This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘baking’

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 »

Teller’s Bakery in Mahane Yehuda

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 9, 2009

Who doesn’t like fresh baked bread? I visited Teller’s Bakery in the Mahane Yehuda market, Jerusalem, this morning with two co-workers, one of whom is a neighbour of the owner, Avishai Teller. The bakery is not an old family business — Avishai took a course and then opened his bakery a few years ago on Agrippas street. His sourdough and baguettes are wonderful.

Bakery front


Bakery owner Avishai Teller slashing baguettes:
Avishai Teller slashing baguettes

A conveyor belt with adjustable height, to accommodate the different oven compartments, moves the raw baguettes into the oven. I assume that they are removed with a peel. Interestingly, baguettes were not proofed after being shaped. Avishai shaped the loaves, slashed them, and put them into the oven. (If you click on the photo and view the large version or original, you can see that he’s holding the lame (bread-slashing tool) in his teeth.)

Conveyor belt moves the raw baguettes into the oven


In the main room of the bakery, workers cut a huge mass of dough into pieces, weigh them, and shape them very quickly into round loaves. This particular batch is “Health Bread.” Working with bread while listening to the Beatles doesn’t seem like a bad way to make a living.

Cutting and shaping loaves

At one point I photographed the mashgiach (kashrut supervisor, who makes sure that the baked goods are kosher). He came over to us and asked, “Are you Jews? Do you observe the Sabbath?” Then he turned to me and said, “Would you like to perform the mitzvah of separating challah? It’s an important mitzvah for women.” So I dipped my hand in flour and grabbed a handful of sticky dough out of the mixer. I almost never perform this mitzvah at home because my oven is too small to hold the minimum quantity of dough required, so the rabbi helped me with the blessing. He told me that many women come to the bakery solely to perform this mitzvah.

Taking challah

Chart indicating when challah was taken and by whom:

Hafrashat Challah chart


In a smaller room, devoted to making the danishes and other pastries, a man was mixing chopped apples, sugar, a little lemon, and cinnamon. He opened the refrigerator and took out a large slab of folded puff pastry, informing us that this dough was 50% butter. Wow. He cut the dough in half and then rolled it back and forth through an electric rolling machine, which works like a pasta machine. Shelves at either end caught the ends of the dough, as the strip became longer and thinner. The finished sheet was about half a centimeter in thickness.

Rolling dough for danishes

The pastry maker cut rolled about half the dough around a huge rolling pin and transferred it to the work surface. He picked up a gadget that looked like an expanding trivets. It was an adjustable dough cutter, which he used to cut the dough into squares.

Cutting dough for danishes

The filling was squirted into the squares from a plastic bag used like a pastry bag.

Filling apple danishes

He folded the pastry squares into plump envelopes at lightning speed.

Shaping danishes

The finished product:


Update: Sept. 25, 2009.

Teller’s kashrut certification is Jerusalem Rabbinate Mehadrin. Yehiel Spiro has posted a copy of the hechsher (kashrut certificate) on his site, Jerusalem Kosher News. I presume that Rabbi Lublin was the man in the photo above.

Posted in Food, Israel | Tagged: , , , , , , | 2 Comments »

Sourdough Focaccia

Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 3, 2009

Assignment 26: food

Sourdough garlic & thyme focaccia, just minutes after I pulled it out of the oven. We will be eating it for Shabbat. Normally I make sourdough loaves or, if I’m in the mood, traditional challah, but it has been so hot that I didn’t want to heat the large oven. Focaccia only needs 25 minutes in a toaster oven, requires a much shorter proofing time, and is nearly foolproof.

My sourdough starter is one of my kitchen treasures (if you live in Israel and don’t mind coming to the Jerusalem area, I will gladly share it). I’ve had it for at least six years. It started as a cup of flour and a cup of water mixed together and left on the table until bubbly. In Boston and Toronto, I had to hope and pray and wait for days to catch a good culture. In Maale Adumim, with its dry desert climate and strong winds, I usually only have to wait a few hours before it’s foaming like a milkshake. I’ve only caught one bad culture. It rose well but it smelled like vinegar, so I tossed that one.

After the culture has made its home in the flour/water mixture, I add another cup of flour and water, let it rest at room temperature for a couple hours, and store in the refrigerator. I don’t leave the starter out for days on end and seldom overnight. With the warm temperature, the starter would burn itself out if I did that regularly, so my method is different from what you find on the Web (their advice would probably work for North American bakers, however).

I feed my starter every two weeks. I don’t believe in losing sleep over wild yeast, so I do not follow the school of thought that treats a starter like a newborn baby and feeds it every two hours. If I neglect the starter for too long and it looks like a swamp, I mix a new flour/water growth medium and add a few tablespoons of the original starter.

The recipe below makes three small flatbreads. My son was away for Shabbat, so I only needed enough for me and my husband. If you’re very hungry or feeding a large crowd, feel free to double it, but you don’t need to double the quantity of starter. Just double the quantity of water that you add.

Sourdough Focaccia
Yield: 3 small flatbreads

1 cup sourdough starter
1/2 cup water
2-3 cups flour, either white or whole wheat

1 tsp salt
1 tsp dry thyme (if you have fresh, go for it)
3 tbs olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
coarse salt (optional)

The night before you are going to bake the bread, mix the sourdough starter with the water. At this point, if you are planning to double or triple the recipe, adjust the quantity of water (e.g., 2 or 3 cups). Stir in enough flour (about 1 cup) to make a stiff batter. Cover with a towel and leave overnight.

In the morning, the starter, water, and flour mixture should be foamy. Stir it down. Add salt, thyme, 2 tbs olive oil, and the remaining flour to form a soft dough. Knead for a few minutes.

Spray a foil-covered baking sheet with vegetable spray or grease foil with olive oil (more calories but tastier!). Lightly oil your hands and divide the dough into 3 balls. Press them into ovals on the prepared baking sheet. Cover with a towel and let them rest at room temperature for about 20-30 minutes.

Mix the remaining olive oil and garlic in a small ball.

Preheat oven to 400 F (220 C). Uncover the flatbreads and lightly press your fingertips into the dough to create small dimples. Smear the olive oil and garlic mixture evenly over the flatbreads. Sprinkle with coarse salt if desired.

Bake 20-25 minutes, until golden brown. Cool and store at room temperature.

  • Recipe for sourdough “naan” (not quite like naan, but cooked on the stove)
  • Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , , | 1 Comment »