Rainbow challah, colorful cookies for kids of all ages

The story of Noah and the ark has special appeal to children. It has animals two-by-two, a giant ship, a scary storm and a happy ending capped with God’s promise of the rainbow.

Baking these recipes together can be a good starting point for talking to children about the themes and meanings behind the story, especially how after the waters receded, the rainbow became the symbol of the covenant between God and humankind not to destroy the world by flood again.

It seems appropriate, then, to offer up a few rainbow-themed recipes that children can make alongside adults to mark the reading of the Noach Torah portion on Nov. 5.

Kids can help knead the dough, form the arches and decorate the challah that’s shaped like a rainbow. Leave the bread plain or decorate with seeds, colored sprinkles or decorating sugars. Use your favorite challah recipe, or try one of my favorites; it’s used weekly by the children in the Gan Avraham Preschool at Temple Beth Abraham in Oakland.

The Almost Rainbow Cookies are adapted from a recipe my sons made (and ate) a lot when they were younger. If made with M&M’s, there won’t be quite all the colors of a rainbow. Sweet shops sell the candies in individual colors if you want to use the full spectrum. Either way, the candy shells melt into colorful tie-dye like designs.

Rainbow-Shaped Challah

Makes 1 loaf

Challah dough

2 egg yolks, beaten with 2 Tbs. water

Toppings as desired (see note), optional

Make challah dough for 1 loaf and let rise as per recipe directions. Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line large baking sheet with parchment paper. Punch down dough and divide into 7 balls. Roll 6 of the balls between your hands, making 6 ropes, each slightly longer than the previous.

Form the shortest into an arch on prepared baking sheet; it will be center of rainbow. Lay out the next longest adjacent to it, pressing the dough arches together to make sure sides of both ropes are closely touching. Pinch rope ends on either side securely so the ropes form an arch with no gaps. Repeat with last 4 ropes.

Divide remaining dough into 2 balls. Flatten slightly. Attach to ends, pinching securely to form clouds to anchor the rainbow.

Brush with egg. Decorate as desired. Bake for about 30-40 minutes or until golden brown.

Note: After brushing with yolk, decorate each of the arches with a different topping (such as sesame, caraway, fennel, poppy, pumpkin, sunflower or onion seeds, minced dehydrated garlic and/or onion, or pretzel salt). Or alternate with 2 or 3 toppings. For a sweet challah, decorate with rainbow sprinkles. Or decorate each arch with a single color sprinkle or decorating sugar: starting from top, use red, orange, yellow, green, blue and purple or violet. Use white on clouds.

Almost Rainbow Cookies

Makes 16

1/3 cup oil, plus extra for pan

1½ cups flour, plus extra for pan

1½ tsp. baking powder

½ tsp. salt

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup water

2 eggs, beaten

1 tsp. vanilla

3 cups M&M’s or similar candy-coated chocolates

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8-by-8-inch baking pan.

In large bowl, stir together 1½ cups of flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Add â…“ cup oil, water, eggs and vanilla. Mix until well combined (dough will be stiff). Stir in candies, making sure they are evenly distributed.  Spread dough in prepared pan. Bake 30 minutes until golden brown and toothpick comes out clean except for melted chocolate. Cool in pan on rack. Cut into 16 squares.

Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. She blogs about her food at clickblogappetit.com. Contact Faith at clickblogappetit@gmail.com.