Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) Challah

  

Besides the occasional pumpkin pie on Thanksgiving, I didn’t grow up eating a lot of pumpkin-flavored dishes. Instead, the women in my Japanese-American family made stewed kabocha (also called Japanese pumpkin) at this time of year. Whenever I see kabocha at the store, it takes me back to the delicious aroma of sweet kabocha stewed with soy sauce.

When I got to college and started cooking for myself, I tried my hand at the pumpkin soups, pies and baked goods I’d see in magazines at this time of year. Each time, I felt disappointed by the relatively mellow and mild flavor. Even the shade of orange was mellow and mild.

This year, I decided to make a kabocha challah for fall Shabbat dinners. The color is beautifully vibrant and the flavor has more depth and is more complex (savory and sweet at the same time!) than that of its sugar pumpkin cousin. You’ll have extra puréed kabocha left over that you can use to make this kabocha soup, which would be perfect on a Thanksgiving table.

Kabocha (Japanese Pumpkin) Challah

Makes: 2 large challahs
Total Cooking time: 5 hours
Active Cooking time: 1.5 hours

Tools:

  • Kitchen Aid mixer with whisk and dough hook attachments*
  • Large mixing bowl
  • Food processor or immersion blender
  • Candy thermometer
  • Plastic wrap
  • Pastry scraper
  • Cookie sheet
  • Parchment paper
  • Small bowl
  • Small whisk
  • Pastry brush

*can be made without Kitchen Aid mixer

Ingredients:

  • 2 packages active dry yeast
  • 1 cup warm water
  • 1/3 cup white cane sugar
  • 1 egg, at room temperature
  • 6 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup honey
  • 2 Tbsp. vegetable oil
  • 2 tsp. salt
  • 2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1 tsp. nutmeg
  • 2 cups kabocha squash purĂ©e
  • 8 cups bread flour

 

Egg wash:

  • 2 egg yolks, at room temperature
  • 1 Tbsp. water

 

Toppings:

  • 3 Tbsp. everything-bagel mix
  • 3 Tbsp. white sesame seeds
  • 3 Tbsp. black sesame seeds

 

 

Instructions:

Cut kabocha1. Take 9 eggs out of the refrigerator.

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, pour a half cup of the warm water.

4. Using a candy thermometer, check to make sure it is about 110°F. Pour in the two packets of dry yeast and one Tbsp. of sugar (from the 1/3 cup) into the bowl. Stir gently to dissolve everything into the water. Set the bowl aside for 15 minutes.

 

5. Your yeast mixture should look foamy at the end of the 15 minutes. If it does not, you need to get new yeast and start over or your challah will not rise. Better to find out now, rather than later!

6. Now that your yeast is activated, add the remaining lukewarm water to the bowl, then the remainder of the sugar, egg, egg yolks, honey, oil, salt and spices. Whisk on medium speed.

7. Once everything is evenly incorporated, add your kabocha purée and keep whisking.

8. Once the mixture is smooth, thick and bright orange, change out your whisk for a dough hook.

9. Add each cup of flour slowly on low speed. With a rubber spatula, scrape the bottom and sides down with each addition. When you’re on the seventh or eighth cup, the dough will become too thick for your mixer. At this point, you can start to knead with your hands. When you’re done, the dough should be smooth and stretchy but not super sticky. If you need to, add a bit more flour until you reach this consistency.

10. Oil the entire inside of a large mixing bowl with vegetable oil. Place dough in this bowl and cover it with plastic wrap. I like to put my dough in my oven (but not turn it on).

11. After one hour, punch the dough back down to remove the air and let it rise again for another hour.

12. Once it’s risen again for a second hour, punch the dough down again and knead it into a smooth ball on a floured countertop. Cut the ball in half with a pastry scraper.

13. Line two large baking sheets with parchment paper. Beat the egg yolks and water in a small bowl with a small whisk.

14. Now it’s time for braiding! There are many different ways to braid challah, and I prefer the look of the four-strand braid because it’s simple but still looks impressive! I like to use Tori Avey’s Four-Strand Braided Challah tutorial.

15. Preheat your oven to 375°F. Using a pastry brush, generously apply egg wash to each of your challahs. Generously sprinkle them with everything bagel mix, and black and white sesame seeds in sections (see photo). Alternatively, you can also just season them generously with everything bagel mix and let them rise for 30 more minutes.

16. Bake challah for 40 minutes, but set your timer for 30 minutes. At this point, check on your challah to see if it needs to be rotated. If it’s browning quite quickly, you may need to cover it with foil for the remainder of the cooking time.

Shabbat Shalom!

kabocha japanese pumpkin challah

Pecan Pie Babka

  

Indian pudding pecan babka

A babka is like challah dressed up for a black-tie event.  It is rich and glamorous with swirled layers of filling and a syrup-enhanced shine. This Jewish dessert is so decadent that it often only comes out for special occasions. Babka is commonly made with chocolate, cinnamon, fruit or nuts and sometimes a sweet cheese. This babka is filled with the flavors and gooey-ness of pecan pie just in time to start dreaming about your Thanksgiving spread. The dough itself infuses this recipe with the flavors of early Native American cooking from cornmeal and a molasses and maple syrup glaze.

In Britain, pudding is the word for dessert. A quick and easy dessert that the English brought with them to America was a hasty pudding, which is a sweetened porridge cooked down and thickened until it can hold its shape. Once in America, the Native Americans taught the English how to plant local crops and the hasty pudding became Indian Pudding sweetened with molasses and maple syrup and thickened with a coarsely ground flint corn instead of flour. Indian pudding is fairly well known in New England whereas the sweet Southern pecan pie is on just about every Thanksgiving table near and far. Indian pudding is our little New England secret. This culinary mash up takes three cultural staples that are all delicious in their own right and creates a delicate, sweet babka that can be enjoyed with ice cream for dessert or with a cup of coffee for breakfast.

When I first decided to try a babka with a nod to the heritage of this country and the annual Thanksgiving feast, I was a little nervous that it would be a complicated bread to make.  It turns out that the actual forming of the babka is quite simple. I also found a few kitchen hacks that make it even easier. This bread smells exactly like pecan pie. As my mom likes to say, “This babka is very more-ish.” (Which means you always need just one more piece.)

Finished babkas

Indian Pudding Babka with a Pecan Pie Swirl
Makes: 2 loaves
Allow dough to rise overnight in fridge.

Dough Ingredients:

If you have a scale, weight measurements are great for any baking but I have included cups as well. Using a stand mixer makes this much easier. My mixer is very old and has a very sturdy whisk attachment. I would recommend a dough hook or paddle if you are using a modern mixer.

  • 3 eggs, ideally at room temperature
  • 2/3 cup of unsalted butter, at room temperature or softened slightly in the microwave
  • 4 cups of all purpose flour (480 grams)
  • 1/4 cup of finely ground cornmeal (50 grams) & an additional 1/2 cup of finely ground cornmeal for rolling out the dough
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar (100 grams)
  • 1 packet of instant yeast
  • 1/2 cup of water
  • 1 tsp. of fine sea salt (not kosher salt. Sea salt has a stronger salt flavor.)
  • spray oil or use vegetable oil to grease pans

 

Pecan Pie Filling Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of pecan halves (chop the pecans very finely. Toasting them first will help bring out the flavor for the pecan pie filling.)
  • 1/2 cup maple syrup
  • 1/2 cup corn syrup
  • 1/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 tsp. molasses
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter
  • 2 eggs, separated
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • pinch of salt

 

Indian Pudding Syrup Ingredients:

  • 1/4 cup of water
  • 3 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 3 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 2 tsp. molasses

 

How to make the dough

1. In a stand mixer bowl add all purpose flour, finely ground cornmeal, granulated sugar, sea salt, and packet of instant yeast. Using a whisk, mix all the ingredients together. Then, put on the dough hook or paddle attachment to continue making the dough.

2. Add in the eggs and water. Let the mixture come together on low, slowly. The water should bring the dough together. If the dough is not coming together at all, add 1 Tbsp. of water at a time until the dough starts to form. With the mixer back on low, add in the butter and mix until you have a uniform dough.

3. Knead with the dough hook or paddle for 10 minutes. Make sure your paddle can handle the weight of the dough. If not, take the bowl off the mixer and knead by hand. The dough will be quite heavy and sticky. Put the dough into a greased bowl and turn it over once. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and refrigerate overnight.

How to make the pecan pie filling

Rolling your babka

A thin layer of filling is all you need. Leave extra room on the far end for the filling that gets pushed up as you roll.

1. In a large dry pan, over medium-low heat, toast the pecans. They should be in a single layer and stirred frequently so they do not burn.

2. Put the toasted pecans on a cutting board and chop them finely. You should have about 1-1 1/2 cups of finely chopped pecans.

3. In a small saucepan add the maple syrup, corn syrup, brown sugar, and molasses. Cook over medium heat until the brown sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and stir in butter and vanilla. Pour entire mixture into a bowl to cool.

4. Separate the eggs into two bowls. The yolks should go in a small bowl and the whites in a large bowl.

5. Once the sugar mixture has cooled to room temperature or slightly warmer, add in the two egg yolks, whisking quickly. Then, pour in the finely chopped pecans. Stir the mixture together and refrigerate to chill. If you are on day one, then this mixture can chill overnight until you are ready to make the babka on day two.

6. If you are on day two and the dough has risen, you can beat the two egg whites until stiff, but not dry.

7. Fold the egg whites into the chilled nut and sugar mixture.

How to make the babka:

Cut the babka dough

Cutting the dough with scissors makes it much easier than using a knife. Turn the cut side up as you go so that the filling stays in.

How to twist the babka

Keeping the cut side up, carefully place on side on top of the other.

How to make babka

Keeping the cut side up you continue to put one side over the other a few times.

1. Grease two 9″ x 4″ loaf pans with vegetable oil spray or with some oil on a paper towel. Cut parchment so that one piece will cover the bottom and two sides lengthwise. Put a half sheet pan or a toaster oven pan into your freezer.

2. On day two, take your babka dough out of the fridge and cut it in two. Place one of the halves back into the fridge until ready to use.

3. I like to splash a little water on my counter and then lay down some parchment paper on top so it sticks to the counter. Then, sprinkle the parchment with 1/4 cup of finely ground cornmeal. The cornmeal on top of the parchment makes the dough easy to roll out and adds a little texture and flavor to the layers of the bread. Roll the dough 12 inches wide and then as long as you can while keeping the dough not too much thinner than a 1/4 inch. Get a small dish of water and a brush.

4. If you have not done so yet, beat and fold the two egg whites into the pecan pie mixture. Spread half of the mixture on the dough leaving a 1/2 -inch seam on three sides of the dough and a 2-inch seam at the far end. You want a thin layer of the pecan pie mixture.

5. You will now make a 12-inch roll with the dough. Carefully roll the dough from the short end (12 inches wide) with a 1/2-inch seam toward the 2-inch seam. You can also use the parchment to help you with this. Brush water along the seam and pinch the dough together at the seam. It need not seal completely.

6. Freeze the rolled dough for 20-30 minutes. Repeat with the other 1/2 of the babka dough. While the dough is freezing, clean up your work surface, find a pair of kitchen scissors and lay down a new sheet of parchment.

7. Take the babka dough out of the fridge one at a time. Cut the babka dough in half horizontally, carefully turning up the cut sides so that the pecan pie mixture stays inside.Then, overlap both halves, with the cut side always facing up and repeat the overlap at least three or four times. You can gently stretch the dough as you go.

8. Place the dough into the loaf pan, making an ‘S’ shape to fit it all in. If the dough is shorter and doesn’t quite make an ‘S’ that is fine. Repeat with the other part of the dough. Cover both loaf pans with a clean kitchen towel and allow to rise for 90 minutes.

9. Preheat your oven to 375℉. Bake for 30-40 minutes, check after 30 minutes to see if the babka is golden brown. A skewer in the babka should come out clean and should not have any resistance.

10. While the babka is baking, make the Indian Pudding Syrup. Place the water, maple syrup, brown sugar and molasses into a saucepan and bring to a simmer. Cook until the sugar has dissolved. Set aside to cool.

When the babka comes out of the oven, brush each loaf with the syrup. The babka can handle a lot of syrup so continue brushing several layers until glossy. Allow the babka to cool in the pan for about 15 minutes and then transfer to a cooling rack.

Your Indian Pudding Babka with Pecan Pie Swirl can be served with a scoop of ice cream or whipped cream. It can also be served for breakfast and is delicious with a cup of coffee. The hard part is waiting for the babka to cool before cutting into it!

Perfectly baked babka

Roasted Tomato Soup with Ricotta Matzo Balls

  

Ricotta matzo ball soup

It’s been a while since I had fun with a food-culture mash-up and this roasted tomato soup with ricotta matzo balls is probably one of my favorites to date.

I come from a multi-cultural family, as you’ll see over at my blog, The Little Ferraro Kitchen. I love sharing and learning about different cultures through their food, recipes and traditions. I love it so much that I even married an Italian guy from Southern California` to keep things even more exciting. So needless to say, we have an exciting multi-cultural spread of sorts.

My husband Joe and I adopted this fairly new tradition of eating Sunday supper, Italian style. We play Goodfellas in the background and I usually wince at him as I see him slice the paper-thin garlic as they do in the movie. But we create an entire dinner experience and it’s our favorite time of the week.

As the cooler season approaches, matzo ball soup is always on order. But this time, I wanted to combine our heritages and our cultures into one deliciously comforting bowl of matzo ball soup. Tomatoes, peppers and carrots are all roasted together so they get soft, caramelized and sweet. After a quick blend together, stock is added to make a truly simple tomato soup.

But the cheesy matzo balls are the BEST part. I mean honestly…cheese anything is the best part! And even though I will never turn down a simple classic, this Italian mash-up version gets me all kinds of excited. The ricotta makes the matzo balls light and pillowy and the freshly grated Parmesan gives them a wonderful savory flavor.

Roasted Tomato Soup with Ricotta Matzo Balls
Yields 2-4 servings

Matzo ball soup with ricottaTomato Soup Ingredients:

  • 2 lbs. vine or roma tomatoes cut in half
  • 2 red bell peppers (you can also use roasted jarred peppers)
  • 2 large carrots, peeled and stems cut
  • 2 garlic cloves, smashed
  • ½ tsp. salt
  • Olive oil
  • 2-4 cups vegetable stock

 

Ricotta Matzo Ball Ingredients:

  • 4 eggs
  • 2 tbsp. olive oil
  • 1 cup matzo meal
  • ÂĽ cup ricotta cheese
  • ÂĽ cup freshly grated Parmesan cheese
  • Fresh basil leaves, chopped
  • Fresh parsley leaves, chopped
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ÂĽ tsp. salt
  • Ground pepper

 

Garnish:

  • ½ cup grated Parmesan cheese, for Parmesan chips
  • Fresh basil
  • Olive oil

 

Instructions:

1. Preheat oven to 400° Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with foil. Add tomatoes, peppers, carrots and garlic and toss with salt and olive oil. Roast vegetables until soft and tender, for about 30 minutes. Once done, remove from oven and allow cooling enough to handle. Then remove seeds from pepper and any charred thick skin and discard.

2. Once vegetables are cool enough, add everything to a blender or food processor and blend until smooth. You may want to add a bit of the stock to help thin it out, then transfer to a small pot with the rest of the stock and bring to a simmer. Taste for seasoning and adjust.

3. For the matzo balls, whisk all the ingredients together until well combined and form into medium sized balls. Add to boiling water and cook until matzo balls float to the top, about 30 minutes.

4. To make the parmesan chip, leave oven at 400° Fahrenheit and line a baking sheet with parchment or a silpat. Place a heaping tablespoon or two of grated Parmesan cheese and lightly press down so it’s in a circle and replicate with remaining cheese. Bake for about five minutes until the cheese melts and edges are slightly crispy. Once done, remove from oven and allow to cool before removing.

5. Assemble soup by adding matzo balls to roasted tomato soup and garnish each bowl with a Parmesan chip, fresh basil and a good drizzle of olive oil. Buon appetite!

Seven Species Cheese Spread for Havdalah

  

All photos by Laurel Street Kitchen

Havdalah spread

When my now-husband Bryan and I began talking about spending our lives together, we enrolled in Introduction to Judaism classes at a local a reform synagogue in San Francisco. Bryan’s Jewish education had ended at 13 and I was not Jewish, so we both learned so much from those classes.

While I am grateful for the wonderfully welcoming community at our very reform temple, there were also some Jewish rituals I had only heard about and longed to participate in. I found Havdalah for example, the beautiful ritual that utilizes all five senses to mark the end of Shabbat, particularly enchanting.

Earlier this year, we were lucky enough to participate in a meaningful Havdalah ceremony in Jerusalem on a trip with Honeymoon Israel. When we returned, I decided to host a Shabbat walk and Havdalah ceremony at our home with our new Honeymoon Israel community. I found this InterfaithFamily guide to Havdalah very useful! Since it was early in the evening, I decided to do a spread of small bites.

One new thing I loved learning about in Israel was the Seven Species, seven agricultural products listed in the Torah as being special products to the Land of Israel. Everywhere we went, we saw them featured on everything from challah covers to watercolor paintings. Inspired by this, I decided to create a 7 Species Cheese Spread for our gathering. You can play with the ingredients however you wish. Here are the ingredients and one easy recipe I created using store-bought hummus to create a gourmet platter even if you’re limited on time.

Cheese spread

Seven Species Cheese Spread
Serves: 12

  1. Aged manchego: You can use any mild hard cheese.
  2. Triple creme goats milk brie: You can use any mild soft cheese.
  3. Humboldt fog: You can use any flavorful, unconventional cheese like Gorgonzola.

7 species:

  1. Wheat- pita, cut into small slices
  2. Barley- barley hummus (see recipe below)
  3. Grapes- rinsed and stems cut into smaller pieces
  4. Figs- rinsed, stemmed and cut in half
  5. Pomegranates- seeded
  6. Olives- I used Castelvetrano
  7. Dates- honey also works

Havdalah spreadBarley Hummus

Instructions:

Arrange cheeses on a cheeseboard or use cake stands for more height and drama. Place pita in a pretty basket or bowl lined with a napkin. Place smaller items like figs, dates and olives into small bowls on or around the cheese board. If your dates and olives are not pitted, be sure to add a small bowl on the side for pits. Right before guests arrive, drizzle a small amount of honey on the mild soft cheese (I recommend a brie). Be careful to only add a small drizzle so it doesn’t drip off the platter! I used honeycomb here instead.

Ingredients:

  • 16 ounces homemade or store-bought hummus
  • 1/2 tsp. sumac
  • 1/2 cup pearled barley, cooked
  • 2 x 1.5 ounce containers of cherry or grape tomatoes (in the fall you can use any roasted squash instead)
  • 1/2 cup Castelvetrano or Kalamata olives, pitted and chopped
  • handful of chopped chives
  • drizzle of extra virgin olive oil
  • sprinkle of kosher salt or flaked sea salt, if you have it

 

Instructions:

1. Heat oven to 300°F and cover two baking sheets with parchment paper. Slice each tomato in half lengthwise and place tomatoes, cut side up onto the baking sheets. Drizzle the tomatoes with a little olive oil and a sprinkle a bit of salt on them. Place them in the oven for 90 minutes, then set them aside to cool. I recommend doing this one to two days in advance.

2. Boil one-and-a-half cups of salted water. When the water comes to a boil, pour in the barley and turn the heat down to a simmer for 30 minutes. Check the barley at this time–it should have some chew to it but be springy and not too hard. It took me about 45 minutes. When the barley is done, rinse with cool water and set it aside to cool. I recommend doing this one to two days in advance.

3. Spread hummus with the back of a large spoon onto a large serving platter. Sprinkle the sumac over the hummus evenly, then barley, then tomatoes, then olives, then chives. Drizzle with olive oil, then sea salt and serve with fresh pita.

Havdalah spread

Kabocha Squash Soup with Garlic Challah Croutons

  

Sukkot kabocha soup

Since Sukkot menus are all about the autumn harvest, what could be more festive than starting off the meal with a comforting bowl of pumpkin soup? When I was growing up, one of my favorite recipes was my grandmother’s stewed Kabocha: a Japanese variety of pumpkin or squash. It wasn’t until I went off to college that I tried pumpkin for the first time in a dish, and I’ve always felt the flavor of Kabocha is far superior to the pumpkins we eat here in the U.S. It is sweeter and heartier than that of a regular pumpkin, and it has a fluffy texture similar to that of a potato, which makes it perfect for a purĂ©ed soup. The color is a deeper orange, making it more vibrant and festive, as well!

If you’re having a sit-down meal, you can serve it in bowls as a starter. If you’re throwing a casual happy hour under the sukkah like I am, you can keep it warm in a big thermos pot and pour individual servings in little paper cups with the garlic challah croutons, cream and chives sprinkled over the top. This is the time of year when the air is starting to get a bit crisper, so this soup is a great way to warm up under the sukkah. If you’re serving meat later and would like to keep things kosher, I recommend omitting the milk and cream and instead finishing the soup with a dollop of homemade cashew cream under the croutons, which your guests can stir in.

Kabocha Squash Soup with Garlic Challah Croutons
Serves 8

Kabocha

Wondering what Kabocha squash looks like so you can pick one up?

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. butter
  • 1 medium yellow onion, thinly sliced
  • 2 tsp. curry powder
  • 3-pound Kabocha squash
  • 3 cups chicken broth
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 1/2 cup heavy whipping cream
  • 2 tsp. kosher salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper

 

Toppings:

  • 1 cup unsweetened whipped cream (I just hand-whip some of the leftover heavy whipping cream) or creme fraiche
  • Garlic challah croutons (recipe below)
  • Chopped chives

 

squash

Soup Instructions:

1.  Slice Kabocha in half and spoon out the seeds. Cut each half into three wedges. Turn each wedge onto the flat side and remove the green skin. Cut each wedge crosswise into four even squares (see image for what your Kabocha should look like at this point).

2.  Melt butter in a dutch oven or pot, over medium heat. Once the butter has melted, slide in the sliced onion, curry powder and a sprinkling of salt. Stir the onion continuously for 10 minutes, or until caramelized. Slide Kabocha cubes into the pot, along with another sprinkling of salt and stir for five minutes. Add the chicken broth and bring everything to a boil. Once boiling, reduce the heat to low and cover the pot for 10 minutes.

3.  Using a fork, pierce Kabocha to check for doneness. It should be soft enough to pierce without resistance, but not so soft that it falls apart. If it’s not quite soft enough, stir, cover and cook for another five minutes.

4.  When Kabocha is cooked through, blend in batches in a blender or use an immersion blender (one of my favorite kitchen tools!) until completely smooth.

5.  Stir in milk, then heavy whipping cream. Make sure to keep the heat very low and be careful to not let the soup boil at this point.

6.  Season the soup with salt and pepper to taste. Top with a dollop of the whipped cream, challah croutons and chives.

soup for Sukkot


This is a recipe I came up with when, one Saturday morning, I decided I could not eat any more challah French toast!

Challah Croutons

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 pound day-old challah
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1 microplane-grated garlic clove
  • 1/2 tsp. dried oregano
  • 1/2 tsp. dried thyme
  • 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

 

1.  Preheat the oven to 375ºF.

2.  Grate garlic clove into olive oil, stir in herbs and salt. Be very careful to only include very small, microplane-d pieces of garlic. Larger pieces will get burnt and become bitter.

3.  Cut challah into roughly 3/4″ x 3/4″ cubes. I recommend using a regular knife for a cleaner cut (as opposed to a serrated knife).

4.  Place cubed challah onto a baking sheet and pour oil mixture over challah and mix well with your hands.

5.  Spread challah out on baking sheet so it’s just one layer and the challah is not (or just barely) touching.

6.  Bake for five minutes and check on it. It should be a nice and toasty golden color. If it’s not browning quite yet, bake for another 5 minutes and check on it again. It took me about 12 minutes to achieve this in my oven.

Blueberry and Apple Borekas with Honey Tahini

  

Blueberry and Apple Borekas

It’s probably a bit of a stretch to call these borekas because I originally introduced them to my readers as one of our favorite savory Turkish bites. And it’s not every day you think of sweet borekas. Truth be told, I am a savory lover at heart. But this once city girl, who now lives within minutes of farmland—driving by horses, cows, dairy farms and wild apple trees—counts her blessings and happily picks blueberries at a nearby farm.

Whether we’ll call them borekas or not, these little pastries are fast, easy and perfectly sweet for the Jewish New Year. And as a perfect finger food for a Yom Kippur break fast, I made blueberry and apple borekas with a sweet tahini honey glaze.

Another usual savory bite, tahini is an ingredient I use for just about everything: dressings, dips and spreads, and naturally don’t see it used as a sweet ingredient. Tahini is mixed with a bit of honey and warm water and with a bit of elbow grease, turns into a beautiful pour-able consistency.

Wishing you a wonderful and sweet New Year and an easy fast! L’shana Tovah!

Blueberry and Apple Borekas with Honey Tahini
Yields 18 borekas

Ingredients:

  • 2 cups of chopped and peeled apples, cut into about 1/2 inch cubes
  • 1/2 tsp. cinnamon
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar + more sugar for sprinkling on top
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract/paste or 1 vanilla bean, scraped
  • 1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries
  • 1/2 lemon, juiced and zested
  • 1 package (2 sheets) puff pastry, thawed
  • Flour for dusting on surface
  • 1 egg + water for egg wash

 

Tahini Glaze:

  • 1/2 cup tahini
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/4-1/2 cup warm water

 

Directions:

1. First make the filling. In a bowl, add together the cubed apples, blueberries, sugar, vanilla, cinnamon and lemon zest and juice. Toss everything together and allow to sit while you prepare the puff pastry.

2. Unfold puff pastry on a floured surface and roll out a bit so the pastry is a bit thinner.

3. Then cut pastry sheet into nine even squares (18 total for both sheets) and add about a tablespoon of filling to each square.

4. Whisk together the egg and water in a small bowl and brush the edges of each square with the egg wash and then folding the dough together making a little pouch. Use your fingers or a fork to crimp the edges and it’s OK if you stretch the dough a bit, the fruit will shrink as it bakes.

5. Brush more egg wash on top of the folded pastry and sprinkle with more sugar. Use a knife to cut little skits on the top.

6. Place borekas on lined baking sheet and bake at 325° for 20-25 minutes, or until the filling begins to ooze out and the pastry is golden brown.

7. Once done, remove from the oven and allow to cool a bit while you make tahini glaze.

8. To make the tahini glaze, in a bowl add the tahini and honey and 1/4 cup warm water. Use a fork or whisk to whisk everything together until it is smooth and pour-able. As it sits, it will get firmer so you can add a bit more warm water and mix until desired consistency.

Pumpkin Spice Monkey Bread with Applesauce Glaze

  

Breakfast is one of my favorite meals because every dish has a comfort food vibe. For Yom Kippur, I love preparing a “break fast” meal with some family favorites like noodle kugel and bagels and lox. We make dishes that are easy to digest and gentle on the stomach after a day of fasting. I also like to add in something new every year. Pumpkin spice craze is here to stay so I decided to take a classic monkey bread, which is also known as Hungarian coffee cake, and pumpkin spice it up! If you have any Hungarian roots in your family, this is a great time to add your heritage to the celebration of the Jewish New Year. This recipe uses pre-made biscuit dough for ease and speed, but you can also use your own scratch recipe.

Pumpkin Spice Monkey Bread with Apple Sauce Glaze

 

Ingredients:

  • 1 stick of butter, plus extra to grease the pan
  • 1/2 cup of granulated sugar
  • 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • 1 Tbsp. pumpkin spice
  • 1 Tbsp. maple syrup
  • 1 package of pre-made flaky biscuit dough (the ones that come in a cardboard tube)
  • 2 apples
  • 1/2 lemon
  • 1 cup powdered sugar

 

Directions:

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Butter a small loaf pan or 6-inch square baking dish.

2. Mix the sugar, cinnamon and pumpkin spice.

3. Melt the stick of butter and add in the maple syrup.

4. Take each pre-made biscuit dough and cut it into two pieces. Roll the pieces one at a time in the butter and then the pumpkin spice sugar mixture.

5. Place each ball into the baking dish until you have one layer of sugar and pumpkin spice coated balls of dough. If using a small loaf pan, you will have two layers of dough balls and will cook for longer.

6. Bake for 40-50 minutes until the dough has risen and is a deep golden brown.

7. While the pumpkin spice monkey bread is baking, peel and grate both apples. Cook the apples in a covered saucepan until soft and fragrant.

8. Pour the apple sauce into a bowl and add a squeeze of lemon juice. Stir in 1 cup of powdered sugar.
9. Serve the monkey bread warm with the apple sauce glaze on the side.

French Apple Root Vegetable Hash with Honey Drizzle

  

French Apple Root Vegetable Hash with Honey DrizzleThis version of vegetable hash can be served as a side dish or enjoyed as a full meal. The apples and honey for Rosh Hashanah represent a sweet new year while the flavors are French inspired with shallots and classic French herbs. For your seasoning, enjoy a taste of France with a classic herb mix such as herbes de Provence or use tarragon, which is often used in French cooking.

French Apple Root Vegetable Hash with Honey Drizzle

Ingredients:

(serves 4 as a meal and 6 as a side dish)

  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil such as canola oil
  • 2 medium sized baking potatoes
  • 1 carrot
  • 1 parsnip
  • 1 small shallot
  • 1/2 red pepper
  • 1 apple, Granny Smith or Golden Delicious are best
  • 1 Tbsp. fresh herbs, or 1 tsp. of dried herbs
  • 2 tsp. honey
  • salt
  • pepper
  • French cheeses (soft goat cheese or grated ComtĂ©), optional

 

Directions:

1. Peel the potatoes and cut them into a small dice. Rinse the potatoes thoroughly and dry them on a clean kitchen towel.

diced potatoes drying

2. Heat the vegetable oil in a frying pan for a minute or two over medium high heat. Add in the potatoes and fry until golden brown. You will need to turn the potatoes with a spoon or spatula to cook on all sides.

3. While the potatoes are crisping, peel and dice the carrot and parsnip and chop the shallot finely. Once the potatoes are golden brown, remove them from the pan and set them aside on a plate. In the same pan, toss the shallots in the leftover oil and cook for a minute, then add the diced carrots and parsnips. Cook for two more minutes.

diced vegetables

4. While the root vegetables cook, dice the red pepper. Peel and dice the apple. Note: I like to have the apple diced slightly larger than the root vegetables to highlight it. Toss the red pepper and apple in with the rest of the vegetables and add salt and pepper to taste. If you are using dried herbs, sprinkle 1 tsp. of herbes de Provence in now. Add the potatoes back into the pan and stir it all together. Remove the hash to a serving dish. If you are using fresh herbs, mince them.

5. Top with a drizzle of honey and, if you are using fresh herbs, sprinkle them on top of the hash. You can use as much as a whole Tbsp. or less to taste. If you are serving this as a main course, I suggest adding some crumbled goat cheese or grated Comté cheese. For breakfast, you can top it with a fried egg.

Challah With a Twist: Scallion Pancake Challah

  

By Molly Yeh

Scallion challah bread by Molly Yeh

Reprinted with permission from Molly Yeh, adapted from MyJewishLearning.

I enjoy being a Chinese Jew. I eat plenty of matzah balls and potstickers and I get to celebrate three New Years.

I’ve often had to convince people that I’m Jewish, which is amusing and usually results in a new friend feeling like they can connect with me better due to a shared religion. Other than that, I can’t say I really thought about what it meant to Chinese and Jewish while I was growing up.

I recently moved out to rural North Dakota with my Norwegian husband, population six Jews and about 10,000 Scandinavian descendants. Things are quiet here, people are Midwestern nice, and the small town life is pretty darn wonderful.

For the first time in my life, I feel a bit like an oddball, in a sea of light-haired Lutherans, but people embrace me when I introduce them to challah. North Dakotans love challah! And I love their food too, like Lefse and dessert bars of all sorts.

All of my challah here is homemade. As are my latkes, kugel, matzah balls… you get the picture. There’s not a deli in sight. Not even a bagel. I do miss bopping down to Zabar’s for babka and bagels, but on the other hand, with the necessity to make everything from scratch comes the opportunity to put my own spin on things and mash up my Chinese/Jewish/Midwesternness.

Brisket in my potstickers, ginger sugar beet latkes, egg rolls with home cured pastrami from a cow that I’ll one day raise…

I’m getting carried away.

But this recipe is me in bread form! Chinese, Jewish and pretty doughy, whether I can help it or not. Inspired by the scallion pancake, here is an Asian twist on my all-time favorite challah.

Scallion Pancake Challah

Makes one large loaf

Basic challah dough

Based on Food 52’s Recipe

  • 1 Tbsp. instant yeast
  • 3/4 cups warm water
  • 2 Tbsp. + 1 tsp. sugar
  • 3 cups flour, plus more for dusting
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. honey
  • 1/3 cups vegetable or canola oil
  • 2 eggs

 

Filling and Topping

  • 1 Tbsp. toasted sesame oil
  • 2-3 stalks scallions or green onions, minced
  • salt, pepper, and red chili flakes to taste
  • Egg wash: 1 egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water
  • A few pinches of toasted sesame seeds and black sesame seeds

 

Directions

1.  In a small bowl, proof yeast in 1/2 cup warm water mixed with 1 tsp. of sugar.

2. While yeast is proofing, mix flour, salt, and remaining 2 Tbsp. of sugar in a large bowl.

3. In a medium bowl, mix remaining 1/4 cup of water, honey, oil and eggs.

4. Once yeast has finished proofing, add it to the flour, followed by the wet ingredients. Mix with a large wooden spoon until dough becomes too thick to stir. Empty dough onto well-floured surface and knead by hand. Knead dough until smooth and no longer sticky, adding flour as needed.

5. Transfer to an oiled bowl and cover with a damp towel. Let rise for about two hours, or until doubled in size.

6. Preheat oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit.

7. Divide dough into three equal parts and then roll each part into a 1-foot log. Gently flatten each log so that it is about 3 inches wide.

8. Brush each with toasted sesame oil and then sprinkle with salt, pepper, chili flakes, and scallions. Roll them up lengthwise like a jellyroll, and then braid.

9. Place the loaf on a parchment-lined baking sheet and then brush with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds and black pepper.

10. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top is golden brown and the challah is cooked through.

Sweet Wine Slushies

  

sweet wine slushie

This recipe contains alcohol and is for those of legal drinking age only.

Introduce your loved ones to good ol’ fashioned Manischewitz, and reinvent the Jewish holiday staple into the dessert it was always meant to be. This way, you can avoid getting any looks that say “You drink this stuff?” or, “Is this what all Jewish wine is like?” Your loved ones will instead wonder why you’ve been hiding this Manischewitz stuff from them all this time. L’chaim! Cheers!

Ingredients:

1 cup sweet kosher wine

1 1/2 cups pear nectar

2-inch piece of ginger

1 lime, zested

1 Tbsp. sugar

Directions:

1. Slice ginger, add to pot with pear nectar and heat on stove, reducing to 1 cup (25 minutes)

2. Strain out the ginger pieces and add the wine to the juice. Pour mixture into a glass baking dish and freeze for one hour.

3. Remove from freezer and using a fork, scrape the slush off the bottom of the dish. Repeat one to two times, freezing for 30 minute increments.

4. Once it’s frozen to desired slushiness, zest your lime and mix it with the sugar. Scoop out your slushie and top with lime sugar.