Pictured above, Alessandra Pekins in Ridgefield, Connecticut, at the home of The Travelers, preparing to bake Challah bread.
Often, nights turn into mornings as Ally bakes away. I've even watched her say "Girl, I'm goin' to bed for real." only to turn around and bake two different dishes. Sometimes pie, sometimes mini pies, sometimes cupcakes. You never know when you'll wake up to a warm monkey bread.
Like sweet sugar, Ally has become a staple among her community of artist friends. Her Italian and Southern roots keep her feet firmly planted in one of her favorite places: the kitchen, that is, when she isn't belting out sultry songs on stages all over New York City.
To be in Ally's graces means being fed..a lot, and loved even more. Her ferocious mama bear instincts are her way of saying "I got this, don't mess with him, don't mess with her, don't mess with me." She's as loyal as they come.
So much so that, inspired by her Jewish-musician-boyfriend, she has set out on a journey of learning to make what has become our favorite Challah bread, inspired by Joan Nathan's "My Favorite Challah" recipe.
Last week when I asked her to bake me a Challah bread as a "thank you" for a friend, she baked TWO.
She used the "My Favorite Challah" base recipe: http://cooking.nytimes.com/recipes/6697-my-favorite-challah
Ally shaped the first Challah traditionally, but added fresh dill to the dough. She suggests serving the Dill Challah sliced, toasted and filled with lox, cream cheese, red onion and tomato.
Ally shaped the second Challah into a wreath and filled the dough with finely chopped almonds and cashews, honey and raisins and covered the top with cinnamon sugar. She suggests warming this Challah in the oven, sprinkling the top with orange zest and serving with fruit and coffee.
In case you're getting inspired to attempt your own Challah, here is a tip from Ally about why it's important to sift your flour. With commentary by Carissa Matsushima and myself, Kerin Bowen.
Comment below and tell us what you would fill your Challah with!
xo Free The Artists xo