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Like Water for Challah

(by Paula Pendleton Franklin)

"Put some water on your hands, Mom," says my daughter Harper, three years old. We are making challah bread, or trying. We are not Jewish. But she goes to a modern Orthodox pre-school (chosen because it is sweet and small and a great fit for her), and like a good Jew, she expects challah every Friday for the Shabbat dinner we won't be having.

I am a hopeless baker. Unlike cooking, you can't fix or alter your product if it doesn't turn out. My baking never seems to turn out.

So I get the idiot-proof challah recipe from her teacher. Honey, not sugar, she says. I also get advice for my next pregnancy (not going to happen): that I should knead challah because it helps prepare you for labor. My thought is: Some husband made that up centuries ago to make sure he still had a fresh challah, no matter how pregnant his wife was.