Category Archives: Bread

Satan’s Farts – Pumpernickle

Yummy pumpernickel

There is a saying that “if you fail, try and try again.” Luckily I only had to try once. I made pumpernickel a few months ago. It turned out horrible, so I tried again, and succeeded.

So there are two types of pumpernickel. First, is what you are probable familar with – the Jewish-American pumpernickel. It is very similar to a rye bread and it’s great with deli meats. The second is the German pumpernickel, from which the first originates. It is much denser, all rye flour, and takes days to rise. It all started several centuries ago, and today this German pumpernickel is very hard to find in US markets.

The large amounts of rye in the German bread make is rather difficult to digest. I will leave out all the pleasant details, but this is how is became known as “Satan’s farts” (or “pumpernickel” in the German language).

Because I have digestion problems on any day of the week, I decided to make the American-Jewish varietal. Read on…

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Honey doughnuts (sufganiyot)

honey yummy sufganyiot

Fried doughnuts or fritters are common at Hanukkah in almost all Jewish communities. In fact, you can probably determine the geographic origin of many Jewish families simply by finding out what they call these treats. Israelis and Ashkenazim call them sufganyiot and typically they are filled with jelly.  Others are sprinkled with cinnamon and sugar or tossed in a sweet honey or citrus syrup. The European Sephardim call them bimuelos, in Egypt they are zalabia, Persians refer to them as zengoula, and my personal favorite are the Greek loukoumades, or as Greek Jews call them zvingous. I first encountered loukoumades at the fabulous Oakland Greek Festival, which is held every year in May. At this festival you can determine the best treats by the length of the line for it and in the case of the beer, gyros and loukoumades, the wait is totally worth it. (As an aside, we Jews could really take a cue from the Greeks on how to put on a super-fun ethnic festival, ours tend to lack beer, have a poor selection of food and are overwhelmed with organizational politics) So for this year’s Hanukkah I decided I would make my own loukoumades instead of having to wait all the way until May to get my next fix.

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Filed under Bread, Dessert, Hannukah, Holidays, Jewish, Parve, Sephardic

Jerusalem Pretzels

 

Yummy pretzels. Dup in mustard, oil, hummus, or whatever else you may fancy...

 

When I think of pretzels, I think of a Sunday afternoon at the ballpark, with a hot dog in one hand and a pretzel in the other. The pretzel is really scrumptious, though not so nutrious. I’d bet though, you have no idea why it is called a pretzel or why they are usually in that shape…

The pretzel was “invented” in 610AD in southern France/northern Italy. The folded section symbolizes a child’s folded arms during prayer and the three different section symbolize the Trinity. Pretzels, or Pretiola in Latin as they were originally called, were given by monks to children who did well is Bible school. Over the next few centuries the Pretiola migrated to Germany and became the “Pretzel.”

So what does this have to do with Jerusalem (aka Jewish) Pretzels? To be honest, I have no idea. In doing research, I could not find the historical origins of the Jerusalem Pretzel. I found the recipe in Janna Gur’s cookbook, and have eaten them many times in the Old City. She claims post-the-Jews-regaining-Jerusalem, the Jews discoverd that their Arab friends had a tasty treat. Jeruslaem Pretzels, though, are shaped in an oval, presumably because the Arabs and Jews knew the historical roots of the “normal” pretzel. Also, in my research, I discovered the beigeleh, which in Yiddish would mean little bagel. It looks similar to me, but not quite the same. So in sum, pretzels taste good, so just eat them!

Today, I tried making this recipe using weights instead of volumes (ie, 500g and not 1/2 cup). It worked really well, and I recommend it, but I will include the volumes in case you don’t have a scale. So the pretzels are fairly easy to make, but the true ones use no salt and plenty of yeast. They can be enjoyed alone, dipped on olive oil, or even zatar. They are coated with generous amounts of sesame seeds. I recommend eating them immediately; or once they are cooled, freeze them in a ziplock bag and they can be reheated at 350F in the oven.

Recipe…

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Filed under Bread, Goyish, Israeli, Parve, Pasta and Grains

“chello” and challah french toast

as amiee put it, i am also quite *delighted* to join the heathen-jewish-foodie-blogging team!

ah, cooking. as dafna can attest, cooking and i have not always been the best of friends–i.e. trips to the supermarket spent wandering for far too long and failed recipes gathering dew in our fridge were the norm after moving out of the dorms. but after a remedial cook book crafted by momma schneider and lots of practice, it has become my go-to stress relief and secret tool for bringing together all of my favorite people. in the last year my jewish cooking has evolved quite a bit. when i moved to nyc a year and half ago my living situation lent itself to lots of recipe sharing. picture this: twelve jews picked to live in a house, work together and have their lives taped! okay, not that last part…but i did find myself in one of the most religious neighborhoods in brooklyn (aka: midwood) sharing food with 11 other young jewish activists with a huge array of cooking expertise. though i’ve moved a bit north to prospect heights and my overt jewish inspiration has decreased, (not to mention the quantity in which i have to cook) i nonetheless retained a diverse database of jewish food.  good times.

okay, enough with introductions. shall we get cookin’?!

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to honor the shabbat tradition in my crazy, over-crowded house, i want to share with you our favorite: challah french toast. yes, i am claiming this as a jewish food despite its availability at almost any nyc brunch spot. who else would have leftover challah lying around on a sunday morning? challah is asking to be french toast: it’s sweet, it’s fluffy, and it toasts wonderfully. i had the pleasure of cooking with a friend today, and she shared her favorite proportions of the ingredients you will see below…

i started with amiee’s wonderful challah recipe and changed it a bit by using whole wheat flower.

six strand style

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Filed under Bread, Breakfast, Holidays, Jewish, Shabbat

So So Spicy Schug… hot sauce of the Yemenite variety.

 

Green Schug

with pita and hummus

 

I LOVE all things spicy. And schug is among my favorites of spicy condiments. Schug is a Yemenite hot sauce that can be used to add some heat and flavor to savory dishes, and is a true soul mate for a good hummus. We’ve always had a container of schug on hand in our fridge and it’s replacement waiting to be cracked open in the freezer. Seeing the deep glossy green chili peppers in the shuk this week provoked my Yemenite side and attempt to make my own version of schug.

You can make schug with either red or green peppers depending on your personal preference. So I went with green schug, and let me tell you… it was exceptionally spicy and very very delicious.  But the level of heat is completely up to you.  It’s simple enough to make, just throw all the ingredients into a food processor and voila! you’ve made a perfect spicy sauce to match your palate. The product is a beautiful bright green chili paste with a great texture. I left the seeds in the chilies because that’s where all the heat comes from, but if you’re more sensitive and don’t like things too spicy and want more of the hot sauce flavor remove the seeds. Add more coriander (cilantro to Americans) to cool the peppers.  If you want more of what I call the “kick” of a hot sauce and less of the spicy add more garlic.

Here’s what I did….

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Sephardic Pumpkin Bread (Pan de Calabaza)

pumpkin bread 049

Sephardic Pumpkin Bread

Gordon may have gone out on a bit of a limb trying to make his pumpkin pie Jewish, but it turns out he was just looking for inspiration in the wrong community. Due to our own personal backgrounds, we have been a bit heavy on the Ashkenazi and Israeli food, so I decided to start looking at recipes from the Sephardi tradition. Low and behold, it turns out that pumpkin was one of the first New World plants brought back to Europe by Spanish explorers and is quite popular in Sephardi cuisine. Marc and I got into a discussion of pumpkin use in Sephardic Rosh Hashana meals, as the roundness of the pumpkin is symbolic of wishes for a well-rounded, full year.  Marc was particularly fond of roasted pumpkin with couscous and a soup recipe he got from a good friend. In a moment of serendipity, that very evening, Meredith, the Video Producer at Chow.com, walked out of her office with half a raw pumpkin and said “Amiee will know what to do with this”.  Indeed I did. (She also sent home some delicious, left-over roast capon and stuffing from the test kitchen).  The next day I set about roasting and pureeing the pumpkin and pursuing Sephardic Holiday Cooking. There were several options, but as usual I was drawn toward the bread. While the settlers in the new world developed the moist quick-bread style pumpkin bread most of us grew up with, the Sephardim incorporated pumpkin into the traditional yeast bread and quite tastily into challah. This bread makes a beautiful  addition to any Halloween or Thanksgiving celebration.

Recipe after the jump

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Chopped Chicken Liver

Chopped Chicken Liver

Chopped Chicken Liver

Liver. In popular American culture this word is usually accompanied by a  child making a face of disgust and followed by a sneer of “yuck”. Being the unusual child that I was I have always loved liver although I didn’t always know I was eating it. My mother used to make me liverwurst sandwiches. When I was about 4 I asked her if there was liver in them and when she said no, I asked why it was called liverwurst. She replied that the city of Livermore (the next town over) wasn’t made of liver and I accepted this explanation as totally rational. I never bought the whole tooth fairy thing, but this I believed for a shockingly long time. It wasn’t until I entered 1st grade and started eating lunch at school that I discovered that most children find liver disgusting, but by then I developed a taste for it. As an adult I find myself periodically craving liver (this is probably due to my near constant state of iron-deficiency). I love it when there is one left inside of a whole chicken that I can fry up for a little snack and one of the greatest lunches I have ever had was a fried chicken liver po’ boy at Mahoney’s in New Orleans that Gordon and I split along with a cochon de’lait po’ boy (the ultimate in trayfe). It was a heart attack on a plate, with onion rings and an Abita beer on the side, but it was worth every moment of my lifespan I gave up. Marc and all his food intolerance chickened out and ended up eating a salad somewhere down the street. He may live longer as a result but I still dream of that sandwich.

Chopped chicken liver has been a staple of Jewish delis since they were invented (if you have ever seen the chopped chicken liver sandwich at Katz’s you’ve seen the holy grail of chopped chicken liver)  I remember my mother making it once with an old hand-crank  meat grinder. At some point everyone realized how bad it is for you and stopped making it, but once or twice a year we would go to Max’s and we would order it. Now that we have discovered that all things that taste really good are bad for you and some of the things we thought were better for you were actually making us obese (hello margarine) I decided that chopped chicken liver was coming out of my kitchen once again. Luckily I had two loaves of rye bread just dying for an accompaniment and two Rocky Jr. Liver Cups in the fridge. The cup is one pound of livers from organic sustainably farmed chickens.  It also just sound like the prize to a NASCAR race and I am always trying to think of an event where it can be the trophy.

recipe after the jump

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Filed under Ashkenazi, Bread, Deli, Meat, Snout to Tail

Rye Bread

rye bread

rye bread

Rye bread may be the quintessential Jewish bread. I know some people may argue that it is challah, but rye is the glue that holds so many Jewish lunches together. The reuben, pastrami sandwich, chopped liver, the patty melt … pretty much any Jewish deli will have loaves and loaves of rye any day of the week. Rye is a different kind of grain than wheat and is widely grown in Eastern Europe and Russia which explains how rye bread became a staple of  Ashkenazi kitchens.  The flours resulting from it vary as much as wheat flours do. (It also makes some pretty good whiskey) They are typically labeled light, medium or dark and this has to do with the bran content, with the dark containing the most bran and being the equivalent to whole wheat flour. The light rye will produce a softer spongier bread like you would find in a deli, but my household has been attempting to eat more whole grains so I sacrificed some texture for a bit more nutritional content this time. Rye breads is usually made with a mix of wheat and rye flours. Marc told me the other day the he is working on rye bread’s cousin, pumpernickel, which is made from all rye flour. Rye bread typically has a sour note to it and I consulted a number of recipes, which had wide variations in the sour starter but ultimately fell back on Cooks Illustrated.

Recipe after the jump

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Schnecken, really old school snails

Schnecken, snails that every Jew can love

Schnecken, snails that every Jew can love

Schnecken, is a German word for snails. This spiral shaped sweet bread is the grandfather of the pecan roll, the morning bun and even those awful Pillsbury cinnamon biscuits that come in the cardboard tubes. As an aside, according to my brother-in-law, a long serving police officer in the mid-west. A schneck is any sweet baked snack, as in “I went over to the Mister Donut, there’s a box of schnecks in the break room”.

I was leafing through my copy of Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking in America and started reading about schnecken. She described how the Settlement Cookbook revised the recipe over the years as reflection of the gradual assimilation of the dish from the plainer German version made in a cast iron skillet to the nut and cinnamon laden version made in a muffin pan. As someone who grew up in Milwaukee (home of the Settlement Cookbook Co.) I own a few different copies of this book, including a 1931 edition from my New Yorker mother of all things. My curiosity piqued I pulled it off the shelf and after several minutes of hunting through the index (at the front of the book no less) I found a recipe for cold water schnecken. I was confused since the recipe didn’t call for cold water, in fact no water at all.

Instead it called for a heart attack’s worth of eggs, heavy cream and butter along with a cake of yeast. The cold water it turned out was part of the chilling process, of either 3 hours on ice or overnight in cold water. A reference to the lack of home refrigeration in the late 20’s. In addition the slightly cryptic instructions advised me to, “Bake light brown in a moderate oven 350 F. Watch carefully.” Intrigued I knew I had found a project to share.

I decided that I would try to stick to the recipe as much as possible making a few changes in light of changing materials.Yeast now comes dry, not in cakes and the call for 5 egg yolks was evaluated as to the size of those yolks in 1931. Also, I used up all the cream in the house making butter, so I used milk instead. My last thought is that you should line your sheet pan (I use a Silpat), when I was in college I worked as a dishwasher and I remember how many trips through the machine it would take to melt the sugar off the pecan roll pans.

Recipe after the break.

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The Bagel Chronicles, final edition

Chewy, Shiny and with a crisp crust

Chewy, Shiny and with a crisp crust

Growing up outside of Milwaukee we had almost no access to decent bagels. In fact the only time we had a steady supply was during the two years I attended Sunday school at Congregation Emanuel b’nai Jeshrun. Back in the day they were located on Milwaukee’s east side, next to my Alma mater, UW-Milwaukee. Since we lived way out in the sticks it was nearly a 45 min drive each way and my dad would take me. We always picked up the Sunday New York Times (there was no home delivery in those days) and then stopped in Shorewood for bagels and lox. Lox came from Benjy’s deli. Bagels came from the Bagel Nosh (sadly long gone), around the back of the same little shopping center off Oakland Ave. My most memorable moment there was one Sunday that we pulled up to see the door propped open and smoke pouring out of it. Undeterred, my father suggested that I see what the story was so I hopped out and made my way into the darkened store. There I found other customers still lined up at the counter and staff members filling bags with fresh bagels. After placing my own order I asked about the smoke and was told it was an electrical fire in the kitchen. That event has become my benchmark for deciding whether or not a food product has a loyal fan base. If people are willing to brave a smoky building for it- it’s probably pretty good.

So, gentle reader we come, at long last, to the end of the road to bagel nirvana. What did it take? In the end it required a willingness to change flour, embrace an additive and use less water that I would have thought advisable. Recipe after the break.

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