You know that teacher that changed your life?
Many teachers are just amazing beings. That’s all there is to it. The Omnivore, yeah, one of those amazing beings. Although he’s out of the classroom now and actually teaching the teachers, when he was teaching the kids he touched so many lives in meaningful ways. Former students are incessantly tracking him down to thank him for his guidance. He really followed his childhood dream of wanting to be a teacher and stuck with it. He changed lives.
My fourth grade teacher changed my life. Her name was Mrs. Crisp. (and, for what it’s worth, I remember the name of every teacher I ever had, so I don’t just remember the life-altering ones).
She was about 40 when I had her as my teacher and she’d been teaching in that southern public elementary school for a really long time. She had those lesson plans memorized. Rote, people, rote. She was a pear shaped lady with kinky-curly hair and glasses.
And she loved English and grammar and spelling. Looking back, I suspect she was your classic math-phobe, and so she delved into Language Arts and deprived us of good old fashion long-division. I remember one time she gave me a talkin-to when I inappropriately used the word how. Yup. She asked that we use it in a statement and not a question. And you better believe I’ll never make *that* mistake again.
Anyway, we had spelling tests every week. Generally, the lists of words had themes to them. One week, the theme was holidays. The words were Christmas, Easter, Lent, Advent, Epiphany, and for good measure, and political correctness, she threw Chanukah into the mix. That, dear readers, was the pivotal decision in my life.
I was an industrious kid. I always had a plan of action. And I always went over my spelling words (after learning them independently of course) the morning before the quiz. So one fine Southern morning, my mother and I were reviewing the list. She was announcing the words and I was reciting the spelling as fast as lightening.
Then she got to Chanukah. But she pronounced the chet properly: hah-nuh-kuh. Naturally, I had NO idea what word she was referring to. But I was quick as a whip, so I blurted out, “Oh mom! You mean CHA – NOO – KAAAH.”
And she said, “Mrs. Crisp said it was pronounced with Cha Cha Cha instead of Hah hah hah?” “Affirmative,” little branny said. And then my life was changed. Goodbye Mrs. Crisp. Goodbye public school. Goodbye little friends. I was off to get a real education. The whole experience was kind of like this.
Honey Vanilla Challah (2 loaves, adapted from SK and here)
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 3/4 c warm water
2 tablespoon honey plus 1/3 cup sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs, 1 reserved for egg wash
1 tsp vanilla
1 tablespoon salt
4 c bread flour
4.5 c AP flour
Dissolve yeast with warm water and honey. Whisk the oil into the yeast and add the 4 eggs one at a time, whisking thoroughly between additions. Add salt and remaining sugar. Then add flour in increments until a nice dough forms. Knead until smooth and let rise in a greased bowl until nearly doubled in size. Then, punch down dough, and let rise again for another half hour or so. The third rise will take place when the bread is in its braided or loaf form. *Note; allowing any of these rising processes to be retarded by the refridgerator overnight is said to improve the end result vastly.*
So, after the 2nd rising, halve the dough and form 1 half into a long tube on your cutting surface. Cut dough into 3rds, then cut each third in half. This yields 6 balls of dough for a 6-straight challah braid.
Roll each of the 6 pieces into a 12-15 inch rope and smush together the edges:
Refer here for a lesson how to braid a 6 strand challah loaf:
At this point, I refrigerated my dough overnight. The next morning I pulled the two loaves (yes you must go through the above process 2x) out of the fridge and spread an eggwash over them. I preheated the oven to 375* and let the dough continue to rise. Just before baking, I washed the dough again with an eggwash and added poppy seeds. I baked the loaves for 35 minutes, rotating the sheet pans halfway through the cooking time.
The flavor of this bread was fantastic. Subtle vanilla and just slightly sweet. The texture could not have been better.