Tu B'Shevat, Challah & Babka
by Guest Columnist Leah Hadad
Sitting in Washington, DC, in December, it is hard to imagine what symbolizes a sunny, new beginning of spring in Israel, Tu B'Shevat, is only a month away. There is a tendency to reminisce during holidays and times when we celebrate or commemorate a personal or communal event. It was just about this time of the year, that I formally registered Tribes-A-Dozen as a legal entity.
When I think about Tu B'Shevat, I am awash with memories of the almond tree’s delicate pink blossom and the ‘tishbahat batsalahat’, a plate of dried fruits and nuts we shared after dinner when I was growing up in Israel. Dried fruits, nuts, and seeds are a traditional fare for Yemenite Jews, especially on Shabbat and holidays. But tishbahat batsalahat (literally, the finest of the fruit of the earth on the plate) is an Israeli Tu B'Shevat custom. These days other seasonal goodies are also eaten, such as the candied pomela peel which I sampled several years ago while visiting my niece's preschool class on an Israeli kibbutz.
Planting young saplings is another Israeli custom, as the holiday is Rosh Hashana La’ilanot (New Year to the trees). By planting, we are actively transforming and repairing the world for future generations and us, very much like when humans moved from gathering seeds in the wild, to cultivating them and turning them into bread. Tu B'Shevat is a time of renewal; it is a good time for planting all kinds of seeds, actual and metaphorical. It is a time for exalting creation and for creativity.
In honor of Tu B'shvat, I created a babka that could be named "tishbahat ba’babka," or the finest of the earth’s fruit in the babka. You can substitute any flavor marmalade or dried fruit. The dough is made from the versatile Voilà! Hallah Egg Bread Mix. I am partial to the dairy version, but the parve version is just as scrumptious. It can be baked as a loaf, but I prefer the roses babka because it reminds me of blossoms in spring.
About the Author
Leah Hadad is Founder & President of Tribes-A-Dozen. She resides with her family in Washington, D.C, where she also practiced as attorney at law before founding Tribes. A self–taught baker and cook, she delights friends and family at gatherings and dinner parties with her traditional recipes skillfully and lovingly adapted for the modern day home cook. She believes that baking bread is a spiritual experience that defines our humanity.
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January 14, 2013