This and That

Random bits of my life

Posts Tagged ‘bread’

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 »

Rosh Hashana 5770

Posted by Avital Pinnick on September 18, 2009

My last post of the year! The Jewish year, that is. May you all have a sweet, healthy, and prosperous new year.

I’ve been cooking in preparation for the two-day holiday. Here’s a photo of the round challahs I baked this afternoon. I also made two apple-walnut cakes but they’re not very photogenic. Tasty but definitely not pretty! This is the first time I’ve used this method for weaving the round challot. I found the instructions on line at

Rosh Hashana 5770

Posted in Food | Tagged: , , , | 3 Comments »

Tender, Flaky, Sourdough “Naan”

Posted by Avital Pinnick on August 16, 2009

Sourdough "naan"

I write the word “naan” in quotation marks because it isn’t really naan. It just looks like naan and was cooked using the stove-top method.

I forgot to start the sourdough bread the night before. My aging starter hadn’t been fed for a while. Making a pan-cooked bread seemed to solve both problems.

This recipe isn’t fast but it is easy, although you’ll get flour all over everything. By the time I’d finished I had to clean my camera all over with a lens blower, and this was after I had taped a plastic bag over the controls.

But the results are worth it. The bread is tender and flaky — delicious on its own or spread with soft cheese.

If you’re watching your weight, you’ll note that there is no fat in this bread unless you count the oil used to grease the bowl while rising. Actually, I forgot to oil the bowl. You can do that, if you don’t mind scraping the dough out with a rubber spatula later and working in more flour so that it isn’t sticky.

Note: If you don’t have a sourdough starter around the house, substitute 1 1/4 cups water and 1 tsp dry active yeast for the 1 cup sourdough starter and 1/2 cup water. You won’t get the characteristic tang of sourdough but it will be tasty.

Sourdough Naan

Yield: 10 flatbreads

1 cup starter
1/2 cup water
3 cups flour (I used both white and whole wheat)
2 tsp salt
1 tsp thyme
1 tsp oregano

Mix all ingredients into a stiff dough. Add the last cup gradually if your dough is drier than mine was. Knead the dough for a few minutes in a floured bowl. Scrape the bowl, oil the bowl and the dough, cover with plastic wrap, and let ferment at room temperature for a couple hours. Your dough will not rise much if your starter is cold from the refrigerator, but this doesn’t seem to make much difference.

Heat a cast iron frying pan on medium heat. Divide the dough into about 10 balls (the size of a large plum). Roll out one ball on a *well* floured board. You don’t want any sticking because the bread will tear. The circles should be fairly thin and about 7″ wide.

Cook the dough circle in the ungreased frying pan for about 3 minutes. If it puffs up slightly, that’s great. That gives the dough its flaky layers. When it is brown and speckled on the bottom, flip the naan over and cook the other side. Roll out the next dough ball and cook it. (It’s better to roll them out individually. If you roll them out all at once, they tend to stick to the board because they will start rising.)

These are wonderful straight from the pan, but you can let them cool, wrap tightly in foil, and freeze.

If you want to be really decadent, drizzle melted garlic butter on top.

  • My recipe for sourdough focaccia
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    Tomato and Gruyere Quiche

    Posted by Avital Pinnick on July 10, 2009

    I made this quiche this morning with the plum tomatoes and Gruyere cheese that I bought yesterday at Basher’s Fromagerie, in Mahane Yehuda. The Gruyere was expensive that I used only 50 gms (a little less than 2 ounces) but I can smell it through the whole house. In fact, after I grated the cheese, I had to cover it because the smell was making me so hungry. The original plan was a tomato and Gruyere tart, but at the last minute I converted it into a quiche because I decided I wanted something slightly more substantial for a Shabbat lunch. My measurements below are a little quirky because I don’t use a recipe for my pastry. I just use the 1:2 ratio (by weight) of butter to flour and butter is sold in 100 and 200 gm blocks in Israel.

    Note: If you’re substituting a cheese of lower quality or (gasp!) Israeli “yellow” cheese, you will probably need a lot more to get any flavour at all.

    Tomato and Gruyere Quiche
    Yield: 11″ quiche

    200 gm flour
    1 tsp salt
    100 gm butter, chilled and cut into pieces
    5-6 tbs ice water

    1 tbs mustard ancien (Dijon with seeds)
    6 plum tomatoes, sliced into 1/4 inch slices
    4 eggs
    1/2 cup milk
    50 gm Gruyere cheese, finely grated
    salt and fresh ground pepper

    Preheat oven to 400 F (200 C).

    Combine the flour and salt. Cut the chilled butter pieces into the flour with a pastry blender or two knives. Sprinkle just enough water and toss with a fork until the dough barely holds together. Press into a flat disk, wrap in plastic wrap, and chill for 2 hours.

    Roll pastry on a floured board until it is a 13″ round. Carefully fit it into an 11-inch quiche pan. Prick all over with a fork, cover with foil, weight with beans, and bake blind for 12 minutes. Lower oven temperature to 350 F (180 C).

    Cool pastry shell slightly. Spread mustard thinly on base. Fill shell with single layer of plum tomato slices. Season with salt and pepper. Beat eggs with milk and pour over the tomato slices into the shell. Sprinkle Gruyere cheese on top. Bake for 35 minutes or until golden. Cool in dish on rack.

    Update (Jan 2012): Basher’s has no kosher certification. 😦 See Jerusalem Kosher News for details.

    Posted in Food, Israel | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | Leave a 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)
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