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Mishloach Manot: A Delicious Purim Mitzvah

Mishloach manot, or shalach manot, means “sending portions” of food to friends, and it is one delicious Purim mitzvah. On Purim, which falls this year on Thursday, March 5, friends exchange gifts of ready-to-eat food and beverages, to enhance the joy of the holiday.

TB1PURLGChallah Connection will assemble and send your Purim baskets, so you can relax and enjoy the holiday fun. Your mishloach manot should include at least two ready-to-eat foods or beverages, but you can exceed your friends’ expectations with Purim Traditions in a Box: cookies, brownie, chocolates, nuts, grape juice — all kosher, of course — and a noisemaker, all packed in a festive, Purim-themed package.

Purim is all about fun, food, and drinking, along with a public reading of the Megillah (scroll) of Esther, the young Jewish woman who captured the heart of the King of Persia and saved her people from destruction. It’s a long story, and that gives the word “megillah” the connotation of unending tedium. In fact, Purim is anything but boring. It’s a crazy, fun day that even has its own cookie: hamentaschen (Yiddish for “Haman’s pockets”) are a fruit-filled pastry folded in a triangle. Fun fact: In Israel, they’re called “oznei Haman” or “Haman’s ears.” We hate Haman, but we love those pockets!

On Purim, children — and many adults — wear costumes, eat sweets and party their brains out. Give them some extra Purim fun from Challah Connection. This great package includes masks, games and noisemakers, so the little ones can enjoy the holiday spirit, plus a variety of fruit-filled hamentaschen for mishloach manot.

Another entertaining aspect of Purim: drinking! Adults are expected to get tipsy enough so they can’t tell the difference between Esther’s nobleMoradDuoLg cousin Mordechai and the villain Haman, whose name is blotted out by booing and noisemakers during the Megillah reading. Show off your deep understanding of Purim tradition by sending your friends two bottles of fine Israeli wine, along with a platter of hamentaschen.

A key Purim mitzvah (obligation) is giving gifts of food to the poor, so they can celebrate too. Challah Connection is your Purim partner. We will be donating challah and our delicious kosher baked goods to our local food bank for our local friends to share and enjoy.

So, nu? Order your goodies from Challah Connection already, and have a very happy Purim. Enjoy! It’s a mitzvah!

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The Essence of Purim: Mitzvot, Hamentashen & Shalach Manot

From start to finish, Purim delivers on fun. It’s one big ‘ol party, dedicated to celebration, storytelling, tumult-making, and costumed festivity. The holiday celebrated on March 4th this year (2015), on the 14th of Adar (marking the day of a great battle, as told in the Book of Esther).

The complicated tale of Purim commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in Persia were saved from extermination. It’s a story of triumph over evil, strong women, and serious chutzpah. Talk about wonderful lessons! No wonder we live it up on this happy day. Beyond the fun and games, though, this holiday comes with responsibilities…a to-do list, if you will. Nu? What did you expect! According to Jewish tradition, there are four important mitzvot to fulfill at Purim (frailach celebration included!):

1. Hear the Book of Esther (The Megillah) read aloud:
The Megillah is read twice on Purim. This is part of the fun, often spilling over into community plays and pageantry. During the reading, people stomp their feet and make noise when HAMAN, the name of the story’s evil villain, is mentioned. Groggers (Purim noisemakers) help everyone whoop up a racket to drown out the terrible name.

2. Give gifts of food (Shalach Manot).
Items of immediately edible kosher food are given on Purim day. Fruits, nuts, and hamantaschen are traditional. Hamantaschen are tasty filled pastries, known for their triangular shape. They resemble the 3-cornered hat of villainous Haman (boo!). In Israel, hamantaschen are called Oznei Hamen (Hebrew: אוזני המן‎) for “Haman’s ears”. Filled with poppy seed, fruits, chocolate, caramel, or cheese, they are fantastic gifts, enjoyed and recognized by all who celebrate. Olives, crackers, rugelach, Babka, and smoked salmon are other examples of geshmak (delish) food gifts to share. Challah Connection has a variety of Purim Gift Baskets, brimming with happiness.

3. Offer Purim gifts to the poor.
Remembering the poor (Matanot l’evyonim) means giving to people less fortunate than you. This is a year-round mitzvah, but on Purim, it’s an obligation. The gift of food is a lovely, generous way to do good and give back to the community.

4. Have a festive meal on Purim Day.
Eat, drink, and be merry! The Purim feast is to be filled with lots of good food and kosher wine. The whole atmosphere is fun and even raucous–a gift of pleasure to our bodies and souls. Challah Connection can provide a beautiful feast, with chicken soup and matzah balls, brisket, roast chicken, latkes, tzimmes, and challah for 4-6 people. A traditional holiday dinner is a marvelous mitzvah indeed! Add a kosher wine basket, too? Never a bad thing!

The Purim to-do list is all about giving and receiving joy. So, think spring! Think Purim! Think happiness! When it comes to a gut yontiff, that’s the whole megillah!

Jane Moritz is Owner and Chief Maven Officer of Challah Connection, the premiere online purveyors of traditional kosher gifts for Jewish holidays, shiva, Jewish birthday celebrations and all Jewish gift giving occasions. Her company has been “Creating Kvells Since 2002.” www.challahconnection.com

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Kosher Gift Baskets –Baskets of Jewish Tradition For All Your Friends & Family

Kosher Bakery Classics Care Package Challah Connection has been shipping kosher gift baskets since 2002. In that time, we have learned what people want in a kosher gift basket. Simply put, they want delicious, edible tradition. Jewish baked goods such as challah, babka, rugelach, rainbow cookies and black and whites are the core of our most popular kosher baskets. Whether for Jewish holidays, birthday, shiva, college care package or other occasions, kosher bakery favorites resonate deeply with recipients. We have found that whether or not the recipient keeps kosher, most Jewish people—and non-Jews as well–love these kosher bakery favorites. Other Jewish favorites such as lox and bagels and kosher deli are also treasured.

Many of the bakery favorites were brought to America by immigrants from Eastern Europe at the turn of the 20th century and have tremendous nostalgia value for many Jews. They have become traditional favorites by many who “grew up” with them and now want to share them with their own children. Here are some quotes from our customers when they were asked to share thoughts and feelings about babka (the loaf shaped coffee cake-like dessert shown above, that is one of our best sellers):

NYC Brunch Basket, Lox and Bagel Basket-“Babka represents family and holidays”
-“Kosher baked goods are so important”
-“My grandmother, from Germany, would make the best babka, and every time I eat it I think of her”
“I remember my grandma rolling out the dough on the kitchen table, and the smells that went thru the house”
-“Babka=Jewish. It symbolizes Bubbee and is a good Jewish staple that most people love.

Through these quotes you can see the deep connection people have with Jewish foods—foods with rich traditions that are included in our kosher gift baskets. A kosher gift basket will bring your Jewish friend or family member a deeper connection to your gift and therefore greater appreciation for your generosity.

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Babka is the Darling of the Kosher Bakery

If there is a darling of the kosher bakery, it is the beloved babka. Babka-a cross between a yeasted bread and coffee cake is typically baked in a loaf shape and with chocolate or cinnamon flavor “veining” throughout. It is rich and delicious with coffee, tea or a glass of milk for afternoon snack, dessert or breakfast.

Babka
is a dessert full of soul and history. We can trace babka’s roots to Eastern Europe where the balaboostas (cooks) baked their family recipe for Shabbat and Jewish Holidays. Now, in the 2000’s, you will find babka in kosher bakeries and Jewish stores throughout Europe, Israel Babka, Chocolate Babka, Challah Connectionand the US. It is written about, talked about on TV and radio and is loved by both Jews and non-Jews alike.

At Challah Connection, babka is our customers’ favorite baked good (although rugelach, challah and black and whites are close seconds) and is a key ingredient in our most popular kosher gift baskets. Curious to understand what makes the babka so adored, we sent our customers a brief survey and found some interesting information:

Chocolate babka is without doubt, more popular than cinnamon babka. 64% of recipients prefer chocolate babka vs 36% who prefer cinnamon (remember Elaine on Seinfeld calling cinnamon the “lesser babka?)

When asked what they specifically love about babka, 69% of respondents cited the flavor while 33% stated texture and for another 31%, it’s a reminder of European ancestors.

When we asked our customers to share any additional thoughts, memories, cherished recipes or ideas about babka, we got some truly touching responses:

-A lesser babka, I don’t think so : )

-Babka represents family and holidays

-Brings back the “Old Country

-Great college finals pick me up and reminder that no matter the outcome, we love you

-It’s always a crowd pleaser…even if someone didn’t grow up on Babka, it becomes a favorite

-Just like I used to have when my Mother bought it in the 50s and 60s YUM

-Kosher baked goods are so important

-My grandmother, from Germany, would make the best babka, and every time I eat it I think of her
Kosher Bakery Classics Care Package

-babka is synonymous with shabbes cake and takes me back to summer camp days

-just the yummiest thing ever!

-the more butter and chocolate the better! (note there is no butter in Challah Connection babka; it’s pareve/non dairy)

-There is nothing better than my family standing around the kitchen and slowly eating the babka up while standing! No plates, no seats, no forks needed!

-Babka, like kugel, is quintessentially Eastern European Jewish

-Babka, for me, is a fusion of Jewish and Eastern European (former Soviet Union in my case). If made right it is not too sweet but just right with tea. And of course who can forget the babka that was so prominently featured on an episode of Seinfeld???

-I remember my grandma rolling out the dough on the kitchen table, and the smells that went thru the house

-Babka=Jewish. It symbolizes Bubbee and is a good Jewish staple that most people love. The cinnamon is also good but I find most people really like the chocolate ones.

We find these quotes heartwarming and beautiful. Imagine that a simple baked good carries so much meaning and joy for so many people. We thank our customers for sharing their thoughts and also want to share that our non-Jewish friends also love babka and send it to their loved ones for Easter, Thanksgiving and Christmas.

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Tu B’Shevat, Purim and Passover–Reminders of What’s Important

Winter and early Spring bring lovely Jewish holidays that are perfect opportunities to remind us of important lessons: appreciation of NATURE and FREEDOM. These holidays are also wonderful occasions to send kosher holiday gift baskets to friends and family.

Tu B'Shevat Fruit Basket, Challah ConnectionKnown as Jewish Arbor Day or New Year for the trees,  Tu B’Shevat is a day to honor trees, nature and the earth. On Tu B’Shevat—celebrated on the 15th day of the Hebrew month Shevat—we celebrate nature and specifically trees and their bounty. On this day we put environmentalism on the front burner as we appreciate the beauty that trees bring to our lives and their fruits. On Tu B’Shevat, it is tradition to eat foods grown on trees or in the earth. Naturally, fruit and nuts make wonderful kosher gifts and Challah Connection offers many fresh fruit baskets to choose from. Carob as well as foods considered Israel’s 7 species, grapes, olives, dates, figs and pomegranates, are also popular. Tu B’Shevat is on February 4, 2015.

Purim is a celebration of freedom, strength of women and the ability to stand up to adversity. Purim tells the story of the wicked Haman who plotted to kill Jews and the beautiful Jewish Queen Esther

Pure Essentials, Challah Connection

who schemed and ultimately saved the Jews. We are instructed to read the Megilla (Purim story) every year at Purim to remind us of the important Purim events and lessons. To help bring it to life for young children to adults, we eat hamentashen—the triangle cookie—that represents Haman’s triangle shaped hat . It is considered a mitzvah to share food gifts, shalach manot, with friends, family and the poor. Our Purim Gift Basket department is full of many Purim gift choices and Shalach Manot. Purim is on March 4.

Following Purim by just a month is Passover, which puts the lesson of slavery vs freedom on the largest scale of the year. Passover, which is 8 days and begins on April 3 with the first seder, tells the story of the Jews’ life as slaves in Egypt followed by their exodus out of the desert to freedom. The Passover Cookie Platter, Challah Connectionseder is filled with symbolism from the way we sit to the foods we eat. The purpose of the seder is to “never forget” and to hold our freedom dear to us. The best known Passover food tradition is matzo, which reminds us of the unleavened bread that our forefathers and mothers ate because they did not have time to wait for their bread to rise. Passover gifts abound as Passover is a wonderful, springtime holiday that is truly a time to share. Visit our Passover Gift Basket department for the finest Passover gift giving. Passover begins on April 3.


If you need help making your selections, we are always here to help:

TOLL FREE: 866-242-5524
EMAIL: challah@challahconnection.com
CHAT: On our website

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Latkes–The Light of the Hanukkah Kitchen, Recipes Included

Hanukkah is once again upon us and I am dusting off the giant frying pan I use just once a year. shari and jane2 I know many people prefer to buy already cooked latkes to avoid the mess and lingering smell, but once or twice a year, I find it very gratifying to make them and it makes Hanukkah a bit more special. (For those of you who prefer to buy, Challah Connection latkes are as close to homemade as you can get and we deliver them all over the country.)

If you are like me–a homemade latke person–then listen up as I have some terrific recipes to share with you. I picked the brains of some fellow kosher food bloggers and got some impressive spins (not related to the dreidel spinning) on the classic latke. Of course the classic latke is still terrific and you can click here for our recipe.

Amy Kritzer writes the blog “What Jew Wanna Eat” which features Jewish food recipes, each with a dash of her own creative flair. In that vein, Amy has created Latke Nachos with Homemade Queso for those of us who want some Mexican flavor with our latkes. Latkes Nachos from "What Jew Wanna Eat" I love the idea of cheese and black beans and will definitely be trying these.

AMY’S RECIPE
Latkes Nachos with Homemade Queso

Prep time
20 mins
Cook time
20 mins
Total time
40 mins

“Nacho” average latkes! These are Latkes Nachos!
Author: Amy Kritzer
Recipe type: Appetizer
Cuisine: Hanukkah
Serves: 2
Ingredients

For queso:
1 tablespoon butter or oil
1 tablespoon all-purpose flour
1 cup plain yogurt (such as Noosa), at room temperature
¼ cup cream cheese (full-fat), at room temperature
¾ cup Monterey Jack cheese, finely shredded, at room temperature (this helps melting)
¾ cup cheddar cheese, finely shredded, at room temperature
1 diced chipotle in adobo sauce (or more to taste)
Salt to taste
For latkes:
1½ pounds russet potatoes, peeled and shredded (about 4 cups) into a bowl of water.
2 tablespoons onion, small diced
3 eggs, whisked
2 cloves garlic, minced
CLICK HERE FOR COMPLETE RECIPE

SPINACH AND ZUCCHINI LATKES via Kosher Like Me

Fellow Kosher Foodie Liz Rueven also fills her blog Kosher Like Me, with mouthwatering kosher recipes. Her premise is an interesting one and not-so-uncommon: Keeping kosher at home is easy but when venturing out in the world, finding high quality and interesting kosher food becomes a challenge. So Liz, like many, eats vegetarian when she is out and her blog features restaurants she likes along with recipes from the many chefs she meets.

Marcia Selden's Spinach & Zucchini Latkes--Kosher Like MeLiz features a few latke recipes but my favorite are the Spinach and Zucchini, by Marcia Selden Catering.

These veggie packed latkes are more green than potato and are deliciously savory. Enjoy them with sour cream topping, below, if you want to go dairy.

These latkes are NON-DAIRY (pareve)

Ingredients

2 C. blanched and chopped fresh baby spinach
2 C. zucchini
1 lb. Yukon Gold potatoes peeled
1 large onion
2 large eggs
½ C. matzo meal
2 Tbs. thinly sliced garlic
1 tsp. freshly ground pepper
½ Tbs. Kosher salt
Canola oil

Instructions

Grate the potatoes, zucchini and onion in food processor.
Squeeze out as much liquid as possible. Place the grated mixture in a bowl and add the spinach, egg, matzo meal, garlic, salt and pepper. Mix well.
In large, non-stick skillet, heat enough oil to cover bottom of the pan on medium high heat.
Spoon the batter (about 2 Tbs. per latke) into pan, being careful not to crowd the latkes.
Cook until crisp and brown on one side, then turn and fry on other side. Keep finished pancakes warm in oven until all pancakes are fried.
Drain on paper towels and keep warm on a wire rack in the oven on low heat. Serve with herbed sour cream.

Herbed Sour Cream

Ingredients

1 C. sour cream
2 Tbs. each-chopped flat-leaf parsley, chives, fresh dill
1 Tbs. lemon juice, plus 1 tsp. finely grated lemon peel
Kosher salt and pepper

Instructions

Combine all ingredients in a bowl and season to taste with salt and pepper. Cover and refrigerate until ready to use. Can be made up to 2 days in advance.

Now that you are inspired to cook the best latkes ever, you will want to present them to family and guests on a platter worthy of your effort. We love our Lights of Hanukkah platter , which of course, you can buy at Challah Connection.

Happy Hanukkah!

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Check out the GobbleTov Video and Learn Why Thanksgiving is a Jewish Holiday

Click on GobbleTov to see the video!

Challah Connection's GobbleTov Video--Don't Miss It!

Challah Connection’s GobbleTov Video–Don’t Miss It!

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Corporate Gift Giving for Jewish Colleagues: Do’s and Don’ts

When you are sending corporate holiday gifts to Jewish clients, customers, employees, coworkers or even your Jewish boss, there are some do’s and don’ts to keep in mind:

DON’T

Personal items are not appropriate for corporate gift giving, Challah Connection-Send anything that is too personal. A kosher food gift basket is the optimal gift for holidays including Hanukkah.

-Don’t send alcohol unless you know for a fact that the recipient drinks alcohol and there is no company rule against alcohol gifts.

-Review your company gift giving policy as well as the company policy of the recipient. There are often dollar and content restrictions on both sides.

-Don’t send different gifts to different people within the same office. You do not want to create tensions or questions as to why one person got “X” while another got “Y.”

 

DO

Sweet Sentiments Holiday Basket, Challah Connection-Send a kosher basket that is large enough to feed the entire office.

-Send a kosher gift basket that every can eat. There are many food allergies that need to be considered—gluten free, nut free, sugar free. Do your research before selecting a gift to determine whether you need to address these.

-If you are sending to someone that is Muslim, a kosher gift basket will often be acceptable.

-If you have determined that alcohol is appropriate, wine from Israel is a special gesture (do not send alcohol to anyone who is Muslim—this is strictly forbidden).

California Dried Fruit and Nut Crate, Challah Connection-Send your gifts from a company that has a deep understanding of kosher food rules. You can determine if they do by asking a few questions such as: “What is your kosher certification?” or “What is the certification of Product XYZ?” If they need to ask many other people (and put you on hold for a long time), the company is not well versed in kosher/Jewish gift giving. The right company should also have a wide array of kosher gifts, not just 2 or 3. It is preferable to select a company where their entire shop is kosher (challahconnection and koshergiftbox are 100% certified kosher). Finally, the selected company should have experience with corporate orders and is willing to resolve any product or delivery issues that may arise.

-Be sure to include a gift message with your gift. Common corporate messages are “Happy Holidays, Wishing you a happy and prosperous 201X” or Happy Holidays, We appreciate your business and look forward to our continued relationship in 201X.” NOTE: Happy Holidays encompasses all December holidays without offending anyone. However, if you know that your recipients celebrate Hanukkah or Christmas, you can alter the introduction accordingly ie Happy Hanukkah or Merry Christmas.Rugelach Gift Tin, Challah Connection

Above are some of Challah Connection’s most popular kosher corporate holiday gifts.

 

Jane Moritz is Owner and Chief Maven Officer of Challah Connection and Kosher Gift Box, the premiere online purveyors of traditional kosher gifts for Jewish holidays, shiva, Jewish birthday celebrations and all Jewish gift giving occasions. Her companies have been “Creating Kvells Since 2002.” www.challahconnection.com

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Challah Connection—A Challah-va Story

I’m often asked how Challah Connection got started. Let me begin with some personal history.

I grew up in a Jewish home where all the holidays were celebrated and my mom cooked delicious Jewish foods. I was surrounded by the flavors of tradition, from tender brisket to fluffy matzo balls to luscious homemade challah. Shortly after my first son was born, I decided to bring the tradition of challah baking into my own home and quickly became hooked on baking challah every Friday. As my kids got older, they would bring their friends to our house on Friday afternoons to watch me bake and to enjoy the aromas and tastes of fresh challah. This was when I really began to experience the power of challah—a flavorful, traditional treat that touches the soul and brings people together no matter what their backgrounds. I saw how challah really does make a connection.

Jane Moritz, Challah Connection owner, with her homemade challah

About this time, I realized that my advertising and direct marketing career wasn’t as exciting for me as it had once been. I was looking for something new and, with my passion for challah baking in mind, I explored baking-related projects and even took a production baking class which was great fun. This class showed me that I LOVED the food business and wanted to make feeding people my next career. Serendipitously, I heard about a company called Challah Connection, a local challah delivery service in Fairfield County, CT. The owner was looking to sell and I was hungry for a new opportunity.

In 2002, I purchased this little golden nugget (shall I say crumb?) of a business intending to stick to its original model of local, weekly challah delivery. But a feature on our company in The New York Times changed all that. We were happily inundated with inquiries that were mostly requests for gift baskets. I had never thought of expanding in that direction but we listened to our customers and the rest, as they say, is history.

Starting with kosher baskets to send as shiva and sympathy gifts, and then expanding into theme baskets for Jewish holidays—Purim, Passover, Shavuot, Rosh Hashana, Sukkot and Hanukkah, and more—we have learned that our customers rely on us as their primary source for Jewish gift giving and kosher gift baskets. They appreciate our explanations of the meanings and symbols behind the foods and our deep knowledge of Jewish traditions.

Now, almost 13 years later, we own the niche of kosher gift giving, offering the largest assortment of kosher gift baskets anywhere and competing with the major gift basket companies. We are proud to be the leading source for Jewish gifts and to share cherished—and delicious—Jewish traditions. And who knows…maybe one day, one of my three sons will leading our mission and I’ll be home baking challah for my grandchildren.

 
Jane Moritz is Owner and Chief Maven Officer of Challah Connection and Kosher Gift Box, the premiere online purveyors of traditional kosher gifts for Jewish holidays, shiva, Jewish birthday celebrations and all Jewish gift giving occasions. Her companies have been “Creating Kvells Since 2002.” www.challahconnection.com

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My Gluten Free Saga

I don’t have to tell you that Gluten Free eating has become extremely common—it’s everywhere! Much to my own surprise, I switched to a gluten free diet last year after I was diagnosed with an illness for which I had no symptoms. Rather then go on medication as my doctor prescribed, I met with a naturopath who put me on a gluten free diet. Since I’ve been eating gluten free, along with dairy free and (mostly) sugar free, I feel great and I have definitely noticed improvements in a few areas.

gluten free challah, challah connectionHowever, as a baker and lover of baked goods, this transition has been a test in fortitude! I bake challah every Friday and since I have yet to find a gluten free challah recipe that looks remotely appealing, I bake full-flour challah for my family and watch them enjoy it. It’s the same for cookies, cakes, rugelach—I love them all but haven’t had any in over a year! When I tell you that the biggest treat I have had over the last year is a Larabar (peanut butter chocolate chip my favorite), I am not exaggerating. I have one just about every day. But recently, my GF “treat” situation changed for the better.

Recently, I was shopping at a farmers market on the Upper West Side of New York when much to my excitement, I found a vendor with gorgeous Gluten free rugelach, Challah Connectionchallah and rugelach (shown above and right)—gluten free and kosher! I bought a bag of the rugelach, gave my business card to the shopkeeper and went home to “taste” the rugelach. I thought I would have 1 piece but then I had another and soon I had convinced myself that 5 was really fine since I had been deprived for a year and a half.

Long story short, we are now carrying this line of gluten free baked goods. They are from Las Delicias of the Bronx, and we are thrilled. The challah is outstanding as well as the rugelach, cookies and brownies. Recently, the owner of the bakery Debbie Brenner, visited us with armloads of samples and to tell her “gluten free story,” which of course was fascinating.

If you or someone you know eats a gluten free diet and enjoys Jewish baked goods including challah (pictured above)—truly braided and not using a mold—please send to challahconnection. You will be doing a mitzvah! With all of these samples here, I could use some help.

Debbie Brenner, Owner, Las Delicias and Ann Delaurentis, Director, Customer Service, Challah Connection

Debbie Brenner, Owner, Las Delicias and Ann Delaurentis, Director, Customer Service, Challah Connection

Written by Jane Moritz (jane@challahconnection.com), Chief Maven Officer, Challah Connection

Challah Connection is the premiere online kosher gift company specializing in Jewish traditional gifts for Jewish Holiday, Shiva, Jewish Birthday and all Jewish gift giving occasions . “Creating Kvells Since 2002”

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