Growing up in a Jewish household, challah was about as standard a staple in my family’s kitchen as butter is in anyone else’s. My parents would purchase a large challah on Friday afternoon that we would eat with dinner on Friday night as well as for breakfast on the weekends. Upon arriving at college, however, I learned that not everyone had experienced the joys of challah. What was an ordinary part of my diet was foreign and mysterious to many of my classmates.
Challah, the traditional Jewish bread eaten on the Sabbath, is a fluffy, braided loaf made with an extraordinary number of eggs, as well as other typical ingredients—flour, water, yeast and sugar. It is commonly prepared with an egg wash on top and is often sprinkled with sesame seeds or poppy seeds for added flavor. A traditional Jewish meal commences with a blessing over this bread, and after one taste, it’s easy to understand why it deserves such special attention.
At Stanford, I found a clear solution to my classmates’ lack of exposure to this particular delicacy: Challah for Hunger. Challah for Hunger is an international organization in which college students bake and sell challah, donating 100 percent of the proceeds to hunger and disaster relief organizations. Stanford’s chapter is part of the Jewish Student Association and works with other groups, including Greek life, social action groups and interfaith groups.
Given my years of experience with challah consumption and enjoyment, I recommend eating it plain or toasted, and you can even use it to make dense bread pudding or French toast. Stanford’s Challah for Hunger makes the traditional flavors—plain, poppy seed and sesame—as well as some wildly creative options like cinnamon raisin, chocolate chip and sundried tomato garlic. They also branch out seasonally, making pumpkin, pumpkin chocolate chip, cinnamon, olive rosemary and craisin chocolate chip. While I like the traditional flavors, the chocolate chip and the pumpkin chocolate chip are absolutely divine eaten warm out of the oven or even microwaved. There is nothing better than freshly baked bread, except for freshly baked bread that is studded with melting chocolate chips.
Stanford’s challah is made by volunteers weekly; everyone is welcome to participate in baking and selling the challah on Thursday nights at Hillel. To pre-order a loaf, go to stanford.edu/group/jewishstudents and any questions can be sent to firstname.lastname@example.org.
So whether you are a veteran challah-lover or just a hungry freshman, I highly recommend ordering a loaf of this “heavenly” treat.