For the last several years, Rochie Pinson’s Rising: The Book of Challah has been my go-to for all things challah, particularly history and braiding techniques. Rochie is rebbetzin of a large and growing community in Brooklyn. A master challah baker, Rochie frequently gives challah workshops that interweave her life experiences as rebbetzin, mother, artist, and passionate challah baker into all her teachings and demonstrations.
According to Rochie, “This cookbook is a bright spot that rose up from the darkness of the pandemic. In 2020, when all my in-person challah workshops got cancelled, I entered into the homes and kitchens of the people to whom I was teaching challah – virtually. There I encountered the kids, so many kids!”
“And they were the most enthusiastic about the challah. I kept getting amazing messages from the parents and grandparents, that they were baking together, that the making of challah with their children was changing everything. That it was the bright spot in this time of turmoil. I saw how bringing the children into the challah-making, Shabbat preparation process could change the vibe of the whole home.”
This inspired Rochie to write a book aimed at the next generation of challah bakers and homemakers. The KIDS Book of Challah: Challah Adventures for the Whole Family (Feldheim, 2022) is aimed at kids of ALL ages, with a special place for tweens and teens.
The KIDS Book of Challah features:
– Over 100 challah recipes and ideas, each gorgeously photographed and charmingly illustrated
– More than 50 unique braid tutorials
– Step-by-step photo instructions, of real kids making the recipes, to make baking challah accessible to the whole family
– Challah for the holidays and for life’s special occasions
– Fun foods to make with challah dough and leftovers
A Visual Masterpiece
The book itself is gorgeous, beginning with the embossed cover and fabric bookmark. And special mention goes to the amazing photography by Monica Pinto, Schneur Menaker of Fleishigs magazine, and Chavi Werzberger and the whimsical illustrations by Czech-based Martina Rosnokova. Many of Rochie’s nieces and nephews as well as kids and grandkids of friends grace each recipe and illustrate the various techniques and braids so that even the youngest challah makers can easily follow along.
The Meaning Behind Making Challah
In “The Magic of Challah,” readers are introduced to the mitzvah of challah, challah tradition and customs as well as the meaning behind the classic seven ingredients (water, flour, sugar, yeast, eggs, oil, and salt). There is a special eighth ingredient that is unique to each individual, and that is our own spiritual energy that we add to the dough as we lovingly knead and shape it in anticipation of Shabbat. Challah isn’t like the regular food we make in our kitchens; it’s a way of bringing holiness and meaning into our home and transforming the ordinary into the extraordinary.
There’s a Challah for Everyone!
Recipes are divided into 10 sections, beginning with classic challahs (including gluten-free and brioche options), full-of-flavor challahs (pumpkin chocolate chip, lemon poppy, challapeño cornbread, marvelous marzipan, cuckoo for cocoa chocolate challah), holiday challahs, celebration challahs, breakfast, snack, lunch and dinner ideas, and dessert challahs. You’ll also find handy topping and filling recipes (icing glazes, sweet and crunchy toppings, salty toppings, smooth fillings and compound butters) that will elevate your bakes to the next level.
My Favorite Part of the Book? The “Shapes and Colors of Challah” chapter
The Shapes and Colors of Challah chapter is worth the price of the book alone. I loved the line drawings in Rising: The Book of Challah, but the full-color, color-coded photos of step-by-step braiding instructions make The KIDS Book of Challah invaluable for mastering new techniques. You’ll find cute ideas like challah rosettes, a Star of David and heart challahs, and even edible challah napkin rings! And there’s a sneak preview of Rochie’s next project Eat the Parsha, a companion to The KIDS Book of Challah, which features special challah shapes that represent the stories of the Torah portions along with parsha teachings.
For this review, I made three of the recipes in the book: the brioche, Italian herb garden challah, and the cuckoo for cocoa chocolate challah. The brioche features a large amount of butter, milk, eggs and a hint of vanilla to produce a bread with a beautiful crumb that makes fantastic toast (and French toast!) and a gorgeous bronzed crust. The shaping technique is similar to Japanese milk bread, with dough rolled out into rectangles and rolled up into cylinders, making it perfect for tearing and sharing.
The Italian herb garden challah is loaded with fresh herbs, pine nuts, garlic and sun-dried tomatoes that makes it perfect for sandwiches or to serve alongside soup. It’s also egg-free and works great for any pizza or focaccia recipe.
The cuckoo for cocoa chocolate challah is loaded with cocoa powder and mini chocolate chips (you can also top with additional sprinkles or other fun touches) that make it perfect for any chocolate lovers; it would also make an amazing bread pudding.
In Rochie’s words, “I hope that this book illuminates the hearts of our children, from the very youngest, to our tweens and teens, inspiring them on their own delicious adventures into the world of challah, and into the inner landscape of their soul.”
Here is Rochie’s recipe for Classic Challah and a Chocolate-Orange Babka Wreath made with the classic challah dough:
Yield: 8 medium challahs (large recipe) / 4 medium challahs (medium recipe)
I’m just going to say it. This is the most perfect challah recipe on Earth. This classic recipe is the base for almost every other recipe in this book! Once you master this recipe, you are on your way to challah stardom.
4 and 3/4 cups warm water
1 and 1/2 cups sugar
7 teaspoons yeast
1 cup oil
2 eggs, beaten
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2 and 1/2 tablespoons fine sea salt
13 to 15 cups all-purpose flour (approximately a 5-pound bag)
- Pour the warm water into a bowl. Add the sugar and yeast; stir to combine.
- Add the oil, eggs, and vanilla; stir well.
- Add the salt and 13 cups flour, adding the remaining flour as needed until the dough pulls away from the sides of the bowl.
- Knead until smooth and elastic. Put a bit of oil in the challah bowl and roll the dough around in it. Cover the bowl, and let rise in a warm spot for 2 to 3 hours, or overnight in the fridge.
- When the dough is puffy, punch it down to let out the air. Then do the challah separation with the blessing.
- Braid, then glaze with egg, and top with your favorite toppings.
- Allow to rise for another 1 to 1 and 1/2 hours, then bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 minutes.
There’s a babka recipe in my first cookbook, Rising. It’s a good recipe, very good in fact! But I’ve tasted a lot of babka between then and now, and I think this one is even better. The addition of the orange makes the flavor profile so much more interesting, but you can choose to leave it out if orange isn’t your thing, and it is still an incredible filling for a babka. The filling recipe is adapted from my sister-in-law Chani’s recipe. She’s a master baker, and her babka is legendary.
Hand or stand mixer
32 ounces Classic Challah dough or Brioche dough
3/4 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 and 1/4 cups chocolate chips
1 and 1/2 sticks margarine or butter
Zest of 1 orange
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon orange extract or 2 teaspoons orange liqueur, such as Cointreau
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup water
1/3 cup sugar
1 teaspoon orange extract (or orange liqueur, such as Cointreau)
Thinly sliced orange peel, for garnish
- Using a hand mixer, beat the eggs and confectioners’ sugar until nice and creamy.
- Add the chocolate chips and margarine to a microwave-safe bowl, and microwave in 30-second intervals until melted. Add the melted chocolate to the egg and sugar mixture.
- Add the orange zest, vanilla, orange extract, and cinnamon. Mix well until mixture thickens.
- Roll dough into a large rectangle. Spread chocolate mixture in a thin, even layer on the dough. Roll up, jelly roll-style, and freeze for 10 to 15 minutes.
- Once cool, slice the dough in half lengthwise, leaving a bit attached at the top.
- Twist the two halves together, bringing it all together into a circular wreath shape. Place on a parchment-lined baking sheet or in an 8-inch round pan. Bake in a 350 degree Fahrenheit oven for 30 to 35 minutes.
- While babka is baking, add glaze ingredients to a small saucepan over high heat. Bring to a boil, then simmer on low heat for three minutes.
- When the babka is finished baking, immediately drizzle on the glaze. Garnish with orange peel.