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Congregation's 2012 calendar features challah as a work of art

Baker Maggie Cohen (left) and Kehilat Chaverim congregants admire her challahs.

WEST HARTFORD – Every Jewish home finds at least a few free calendars stuffed into the family’s mailbox in the fall, but the calendar handed out to members of Kehilat Chaverim of Greater Hartford this month is different – and it’s not just because it begins with the month of January instead of September.
“This calendar is unique,” says Joan Walden of West Hartford of the full-color wall calendar produced by the congregation that Walden helped to found.  Dubbed “A Year of Maggie Cohen’s Delectable Challahs,” each calendar month features a different photograph of specialty challahs baked by congregant Maggie Cohen of West Hartford – February is a tree of life challah; July an iguana; August, a peace sign…and so on.
Cohen, whose grandfather owned a bakery in New York, has baked challahs for the congregation’s Shabbat services as well as other events for several years that Walden describes as “incredibly delicious and works of art.” Chronicling them have been Sam Razumny and Alan Kauders, Cohen’s husband, who have taken photographs of the breads before they were devoured by congregants.
Some of those congregants came up with the idea for a calendar to recognize Cohen for her artistry and generosity. “We wanted to honor and thank Maggie for her efforts,” says Judi Ann Goodman of West Hartford, who designed the calendar. “And we wanted to share this with the greater community,” adds congregant Nancy Rubin of Hartford.
In additon to the color photographs that adorn each page, the calendar highlights Jewish holidays.
For a minimum contribution of $15, a limited number of calendars are available to the general public. To order, visit or contact the Marcey Munoz at
Founded in 1978, Kehilat Chaverim is a congregatin of approximately 75 households that holds High Holiday services at the Mandell JCC and holds Sunday School classes at Watkinson School, both in West Hartford. Other observances and celebrations, including Sabbath services and b’nai mitzvot, are held at various locations including members’ homes.



The following challah recipe is courtesy of Maggie Cohen, adapted from “Mama Leah’s Jewish Kitchen” by Leah Loeb Fischer:

2 packages active dry yeast
2 1/2 cups lukewarm water
1/2 cup sugar
1 T Kosher salt
1/2 cup corn oil or safflower oil
5 eggs
6 – 8 cups all purpose flour

In a large mixing bowl sprinkle the yeast over 2 1/2 cups of lukewarm water and add 1 tablespoon sugar.  Let stand for 10 minutes until mixture becomes frothy.  Add remaining sugar, salt, oil, and 4 eggs (prepare this mixture in a different bowl while the yeast is standing.) Beat well to mix.  Gradually add 6 cups flour (more like 8) stirring to mix well.  You should have soft, pliable dough.  If the dough looks too wet add a little more flour.  Turn the dough out on a lightly floured surface and knead, adding additional flour until you have very elastic dough that is not sticky.  This should take 15 – 20 minutes.  Wash the bowl and rub the inside with corn oil. (I often sprinkle in flour instead of oil.) Place the dough in the bowl, cover with (damp) towel, and let it stand in a warm place for 1 1/2 to 2 hours, until dough has doubled in bulk.

I sometimes turn on the oven to a low temperature and let the bowl sit on the warm oven top as long as there is no direct heat.  Dough can rise overnight or all day in the refrigerator.  Just place the bowl in the fridge.  Let it rise.  It will never over rise. Take it out and let it warm to room temperature before continuing.

Remove the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for a few minutes until dough feels smooth and elastic. For one large challah, divide the dough into 7 equal pieces. Roll each piece into a rope about 12 – 14 inches long.  Place 4 ropes on a lightly greased baking sheet and pinch all the ends of one side together.  Neatly braid the 4 ropes, pinching ends together at the other end. Make a braid of the remaining 3 ropes and place this braid carefully on top of the first braid. Cover and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about an hour.

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

Beat the remaining egg together with one tablespoon water and brush it all over the challah.  Bake for 45 to 50 minutes, until golden brown and sounds hollow when tapped on the bottom.  Let cool.

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