For Sivan, Wheat Stalk Challah
A sprinkle of parmesan suits this challah, if you want to go dairy. Courtesy of Dahlia Abraham-Klein
In her book Spiritual Kneading, Dahlia Abraham-Klein crafts a challah for each month of the Jewish calendar.
Palpable Torah. That’s what Dahlia Abraham-Klein calls her second cookbook, the recently released "Spiritual Kneading Through the Jewish Months: Building the Sacred through Challah." It’s got meditations, Jewish insights and a different challah recipe for each month of the year. Sivan’s – a wheat stalk to celebrate the agricultural holiday of Shavuot – is a doozy.
“It’s a book that’s disguised as a challah book but really it’s a Torah book,” said Abraham-Klein, whose first book is "Silk Road Vegetarian." I stand behind any agenda that uses the smell and taste of homemade bread as an introduction to the flavors of Judaism.
“My ultimate goal is for women to feel connected to themselves and to use the challah as a conduit to connect to themselves and to connect to God,” she said in a recent phone conversation.
Her challahs are conversation pieces. Although I don’t see myself ever making Shvat’s pomegranate-shaped bread, or the corn grits flame for Kislev, I am intrigued by the wheat stalk of Sivan, which has an optional parmesan topping. I think of it as a focaccia getting chummy with a water challah.
On Shavuot, the freshly milled wheat was baked into two loaves of bread as an offering to God. This tell us that Hashem did not shun carbs. If you don’t believe me, look it up in Leviticus 23:17. I guess God wasn’t lactose intolerant, either. The parmesan topping fits the tradition of incorporating dairy foods into Shavuot celebrations.
It’s generally not permissible to bake dairy challah, lest someone accidentally eat it with a meat meal. But the Shulchan Aruch, or Code of Jewish Law [YD 97:1] states that in order to do so, the cook should make it look different than a regular challah, consume the entire thing at a non-meat meal and make sure it’s marked as dairy. This wheat stalk shape works
The month of Sivan is all about the partnership between God and his people, and baking challah is creating a spiritual link in that union, Abraham-Klein said.
“Every time a women bakes challah I want her to have the intention there,” she said. “Just to slow down and not rush through the process of it.” She views baking challah as an active meditation and one with meaning; the act is an important mitzvah, after all.
Delicious, homemade bread is also a yummy emissary of Torah.
Abraham-Klein teaches monthly spiritual kneading workshops and sends her students home with the raw dough: “I want their home to smell of Shabbat.”
To reach Dahlia Abraham-Klein and find out more about her challah workshops email her at firstname.lastname@example.org.