Rochie Pinson, author of Rising: The Book of Challah, has collaborated with Kettle & Cord, a homeware store in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, to recreate the classic challah bread with a fruity twist celebrating the Jewish New Year for Trees and the seven fruits attributed to the land of Israel.
BROOKLYN, New York - As Jewish immigration from Eastern and Central Europe rose in the last century, scores of traditionally Jewish foods slowly creeped into mainstream American culture. One such sample: That braided, doughy bread known simply as Challah.
Challah is a simple dough made from eggs, water, flour, yeast and salt, and typically braided from three strands to form a sweet, golden loaf. Challah is served to celebrate the Jewish Sabbath and Jewish holidays.
In this challah recipe, Rochie Pinson, acclaimed cookbook author and motivational speaker, adds a unique fruity twist to the traditional loaf, in celebration of the Jewish New Year for Trees which is commemorated this year on Monday, January 29.
The Jewish New Year for Trees, or Tu B’Shvat (the 15th day of the Jewish month of Shvat), commemorates the end of the rainy season in the Mediterranean region and was used in ancient Temple times to mark the beginning of the new tithing season. Today, it is celebrated by Jewish communities worldwide as a symbol of sensitivity to the environment, spiritual growth, and attachment to the land of Israel. Tu B’Shvat is typically commemorated by partaking in the unique fruits ascribed in the Bible to Israel: Wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.
Kettle & Cord, a homeware store in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, is host to a premier Kosher cooking show hosted on YouTube. Collaborating with celebrity Kosher chefs, the Kettle & Cord kitchen presents the latest in Kosher cuisine in an interactive and entertaining format.
This fruity Challah recipe incorporates all the seven kinds in celebration of Tu B’Shvat.
Watch below as Pinson demonstrates her Tu B’shvat fig Challah
About Rochie Pinson:
Rochie Pinson is a mother, artist, author, avid baker, and Rebbetzin of a large and growing Jewish community in Carroll Gardens, Brooklyn. Over a decade ago, she began teaching a Challah baking class/workshop – which took on a life of its own – attracting hundreds of women from all walks of life. Rochie took her class globally, and began traveling to other cities and countries, spreading the word about the incredible power of the Challah mitzvah and its potential to change women’s lives. Her cookbook RISING! The Book of Challah, (Feldheim 2017) is the culmination of years of challah baking, teaching and mentoring, and is a reflection of her tasteful aesthetic, and warm, fun personality.
About Kettle & Cord:
Kettle & Cord is an upscale homeware store in the heart of the Jewish community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn. More than just a local store, Kettle & Cord serves as a community center for cultural activities and educational workshops. Kettle & Cord is also host to a YouTube cooking series, featuring the latest in Kosher cuisine and Jewish celebrity chefs.
About Tu B’Shvat (from myjewishlearning.com):
The name of this festival is actually its date: “Tu” is a pronunciation of the Hebrew letters for the number 15, and it falls in the Hebrew month of Shevat.
Traditionally, Tu Bishvat was not a Jewish festival. Rather, it marked an important date for Jewish farmers in ancient times. The Torah states, “When you enter the land [of Israel] and plant any tree for food, you shall regard its fruit as forbidden. Three years it shall be forbidden for you, not to be eaten” (Leviticus 19:23). The fruit of the fourth year was to be offered to the priests in the Temple as a gift of gratitude for the bounty of the land, and the fifth-year fruit–and all subsequent fruit–was finally for the farmer. This law, however, raised the question of how farmers were to mark the “birthday” of a tree. The Rabbis therefore established the 15th of the month of Shevat as a general “birthday” for all trees, regardless of when they were actually planted.
Fruit trees were awarded special status in the Torah because of their importance in sustaining life and as a symbol of God’s divine favor. Even during times of war, God warns the Israelites, “When in your war against a city you have to besiege it a long time in order to capture it, you must not destroy its trees… Are trees of the field human to withdraw before you into the besieged city? Only trees that you know do not yield food may be destroyed” (Deuteronomy 20:19-20).
At a later time, the Rabbis of the Talmud established four “new years” throughout the Jewish calendar–Rosh Hashanah, or the Jewish new year for the calendar date; a new year for establishing the reign of kings; a new year for tithing animals of Jewish farmers to be given to the Temple; and finally, Tu Bishvat, the new year for the trees (Mishnah, Rosh Hashanah 1:1). The Rabbis discussed why this date was chosen; saying that Tu Bishvat falls after mid-winter (usually in February), they concluded that the majority of the annual rainfall has usually already fallen by this time in the land of Israel, thus yielding a healthy, water-logged soil in which to plant new trees (Talmud, Rosh Hashanah 57a).
In medieval times, kabbalists (Jewish mystics) gave Tu Bishvat greater spiritual significance. Seeing in Tu Bishvat a vehicle for mystical ideas, the kabbalists imbued Tu Bishvat with new religious significance as well as created elaborate new symbolic rituals. According to Lurianic Kabbalah (which is a form of mysticism studied by the students of Isaac Luria), all physical forms–including human beings–hide within them a spark of the Divine Presence. This is similar to some kinds of fruits or nuts, which hide within them seeds of new life and potential growth. In Jewish mysticism, human actions can release these sparks and help increase God’s presence in the world. On Tu Bishvat, the kabbalists would eat certain fruits associated with the land of Israel as a symbolic way of releasing these divine sparks.
In modern times, Tu Bishvat has become a symbol of both Zionist attachment to the land of Israel as well as an example of Jewish sensitivity to the environment. Early Zionist settlers to Israel began planting new trees not only to restore the ecology of ancient Israel, but as a symbol of renewed growth of the Jewish people returning to their ancestral homeland. While relatively few Jews continue to observe the kabbalistic Tu Bishvat seder, many American and European Jews observe Tu Bishvat by contributing money to the Jewish National Fund, an organization devoted to reforesting Israel.
For environmentalists, Tu Bishvat is an ancient and authentic Jewish “Earth Day” that educates Jews about the Jewish tradition’s advocacy of responsible stewardship of God’s creation as manifested in ecological activism. Among them, contemporary versions of the Tu Bishvat seder, emphasizing environmentalist concerns, are gaining popularity.