Want Challah No Colorado Bear Can Resist? You’ll Find It In ‘Shalom On The Range’

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Ryan Warner/CPR News
Jason Cordova and Savannah Rivka Powell work in the kitchen to bake up some challah.

Challah holds a special place in the pantheon of bread. The simple Kosher loaf is usually braided and a staple of many Jewish celebrations and holidays. Bears love it too.

“It’s a bear with good taste,” joked Jason Cordova, the husband of Savannah Rivka Powell, of Aurora.

And for good reason. Powell’s honey challah is jazzed up with thinly-sliced candied ginger which she said, “adds a bit of sweet and a bit of spicy.” One year when she made it for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, the loaf was particularly huge. Which meant leftovers. Which a friend took home, but left in the backseat of their car. Which is where the bear found it after they broke in.

So, rest assured, the honey challah recipe you find in “Shalom on the Range: A Roundup of Recipes and Jewish Traditions From Colorado Kitchens” is local bear-approved. A Jewish nursing home put the deliciously titled cookbook together in 1997 and Powell later got it as a gift.

“A friend of mine bought it at a used book sale from the Denver Public Library,” she said.

Ryan Warner/CPR News
A well-used copy of "Shalom on the Range" sits on the counter in Savannah Rivka Powell's kitchen.

Cordova and Powell moved in practiced choreography around their modest, charming kitchen as they make the recipe once again. They use whole wheat flour because, they say, it sounds healthier. “And then you can sprinkle something on top. I like poppy seeds,” Powell added.

Cordova is descended from Ute and Tewa and didn’t grow up Jewish. He’s been “really happy to learn about these traditions through Savannah.” The couple said they’ve brought this challah to the feast that follows a teepee ceremony — where it has been a hit.

The couple has yet to try many of the other recipes in “Shalom on the Range.” There are two for challah bread pudding. The “really fancy one” has mascarpone cream, Powell noted. There’s a lot of local charm in the cookbook’s pages, like recipes for Boulder Broccoli Casserole, Red Rocks Potatoes, Denver Chocolate Cake and Palisade Fall Fruit Salad.

Honey Twist Challah

3 cups bread flour
1 1/2 tsp. salt
1/4 cup honey
1/4 cup corn oil
3/4 cup water
1 egg yolk
1 egg
2 tsp. active dry yeast

1 egg, beaten
pinch of salt
sesame or poppy seeds

Combine half of total amount of flour and all other dry ingredients, including the yeast, in a large mixing bowl and set aside. Heat the liquids (water, milk, honey, butter, etc.) in a small saucepan until very warm (120° to 130°). Pour liquid mixture over mixed dry ingredients. Blend at low speed of electric mixer or mix by hand until moistened. Add eggs. Beat on medium speed or vigorously by hand for about 3 minutes. Stir in enough remaining flour to make dough easy to handle.

Knead dough on a floured surface until smooth and elastic, about 8 to 10 minutes. Place in a greased bowl. Turn greased-side up. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until light and doubled in size. Once dough has doubled, knead lightly to extract air, then let rise, covered with plastic wrap for 5 to 10 minutes.

Divide dough in half. Divide each half into three equal pieces. Roll to form strands of equal length, about 10 to 12 inches long and tapered slightly at the ends. Braid the three strands together and place on a greased baking sheet. Repeat with remaining strands. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise until almost doubled. For the glaze, combine egg and salt. Brush on loaves. Sprinkle with sesame or poppy seeds. Bake loaves in preheated 350° oven for 30 minutes. Remove from baking sheets immediately and cool on wire rack.

Red Rocks Potatoes

1 large jewel yam
1 large sweet potato
1 large garnet yam
1 large baking potato

1 large red potato
2 tsp. dried rosemary
2 tbl. olive oil
salt and pepper

Peel and cut potatoes into 1-inch dice. Place in a large zip lock bag. Add remaining ingredients and turn to coat well. Spread potatoes evenly on a baking sheet which has been coated with nonstick vegetable spray. Bake in preheated oven 400° oven until browned and crispy, about 45 minutes to 1 hour, turning occasionally.

Palisade Fall Fruit Salad

6 cups mixed chopped fruit (apples, pears, grapes, tangerines, oranges, bananas and berries)

1/2 cup orange marmalade
2 tbl. orange liqueur
2 tbl. orange juice
2 tbl. dry vermouth

Place fruit in a serving bowl. Combine all dressing ingredients and mix well. Pour over fruit and stir gently. Chill 1 to 3 hours before serving.

For our series “The Kitchen Shelf,” CPR News wants to know about other local Colorado cookbooks and we want your help. Whether your cookbook is collecting dust on a shelf or is a butter-stained countertop workhorse, take a picture of the cover and tweet @cprwarner or email it to [email protected]. We’d love to share more of these family recipes and the stories behind them.