The ProsenPeople

One Missing Yarmulke, Several New Friends

Wednesday, October 17, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Stefanie Pervos Bregman, the editor of Living Jewishly, wrote about engaging 20- and 30- somethings in the Jewish world. Today, we hear from one of Living Jewishly's contributors, Rabbi Jason Miller. Check back all week for more Living Jewishly posts for the Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

We tend to see the differences that separate us from other religious groups rather than the commonalities. That sounds so cliché, but it’s true.

When some Jews hear of an Islamic religious school, called a madrassa, they make assumptions about what might be taught there. They don’t take the time to even consider that the Arabic word madrassa is very closely related to the Hebrew word midrasha, a Jewish religious school.

And when some Jews see a Muslim man wearing a skullcap called a kufi, they make assumptions about his religious views, political sentiments, and opinions on a range of social issues. They tend to forget how similar the kufi is to our kippah, or yarmulke.

One day recently both of these similarities struck me. My plane landed at Chicago’s Midway Airport. It was an early morning flight and I felt like I had traveled back in time since I actually arrived at an earlier time in Chicago than when I had taken off in Detroit thanks to the one-hour time zone difference. During the flight, I fell into a deep sleep.

It wasn’t until I got into my rental car that I realized I wasn’t wearing my yarmulke, as I normally do. At some point during my “nap,” my yarmulke must have fallen off and was lost on the plane. I pulled over to the side of the rode and checked everywhere – pockets, carry-on suitcase, and briefcase. My yarmulke was nowhere to be found.

I was on my way to a small Illinois town south of Peoria to check out a large spice factory that was interested in kosher certification from my agency. I knew I couldn’t walk in there without a yarmulke on my head. I was on a tight schedule though and at a loss for what to do.

I called my wife back in Michigan who began researching if there were any synagogues between my current location and my destination in Pekin, Illinois. While she did that, I continued to drive and search the sides of the highway for any random Judaica store where I could purchase a replacement yarmulke. And that’s when it caught my eye.

Off the highway on what seemed to be a service road was a small mosque. Would that work, I wondered. After all, there’s really not much of a difference between the Muslim kufi and some of the larger yarmulkes that my sons wear to their Jewish school every day. Would a kufi be a better option for me than stopping at a gas station and buying a baseball cap? It was worth a shot.

I exited the highway and did a quick turnaround to try and find the mosque I had passed a few miles earlier. It would be my first time entering a mosque despite the fact that I live in Metro Detroit with its dense Muslim population and abundance of mosques. Alas, the doors of the mosque were locked and it was dark inside. I quickly Googled the address and called the phone number that was listed, but it just rang and rang. For no good reason, I knocked on the doors again and then left.

As I drove away from the mosque I spotted what looked like another mosque in the distance. Perhaps that was the administrative office I thought. Maybe they could sell me one of those Muslim skullcaps (I hadn’t yet learned the word kufi). It was worth a try. I turned down the next street and headed for the building with the star and crescent on the roof. I couldn’t find the street that led to a parking lot so I parked at an auto repair shop and walked across a field to the building.

The doors were locked but I could tell there were people inside. I rang a door bell and a very nice woman opened the door. I saw classrooms up and down the hallways and immediately determined that I had just entered a madrassa. Cute little children were in a large room singing songs and playing games. That was obviously the pre-school. Older children ran up the stairs to a second level of classrooms. I went up to the reception desk and explained my situation. Rather than giving some story about being curious about Islam and wanting a kufi, I explained that I was a rabbi who customarily wears a Jewish head covering and somehow lost it on my flight into Chicago. I asked if they could sell me a Muslim head covering.

She seemed confused by my request, but explained they had no store in the building and didn’t sell kufis. But just as I was about to head back to my rental car, the woman found another woman and shared my story. She told me to wait a moment and about five minutes later she returned with a large, black knitted kufi for me. I asked her how much it would cost and she insisted that it was free. I took out a ten-dollar bill and handed it to her as a donation. The idea that I had just made my first charitable gift to an Islamic school was not lost on me. With some trepidation I placed the kufi on my head and thanked the kind women as I left.

Just as I got back in the car and took a look at myself in the rear-view mirror my phone rang. It was my wife telling me that there was an Orthodox synagogue in Peoria. I told her I was wearing a Muslim kufi on my head and shared my story of the welcoming women at the madrassa.

I called the Orthodox synagogue which didn’t have a gift shop or any complimentary yarmulkes,but the woman on the phone referred me to the Reform congregation that shared a building and had a gift shop. When I called that number I got the recording telling me to call the husband-wife rabbis on their cell phone. I called and found myself talking with Rabbi Karen Bogard who told me that her husband Rabbi Daniel Bogard had dozens of yarmulkes and I could drive to their home to pick one out.

Rabbi Karen told me that she and her husband had just graduated from rabbinical school and begun to serve this small congregation in Peoria. We played the game of Jewish geography and learned we knew many people in common. After driving for another couple hours she called me back and directed me to a park close to their home where she would be with the couple’s newborn baby. I drove to the park, gave Rabbi Karen a hug, picked out a yarmulke and then began telling her the story of my visit to the Islamic school. I proudly showed her my new kufi.

While I wore the borrowed yarmulke to the visit at the spice factory, I still felt appreciative to the generous women at the madrassa who provided me with the kufi. It is a story I will continue to tell with pleasure. Losing a yarmulke led me on an adventure to a mosque, a madrassa and a neighborhood park where I met a new rabbinic colleague.

I keep that black kufi on the desk of my office and every once in a while I smile as I consider the similarities between Jews and Muslims. Perhaps, my kufi will serve as a reminder to others to seek out the connections with members of other religions and to explore what we share in common rather than what divides us.

Rabbi Jason Miller is an educator and entrepreneur. He contributed the opening chapter of Stefanie Pervos Bregman’s Living Jewishly and blogs at http://blog.rabbijason.com. He is the founder and director of Kosher Michigan, a kashrut certification agency. Follow him on Twitter at @RabbiJason.

E-Luminating Bedtime

Tuesday, October 16, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

If you're interested in innovations in the ebook community, you should probably familiarize yourself with Orson & Co., a New York-based company that rejects the idea that ebooks need to be aesthetically uniform. The company has created a reading application for their "e-luminated" editions called "e-lume." The app is pretty interesting, as it allows readers to "choose [their] own level of imaginative stimulus." The company outlines their basic premise by explaining:

At Orson & Co. we believe the fundamental pleasure of reading comes when an author's imagination ignites yours.

They accomplish this by allowing readers to tap windows on the app to reveal 'behind the scenes' footage, a gallery of curated images, the historical context of the work, along with any additional features that might be relevant to the book. Find out more information about Orson & Co. here.

Now, the reason we found out about this great company: The Oldest Bedtime Story Ever

This title is one of the debut titles from Orson & Co. and is set to pub next month. It's the first title in The Bible Beautiful Series, written and illustrated by Benjamin Morse. The Oldest Bedtime Story Ever features narrative, Morse's collages, and is intended for children ages 5-10 (and their parents, of course!). Check out the book's official website for a preview, information on the whole series, and downloadable templates for children to make their own collages.


Crypto-Judaism Reading List

Monday, October 15, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

In honor of next week's JBC/Jewcy Twitter Book Club with Doreen Carvajal (The Forgetting River), we've created a "Crypto-Judaism" Reading List. Select titles are below, and the full list can be found here.


 

Jewish Book Carnival

Monday, October 15, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Jewish Book Council is thrilled to be the October Jewish Book Carnival host. In case you're new here, the series is a monthly event where book bloggers who promote Jewish literature come together to share some of their best content from the past month. Each month the round-up of posts can be found on a different Jewish literary blog, so be sure to check out Jewish Book Carnival HQ for future (and past!) hosts (and posts!). 

Take a look at the below links, read the great articles, reviews, and interviews, and feel free to join the conversation by sharing and commenting on the posts.

To start, a few highlights from Jewish Book Council's website:

  • This month's JBC/Jewcy Twitter Book Club will take place next Tuesday. We'll be discussing Doreen Carvajal's The Forgetting River, along with the author. Find out more info here
  • Two new reading lists: American Politics and Jewish Leaders + Jews and the Theater
  • Jewish Book Month's right around the corner! Have you seen this year's poster? Check it out here.

Over on My Machberet, Erika Dreifus congratulates Yona Zeldis McDonough on the release of McDonough's latest novel, A Wedding in Great Neck.

An interview with Zayde Comes to Live author Sheri Sinykin and illustrator Kristina Swarner at The Whole Megillah can be found here.

Over at Ann D. Kofsky's blog you can find a giveaway for Brooklyn Love, "which is probably the first Orthodox Jewish romance novel," and a link to Ann on Jewish Channel TV discussing her recent article for Jewish Action Magazine.

Two reviews of Michael Chabon's newest novel, Telegraph Avenue:

  • Jonathan Kirsch's review over at JewishJournal.com
  • Zachary Solomon 's review over at JewishBoston.com 

Visit The Book of Life blog for an audio podcast interview with Lesley Simpson, author of the new picture book A Song for My Sister. This is the only book for children about the baby naming ceremony for Jewish girls.

Jill Broderick at Rhapsody in Books shares her review of Dara Horn's All Other Nights here.

Enjoy this month's contributions to the Jewish Book Carnival, and be sure to keep visiting the JBC's ProsenPeople blog for new reviews, interviews, and updates on the Jewish literary world every day. Want a weekly update in your inbox? Sign up for the JBC's weekly email here

Storytellers

Monday, October 15, 2012 | Permalink

Stefanie Pervos Bregman is the editor of the anthology Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation. Stefanie, along with Living Jewishly contributors Rabbi Jason Miller, Rivka Nehorai, and Rachel Wright will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

As a Jewish blogger and editor, I always say that the period leading up to Jewish Book Month is one of my favorite times of the year. So many books come across my desk for review—I only wish I had the time to read them all. Each author, each new book, is not just a potential article for my magazine or blog post. To me, every author—whether they write fiction or non-fiction— is a storyteller, adding their own piece to our collective Jewish story.

This year the tables have turned, and I’m the one hoping and wishing that Jewish editors and writers will choose my book from among the great pile for review—the thought makes me feel proud, humble and frightened all at once.

In putting together my new anthology, Living Jewishly: A Snapshot of a Generation, I hoped to be a storyteller as well. In the Jewish world, engaging 20- and 30-somethings is a hot button issue—questions like ‘How do we get young Jews to feel connected to Israel? To affiliate with traditional Jewish institutions? To care about Jewish continuity, ritual and tradition?’ float around waiting to be answered.

As a member of this elusive generation myself, I live and breathe these questions in my personal life and as a Jewish professional. As I recently completed my master’s degree in Jewish professional studies, I became determined to tell the story of my generation.

To get started, I sent out a call for stories to my peers:

Are you a Jewish 20- or 30-something with a story to tell? Do you want to be part of a collection of voices that together tell the unique story of our generation? 

Within hours, my email box was flooded. I received close to 50 submissions—all remarkable, rich and more diverse than I could have ever imagined. 

In Living Jewishly, I put these essays together to create a window into our Jewish lives and identities. Each essay is beautiful, unique, brutally honest and revealing. In truth, it is my contributors who are the real storytellers—without them, the story, the picture, would not be complete.

I often think about what it means to really be a storyteller. To me, this is not a title to be taken lightly. With it comes certain responsibility, not just to inform, but to do so artfully, shedding light on topics that may otherwise have been left untold. 

While I don’t think I've solved the mystery of my generation, I do have some insights into the types of stories we want to tell. However it is that we express ourselves Jewishly, I’m certain that every Jewish 20- or 30-something has an interesting story to tell—and maybe all we need is the opportunity to tell it.

Check back all week for more from Living Jewishly's contributors and visit the book's official website here

Salmon and the Jews

Friday, October 12, 2012 | Permalink

Earlier this week, Rae and Noah Bernamoff wrote about some of their upcoming events and how they went from slinging smoked meat to writing a cookbook. They have been blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Salmon is the quintessential Jewish fish—if you go to Russ and Daughters in New York City, there are a dozen different kinds for sale, cured and smoked, from all different parts of the world. The great thing about salmon is that it’s so forgiving. Any beginner cook knows this; even if you leave it under the broiler too long, it still comes out moist because of all that luscious fat. That fattiness is what makes salmon such a good choice for home-curing, too. It just won’t dry out.

Some varieties of salmon are fattier than others; we use king salmon for making lox at the deli, and always the farmed variety, not wild. That’s because wild salmon—especially if it’s caught during “running”—tends to be too lean for curing. Too little fat will cause the salt mixture to “burn” the surface of the salmon and stop the cure from penetrating. This recipe is a case where you really want to be selective about where you buy your fish, and where it came from. This is a pretty light cure, meaning the qualities of the fresh fish really come through in the finished product. So you want top quality salmon.

Allow the fillet to rest a day after rinsing off the curing mixture, sort of like you would with a fine steak after taking it off the grill (only longer). Resting allows the fish to continue “cooking”—that is, it lets the curing compounds distribute themselves evenly throughout the salmon after they've penetrated the flesh. Also note that using good kosher salt (we recommend Diamond Crystal) is absolutely essential.

At Mile End we use our house-made lox for two of our signature breakfast dishes, the Beauty and the Mish-Mash, but it’s great for lunch sandwiches, finger foods and all sorts of other preparations. One of my favorite simple pleasures is a thickly cut slice of challah (recipe posted yesterday) schmeared with cream cheese and topped with a layer of lox.

Recipe: Lox

1/3 cup whole black peppercorns
2/3 cup sugar
1 cup Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 bunch of dill
1 2-pound boneless king salmon fillet, with skin

Combine the peppercorns, sugar, and salt in a bowl and stir to combine. Place 2 or 3 sprigs of the dill in the bottom of a nonreactive baking dish, and sprinkle about ¼ cup of the salt mixture evenly over the bottom of the dish.

Make 2 or 3 shallow cuts in the skin of the salmon fillet. Place the salmon, skin side down, on top of the salt and dill, and place a few more sprigs of dill on top of the salmon. Sprinkle the salmon all over with another ¼ cup of the salt mixture. Reserve the remaining salt mixture. Loosely cover the baking dish with plastic wrap and refrigerate it overnight.

Carefully pour off any liquid that has accumulated in the baking dish. Add another ¼ cup of the salt mixture to the bottom of the dish, and sprinkle ¼ cup more over the salmon. Replace the dill sprigs with new ones if they’ve wilted. Cover the dish and refrigerate overnight.

Repeat this process 2 more times over 2 more days.

On the fifth day, remove the salmon, rinse it thoroughly, and pat it dry with paper towels. Place the salmon on a small drying rack set inside a clean baking dish or over a couple of layers of paper towels. Refrigerate, uncovered, overnight.

To serve, slice very thinly and carefully at a shallow angle, working from the front of the fillet toward the tail.

Makes about 1½ pounds

Visit Noah and Rae Bernamoff's official website here.

New Reviews

Friday, October 12, 2012 | Permalink

This week's reviews:


 

New Children's Siddur

Friday, October 12, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Last month, the fine folks over at Tribe, the Young United Synagogue in the UK, republished Siddur Shevet Asher (aka the Chief Rabbi’s Children’s Siddur) for children ages 8-12 (it was originally published 15 years ago). The new edition takes into consideration the affect of color blindness on children, and includes a new section on festivals to account for the fact that many communities are unable to afford a siddur and a machzor for the High Holidays. Read more about the siddur here and click here to download a sample. (Note: Vallentine Mitchell is distributing Siddur Shevet Asher in the US.)

JBC and Jewcy's Twitter Book Club

Thursday, October 11, 2012 | Permalink

Posted by Naomi Firestone-Teeter

Big news! JBC is pleased to announced a new partner in our Twitter Book Club series: Jewcy. We've heard from some great authors over the past two years, including Dara Horn, Jennifer Gilmore, David Bezmozgis, Deborah Lipstadt, Nathan Englander, Adam Wilson, and Joshua Henkin, and are excited to continue to bring you great conversation around Jewish literature in collaboration with Jewcy. Check out our October, November, and December book club picks here.

If you're not already familiar with Jewcy, you should head over there right now. They produce some fantastic content, including interesting pieces on Jewish literature, and Jews on literature. We've compiled a few highlights, but be sure to browse their site for more:

Fall Books you should read (or read about)

Jacob Silverman on Gabriel García Márquez and Memory 

Joe Winkler on making Sense of Deborah Feldman and Post-Hasidim Memoirs

Hashtag Update: JBC's Twitter Book Club, which has been running since 2010 under #JBCBooks, will now be using the hashtag #JLit. It's easy to follow the conversation and participate:  At the designated time, just search #JLit in your Twitter feed to follow along, and use #JLit at the end of any question or comment you want to throw into the mix. Simple as that. (More info can be found here.)

The Future of Jewish Food

Thursday, October 11, 2012 | Permalink

Yesterday, Rae and Noah Bernamoff wrote about how they went from slinging smoked meat to writing a cookbook. Today, Noah writes about an upcoming some of their upcoming events, plus shares some great challah recipes. They will be blogging here all week for Jewish Book Council and MyJewishLearning.

Last year in Berkeley, Rae and I attended the Deli Summit to discuss the direction of Jewish food and deli culture, and since then we've been working on a way to continue the conversation. On October 12th we'll be hosting a Shabbat dinner for the NYC Wine and Food Festival and we've invited friends from around the country to join us in preparing an epic nine-course meal. It only seems fitting since the Shabbat table and my Nana Lee's kitchen are my very first memories of food and cooking—Me, sitting on the counter, her, presiding over the stove like any great chef. That sense of time, place, and ritual gave meaning to my family's week as the Shabbat table has for so many Jews, both secular and religious. It is a place to ask questions, to air grievances, to express gratitude, and sometimes, to simply close the week at peace with a warm bowl of chicken soup. I hope this Friday's opportunity to gather around our Shabbat table will bring to light the potential for Jewish cooking as food that we eat during special occasions and everyday at home. Similarly, we wish to inspire those attending to question the core of Jewish foodways and to strengthen their commitment to its survival.

The next day, on Saturday October 13th, along with Tablet Magazine and ABC Home we're presenting the Future of Jewish Food, a tasting and talk with the country’s foremost practitioners, thinkers and critics. From 5:30 - 9 PM at the ABC Home Mezzanine we'll bring together Gail Simmons, Mitchell Davis, Jordana Rothman and Josh Ozersky for a panel moderated by Joan Nathan about Jewish food in the home and then we'll have a second panel with the deli men from Wise Sons (SF), Kenny & Zuke's (PDX), Saul's (Berkeley), and Mile End moderated by David Sax. Unlike the night before where the food will do the talking, this discussion is an amazing gathering of some of the finest practitioners of Jewish cooking — people who have committed themselves to examining and celebrating our rich culinary history while simultaneously innovating and moving forward the conversation about its future. With a variety of opinions and perspectives, I'm expecting a very lively conversation.

After all the eating and talking there will be more eating with a tasting of house made pastrami and smoked meat from each of the delis plus a book signing with all of the panelists.

To read more and purchase tickets for the Shabbat dinner, please visithttp://nycwineandfoodfestival.com/e/mile_end_shabbat_dinner-15 and to read more and purchase tickets for Saturday's discussion, please visit futureofjewishfood.com.

Recipe: Twice-Baked Challah

Serves 4

Noah: Like so many delicious foods, this challah was born of thrift and necessity. We found that on any given morning we had plenty of leftover challah, but not enough room on our griddle to make French toast with it. So we took a cue from the French boulangerie tradition of using day-old brioche for a sweet pastry and came up with a rich syrup and topping for the bread that would take well to baking. We like to serve it with fruit Compote (page 193). (Note: You can make the topping ahead and refrigerate it for up to five days; the syrup will keep in the refrigerator for up to a week.)

For the syrup:
½ cup sugar
1 cup water
½ cup orange juice
½ tablespoon vanilla extract
1 cup maple syrup, plus more for serving

For the topping:
½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter, at room temperature
½ pound almond paste, broken into pieces
½ cup slivered almonds, plus more for garnish
¼ teaspoon almond extract
2 large eggs, at room temperature
½ cup all-purpose f lour
1 cup dried cherries
8 1-inch-thick slices of stale Challah (recipe follows), preferably day-old or older

Make the syrup: Combine the sugar, water, orange juice, vanilla, and maple syrup in a medium saucepan and bring to a boil, stirring occasionally. Remove the pan from the heat and let cool; set the syrup mixture aside.

Make the topping: Put the butter in the bowl of a stand mix er and, using the paddle attachment, mix on medium speed for a few seconds. Add the almond paste and mix on low speed for a few seconds, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Mix on medium speed until the mixture comes together, about 1 minute. Add the sliced almonds and mix on medium speed for 20 to 30 seconds, stopping to scrape down the bowl if necessary. While the mixer is still running, add the almond extract and mix until it’s incorporated, a few seconds more.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs and then restart the mixer at medium speed. While the mixer is running, slowly pour in the eggs; continue mixing until they’re fully incorporated, about 30 seconds. Add the flour and mix on low speed for about 30 seconds more. Add the dried cherries and use a spatula to fold them in by hand.

Assemble and bake the challah: Preheat the oven to 350°F and line a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet with parchment or grease it with canola oil or cooking spray.

Quickly dunk the slices of challah into the syrup mixture, shake off any excess, and lay them on the prepared baking sheet. Spread about ½ cup of the topping onto each slice of challah, distributing it all the way to the edges of the bread. Sprinkle with slivered almonds.

Bake the challah, rotating the tray 180 degrees halfway through cooking, until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Serve either warm or at room temperature, and for extra sweetness drizzle some maple syrup over the challah before serving.

Tip: It’s important to use stale bread; it should be crisp to the touch. You can even slice the challah and leave it out to dry overnight.

Recipe: Challah

Serves 4

Noah: The best challahs, in my opinion, are the ones that straddle bread and cake; they should have a sweet, super-moist crumb—you should be able to squish a piece into a dense little square, like my sister and I used to do as kids—and a glossy crust. It’s a celebratory Shabbos bread, after all. The challah dough also makes our Pletzel and our Cinnamon Buns. This recipe will yield just the right amount of dough for either of those preparations, though you can also easily double the recipe and divide the dough into two batches prior to rising. Leftover challah is also great for French toast and for its delicious cousin, Twice-Baked Challah.

1¼ cups lukewarm water
1 large egg, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 teaspoons instant yeast
1 tablespoon canola oil
¼ cup sugar
4 cups bread f lour
1 teaspoon Diamond Crystal kosher salt
1 additional large egg, beaten, for the egg wash (if making a braided loaf)
¼ cup sesame seeds or poppy seeds (if making a braided loaf)

Make the dough: Combine the water, egg, egg yolk, yeast, oil, and sugar in the bowl of a stand mixer; whisk the ingredients by hand for a few seconds until combined. Add the flour and salt and, using the mixer’s dough-hook attachment, mix on medium speed until the dough comes together, 3 to 5 minutes. (You can add a little more f lour if the dough seems too sticky.)

Let the dough rest in the bowl for 5 minutes, then continue mixing, sprinkling on more flour if necessary and stopping once or twice to scrape down the dough hook and the sides of the bowl, until the dough is fairly smooth, 3 to 5 minutes more.

On a well-floured surface, roll and tighten the dough into a ball. If you’re freezing the dough, wrap the ball of dough tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer; it will keep there for up to 1 month. If you’re going to make the challah (or pletzel or cinnamon buns) right away, place the dough in a bowl that’s lightly greased with oil or cooking spray, cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap, and let the dough rest in a warm, draft-free area until roughly doubled in size, about 2 hours, before proceeding with the recipe.

If you’re making a Pullman loaf, shape the dough: Transfer the dough ball to a well-floured surface and press and stretch it into a roughly 10-by-8-inch rectangle. With the short edge of the rectangle facing you, start rolling the dough forward into a cylinder. Coat your hands with f lour a few times if necessary to keep the dough from sticking to them. Tuck in any loose edges or ends so that you have a snug, even-sided loaf; transfer the rolled dough to a standard-size loaf pan that’s greased with oil or cooking spray. Lightly grease the top of the loaf and cover the pan with plastic wrap; let the dough rest in the pan in a warm, draft-free area until it has risen roughly to the top edge of the pan, about 1½ hours.

If you’re making a braided loaf, shape the dough: Transfer the dough ball to a well-floured surface and divide it into 3 equal portions. Working with 1 portion at a time (and using plenty of f lour to keep the dough from sticking), use the f lat of your hands to roll the dough portion into a narrow, roughly 12-inch-long strip that’s slightly tapered at the ends and slightly fatter in the middle. Repeat with the remaining 2 dough portions so that you end up with 3 strips of roughly equal length.

Arrange 1 strip of dough perpendicular t o the edge of the table in front of you, then arrange the other 2 strips at a 45-degree angle to the middle one, so that the far tips of each strip are just overlapping. Squish the overlapping tips together with your fingers so that they’re well stuck together.

Braid the challah: Gently lift one of the outer strips, bring it over the middle strip, and lay it down alongside the other outer strip. Next, gently lift the other outer strip and bring it over the middle, laying it down alongside the opposite strip, gently tugging the strips taut so there aren’t any gaps. Repeat this braiding process until you’ve reached the ends of the strips; pinch together the ends. Tuck both pinched ends of the braided strips under the loaf and transfer the loaf to a 10-by-15-inch baking sheet that’s been greased with oil or cooking spray. Lightly grease the top of the loaf, cover it with plastic wrap, and let it rest in a warm, draft-free area for about 1½ hours.

When you’re ready to bake, remove the plastic wrap and brush the top of the braided dough with the egg wash. Place the sesame seeds or poppy seeds on a plate, moisten your index finger in water, and press it into the seeds. Then press your finger onto the top surface of one of the braids; the seeds should come off onto the dough. Repeat so that each braided segment has a decorative patch of seeds on it.

Bake the challah: Preheat the oven to 350°F during the final rise.

Bake the challah for about 25 minutes, rotating the pan or tray 180 degrees halfway through cooking, until an instant-read thermometer inserted into the center of the bread reads 180°F.

If you’re making the Pullman loaf, let the bread rest for 5 minutes before unmolding it.

Makes 1 pullman or braided loaf

Check back tomorrow for Noah and Rae Bernamoff's final post for the Visiting Scribe and visit their official website here.