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The Secret of Challah
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This Dallas News Food Critic Loves Our New Book!

The Secret of Challah
Shira Wiener and Ayelet Yifrach

(Reshit Publications, 120 pages, $24.95)

Bread as a coffee table book? This one qualifies! No faces in its photos, but the human touch is evident, as graceful hands knead and shape the yeasty doughs destined to become challah, those beautiful braided loaves that grace Jewish dining tables for Sabbath and holidays.

Photographer Tamar Kinarty works in appropriately warm shades, her beautiful orangey-brown breads highlighted by silver serveware, green grapes, herbs and multicolored garden flowers.

The text is both mystical and practical, combining basic and advanced lessons in the baker's art with explanations of Judaic prayers and rituals that elevate bread to holiness. Read about an ancient custom that lives on today: separating and dedicating a bit of unbaked dough as atonement for transgressions from Eden onward.

Easy-to-follow illustrations teach you how to braid the traditional loaves yourself.

Among recipes included are basic, sweetened, raisin- enhanced, whole-wheat, oatmeal-rye, and date challahs, plus a few other baked treats such as pita, onion rolls and bagels.

Here's a book that can travel with ease from living room tabletop to kitchen countertop and back again.

Harriet P. Gross

> A Glowing Review from The Jewish Press

> Kosher Today Puts The Secret of Challah in the Limelight

Secular Israeli Fighter Pilot Inspires 'The Secret of Challah'
by Shosh Katz

Aharon Berenson, an avowed kibbutz secularist and a former Israel Air Force fighter pilot, now spends his days splitting time between crop-dusting agricultural farms in the Jezreel Valley and promoting The Secret of Challah, a book about the spiritual and culinary pleasures associated with making challah. His wife Noa, is a Baalas Teshuva (secular Jew who became a practicing Jew), and mother of the couple's six children, of which the four girls are religious while the two boys remain secular. Noa became religious after her brother, who flew in the same combat squadron as Mr. Berenson, was shot down and captured by the Syrians at the height of the 1973 Yom Kippur War. The arrangement of a religious-secular marriage works in the Berenson household.  "The relationship works for two reasons," said Aharon. "Since we were both born into the same environment, you understand that trying to coerce the other won't work and it's better to accept each other. Secondly, I'm not allergic to Judaism at all. I keep kosher and make Kiddush on Friday evening.  But my wife does not prevent me from doing other things on Shabbat that are part of my secular lifestyle."
A little over two years ago, Shira and Ayelet, inspired their father and the rest of the family to become involved with conceptualizing a user-friendly book devoted to the spiritual and physical pleasures associated with making challah. The Secret To Challah is an impeccably designed and edited book that takes readers inside the mitzvah associated with Hafrashat Challah (designation of a portion of the dough), and then offers delicious recipes for various types of challot. Mr. Berenson devoted his energies to getting the book distributed throughout Israel. The results were spectacular. The Hebrew version, is now in its 7th printing (nearly 15,000 copies in print). "It's the only book of its kind that people are buying in secular Ramat Aviv (Tel Aviv) and in the observant city of Bnei Brak," Mr. Berenson proudly proclaimed.  Based on the book's success, Shira and Ayelet launched a parallel Hebrew website which picks up where the book left off. The first English edition distributed by Gefen Publishing (Jerusalem/NY) sold-out very quickly. The second printing, which is now available in select Jewish bookstores and Judaica outlets is also enjoying healthy sales. And, an English website is also up and running (

Baltimore Jewish Times - Featured Recipes

Best Challahs Ever

Ilene Spector

For me, a carbo-holic, I can't wait for that first piece of bread after Passover. In fact, I can almost bet that bread is the first item on most Jewish shopping lists after Passover is over. There's nothing like walking into a house that smells of fresh-baked bread. Mixing the dough, kneading it, waiting for it to "grow" into a delicious bread is both relaxing and satisfying. No two loaves are ever the same. Humidity, flour, eggs, kneading, timing — all contribute to the chemistry of good bread baking.

Today, local bakeries and supermarkets offer wonderful breads of all kinds. Every cuisine has its own breads. Jewish breads include pita and balik but challah is No. 1, followed by bagels and rye breads. A new cookbook, "The Secret of Challah," tells you everything you need to know about this bread. Written by Israelis Shira Wiener and Ayelet Yifrach, the English version of the cookbook comes from Reshit Publications (120 pages hardcover, $24.95). The recipes range from several varieties of the traditional challah to the more exotic, like egg-free challah.
Following are two great challah recipes.

Reader Reviews

great recipes!
I've made the heavenly challah and sweet Shabbos challah recipes, and both came out perfect & delicious. Thanks for making such a great book!


The secret of Bread, October 10, 2007
By Robert Elliott (Modesto, CA)

The secrets shared in this book are thrilling. Bread making, especially special bread making just got to be very easy. After the new floor is laid in the front room, I will try making some challah. My mother is 95 and for the past few years has been making challah for us for services here in our home. She just upped and volunteered after having not baked any challah for perhaps 80 years. Wow!!

Robert (Rabbi by draft)

I admit it—I bought your book without any expectations, only because it appeared on the order form for purchasing products from Judea, Samaria and Gaza. (I make a point of purchasing in this way in order to support the settlers there). I was amazed when I received the book. It has that "something" which defies definition, and when I know what that "something" is I'll write to you again…Your book is much more then a collection of recipes, info and baking instructions. For your information (and in your merit) this is the first time, to the best of my memory, in 24 years of marriage that my wife separated challah with a blessing. I have no doubt that the blessing and prayers in the book were of great help to her.


Dear Shira and Ayelet,
Allow me to congratulate you on your wonderful book! I was always quite apprehensive when it came to baking – it seemed too complicated and tiring and many times I was not successful in my baking endeavors. But since purchasing your book I simply can't imagine Shabbos without my "challot". My husband is just thrilled, since he always used to ask me to bake challot and I always evaded the task. In the merit of your book we have challot – and delicious ones! Thank you for helping me to take the plunge into baking – and succeeding!

Miriam S.

What a wonderful surprise! The book, THE SECRET OF CHALLAH, arrived and I am so proud to be the first to receive the English edition. Thank you.
It is gorgeous!!! The photographs and the text - it could not be more beautiful!
And most important, it brings the tradition, the ritual of hafrashat challah to women who do not know this custom.

Irene Ostroff

I first saw the book at a friend’s house – she had received it as a gift from another friend. With each visit I would "help myself" to the book for a few days to enjoy reading it and baking with it. Thanks to your book I bake challot every Friday and get many compliments...Finally my friend went out and bought your book for me as a gift; now I use it nonstop. It's just a fantastic book and a must for anyone who loves her hours in the kitchen…

Liat T.

My husband and I went on "shlichus" for several months to Portland Oregon, and before leaving I bought a number of cookbooks. (Baruch Hashem, the time had come to try my hand at cooking and baking!) By Divine Providence, one of those books was The Secret of Challah, which is truly a joy to use. So I just wanted to say thank you very much for your wonderful book which superbly combines spirituality with the physical. It will certainly be a book that I b"H give as a gift to other women.


Rabbinic Approbations

13 Shevat 5765

When G-d created man, He took earth from the soil of all the world, added water to it, kneaded it like dough, and blew into it the breath of life. Our Sages tell us that at that moment, the whole world was like a large amount of dough, and Adam – the first man – was separated from it like “the challah of the world.”
Challah is the portion of dough given to G-d – that is, to the kohen. It is the part dedicated for Holiness. Challah binds together the bread, its consumption and the physical world to be in oneness with Holiness. Without challah – the separated portion, bread is forbidden, and yet when the mitzvah of separation is fulfilled, the bread is blessed and permitted to be eaten. Herein lies man’s purpose in the world: In his deeds he gives it meaning, direction, connection to holiness, and the right to be.
Our Sages laid great importance on baking challah for Shabbat (see Shulchan Aruch, Orach Chaim 242, Rema). When performed by a woman, they considered it to have even greater value, being “hiddur mitzvah” (beautifying the commandment). The mitzvah is then more beloved, since “Doing a mitzvah by oneself is greater than that which is done by his envoy.”
The Kabbalistic Sages wrote in the name of the Ari (Sha’ar HaKavanot) that one gains merit for baking twelve loaves of challah for the meals of Shabbat, as they contain a trace of holiness and a taste of the twelve loaves of showbread that were in the Beit HaMikdash. They also wrote that even a woman who buys challah from the bakery all year round should try, at least once a year, to bake her own challah and fulfill the mitzvah of separating the challah from the dough with a blessing.
The Ben Ish Hai writes in his halachic work that the appropriate time to do this is during the Ten Days of Repentance, when we are in the process of rectifying the damage caused by us and previous generations, and that done by Adam and Chavah in the Garden of Eden, whose sin we continuously seek to repair.
I bless the authors for their efforts in writing this special book, which seeks to inspire others to beautify the precious mitzvah of baking challah for Shabbat and fulfill the exalted mitzvah – Hafrashat Challah – separating challah, which accompanies it.

 With blessings,

  Rabbi Mordechai Eliahu
    Rishon Letzion and former Chief Rabbi of Israel

20 Shevat 5765


I have shown manuscript of the important work "Likrat Challah" for Jewish women, which contains a significant chapter on the laws of separating challah. The chapter presents the basic laws of the procedure of separating challah in a clear language accessible to all, for both women and girls.
It is important to stress, however, that while the basic halachah is that we do not “reject” a person who makes the blessing upon separating challah according to Rav Chaim Naeh’s measurements, especially since, according to the Be’ur Halachah (271), we can rely on the smaller measurements (i.e., that of Rav Naeh) when it comes to mitzvot derabbanan, nevertheless, it is the opinion of HaGaon Rav Asher Weiss that ideally and whenever possible it is proper to be meticulous and make the blessing on the amount of dough specified by the Chazon Ish.
I bless the noteworthy authors that as a result of this important work, blessing should rest upon the homes of all Jewish women, as the pasuk says, “You shall give the first yield of your dough to the kohen to make a blessing rest upon your home” (Yechezkel 44:30).

    Rabbi Chaim Vidal
    Member of Beit Din Tzedek Darchei Hora'ah

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Separating Challah
A step-by-step guide to hafrashat challah, excerpted from the challah book.
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hafrashat challah
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