This and That

Random bits of my life

Archive for September, 2011

Almost Rosh Hashanah

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 28, 2011

Rosh Hashanah baking marathon begins...

Quick photo of one of the eight (!) challahs that I’ve baked and frozen for Rosh Hashanah. When the two days of Rosh Hashanah come right up against Shabbat …., well, all I can say is that’s a lot of cooking! I’m always paranoid about guests showing up at the wrong meal, so I called one of our guests to confirm the date and time, despite my husband’s protests that he’d written the times correctly. Our guest hadn’t, so it was a good thing I called him. The other guests already confirmed our invitation for another meal.

This paranoia began years ago when I had a really bad bout of stomach flu just before Rosh Hashanah. The two closest doctors, both women, were in the midst of their holiday cooking, so one of them sent her husband, also a doctor. He checked me out and said there wasn’t much I could do except drink fluids and try to rest as much as possible (yeah, right, try doing that when you’ve got lots of guests coming!). I consoled myself with the fact that the first visitors, a family of six, would be coming for lunch on the second day of Rosh Hashanah, so I could get some rest over the first day. My son ran up to tell me that they were coming up the stairs. They thought they were invited for lunch on the first day. I rose from my sickbed, threw food on the warming platter and asked our guests, who lived nearby, to come back in half an hour. So now I always double-check the times when guests are coming if there’s an opportunity for a mix-up.

I don’t often use recipes for bread because I’ve been baking since I was 10 years old, but this is my go-to recipe when I want to bake challah without thinking, so I can focus on other things. It makes a wonderful bread. I add honey for Rosh Hashanah.

Foolproof Challah
Yield: 2 medium loaves (= 2 pounds of dough). Or 4 small loaves or a dozen rolls

2 1/2 cups warm water
2 tbs yeast
2 tbs sugar
(opt: 3 tbs honey)
5-6 cups flour
1/4 cup oil
2 large eggs
2 tsp salt
1 egg yolk + 2 tsp water (for glazing)

In a large bowl, mix water yeast, sugar, and honey, if using. Add half the flour, oil, eggs, and salt.

Gradually add the rest of the flour until the dough is too stiff to stir, and comes away cleanly from the bowl. You want a non-sticky dough but soft enough so that it is not hard and dry. Knead for 15 minutes. Place in an oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let rise for 1 1/2 hours in a draft-free place.

Punch down, knead briefly, and divide into two balls for two loaves. Shape and braid. Place in greased pans or on cookie sheets. Cover with a tea towel and let rise 45 minutes. Preheat oven to 400 degrees F (around 200 degrees C). Carefully brush the egg yolk and water mixture over the loaves. Bake for 35 minutes or until the loaves are golden and sound hollow when tapped. Cool on a wire rack.

If you want to freeze the loaves, wrap tightly in foil and seal in plastic bags.

Dough Slapping

I have a confession to make. I never knead bread dough. Check out this video of Richard Bertinet slapping sweet dough. I find this technique very fast and much easier than using both hands to knead. I clean the counter, turn the dough onto the counter, pick it up with one hand, and slam it down on the counter. I fold it in half with the same hand, pick it up, and slam it back on the counter. It conditions the dough much faster than regular kneading and I find it less tiring. One of these days I might ask my downstairs neighbour whether she can hear it because it is a noisy process.

Keep a small pile of flour nearby on the counter for coating your fingers if the dough gets sticky. Don’t slam a ball of dough onto a floured surface unless you want every inch of your kitchen and your clothing covered with flour. The dough will seem unusually sticky after the first few slaps because you’ve worked in quite a lot of flour on the outside, while the core is still wet and sticky. Keep a plastic scraper handy to clean your hands if the dough sticks to your fingers and to scrape the dough off the counter if it sticks there. You want to reach a state where the dough is still soft but would rather stick to itself than to you and the counter. Don’t try to force in as much flour as the dough will hold! You want the dough to be pliable and easy to handle, so that it doesn’t turn into a brick in the oven.

Wishing everyone a happy and prosperous new year! May we merit to be inscribed in the Book of Life.

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Posted in Food, recipes | 3 Comments »

Better Colour Palette for Flash

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 25, 2011

New Palette (Flash)

Coming out of hibernation to say that I just found this great colour palette here. If you work in Flash, you probably don’t find the default colour palette all that user friendly. I was watching a video by Dermot O’ Connor (Animation Tips and Tricks with Flash Professional) on Lynda.com. Lynda.com is a fabulous site if you ever need to pick up new software skills in a hurry. Basic subscription is $25/month and it has lots of fun stuff, including tons of courses on aspects of photography, Photoshop, various programming languages, marketing your business on Facebook and with Twitter.

Since I don’t have the premium subscription I couldn’t download the palette in O’Conner’s exercise files, but I managed to find it via a Google search. Just download the zip file, extract the *.clr file. In Flash, open the Swatches panel and click Replace Colors on the dropdown menu. Click Save as Default. If you ever want to go back to the old palette, click Web 216.

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Round Challah for Rosh Hashanah

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 18, 2011

Rosh Hashana 5770

I’ve been rather quiet lately because we’ve been busy with house renovations (which is a grandiose way of saying that we’re trying to keep a crumbling, decrepit little flat from falling to pieces completely!). Just little things like a couple new a/c units, several new units, and (gulp!) a potentially very expensive bathroom makeover, because the tiles and grouting are reaching the point of no return…..

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year (two-day holiday) is next week, followed immediately by Shabbat, so that’s a lot of cooking and baking because most of the work has to be done in the days preceding the holiday. That means figuring out which meals we’re invited out for, which guests we’re having over (with appropriate menus for preferences, age ranges), and which ones we’ll be alone, just the three of us. This is the first time in five years that our son will be with us for Rosh Hashanah. The years that he was in a yeshiva high school, he was away at his school for the holiday. It will be nice having him around for a change.

Round challah is traditional on Rosh Hashanah. There are a lot of explanations for this custom: on Rosh Hashanah we celebrate the kingship of the Almighty, so we make a challah that looks like a crown. A round challah symbolizes the cycle of the years. There are lots of other customs associated with Rosh Hashanah, but I’m only mentioning the round challah in this posting and leaving you with a video that explains how to make different kinds of round challah. Even if you don’t make challah, try one of these methods if you want your loaves to look especially impressive for a holiday! Whether they’re glazed with beaten egg and sprinkled with seeds or left plain, they will look stunning and people who don’t know how easy it is will wonder how you did it.

If you prefer to print the instructions and refer to them while shaping the loaves, Tamar Ansh’s article has photos. If you need recipes, follow the links on the right sidebar of this article.

Posted in Judaism, videos | Tagged: , , , | 1 Comment »

Music at Hutzot haYotzer, 2011

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 2, 2011

Mosh Ben Ari

I just realised that I haven’t mentioned the musical performances at Hutzot haYotzer. There are usually two to four venues (including the main stage) with concerts. These performances are included in the cost of admission. If you haven’t gone to Hutzot haYotzer in the past because of the cost, you could consider 55 NIS/adult (about $15) a reasonable amount for live performances. The main act usually starts at 9 p.m. on the stage farthest from the entrance. The night we went, Mosh Ben Ari was performing. (Coincidentally, last year we also happened to be at the festival on the night he was performing but I didn’t have a video camera with me.) Here’s a short clip from his performance. I chose it mainly because it gives you a good idea of the surroundings of the Sultan’s Pool area. The Old City is on the right and Mamilla is on the left.

Odelia and the Soulmates performed on the small stage, between the food court and the Israeli artists’ pavilion. I chose the video of one of the bridge sections because most of the time the main spotlight was so bright that you couldn’t see any details of her face.

Odelia and the Soulmates

Demonstration of the rare art of flute-synching (you can see this in the video, when he changes flutes).

Hutzot haYotzer 2011

Another clip of Mosh Ben Ari. The sound quality isn’t great but it gives a better idea of how his band sounds.

Posted in Crafts, Israel, photography, videos | Tagged: , , | 3 Comments »