Tag 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.

Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch

4 squares 625 sqI read in the Globe and Mail Food section this week that God gave us cardboard so that we could describe the taste of matzoh. Not this matzoh treat!!

I made this for my sister Bonnie. I slightly adapted the recipe from the April 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. This matzoh crunch is kicked up with a pinch of hot pepper. I wanted to make it with Aleppo pepper because she puts that sh#t on everything! Sadly, if you have been following the news, you will know that Aleppo pepper is almost impossible to get now. The civil war in Syria has virtually destroyed the Aleppo pepper production. (Although the scarcity of Aleppo pepper is the least of their problems.) The citizens of Syria are in my thoughts and prayers.

Aleppo is a dried crushed red pepper. It is slightly fruity, with a whiff of smoke and only moderately spicy. I actually found a forgotten tin of it at the back of my cupboard. Not sure how long it’s been there but it has lost most of it’s potency.

I decided to make a few batches of this treat using a variety of peppers and compare the results.
Maras pepper (sometimes spelled Marash), from Turkey, is a good substitute for Aleppo. It is slightly smokier and hotter. I made a third batch with supermarket red pepper flakes and one final batch with chipotle powder, because that’s my jam!what you'll needBrown sugar, butter and your chill pepper of choice get whisked together over moderate heat until hot and bubbly. Pour over matzoh and spread into an even layer. spreading toffee Bake toffee covered matzoh for about 10 minutes. Top hot matzoh with bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips and let sit until they melt. Spread chocolate until smooth.waiting for chocolate to meltTop with toasted chopped pistachios, dried cherries, toasted coconut flakes, coarse salt and cocoa nibs.ready to chillChill and cut into squares.stacked squares 625 sqOr cut into wedges. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious.wedges of crunchThe batches I made with the Aleppo and Maras were not very spicy. The heat was barely noticeable even though I doubled the amount of pepper recomended in the Bon Appetit recipe (I used 1 teaspoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon). The red pepper flakes batch had obvious but not burning heat. It was my favourite. The chipotle was too smoky for my liking. This matzoh crunch is a flavour bomb in your mouth. Sweet (chocolate), salty (coarse salt and pistachios), sour (cherries), bitter (cocoa nibs), spicy and crunchy.

Click here to print recipe for Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch.

A Joyous Purim

piled up 1

I recently discovered that Bed Bath and Beyond has their very own blog, called Above and Beyond. Who knew? Check out today’s issue to see yours truly featured as their guest blogger and read the full story! I was asked to write a guest post about the Jewish holiday Purim, which begins tomorrow (Saturday February 23) night.

I share with their readers how to make Hamentashen, the traditional triangular shaped cookie, filled with a dried fruit filling. My hamentashen recipe actually comes from my Aunt Carol. She shared their recipe and techniques with me. Her filling uses dried prunes, golden raisins, strawberry jam, lemon juice and almond extract.

If you are looking for something more modern to celebrate the holidays with check out my recipe for Cinnamon Bun Hamentashen from last year.

Or check out these very cool and modern hamentashen:

Candy Cane Hamentashen

Cinnamon Dulce de Leche Hamentashen

Chocolate Covered Hamentashen Pops


Purim begins this week at sundown on Wednesday March 7. For those not familiar with this Jewish holiday, I present to you a basic primer, my version of Purim 101. Essentially, the Festival of Purim commemorates a time when the Jewish people living in ancient (4th century BCE) Persia were saved from extermination. As in every good story you have your heroes and your villans.

The heroes of the story are Esther, a beautiful young Jewish woman living in Persia (now known as Iran), and her cousin Mordecai, who raised her as if she were his daughter. Esther was taken to the house of Achashveirosh, King of Persia, to become part of his harem. King Achashveirosh loved Esther more than his other women and made Esther his queen. Like all intelligent wives, she kept a thing or two about herself hidden from her husband. Upon advice from her cousin Mordecai, she kept her Jewish identity a secret from the King.

Our story’s villan is Haman, a rather arrogant, egotistical advisor to the King. The King appointed Haman as his Prime Minister. Haman had a particular hate-on for Mordecai because Mordecai refused to bow down before Haman every time he passed by.  Rather than seeking to destroy Mordecai alone for this slight, Haman decided to take revenge on the entire Jewish population living in the Persian empire. Haman told the king, “There is a certain people scattered abroad and dispersed among the peoples in all the provinces of your realm. Their laws are different from those of every other people’s, and they do not observe the king’s laws; therefore it is not befitting the king to tolerate them.” (Esther 3:8.)

The King gave Haman permission to do as he pleased. Haman’s plan was to exterminate all of the Jews. He legislated a pogrom that would exterminate every living Jew in the kingdom on a single day. Haman chose the date for the extermination, the 14th day of the Hebrew month of Adar, by casting lots, or dice. The Persian word for lots is pur, hence the name Purim.

Nothing got past Queen Esther. She had her finger on the pulse on the kingdom. Somehow she overheard this plot to annihilate all the Jews. She consulted her cousin Mordecai and he persuaded Esther to speak to the king on behalf of the Jewish people. This was a dangerous thing for Esther to do, because anyone who came into the king’s presence without being summoned could be put to death, and she had not been summoned. She told him of Haman’s plot against her people and somehow convinced him to save the Jewish people. We’re never told exactly how she convinced him, but there are rumours! The Jewish people were saved, and Haman and his ten sons were hanged on the gallows that had been prepared for Mordecai.

The holiday of Purim focuses on the pleasures of food and drink, more than any other Jewish holiday. It is a time for celebrating and letting go. In fact, traditional Jewish learning requires a person to drink until he cannot tell the difference between “cursed be Haman” and “blessed be Mordecai,” though opinions differ as to exactly how drunk that is. The traditional Purim treat is a little triangular cookie typically filled with a fruit or poppy-seed filling. The shape supposedly represents Haman’s three-cornered hat.

I grew up in Toronto, and in our family Purim was celebrated with hamantashen from Open Window Bakery. They were huge with a hard, crumbly cookie dough exterior and either a prune or poppy-seed filling. My sisters and I fought over the poppy-seed ones. (Mom, why did you even bother buying the prune ones?)

When I met my spouse I was introduced to Ottawa-style hamantashen.They were tiny little triangles of dough filled with a prune and raisin filling, dipped in honey and walnuts. Talk about culture shock. My husband’s aunts, Jenny and Carol, supplied the family with their version of hamantashen.  After living in Ottawa for almost 21 years now, I have to admit they’ve grown on me. I actually look forward to receiving my little package from my Aunt Carol.  Every March she goes into factory mode and produces vast quantities of hamantashen to send to her nearest and dearest across the universe. I convinced her to share her recipe with me and I’ve scaled it down in case you don’t need to supply an army.

For the non-conformists among you, and you know who you are, I’m also including a recipe for Cinnamon Bun Hamentashen.

I created these a few years ago, in an effort to come up with a few different fillings. One of my more successful experiments featured Hershey’s caramel kisses wrapped in chocolate dough. Possibly my biggest failure was a flaky dough which I filled with brie, toasted pecans and brown sugar.  These little triangles looked very pretty before they went into the oven but no matter how hard I pinched the corners, they opened up during baking and the cheese oozed all over and the pecans burned.  Not very appealing.

Because I clearly have no life, I created this little video, complete with musical score (courtesy of Michael Frank’s classic tune, “Popsicle Toes”!), to show how the Hamentashen are formed.

The dough for the hamentashen comes together fairly quickly. Sugar, eggs, vegetable oil, flour, baking powder and salt. Remove the dough from the mixer when it is still crumbly and use your hands to do the final bit of kneading.

Aunt Carol’s filling comes together by pulsing all the ingredients in the food processor into a coarse paste.

The cinnamon bun hamentashen filling are easily mixed together by hand.

Click here to print recipe for Aunt Carol’s Hamentashen.