Why Bird Shapes?
According to “Joan Nathan’s Jewish Holiday Cookbook” (Schocken, 2004), bird-shaped challah rolls, called feygelekh (Yiddish for “little bird”) symbolized “the protection of God’s people as stated in Isaiah 31:5: ‘As birds hovering [over their fledglings], so will the Lord of hosts protect Jerusalem.’” Another interpretation, offered by Linda Burghardt in “Jewish Holiday Traditions” (Citadel, 2001) is that birds are a traditional symbol of mercy, making them the perfect emblem during a season of judgment. The same rolls served before Yom Kippur, writes Gil Marks in “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food” (Wiley, 2010), represented the eater’s hope that “our sins should fly away and…. our prayers soar to the heavens.” In addition to their symbolic nature, it’s easy to imagine the delight of the children at the table when the challah cover is lifted to reveal a flock of edible birds!
Read more here.
I use my own favorite challah recipe but here’s the one Leah Koenig gave.
Feygelekh (Bird-shaped challah rolls)
Challah recipe adapted from Marcy Goldman’s “A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking”
Makes 12 rolls
From The Forward
4 teaspoons dry yeast
1/4 cup plus a pinch of sugar
1 1/2 cups warm water
1/4 cup honey
1 tablespoon salt
1/3 cup vegetable oil
4 eggs, divided
3 cups all-purpose flour
3 cups whole wheat bread flour
raisins, currants, pumpkin seeds, sesame seeds, sunflower seeds or flax seeds for decoration
1. In a large bowl, mix together the yeast, a pinch of sugar and water; let stand 3-5 minutes until foamy. Add remaining sugar, honey and salt, followed by the oil and three eggs, mixing well to combine.
2. Add all of the all-purpose flour and about 90% of the bread flour to the wet mixture and gently fold with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together but is still quite wet. Tip the dough onto a clean work surface; knead for about 8 minutes while slowly incorporating as much of the remaining flour as necessary to make a supple, elastic dough. Place dough in a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap or a dishtowel and let rise until almost doubled in size, from 45-90 minutes.
3. Preheat oven to 400 degrees and line two baking sheets with parchment paper. Deflate the dough and divide it into 12 small balls. Roll each ball into a 7-inch tube, leaving either end a bit thicker and more bulbous than the middle. Dust hands with flour; tie the tube into a knot and place on a baking sheet. Insert a pumpkin seed for a beak and two raisins (or whatever combination you prefer) for eyes on one end of the knot. Cut two small slices into the other end and fan out slightly, like a tail. Repeat with remaining dough balls.
4. Whisk the remaining egg in a bowl and brush over the tops of the rolls; sprinkle with additional seeds if desired.
5. Place baking sheet in the oven; turn oven down to 375 and cook for approximately 15-20 minutes until lightly browned and baked through. Remove from oven and cool on a wire rack.