At the ripe old age of 27, I learned to bake my first challah. My teacher was none other than the late Robbie McConnell, former Publisher of the Montreal Gazette. Using his recipe as the foundation for my challah, join me in adding kabocha (Japanese pumpkin), courtesy of the one and only Kristin Eriko Posner of Nourish Co., and a splash of 100% “True North strong and free” maple syrup! My friend and fellow member of the Jewpanese tribe Lauren Schreiber Sasaki of Jewish& took this vibrant yet delicate dough that celebrates my multiple identities and gave it her own little extra zazz by making them pumpkin shaped, inspired by Rebekah Lowin. May the Jewpanese community cooking continue to grow! Chag Sukkot Sameach :)
Neutral-flavoured oil (i.e. corn, grape seed, etc.)
Unbleached all-purpose flour
Poppy seeds, black or white sesame seeds (preferably already toasted, can be found in Asian supermarkets)
Maldon sea salt flakes
1. Cut kabocha in half
2. Scoop out seeds
3. Brush with oil
4. Bake at 350 F until soft when you can poke your fork through easily and when you see it begin to caramelize around the edges.
5. Let cool.
6. Scoop out 1 cup’s worth of the orange flesh into a food processor. It’s easier to add part of the egg mixture so that it blends more smoothly. Make sure kabocha has cooled, otherwise you’ll cook the egg!
7. Snack on the rest of the roasted kabocha while you prepare the following!
Chef’s note: If you are unable to find kabocha in your local grocer, you may substitute with another gourd of your choice, sweet potato, chestnuts or even canned pumpkin - be prepared to add more flour to compensate for added moisture.
7/8 cup warm water
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup or a combination of the two)
1 tbsp yeast
3 large eggs, warmed (add a 4th egg if adding 1 cup of kabocha purée)
1/4 cup oil (neutral-flavoured oil is best; olive oil is OK, but the bread will maintain some of its taste)
1 tbsp kosher salt
3 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour (add roughly 1-1.5 more cups of flour to compensate for the 1 cup of kabocha purée and extra egg, humidity in the air, etc.!)
1. Heat the water kettle, and pour boiling water to warm up the bowl of your food mixer.
2. Warm up your eggs in a warm water bath.
3. Lightly coat the measuring cup with oil, then fill with honey/maple syrup (easier to get every last drop of it if it has an oil coating!).
4. In that same food mixer, stir honey/maple syrup into water (mix well).
5. Add yeast; let sit until yeast is dissolved and starting to work.
6. Roughly beat the eggs and add to bowl (or add to kabocha purée), reserving enough egg for a wash.
7. Add oil, salt and flour.
8. Mix until dough is shaggy and still a little moist, adding small amounts of flour or water if necessary. (Likely more flour, if you are adding kabocha and more egg).
9. Cover dough and let rise for two hours. (If your oven has a bread proof setting, mazal tov! If you don’t, heat your oven to 200 F when you are getting all of your ingredients onto the counter and turn it off once you’re about to start mixing, otherwise you can cook your dough while it’s rising.)
10. Turn dough out onto a floured counter or sheet of parchment paper (bigger is better so you have room to work – you can always trim the paper before the loaf goes into the oven).
11. Braid the loaf. For 6 strands, check out this video (higher quality, it’s Jamie Geller!) or this video (better instruction and viewing for learning). To turn into little pumpkin challahs, check out this blogpost.
12. Cover loaf with a slightly damp-ish cloth and leave to rise for 30 minutes.
13. Set oven for 350 F. If you’re using a baking stone, put it in now to preheat; if it’s a baking sheet, 5 minutes before baking time is enough.
14. When the bread has risen, add a few drops of water to the reserved egg and brush the wash onto the entire surface of the loaf.
15. Sprinkle on poppy seeds, black or white sesame seeds and some Maldon sea salt flakes for extra crunch, then slide the bread into the oven, using a cutting board or other flat surface as a transfer vehicle if necessary.
16. Bake for 25-30 minutes.
Cool, admire, bless and enjoy!
Carmel Tanaka (pronouns: she/her) is a queer Jewpanese woman of colour from Vancouver, BC, Canada and a Community Engagement professional. Her mother is Ashkenazi Israeli and her father is Japanese Canadian. She founded JQT Vancouver, (pronounced "J-Cutie") Vancouver's Jewish queer trans nonprofit, Genocide Prevention BC and was recently named one of Be'chol Lashon's 7 LGBTQ+ Jews of Color you should know. She also spearheads a monthly Zoom call for Jewpanese and their families from all over the world, so if you know any Jewpanese people in your life, please get in touch and we’ll connect you!
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