Baking Special: The knead for a loaf
When she was growing up, Bindu Ajit had only heard of the Challah. After years, she discovered its recipe and got to it right away.
The Jews begin each meal of the Sabbath with two loaves of bread called Challah, each woven with six strands of dough.
The twin loaves symbolise the double portion of Manna that fell on the day before the Sabbath, reminding the Jews that God would provide, even if they would refrain from working on the Sabbath.
As a child, when I heard the story of Manna falling, I always imagined it to taste like my mother's pound cake, powdered and mixed with honey.
In what feels like another lifetime, I recently happened to stumble upon the recipe for the Challah, and immediately decided to try it out.
Mixing up a sticky gooey dough, and kneading it for a good while with sweat trickling down my temples, watching my hands turn it into a warm silken smooth ball, was quite simply such a joy. The feeling of being able to create something beautiful with my own hands is naturally a special one.
By the way, this specific activity may also prove very beneficial, if you happen to be in one of those moods when you really need a punching bag to get some steam out of your system. An absolute win-win.
After leaving the dough covered a while, I came back to find it had puffed itself up to double the size! Gently punching it down and waiting for a repeat performance was not disappointing either.
Braiding it into a pretty shape was such a delightful task, I thought to myself, I could do this every single day and not ever tire of it.
After yet another majestic rise, the shaped dough finally went into the hot oven, and with much impatience I waited in eager anticipation.
The aroma wafting through the house was extremely promising and I was earning myself some seriously envious neighbours.
But nothing could have prepared me for the feeling of absolute wonder when I peeked through the oven glass and saw the most gorgeous golden brown loaf of bread sitting there.
It was very hard to believe that this beauty was created here in my own little kitchen, and not in some fancily equipped pastry kitchen.
Slicing through the firm crust to find a soft and light texture inside, and bringing a piece to my mouth to taste the delicious flavour, was the proverbial the icing on the cake.
I fear this could now become something of an obsession. I am constantly looking forward to the next loaf and longing to feel dough in my hands again.
I feel certain that this is just the beginning of a long and beautiful journey for me. I visualise and dream of a hundred different loaves that I shall bake, and the happy hours spent on them.
I hope I shall find myself baking bread until the Alzheimered day when I end up happily playing with flour and not a clue what it was intended for!
Now it amazes me that many people are intimidated by the idea of baking bread. And there are far greater numbers, to whom the thought has never occurred, to try bake a loaf of bread.
Been there done that, on both counts. And today I have come as far as believing that every single person should add this to their bucket-list.
It's not rocket science, it won't blow up your kitchen, it costs barely anything, and the absolute worst case scenario is some dough in your bin. But it might just turn out to be an awesome and intoxicating ride that you ought not to miss.
So go ahead, bake some bread. It's enriching, enlivening, and most of all, therapeutic.
What's not to loaf?
Photographs: Bindu Ajit