Kosher cookbooks have been advancing for quite a while, but a new book specifically about challah, braided Sabbath breads, brings them to a whole new level.

A Taste of Challah by Tamar Ansh is a comprehensive guide to the art of Jewish bread baking, seamlessly weaving the ritual aspects of separating the actual “challah” – the portion in memory of the Holy Temple – and the blessings, with solid tips on bringing the tastiest loaves to your Shabbat table.

Author Ansh says she published the book to encourage Jewish women to feel the excitement of producing their own challah and participate in a major mitzvah, commandment.

The book puts within reach the extravagant braided masterpieces that one usually sees only at simchas (joyous occasions), from gourmet bakeries. Even the elusive pull-apart challah is broken down into easy, illustrated steps.

The scope of the book widens further. It encompasses traditional Jewish bread-baking from many different traditions, from Yemeite Saluf to onion croissants and even soft pretzels (you know, like they used to serve at ancient Jewish carnivals).

Also reflected in the book is an acknowledgment that many English-speakers live in Israel. When speaking about preparing a pan for the challah, Ansh writes: “Use parchment baking paper. In Israel this is called niyar afiyah. In the United States this is NOT wax paper.” She also covers the Israeli measurements of yeast.

The book is quite unique in its successful combination of midrashic sources, halacha, original recipes, stunning photography and practical format. Who knew that pull-apart challah represents the unification of the twelve tribes of Israel and the reenactment of the miraculous show breads from the Holy Temple?

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