Category Archives: Jewish Holidays

“Everything” Holiday Challah

3-challahs-on-wooden-boardI have been making the same holiday challah for at least 15 years now. Everyone in the family loves it and looks forward to it. It’s possible I risk a mutiny if I dare to bake a different recipe. Yet, when I saw this challah in Uri Scheft’s book “Breaking Breads” I was enchanted. It looked like an everything bagel! I had to make it. Since Rosh Hashanah doesn’t start until Sunday night, I decided to do a test run for Friday night dinner at my son’s house.

Uri’s dough is much leaner than mine. Mine contains more eggs and oil. One recipe uses a kilogram (7 cups) of all-purpose flour. It’s enough to make 3 small challahs. A scale will be your best friend for dividing the dough. divide-into-3Each piece of dough gets further divided into 3 pieces and rolled out into 14 inch ropes.14-inch-ropesI like to start my braid in the center and work out toward both ends. Braid loosely. if the braids begin to stick to each other, give them a light dusting of flour. Wrap the braid into a circle, with a hole in the center. I found attaching the ends a bit challenging. I just sort of squeezed them together. Cover the challahs and let them double in size.

Now comes the fun part. Get all your toppings ready. I used sesame seeds, poppy seeds, sunflower seeds, golden flax seeds, pumpkin seeds and nigella (black onion) seeds. I finished it off with a scatter of maldon sea salt flakes. toppings Brush the braid with egg.brushing-with-eggHave fun with the toppings.looks-like-an-everything-bagelInsert a small ovenproof bowl in the center so that the hole does not get filled in when dough bakes.ready-for-ovenBake at 400°F for about 25 minutes. Let cool before serving.

Serve with honey in the middle for dipping.baked-with-honey-in-cernterOr serve the honey on the side for drizzling. a-drizzle-of-honeyThis challah dough is much denser than mine.A very different, but delicious challah experience. It really did remind me of an everything bagel. They are just so freaking adorable. We took a vote and decided to make both kinds of challah for our Rosh Hashanah lunch on Monday. I’ll let you know what everyone says!

Click here to print recipe for Everything-Holiday-Challah.

A Sweet New Year with Honey Sticks

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, begins next Sunday night. We have 20 coming for lunch next Monday and I have been busy planning my menu. I wanted to do something creative and pretty for the table setting, somehow incorporating honey which we dip apples in to signify our wish for a sweet new year.

There is no shortage of inspiration on Pinterest. I loved these honey dipper place cards and thought these place cards, tied to the cutlery were just adorable. In theory, I really like the idea of place cards. They are a great way to dress up a table. In practice however, in my family at least, no one really sits where they are told. On my husband’s side of the family, they just ignore the place cards and sit where they want. On my side, we at least attempt to be polite about it. Someone, quietly goes into the dining room, before the meal and rearranges the place cards to suit their preferences. (Not mentioning any names here!). So no place cards at my house.

My problem with those spiral wooden honey dippers is the drippy mess they make all over the table. When I did an online search of honey dippers, I discovered these honey sticks. They are the perfect size and I am hoping they will be quite tidy. I ordered 2 varieties, wildflower and blackberry. honey-sticksI created these stickers using the Avery online label design program.  It’s very user friendly and has many design options. I used these 2 inch round glossy labels  and stuck them on some scalloped round cardboard gift tags I found at Michaels craft store. I tied everything up with a bright red ribbon.

I’ll put one at each place setting. Everyone can sit where they want! Wishing you all a sweet and healthy new year.table-setting

 

 

 

Mystery Solved

Last week I posted about my epic failure with Passover Lemon Pistachio Bars . I made a nut crust for my lemon squares because flour is not permitted on Passover. When I baked the lemon squares, the crust floated to the top and the lemon filling sunk to the bottom – sort of upside down lemon squares!

I put out a call for assistance in helping me figure out where I went wrong. I got lots of feedback and suggestions. Thanks. You guys are the best! The mystery is solved. I received a comment from my neighbour Jackie.  If like me, you geek out over the science of baking, reading her explanation will fascinate you.

Here’s what she wrote:
I may have the answer. It has to do with the specific gravity of the ingredients. Nuts are lighter than water, so will float. Ground nuts remain as little pieces of nuts after baking. So, a crust mixture with a high proportion of nuts will be far less dense than the filling. The situation was exacerbated by the lack of flour to form a cake/pastry matrix which may have locked in the nuts pieces.

To confirm my suspicion, I looked up the FAO Density Database (2012). Water of course has a specific gravity of approximately 1 gram /mL, depending on temperature. (I love that there’s a Density Database!!)

almonds 0.46 grams/mL
pistachios, out of shell, 0.65 grams/mL

fruit juice 1.06 g/mL
butter 0.91 g/mL

So, given that the gravity of nuts is less than the gravity of the lemon filling (fruit juice and butter), it makes sense that the nuts floated to the top. I can go to bed happy tonight. Thanks Jackie!

In other good news, I no longer have to feel guilty about the 10 pounds of butter I keep in my freezer for when the urge to bake hits. Check it out  in this article: Pass the butter!

 

 

Cookie Butter Rugelach

If the title of this post has left you shaking your head, wondering what the heck I am writing about, let me enlighten you.coffee and rugelach 625 sqI wrote about cookie butter last year. It is also known as Speculoos or Biscoff spread. Basically, we are talking about ground up spicy gingerbread cookies, mixed with additional sugar and oil, to create, a somewhat addictive spread, in the vein of peanut butter and Nutella.

Rugelach is a small Jewish pastry, of Eastern European origin. Traditionally they are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. The origin of the name comes from the Polish word “Rog” which is the prefix for horn, (croissant shaped pastries kind of look like horns). “El” is used as a diminutive and the “Ach” ending indicates plural. So put together we have horn shaped little pastries –Rugelach.hazelnutsHow this little cookie came to be made in a crescent shape is an interesting story. I have read several versions, but this is my favourite. In the 16th Century, the Jews were living under the rule of the brutal Ottoman Empire. Life was not easy for them. A baker with a warped sense of humour, decided to create little pastries, shaped like the crescent that decorated the Ottoman war flags. With every bite of these delicious little noshes, the Jews imagined that they were “chewing out” their merciless oppressors.

Back in Europe, the dough for rugelach is light, airy and yeast raised. Somehow, when it arrived in North America, it transformed into a dense cream cheese based dough. This is the rugelach I grew up with and love. Rich and flaky, but not too sweet, the best rugelach let the dough be the star and the fillings play a supporting role.

Most often they are filled with jam, cinnamon-sugar, raisins and nuts. Often chocolate is thrown into the mix. Screwing with a 500 year old cookie could be a dangerous thing, but I like to live on the edge, so I played around with the traditional recipe and spread mine with Cookie Butter instead of jam.

The dough is simple to put together. I used the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for the dough, with the addition of some cinnamon and ground ginger to mimic the gingerbread flavour of the cookie butter. The butter and cream cheese must be very cold.dough ingredientsmaking dough 1Only process the dough until it resembles small curd cottage cheese. Don’t let the processor form the dough into a ball, or you will have tough rugelach. pulsed doughdivide dough into 48.5 inch circleI decided to make two varieties. The first, shaped in the traditional crescent, featured Cookie Butter and toasted chopped hazelnuts.spreading cookie butter on circlesprinkling hazelnutscutting into wedgesrolling crescentsbrushing with eggThese got treated to a shower of cinnamon sugar as soon as they came out of the oven. dust with cinnamon sugarFor the second variation I created little roulades. The dough was rolled into a rectangle, filled with cookie butter and chopped chocolate, and rolled and sliced, before baking. 11 x 7 inch rectanglespreading cookie butter on rectanglesprinkling chocolaterolling rouladeslicing roulades

brushing roulades with eggCB and chocolate roulades

Click here to print recipe for Cookie Butter and Hazelnut Rugelach.

3 rugelach

Click here to print recipe for Cookie Butter and Chocolate Rugelach Roulades.

Roulades

On the 8th night of Chanukah: Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares

On the eighth, and final night of Chanukah I gave my true love Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares. Reminiscent of peanut butter cups, but way better because of the crunchy, salty pretzel crust. And, the best part is that they don’t have to be baked!stacked upThis recipe was given to me by my friend Mrs. Dolphin. I’ve granted her this nickname because she shares numerous traits with porpoises. Dolphins are very social animals and excellent communicators. They are friendly, clever and natural performers. Mrs. Dolphin enjoys a very busy and complicated social life. She is charismatic, fun loving and was born to be on the stage. She is very organized and excels in creative problem solving. squares on white boardMrs. Dolphin found this recipe in the food section of the Ottawa Citizen. It was inspired by Trisha Yearwood’s No-Bake Chocolate-Pretzel-Peanut Butter Squares. (Yes, the country singer Trisha Yearwood. Did you know she has a show on The Food Network?)  I took the recipe one step further and made the top layer more lavish, with a marbleized bittersweet and white chocolate topping, because really, we all need more fancy in our lives!what you'll need

making crustpressing crust into panchocolate toppingMarbleizing looks very impressive but it’s simple to do. Here is a video showing you the technique. The video is from my The Ultimate S’mores post, but the method of creating a marble pattern is still the same.

marbelizing chocolate toppingjpg

Click here to print recipe for Mrs. Dolphin’s Chocolate Pretzel Peanut Butter Squares.

Perfect with a glass of milk or a cup of coffee. The awesome drip coffee stand is from Restoration Hardware. I bought it for my husband because his plastic Melita cone offends my aesthetic sensibilities. with drip coffee