Chanalee Fischer, aka the "Challah Fairy," is busy at her bakery in preparation for Rosh Hashanah.
Meet Chanalee Fischer, aka the "Challah Fairy." Maybe you’ve seen her challahs at Seasons, or at Prime Butcher Baker, or even visited her café in New City, New York. Fischer started baking challahs out of her home when her children were young, delivering them to her neighbor’s mailboxes on Friday afternoons. That’s how she got her title, the Challah Fairy. When her kids got a little older, she decided to turn her knack for kneading into a business. She's playful when it comes to inventing new flavors for her challahs. Her oreo challah is a best-seller, and around Thanksgiving people eagerly await her apple-cranberry challah. Her plain, poppy, sesame and crumb ones are always for sale. In the weeks leading up to Rosh Hashanah Fischer is busier than ever baking challahs and taking orders. Fortunately, she made some time to schmooze about non-challah related things, like why froyo is overrated and her signature omelet trick.
Emma Goss: Food writer and novelist Laurie Colwin wrote, “Certainly, cooking for oneself reveals man at his weirdest.” What do you eat when you’re alone?
Chanalee Fischer: I’m a big bread person. I love a dense, hard piece of bread, with all kinds of different toppings. I’ll put on some mayo and vegetables. I’m not a complicated food person. I love simple foods.
EG: How do you eat or cook differently now than you did when you were younger?
CF: I’m much more careful about what foods I use to cook with. I don’t use fatty foods. You just have to be a lot more conscious today because kids today, I don’t want to sound like everybody else, but they have so many eating problems and we all have to be careful. If you have the right foods aroudn for the kids, they are going to eat t\the right foods. I try to get them to make the right food choices and cook with the right kinds of ingredients.
EG: What principles guide your eating or cooking?
CF: I try to use natural ingredients. I don’t think artificial stuff is necsssary, I don't think it enhances the food. It takes away from the pleasure of eating.
EG: Which food writer most speaks to you?
To be honest, I'm not a big reader of food writers. I used to bring home Australian Women's Weekly Magazine (when I lived in Australia). They had the most amazing recipes. I have a collection of 30 or 40 of them. A lot of my first recipes came from there.
EG: Share with us a simple tip for cooking or eating that never fails you.
CF: When you're making an omelet, sauté the vegetables in the pot, beat the eggs in a little bowl, pour the sautéd vegetables into the bowl with the egges, and then pour it back into the pot. It flavors up the eggs and everything mixes around properly in the bowl.
EG: What’s a food trend that totally mystifies you?
CF: The only food trend that mystifies me is frozen yogurt. I don’t know how people eat so much of it. Frozen yogurt is delicious, but after you eat a few ounces of it you get brain freeze.
EG: What’s a mistake you consistently make in the kitchen or at a restaurant?
CF: I put my hands in the dough machine when I'm pushing stuff off the sides and get it stuck in the machine hook. Don’t put your hands in the machine. I always think I know better. I never do.
EG: What’s your favorite Jewish food, and why?
CF: I love gefitle fish, but favorite Jewish food is cholent. I love cholent because when you come to somebody’s house on Friday afternoon or Shabbos morning, when you smell cholent you get the smell of Shabbos. All cholents look different but they’re all amazing.
EG: If your personality could be characterized by a food, which one would it be and why?
CF: I'm a challah! I'm flavorful and colorful and love to be at a table enjoying a meal with friends and family.