Friday, February 26, 2010

Cinnamon Brioche Challah

On this day, Friday, otherwise known as Snow Apocalypse 2010 (Part II), I couldn't get out to buy challah. I don't often have the time or patience to do challah, since I am often focused on other cooking projects and I'm not big on kneading. But today was definitely a challah-baking day, because it was either that, or dig our car out of the garage and attempt to go to the market. And I wasn't sure how far I would get anyway.

I have had the basics of this recipe lying around for a long time, and was just waiting for the perfect block of time so I could try it. I altered this recipe from the challah/brioche recipe from Artisan Bread in Five Minutes a Day. But don't get too excited, because this recipe, even for seasoned professionals, takes at least three to four hours to make if you factor in rising and baking time.

4 eggs (plus one beaten egg for later to brush on top)
1 3/4 cups lukewarm water
1 1/2 tablespoons granulated yeast (2 packets)
4 teaspoons salt
1 1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 dash vanilla extract
1/2 cup Agave nectar or honey
1/2 cup unsalted margarine, melted (oil may also be used)
7 cups all-purpose flour

Dissolve yeast in the lukewarm water by mixing gently until the lumps are gone. Lightly beat the four eggs, and combine them with the other ingredients except for the flour. Mix in the flour without kneading in a stand mixer (fitted with the dough hook attachment). If you’re not using a machine, you may need to use wet hands to incorporate the last bit of flour.

Place dough in an oiled bowl and cover with plastic wrap (not airtight). Allow the dough to rest at room temperature until it rises and collapses (or flattens on top), for approximately 2 hours. You can speed up this step by placing the bowl on a warm surface.

I am enclosing the other directions about when to use, because when a dough includes raw eggs, I want to adhere to food safety guidelines.

["The dough can be used immediately after the initial rise, though it is easier to handle when cold. Refrigerate in a lidded (not airtight) container and use over the next 5 days. Beyond 5 days, freeze in 1-pound portions in an airtight container for up to 4 weeks. Defrost frozen dough overnight in the refrigerator before using. Then allow the usual rest and rise time.]"

Add flour to the surface of the dough and and cut off a baseball-sized piece to make five small/medium loaves or take about half the dough if you are making two large loaves. Dust the piece with a little more flour if necessary and quickly shape it into a ball by stretching the surface of the dough around to the bottom on all four sides.

Divide the ball into thirds. Roll the balls between your hands, stretching, to form each into a long, thin rope. If the dough resists shaping, let it rest for a few minutes and try again. Braid the ropes, and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush with a beaten egg mixed with a tablespoon of sugar. I sprinkled mine with sliced almonds.

Allow the bread to rest and rise on the pan for 1 hour and 20 minutes (or just 40 minutes if you’re using fresh, unrefrigerated dough).

Bake at 350 degrees near the center of the oven for about 25 minutes. Smaller or larger loaves will require different baking times watch closely. The challah is done when golden brown. Be sure to cool the loaves before moving them from the sheet pan.

Challah on Foodista

Braided Brioche

Monday, February 22, 2010

The Best Hamantaschen in the World.

From my article, "The Art and Science of Hamantaschen," originally published on

My mom has generously given her daughters and daughters-in-law her best recipe for hamentashen, and we provide it to you here. But we have all made it our own by adding or deleting certain ingredients. For example, I add a teaspoon of cinnamon to my dough, while my sister-in-law replaces half the water in the recipe with lemon juice. We encourage you to develop your own flavors and tricks for this delicious treat, and we wish a fraylichen purim to all!


4 cups sifted all-purpose flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup unsalted margarine
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 eggs
4 teaspoons milk/rice milk/water
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup of your favorite filling


1. Preheat oven to 375 degrees F.
2. Cream together margarine and sugar, then add the eggs and vanilla.
3. In a separate bowl, mix flour, baking powder and salt.
4. Add dry ingredients to the egg mixture with the mixer on low, alternating with water or rice milk.
5. Chill the dough for 1 hour to overnight, then roll out to 1/4 inch thickness, and using a water glass or round cookie cutter, cut into 2-inch rounds.
6. Fill each round with 1 heaping teaspoon of your favorite filling, and draw up sides for triangle.
7. Seal edges with cold water.
8. Bake at 375 degrees F for about 12-15 minutes.

Below is a partial text of "The Art and Science of Hamantaschen":

Few, if any, of our fancy culinary arts textbooks at CKCA include recipes for hamentashen. On the one hand, hamentashen are sentimental little triangular trifles from the old country that are really only popular one day a year. On the other hand, who would be better to keep alive these special Purim treats than the folks at the only kosher culinary school in America? We've got plenty of Jewish grandmothers among us, and we have watched carefully as they rolled out delicious rounds to create the Jewish world's most perfect cookie. So, after much discussion and debate, we present to you our decree on hamentashen, and we think Mordechai and Queen Esther would be proud!

CKCA's decree is that hamentashen are a unique and special cookie, because, unlike rugelach or even babka, the best of the best simply cannot be found in professional bakeries. Instead, the most delectable and mouthwatering of these cookies are found coming out the ovens and perfuming the kitchens of Jewish homes throughout the world, during the few days preceding the Purim holiday, which will be celebrated this year on February 28, 2010.

We feel that bakeries never get hamentashen truly right because the recipes we have, which are overwhelmingly passed down from our European grandmothers, were meant to be made in small batches, with attention given toward the inclusion of fresh ingredients and good tasting fillings, all designed to deliver a delicate, soft, sweet cookie.

We will share an amazing recipe for hamentashen at the end of this article, but we also recognize that most people have a recipe from their own grandmother tucked away for this time of year. Therefore, we have found that the following five tips will provide our signature A to Z guidance when using any hamentashen recipe.

Prepare Hamentashen Dough in Small Batches

No matter how many dozens of hamentashen you make this year, it is important to prepare your dough in small batches to ensure good consistency. Otherwise, you run the risk of a chalky, heavy, hard pastry; the kind most often found in bakeries. It is key to mix your wet ingredients very well, and then add the dry ingredients alternatively with liquid, and to combine everything well. Don't overmix the final product! As soon as the dough comes together, the mixer should be turned off. We've discussed the same idea before in this column, that there are some recipes in which it is good to keep the mixer on to develop the strands of gluten in flour, but this is not one of those times! It is best to handle hamentashen dough as little as possible so that the dough keeps a light and airy consistency, not chalky, hard or chewy. The dough should also be chilled before you roll it out. This will make it less sticky and easier to manage, and it will ensure that each cookie rises and bakes evenly.

To read the rest of the article, click here!

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Purim and Pesach Fruit Bouquets

Available in your neighborhood! Synagogue sisterhood fruit carving classes! I have created a fun two-hour class to teach women how to make a gorgeous fruit bouquet, and you will bring home your amazing creation. Fruit bouquets are a beautiful Shabbat, Purim or Pesach gift, and your family will be amazed at your masterpiece! Contact me for more information!

Monday, February 8, 2010

Secretly Stuffed-With-Veggies Fettuccini With Tomato Cream Sauce

Because the goal of my life, of course, is to secretly ferret vegetables down the throat of my husband without his knowledge, I am proud of a recent delicious and successful meal I served, in which he had no knowledge of the amount of healthy vegetables consumed. And I'd like to keep it that way.

I made a simple roux with Earth Balance margarine and flour, and added to that vegetable stock and almond milk, which makes a really nice cream sauce base. To that I added a couple of slices of light Edam cheese, black pepper, salt, red pepper flakes and tomato paste cut with water. It was the most delicious tomato cream sauce I have ever made, and it has almost no saturated fat.

But the vegetable stock does not comprise all the vegetables I have snuck in here. I found a Ronzoni brand fettuccine product called Garden Delight, which is an enriched tomato, carrot and spinach pasta blend, that purports to deliver a full serving of vegetables per 4 oz. serving. It paired really well with the creamy tomato sauce. Sprinkled with parmigiana, there is no way anyone will think this dish is made with anything other than heavy cream and full fat cheese. This really is a must-try! Tomorrow night!

1 tbsp flour
1 tbsp margarine (I use Earth Balance)
1 to 1 and 1/2 cups vegetable stock
1 cup almond milk or MimicCreme
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/4 to 1/2 tsp black pepper
1 pinch red pepper flakes
2-3 tbsp tomato paste, diluted in 3-5 tbsp warm water

1 box Ronzoni Garden Delight Fettuccini, prepared according to package directions.

Combine the flour and margarine in a hot, wide-bottomed saucepan and mix until you have the consistency of paste. Cook until bubbly, about 30-40 seconds, then add the vegetable stock, a little at a time, and keep mixing until smooth. Continue adding almond milk slowly and whisk as it cooks. When it reaches a boil, it should be ready. You will know it is ready when the sauce nicely coats the back of the spoon. Remove from flame. Add the salt, pepper and red pepper flakes and correct the seasoning. Add two slices or 1 oz. of light cheese (I use Edam), and mix in the diluted tomato paste. Turn flame back on, to low this time, and add the cooked pasta and toss in the sauce until all the fettuccine is coated. Dust with parmigiana cheese and serve immediately to people who hate vegetables, but who will ask for this again and again.