Flour Power Graphic
Courtesy of Partners Detroit

The traditional braided bread of Eastern European origin is at the center of Flour Power, a virtual challah baking class taught by master baker Pam Turkin.

Several times a month, Jewish women can tune into a new broadcast that celebrates the art of making delicious challah bread.

The traditional braided bread of Eastern European origin is at the center of Flour Power, a virtual challah baking class taught by master baker Pam Turkin. In these 90-minute Zoom sessions, participants are shown how to create their own dough, how to braid it and learn about the unique hidden power of challah.

“Jewish women are drawn to the idea of making challah, but they don’t necessarily understand the power of it and how it can affect your home,” explains Shaindel Fink of Partners Detroit, an organization that offers a wide variety of programs to enhance Jewish life in Metro Detroit.

Fink explains that challah is associated with the power of prayer and that baking challah can help people connect with their Jewish heritage and culture. Challah can promote memories, tradition and a sense of community, all three of which are touched upon in the virtual program.

Each session of Flour Power, which was officially launched in January of this year, costs $18. Registration is limited to 12 people per class to help ensure an intimate small group experience. The $18 fee includes the delivery of a gift bag to each participant with a full-color challah cookbook with recipes of different origins, a pair of candles, an ornate blessing card and a do-it-yourself challah cover for parents to create with their children. The bags are usually delivered to the participants’ houses within a week following the program.

Participants will tune into the Sunday class to make their dough alongside Turkin. An educator from Partners Detroit will also join the class to share details on the many positive influences that challah can instill in a woman’s life.

“Pam is an experienced baking teacher,” Fink says. “She has a successful business of teaching people to bake all kinds of things over Zoom, but challah is really her passion.”

Fink and Turkin, who are longtime friends, have recently been studying the mitzvah of challah and the blessings it can bring to those who are involved in it.

When Turkin had the idea of sharing this knowledge with others and turning the art of challah into a class people can participate in, Fink says Partners Detroit was all for it. They collaborated with nonprofit Jewish engagement and literacy organization PJ Library, plus JFamily Detroit, to get the idea off the ground. They developed advertising, what the program would look like and how to get it out into the local community.

Challah Making Process
LEFT: Pam Turkin demonstrates how to braid challah. Turkin walks through each step in the process. CENTER: An intricately braided challah ready to bake. RIGHT: After each session, participants have a ready-to-eat loaf.
‘A Huge Success’

Generating excitement wasn’t difficult. “It’s really been a huge success,” Fink says. Flour Power has even seen three generations of women in a family sign up for the program together, connecting while fulfilling a timeless Jewish tradition. They practice different types of funky braids, ranging all the way from a heart shaped challah to a nine-braid loaf.

In each class, women get a chance to reminisce on their memories of making challah or other meaningful Jewish memories, something Turkin often asks participants to share with the group. It’s part of the reason why Flour Power limits classes to small sizes, despite demand. “Once 12 people register for any given class, we’ll close registration for that class,” Fink says. “We don’t want to give up the intimacy of it.”

Fink and Turkin plan to continue the program up to the summer, when they’ll take a short break from classes, and then resume later. “We’re definitely happy to go forward with it for as long as we can,” Fink says from a Partners Detroit perspective. “We’ve found that people, even people who’ve never made challah before, love the experience.”

Fink explains there is something “deeply satisfying” about baking, especially when baking is connected to a spiritual element. Flour Power gives participants a chance to learn to make challah from the comfort of their own homes, creating a variety of new challah breads for Shabbat and beyond.

“Challah taps into our feminine energy,” Fink says. “It’s really been a special class.”

To register for Flour Power, visit partnersdetroit.org/flour-power.