece I’ve separated? This was the reason I always baked in small quantities--to avoid all these issues.
During my studies in university, one of my writing assignments was on hafrashat challah. For the first time, I sat down to read into the material and study it in depth. Only then did I learn about the contents of the mitzvah and only then did I realize how easy it is to earn it. Moreover, I learnt of the many “segulot” – virtues that are concealed within the mitzvah of hafrashat challah.
That very day, the idea of writing this book came to my mind – to write a book for Jewish women who dream of baking challot; a book that would help them do it with ease and “nachat ruach” – serenity.
This book would have forever remained "just another good idea" if it hadn't been for my devoted partner and sister, Ayelet. It is she who essentially made my dream come true. In her talented hands, our book, The Secret of Challah, took shape – she designed every aspect of it and is responsible for its special charm. Together, we made an effort to bring you – the challah baker – all relevant information in the clearest, easiest and most coherent way. We also included sayings from the fountains of the Torah which reveal the soul and depth of the mitzvah of hafrashat challah.
I hope this book will be an answer to all your questions concerning the art of baking challahs and that you will find the activity enjoyable, uplifting, and thoroughly fulfilling.
May Hashem’s blessings dwell in your home and prevail in every aspect of your life.