As I’ve finished shelving my boxes of books, I noticed a special little local community paperback called, “The Joy of Jewish Cooking. (1969)” So I thought I’d start with this one. I’m glad to be back to The Vintage Cook! I only have two Jewish cookbooks in my collection, both are paperbacks. Usually I buy ethnic or themed books, but it’s not often that I see Jewish cookbooks out in the antique stores and yard sales. My second (newer) booklet states that in 1998, there were 135 families at the center of Jewish life in Topeka at Temple Beth Sholom. As with most “community cookbooks”, finding really good recipes to forward-on to you from them can be a challenge. Often the recipes are laden with measurement nightmares and ingredients that are mentioned, but not listed. So there are a lot of fill-in-the-blanks resulting in failed attempts. I’ve decided that with the new Vintage Cook, I will share my fails too.
It was a joy to try some recipes I’ve never had before. As I played with ingredients, I could not help but to remember the most profound and enlightening, but terribly sad museum I’ve ever visited. Years ago, Mr. Smith and I toured The Holocaust Museum in D.C. The website for the museum says that since its dedication in 1993, the Museum has welcomed more than 30 million visitors, including more than 9 million school children and 91 heads of state. Today 90 percent of the Museum’s visitors are not Jewish.
But reading through my little vintage booklet, I was reminded that being Jewish is more than the Holocaust.
Rabbi Lawrence P. Karol stated, “Jews are not a distinct race, nor are all Jews citizens of a separate nation with it’s own boundaries. Jews constitute a people- a large, extended family with members that share a religion, history, literature, music, the Hebrew language (used at least in prayer and education), and cultural practices that come from the many places where Jews have lived.”
The first recipe I tried was borscht. It was named “Ukranian Borscht.” So I called my step-mother, who happens to be Ukranian, and she explained to me that Jewish people came to Ukraine for sanctuary, and adopted some of the recipes. She said they especially liked “borsh” because it was kosher. She also had some wonderful stories to tell about how her grandmother helped a family. (note: Americans often say “The” Ukraine. That would be as incorrect as saying, “The America.”)
Oh BORSCHT, did I make a mess. But I loved every second. It was the first time I’ve ever had beet soup. I thought for sure I would not like it, but I kept sipping, curious sips I’d call them. This summer, I will get back to you on this one.
Then I tried the kugel recipes. Kugel is a noodle pudding, but there are also other types of Kugel such as Potato or Rice.
The main Jewish teachings: a) One God b) consideration for all people: “What is hateful to you, do not do to your neighbor” Hillel). The Jewish/Hebrew Bible, includes the same books that are in a Christian Bible’s Old Testament section.
My great Aunt Jenny used to make bread that was pretty famous in the family. It was always called, “Easter Bread.” It’s essentially the same bread, with different religious significance and presentation. Some Easter bread recipes have milk or butter, which would not be found in Challah since it is usually “parve” (containing neither dairy nor meat, important in the laws of Kashrut.
This recipe made me happy, and my taste-testing team as well. I hope you will enjoy it too. I re-wrote the recipe for clarity, and also to use only honey and no sugar for sweetening. I have two requests. 1) That you knead the bread by hand, not use a bread machine, because of the braiding it’s going to be hands-on anyway! And, 2) that you use a honey that is a product of the USA or local to your area. If you read about the fake honey being sold on the market, it’s pretty scary stuff.
For the twist, of course I have to say FRENCH TOAST! Day old Challah makes the ideal french toast!
For more great Jewish recipes, you’ll love my friend Yenta Mary’s blog. http://foodfloozie.blogspot.com/
In case you’ve never braided before, here’s a quick lesson.
1. Join three strands together at the top. Cross (1) over (2), pull (2) to the left. Cross (3) over (1) and pull (1) to the right. Repeat the process.
- 1½ cups warm water
- ½ cup, plus 1 teaspoon honey
- 2 packages dry active yeast (not the fast rise type)
- 4 eggs, separate
- ½ cup canola or vegetable oil
- 1½ teaspoons salt
- 8-9 cups bread flour
- Original Pam Cooking spray
- In a medium bowl, stir together 1 cup (not all) of the warm water (about 100-110 degrees) and 1 teaspoon of the honey. Stir in the yeast. Set aside for 15 minutes. The mixture should foam up to double, this means it is active.
- In very large bowl, whisk 3 of the eggs with ½ cup of honey. Add the remaining ½ cup warm water, oil and salt. Add the frothy yeast mixture and stir well.
- Using 5 cups of the flour, adding one cup at a time to your mixture. The dough will be sticky. Add 2 more cups of flour, stirring well until the dough is starting to form a big ball and leaves the side of the bowl. Shake about 2 cups of flour onto your work counter or board and knead the dough until almost all the flour is absorbed.
- Wash and dry your big bowl. Spray it with cooking spray. Place your dough into the bowl, and spray the top with spray. Cover with a towel and let it rise for 1-2 hours in a warm room. I like to place it on a stool in front of the sunlit window.
- When the dough has risen twice its size, punch it down with your fists.
- Divide the dough into three equal parts. Then divide each of those into three long ropes (9 ropes). Braid 3 ropes together as you would hair, resulting in 3 loaves. Leave the loaves long, or shape them into a circle.
- Spray baking sheets with cooking spray and place the loaves apart. Cover again with towel and let rise about 30 minutes more or until almost double in size again.
- Beat the last egg with one Tablespoon warm water and brush over the loaves. Bake in preheated 350 degree oven for 25-30 minutes or until golden.
- Delicious warm, with butter and honey or preserves.