Baking Challah – The New York Times

Early in the morning lately, before the sun rises, around 6:30 a.m., you can feel fall in the air in New York City. It’s that betwixt and between period, when the light is lowering but you can still get tomatoes and peaches at the market, still get away with short sleeves.

A colleague described these in-between days as times when we partake of “the dregs of summer rituals,” the last B.L.T.s and beach days, while, in the same moment, starting to observe the rites of fall.

In anticipation of one of those rites, Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, which begins this year on Sept. 25, I made challah for the first time recently. I skipped the sourdough frenzy of 2020, so I’m coming around late to the comforts and rewards of bread making.

I’d assumed making challah would be difficult — it’s so rich and impressively ornate — but was thrilled to learn that it’s a good beginner bread that requires neither stand mixer nor starter babysitting. “If you’re bread-curious but not sure where to begin, start here,” writes Claire Saffitz in “The Only Challah Recipe You’ll Ever Need.”

My friend Aliza, who makes challah every Friday for Shabbat, advised me to knead the dough “until it’s as soft as a baby’s tushy” and to make sure I let it rise enough. “Then it’s really about sharing it with people you love or who you are welcoming into your home,” she said. “And that just feels so good that it tastes better.”

I impressed myself with two shiny, braided loaves that tasted as good as they looked. I sent photos to friends, who asked when I’d be inviting them over to break bread. I’m considering a fall bread-making ritual, a practice that will give me a good excuse to gather people together, as a constant during the changing season. I’ll make tomato sandwiches with it for now, then accompaniment for soup and beans as it gets colder.

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After a steamy summer of eating mostly salads for dinner, I feel mentally ready for heartier, more satisfying fare. But with temperatures forecast to reach the 80s in New York this weekend, I don’t want to crank the oven for long-braised meats or slowly simmered stews. A Thai pork larb is the perfect solution, and it comes together in a flash. The caramelized ground pork and toasted rice flour give it richness and depth; plenty of herbs, shallots and tangy lime juice keep it light and brightly flavored. Is pork not your thing? You can use ground turkey, chicken or even tofu instead. It’s the combination of fresh chiles, cilantro and fish sauce that makes the dish sing.

A selection of New York Times recipes is available to all readers. Please consider a Cooking subscription for full access.

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Thanks for spending part of your weekend with The Times. — Melissa

Correction: A picture caption in yesterday’s newsletter referred incompletely to Representatives Abigail Spanberger and Chip Roy. They are sponsors of a House bill to restrict congressional stock trades; they are not among the lawmakers who reported trades in companies influenced by the committees they sit on.

Lauren Hard, Claire Moses, Ian Prasad Philbrick, Tom Wright-Piersanti and Ashley Wu contributed to The Morning. You can reach the team at

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