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September 13, 2011


Challah Bread

Motzi offers challah bread and babka loaves in five flavors. Above, Chocolate Date Babka and Olive and Za’atar Challah. Photography by Sue Ding | THE NIBBLE.

WHAT IT IS: Flavored challah bread.
WHY IT’S DIFFERENT: Flavorful ingredients run through the interior of what is traditionally a plain bread.
WHY WE LOVE IT: While challah is de facto delicious bread, Motzi Challah adds flavor and fun.
WHERE TO BUY IT: Fifteen-ounce loaves of challah and babka are $5.00.


Olive and Za’atar Challah, halved.


Why Do We Celebrate The “Western”
New Year On January First?

The order of the months in the Roman calendar, January to December, was established somewhere around 700 B.C.E., during the reign of King Numa Pompilius. In 45 B.C.E., during the reign of Julius Caesar, the Julian calendar replaced it in order to accommodate new knowledge of the leap year.

The Julian calendar was superceded in term by the more accurate Gregorian calendar, introduced during the papacy of Pope Gregory XIII (1572-1585). The Gregorian calendar, which we use today, is also known as the Christian calendar or Western calendar.

The Chinese, Jews and other groups use a different calendar system. Some groups, such as the Eastern Orthodox, follow the Gregorian calendar but celebrate the New Year on a different day.


A Toast To Flavored Challah Bread: A Treat For Everyone

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CAPSULE REPORT: Even if you didn’t grow up in a Jewish household, you may have picked up a loaf of challah at the supermarket, or ordered challah French toast at a restaurant.

As satisfying as those expressions of challah are, Motzi (pronounced "MOH-tzee") will tempt you with flavored challahs that are as fun as they are delectable.

With the Jewish New Year, Rosh Hashanah, approaching (it begins at sundown on Wednesday, September 28th*), treat yourself and your friends to one or more of these affordable loaves. You don’t have to be Jewish to celebrate the Jewish New Year, any more than you have to be Chinese to celebrate the Chinese New Year.

What Is Challah?

Challah† is a braided, sweetened yeast bread that is a customary part of meals during the Jewish Sabbath and holidays. The loaves can be oblong or round; some modern recipes don’t braid the loaf.

Most challah is plain loaf, glazed with an egg yolk wash and perhaps garnished with sesame seeds. But Motzi has enhanced challah for modern times, offering:

  • Sundried Tomato Challah. To us, this is a challah-pizza fusion. Our favorite flavor, it’s made with sundried tomatoes, roasted red peppers, regular tomatoes, basil, garlic and spices. We plan to load up the freezer with it.
  • Israeli Olives and Za’atar Challah. This challah is filled with olives, garlic and za’atar, a popular Middle Eastern seasoning made from local herbs (oregano, savory and thyme), sesame seeds and dried sumac, among other ingredients. The olives used are a mild variety. We’d ask the company to consider something more zesty, like Kalamata olives.
  • Pumpkin Spice Challah. Pumpkin isn’t just for the harvest season. This sweet challah, with pumpkin purée, brown sugar and spices, is tasty year-round.

The company also makes two nice chocolate babkas:

  • Halva, Chocolate & Tehina Babka. For halva and tehina (tahini) lovers, this flavor delivers chocolate with a sesame paste nuance.
  • Jerusalem Dates, Apricot & Chocolate Babka. We like this flavor for both breakfast and dessert. Lightly toast a slice and top it with a scoop of ice cream.

Challah and babka are similar: Both are made of yeast dough and can be braided, although babka is typically baked in a loaf pan instead of as a standing loaf and is sweeter (like coffee cake).

Motzi bakes its babka just like its challah loaves, but stuffed with chocolate. We think of their babka as one enormous pain au chocolat, with yeast dough instead of puff pastry.

The handmade challahs are nut-free and certified kosher by OU (Shomer Shabbat, Pas Yisrael).

One final note: Motzi means “blessing of the food,” a prayer said before each meal. Motzi, the company, is a blessing of another kind. The business was launched as a tribute to the late husband of company owner Susan Mussaffi. Ovadia Mussaffi surely would be pleased with the results.

—Karen Hochman

*The Jewish New Year is a solemn feast day celebrated on the first and second days of the Hebrew month of Tishri—the first month of the Jewish calendar. Because the Hebrew calendar and the Gregorian calendar differ, Jewish holidays fall on a different Western day every year.

†Challah is pronounced CHAH-luh, with a guttural ch, as in the German word ach (here’s an audio pronunciation). The word refers to a tithe of bread that was given to priests, who had no income. A portion of the dough was sanctified, and the remainder was used for ordinary consumption.


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Bake Bread Like A Pro

Artisan Bread In Five Minutes A Day The Bread Bible Healthy Bread In Five Minutes A Day

Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe François. With nearly 100 recipes, the authors demonstrate that bread baking can be easier than a trip to the bakery. More information.

The Bread Bible: 300 Favorite Recipes, by Beth Hensperger. This impressive collection of recipes is easy to follow, step-by-step and foolproof. What more can be said—preheat the oven! More information.

Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day: 100 New Recipes Featuring Whole Grains, Fruits, Vegetables, and Gluten-Free Ingredients, by Jeff Hertzberg and Zoe François. More information.


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