I try to bake challah on Friday’s, even though it makes a mess. White flour is everywhere, especially on the front of my black t-shirt. When I first got married, I decided I would make challah for one of our first weekends together as a married couple. My in-laws were going to walk across Central Park to visit our tiny apartment on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. Eager to impress them, I set to work baking challah in addition to the other culinary delights I was planning to provide: chicken, salad, gefilte fish and chummus. What a menu!

I pulled out the big purple cookbook that my teacher had lovingly given me when I set out for married life. I was working full time until I got married, traveling the world at conferences.

I didn’t know how to cook.

In fact, that was part of the arrangement with my husband. We would be real Manhattanites - staying at work until late and grabbing dinner at the nearest kosher restaurant. Shabbos, though, we would cook together and eat at home. Excited to host our single friends and nearby family, I scoured kosher cookbooks for recipes for basic chicken and fancy salads, cakes, and of course, challah!

Well, the first recipe for challah looked good. It included 15 cups of flour, enough to make the blessing on taking a piece of challah and sanctifying it, as Jews have done throughout the millennium. When the Temple stood in Jerusalem, we brought it to the High Priest as an offering. This, my good friend told me, is an auspicious time to ask G‑d for material blessings.

And boy, did we need material blessings. I had just lost my job and we were living in a doorman building. I followed the instructions scrupulously: mix yeast with warm water and sugar, add eggs, half the flour, sugar, salt, oil, the rest of the flour. Now, I mixed and mixed. The afternoon was speeding by and there was flour everywhere. I used all the bowls I owned in the kitchen to cook the kugel, the salad, and now the challah. I had saved my masterpiece for last.

The dough was sticky and the kneading took lots of energy. Now, to shape the loaf. Only now, five years later, can I laugh at myself. I didn’t realize that the dough would be enough for several challah’s. I read the recipe and it said "Separate dough into 3 sections".

I rolled the enormous strands of damp, sticky dough, constantly refreshing the flour on my hands for kneading. I lifted each massive strand, one over the other, making a braid with the dough as I had for my dolls as a little girl. It was beautiful—and 2 feet long. But I was not yet alarmed.

I put the challah in the oven at 350 degrees, just as the instructions commanded. Next, I set my shiny new timer - its first use - for 35 minutes. I had consulted an experienced challah baker for some details regarding this intensive process. She said "Tap the bread until it sounds hollow".

After 45 minutes, the 2 foot dough braid was mushy and damp. Another hour passed. The top was becoming quite brown, but there was no hollow sound. I covered the top with a piece of foil and hoped for the best. Finally, I made another phone call—this time to my husband, explaining that I hadn’t realized that homemade challah would take so long nor create such a large specimen.

After 2 1/2 hours, I took it out. It was quite huge. I was sure to impress my in-laws. The challah was practically as large, if not larger, than the loaf used for our wedding meal and passed around to 400 guests. I really created something special. Dan exclaimed "Wow!" upon seeing my creation.

"I wonder why it’s so huge?" I said aloud without meaning to. Let me look at the recipe. In tiny letters at the bottom of the instructions there was the following message: Yield: 3 loaves.

Mystery solved. We enjoyed the rich challah. My in-laws kvelled at my "wonderful baking," exclaiming how beautiful the challah was. It reminded all of us of our recent wedding. Celebration filled the air.

Now I still bake challah on Friday’s. The kitchen counter is still covered in white until the final countdown to candle lighting. Sometimes I can get 7 loaves from one batch of dough.

When I remember, I meditate on the ingredients. My good friend told me that the oil is for anointing ourselves so that we can care for our families. The salt represents rebuke, so we put in less than the recipe calls for and hence, offer less criticism to family and friends. Water is Torah. Flour stands for the physical comforts we enjoy and yearn for. I have 3 little helpers five years later, helping me shape the loaves, painting the egg on their "braids."

Even though the time runs short and the mess is outstanding, I cherish the time Friday afternoon when I make the blessing on separating the challah. As we grow and our needs expand exponentially, I know G‑d listens to my heart list—this one needs a raincoat, that one needs shoes, I need a manicure. Especially after I cover my nails and fingers in sticky dough each Friday afternoon.