The other day someone was manhandled for taking photographs of buildings abutting a public road . This is a man who has dedicated his whole life to the preservation of heritage buildings and he might have been recording the fact that there are precious few left in Pune. Every day large sheets of corrugated tin are propped up along old walls edging a listed heritage property. Behind these shoddy covers breaking and digging go on at a great pace. All to make way for the new. New owners, new money, new buildings.
Do they imagine that when the old is razed to the ground that people will forget it was ever there. It is like trying to erase history. Not possible.
One lucky thing is that some of the larger and best kept heritage structures are on major public roads. Like the Synagogue on Moledina Road . While it might cross many corrupt minds that the land could be put to very profitable use, thank god nobody has as yet attempted to veil the stucture with corrugated tin sheets and carry on demolition regardless, trying to erase history behind a curtain of cover ups. There are political parties who are known for doing this.
The Ohel David Synagogue or Lal Deval as it is known locally i.e. The Red Temple, built by funds donated by Sir David Sassoon in 1863, is one impressive building which is well kept , painted and clean, unlike Pune's other heritage structures.
This is wonderful as there are not more than 150 Jews left in Pune. Most of them are from the Bene Israel community and they speak Judeo Marathi which is wriiten in a Devnagari script. I don't know if baking Challah bread was ever part of their rituals but I like to believe it is.
This challah ( pronounced Halla ) is different as I did not add the usual large number of eggs nor did I add any extra sugar. It is not braided as most challahs are. I believe round ones like this are made only for Rosh Hashanah commonly known as the Jewish New Year which will be celebrated this year from September 18 onwards.
15 gms fresh yeast
1/2 tsp sugar
300 ml warm water
650 gms flour/maida
1 tsp salt
1 egg, beaten
4 tsp poppy seeds
Mix the yeast with the sugar and 50 ml of warm water. Let it stand for a while. Mix the flour and salt in a big bowl. make a well in the centre and pour in the beaten egg reserving a bit for the top later on. Add 250 ml of warm water and mix to form a ball. Knead on a floured surface for at least 10 minutes. Put this in a lighly oiled large bowl and cover. Keep in a warm place to rise for about an hour.( I am told that doubling the rising time makes it even better but I have to try that out.)
Punch the risen dough down into a medium sized ball. Turn out onto an oiled baking sheet. Brush with the beated egg and dizzle poppy seeds on top. Stand in a warm place, which is basically anywhere in this weather, and let it rise for another hour.
Heat the oven to about 220 degrees. Cook for 15 minutes then reduce the heat and cook for another 15 minutes.
Knock the bottom of the loaf with your knuckles . It should sound hollow.
Cool on a wire rack.
This is one of those loaves you can clasp to your bosom and hack off hunks of bread with a large knife to share with friends and family.
Very satisfying...both the process and the result.
. Adapted from a recipe by Sue Lawrence "On Baking"