Heirloom Recipe Series: Blogger & Author of Apron Anxiety Alyssa Shelasky.

As promised, today is the “big day” for Alyssa and the release of her new book, Apron Anxiety: My Messy Affairs In and Out of the Kitchen {big congrats!}. Don’t forget to pop over and enter to win a copy for yourself in the giveaway this week!
I am thrilled to have her here with us today to share this very special recipe as part of my Heirloom Recipe Series. I must say, when I received her email photo of this recipe card, I nearly fell off my chair. How fabulously well-loved is this card? The scribbles, handwritten notes, splatters of ingredients and splashes of color are simply to die for.

Congrats Alyssa and thanks for being a guest. I know you’ll all enjoy this one as much as I have!

Crazy and Amazing Challah Bread

I recently interviewed a celebrity who went on a tangent about birth control and David Bowie and crème brûlée. I put her on speakerphone for my boyfriend to experience as she layered on more nonsensical storylines—rutabagas, Ryan Seacrest, and Buddhism (or was it Gluten-ism?). He rolled his eyes; I pressed the mute button and screamed, “She’s amazzzing!”

Wow, I could have listened to her tales of hot washcloths and homemade cornbread and Karl Lagerfeld forever. But then again, I love a crazy bird; a woman who is only herself. The art of being unapologetically yourself is a gift. This starlet really owned it, and I would like to think I do, too.

It’s a DNA thing, I tell myself. I was raised around really cool—though measurably more stable—unconventional women. “Quiet rebels,” as I say in my book Apron Anxiety. My aunts and cousins—not to mention my sister, mother, and grandmother—are not your average Janes. They’re strong, hilarious, hard-working females who have never been afraid to be flawed or offbeat. We’re a family of wonderful, why-be-normal creatures, who are loyal, close, and lucky enough to know that laughter heals pain.

My Auntie Ellie is probably the most unique of us all, with her hippy-heart, hyper-emotional life experiences and West Coast (via Western Mass) way of life. She’s a lifetime animal lover and has been a vegetarian for as long as I can remember. While we tend to steer clear of some of her faux-turkey triumphs, everyone begs for her earthy-crunchy baked goods. Here is her famed challah—fresh out of the oven, with a little butter, it’s better than anything in the world. By the way, it was actually this beautifully tattered and stained recipe card that inspired the design of my blog, and by extension my book. So, thanks, Auntie E. Here’s to girls like us!

Ellen Wright’s Challah

Makes 1 large loaf, 2 mediums, or 3 smalls

2 packages of yeast

2 cups warm water

4 tablespoons plus a pinch salt

1/2 cup sugar

1 1/2 cups melted shortening, such as Crisco (or a little less)

4 eggs

7 cups flour

Poppy seeds

Dissolve the yeast in 1 cup warm water. After it bubbles, add 1 more cup of warm water, plus the salt, sugar, and shortening. Blend in 3 eggs, then 3 1/2 cups of flour.  Mix until a dough forms. Slowly add the remaining flour and mix until the batch feels formed.

Knead the dough well for 8 to 10 minutes, until smooth. Place it in a lightly-greased bowl and cover with a tea towel. Leave at room temperature and let rise for 1 to 1 1/2 hours, until it has doubled.  Punch down and place on greased baking sheet. Braid as 1 large challah loaf, 2 mediums, or 3 smalls, and let rise again at room temperature for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Brush with the remaining egg, sprinkle with poppy seeds, and a pinch more salt. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 350F.
Place the loaf or loaves on a baking sheet and bake for 1 hour until well-browned on top.  Let rest and serve when cooled.

Be sure to connect with Alyssa on her blog Apron Anxiety, on Twitter at @apronanxiety, and snag her new book here!

Part of our Heirloom Recipe Series, featuring foodies, chefs, artisans, authors, Southerners & fabulous folks willing to share their stories, recipes and photos in an effort to help preserve and share these family recipes for generations to come.

I’m an old soul based in Atlanta, GA and mom of 3 with a deep love of all things from the past with a story to tell, on a mission to keep heirlooms around for another generation - whether it be a tradition, splattered family recipe, or historic home.

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