Now Inducting into the Challah Fame: Chelsea Simon
The Challah Fame is a OneTable series that celebrates someone who loves to make challah (or other delicious food!) and does so as a form of self-care, self-expression, as a business, or for any other reason.
Throughout the pandemic, for most of us, lockdown meant more time at home, and in turn (maybe?!) more opportunities to cook. We got the scoop on how OneTable hosts have used this unusual time to level up and try new recipes and traditions at their Shabbat table. Now, we’re sharing their dishes and stories to celebrate the power of Shabbat during *an unprecedented time* and inducting them into the Challah Fame!
Know someone who needs to be inducted ASAP? Fill this out with the info you have and we’ll be in touch, or send it over to them to complete!
Then, we invite you to make this dish or one of your favorites and tag us @onetableshabbat.
Where do you do your baking?
How did you get into baking challah?
I was hosting an education conference with people from many backgrounds, several of whom had never tasted Challah. A little later, a friend made apple honey Challah for Rosh Hashanah, and I got hooked on trying new flavors. Some of my standards include pomegranate seeds, dark chocolate chips, chocolate tahini babka Challah, brie, zhoug, fig butter, nutella, olives, garlic, sun-dried tomatoes, fruit, and herbs (often pretzeled).
How’d you learn to make challah?
I went through a series of recipes and replaced ingredients to my liking until I found my own baking style. I cook by feel and constantly add more to the dough (including tahini, honey, fruit juices, yogurt, & spices).
What does this ritual/practice add to your week? Add to your life? Has your challah baking practice contributed to your wellness (mental, physical, spiritual, etc)? If so, how??
Baking Challah is grounding and helps me think about who will eat what I’m cooking. It makes me thankful for people – my community made up of friends, family, neighbors, colleagues, students, teachers, and any new connections I made during the week. During the pandemic, I really looked forward to processing the week while I created a new flavor and watched the ingredients meld into dough.
How do you *pause* from all of the chaos and work of the week?
Reflecting on my week, internally or by telling stories about it helps me pause, remember, and be grateful for the place I hold in the world each week. Especially for G!d’s providence and presence.
What is the most delicious challah you’ve ever made or had? Spare no details!
The first time I made chocolate tahini babka Challah was for my birthday Shabbos meal just before the pandemic. I’d been eyeing the recipe for about a month and wanted to watch the faces and reactions of my friends around the table. The balance of savory and sweet created by the tahini that holds the chocolate, along with my addition of white chocolate chips, cinnamon, cayenne pepper, and honey really elevated the flavor of the dough and babka filling. My friends, many of whom were tasting my Challah for the first time, were very complimentary. I’ve made that recipe several times since and have improved the combination each time. Most recently, I hosted my Yiddish chevrusa friends and made the recipe vegan by using a water challah dough, maple syrup instead of honey, and ample tahini in the dough. After fifteen months seeing each other only through Zoom, our reunion was full of delicious food brought together by the Challah in the middle of the table!
If you could make challah with (or give your challah to) anyone in the world, who would it be and why?
Gluckl of Hameln – she’s one of my favorite Jewish writers! Tevye’s daughters are a close second. I’d love to help make the Challah used in those opening scenes of Fiddler on the Roof!
Any baking tips or tricks that you’d like to share?
Don’t be scared to add new flavors, especially through spices! Always take a risk and try something new – you might end up developing a new favorite recipe!
What does a typical Shabbat look like for you?
I host or attend Shabbos dinner often. I love Kabbalat Shabbat with my independent minyan (Wandering Jews of Astoria) or a shul in NYC if I can make it beforehand. While I cook, I turn on Yiddish or Shabbos music.