High Altitude Challah

My wife, Muri, is Jewish. I am not, although I willingly tagged along through years of services, holidays and raising the kids Jewish. Now we are in Utah, not a place known as a destination for the diaspora. Fact: in 1899 there were 5000 Jews in Utah. In 2019, there were 5,560. See what I mean? 0.2 percent of the population. So, what do you think are the odds that the house across the alley from us in our new neighborhood would be a Jewish woman and a non-Jewish man. Zilch, right? But it’s true and it has given us an instant bond, which is nice when you find yourself in a new home during a pandemic.

They have been very good to us as Muri is going through chemo, and since today (starting at sunset until sunset tomorrow, as all Jewish holidays are counted) is Rosh Hashanah, I thought I would make them a challah, the egg bread traditionally eaten on ceremonial occasions such as Shabbat and major Jewish holidays. There was a time I baked bread every week and I figured it was like riding a bike … it would come right back to me. Thursday, I dragged out an old recipe and carefully followed the directions. What came out of the oven looked like Challah (albeit a bit undersized) but had about the same density as fudge. Not Challah. I was, as we used to say in the sixties, bummed.

When I showed it to Muri, she said, Do you think it could be the altitude? Of course, it was the altitude. Salt Lake City is at an altitude of 4,327 feet. According to BettyCrocker.com, baked goods can turnout too dry, crumbly, pasty or dense if the recipe isn’t adjusted. To be more specific: Air pressure is lower, so foods take longer to bake. Temperatures and/or bake times may need to be increased; Liquids evaporate faster, so amounts of flour, sugar and liquids may need to be changed to prevent batter that is too moist, dry or gummy; Gases expand more, so doughs rise faster. Leavening agents (baking soda and baking powder) may need to be decreased. Doughs may need shorter rising times and may need to be “punched down” (deflated) twice during the rising process.

I found a recipe titled High Altitude Celestial Challah on the Boulder, CO Jewish Community Center website. Perfect! But did I want to commit another 4 hours and risk a second high altitude baking disaster? With some trepidation, I started. Four hours later I had two loaves … a little rough around the edges compared to commercial challah but definitely challah.

So, it’s a Happy New Year with homemade High Altitude Challah. L’Shanah Tovah.

Explore posts in the same categories: holidays

Tags: , , , ,

You can comment below, or link to this permanent URL from your own site.

4 Comments on “High Altitude Challah”

  1. Julie Says:

    L’Shanah Tovah my friend. You are a mensch, a fabulous baker, and not so bad with words, either.

  2. barrythewiz Says:

    I remember a similar pancake making adventure at Lake Arrowhead (or Big Bear???) years ago. I seem to recall you guys were with us??

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: