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 purée
  • 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

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.

Guinness Challah for St. Patty’s Day

  

By Mari Levine

challah

I know the obvious connection between Jews and St. Patrick’s Day is corned beef. But that seemed like the safe choice for this week’s post, and I was feeling adventurous. I was also feeling like drinking beer.

So when I googled “Jewish recipes for St. Patrick’s Day,” I wasn’t expecting much besides the aforementioned corned beef recipes and maybe some random tips on how to incorporate green food coloring into traditional Jewish dishes. But the luck of the Irish was with me. In the middle of my search—as if sent from a leprechaun himself—a dear friend sent me an email with the subject line, “Jewish take on St. Patty’s.” She had sent me a link to a recent post on a blog called She Makes and Bakes, in which the blogger had introduced her recipe for Guinness challah. Um, genius.

I love cooking with beer. (I’ve made this beer ice cream recipe several times and it’s always a huge hit.) But I’d never tried baking with it—and I’m not a confident baker to begin with. So for my version, I decided to use a trusted recipe as the base—Claudia Roden’s challah recipe from “The Book of Jewish Food”—and work Guinness into it as part of the liquid in which you dissolve the yeast.

This worked really nicely. The challah has no hint of booziness (I might use all beer next time instead of cutting it with water, or even reduce it to concentrate its flavors), but the Guinness certainly lends the challah a pronounced sweetness.

And if you’re worried about people missing the St. Patrick’s Day connection to challah, there’s always green food coloring.

Guinness Challah

Inspired by She Makes and Bakes and Claudia Roden’s challah recipe in “The Book of Jewish Food”

Ingredients:

  • 2 Tbsp. active dry yeast
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 1¼ cups lukewarm water
  • 1¼ cups Guinness
  • ½ cup vegetable oil
  • 5 eggs
  • 2 Tbsp. salt
  • 9¼ cups flour
  • Poppy or sesame seeds (optional)

 

Directions:

1. In medium bowl, stir together water and Guinness. Dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon of sugar in water-beer mixture and set aside until foamy, about 10 minutes. Meanwhile, grease a large bowl and two baking sheets with cooking spray and set aside.

2. Using a kitchen spoon or stand mixer, beat 4 of the eggs in another large bowl, then beat in salt, remaining sugar, and ½ cup oil. Add yeast mixture and beat until well combined. Gradually add flour, mixing until dough is stiff.

3. Using dough hook or your hands, knead dough until smooth, about 15 minutes. Shape dough into a ball and transfer to prepared bowl. Cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap and set aside, in a warm spot, to let rise until doubled in bulk, about 1½ hours.

4. Turn dough out onto a very lightly floured surface, divide into 12 equal pieces, and shape each into a ball. Set dough balls aside about 2 inches apart, cover with a damp kitchen towel or plastic wrap, and let rise for 10 minutes. Then roll dough balls into 12-inch long ropes.

5. To make the six-strand braided loaves, line up six of the ropes lengthwise on each large baking sheet, or, to make the three-strand braided loaves, line up three of the ropes lengthwise on each medium baking sheet. Position baking sheets perpendicular to you. Join ends of ropes at top of baking sheet and pinch together. Braid each loaf, join ends of rope at bottom of baking sheet, pinch together, and tuck ends under on both ends of loaves. Loosely cover loaves with damp kitchen towels or plastic wrap and let rise for 15 minutes. Meanwhile, preheat oven to 350 degrees and set oven rack in middle position.

6. Beat the remaining egg and 1 teaspoon water together in a small bowl. Brush tops of loaves with some of the egg wash, sprinkle with poppy and sesame seeds (if using), then bake until loaves are deep brown and hollow sounding when tapped, 45-60 minutes. Set loaves aside on rack to cool.

Reprinted with permission from JewishBoston.com

Rosh Hashanah Cinnamon Roll Challah with an Italian Twist

  

Challah for the Jewish New Year is special—round to celebrate the circle of life and sweet (typically with raisins) in the hope of a sweet year. For the occasion, I make what I call my cinnamon roll challah, with rum-soaked raisins (an homage to Italian desserts featuring rum) and a pretty swirl of brown sugar and cinnamon inside.

cinnamon raisin challah whole

Rosh Hashanah Cinnamon Roll Challah with an Italian Twist

Recipe reprinted with permission from Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life

Yield: Two large loaves. (Dairy with butter or Pareve with margarine or oil.)

Ingredients:

Dough

  • Cooking spray or extra-virgin olive oil for coating the bowl and plastic wrap
  • ½ cup rum
  • ½ cup (generous) dark raisins
  • 1 envelope active dry yeast (about 2¼ tsp.)
  • 1 cup very warm water (105 to 110 degrees)
  • ½ cup sugar
  • 4 eggs (with one yolk reserved for topping), room temperature
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter (or margarine or oil), softened
  • 1 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 5½ to 6½ cups bread flour, plus additional for work surface
  • 1½ tsp. salt

 

Filling

  • ½ cup light brown sugar, packed
  • 1¼ tsp. ground cinnamon
  • 2 Tbsp. unsalted butter or margarine, melted
  • ¼ tsp. vanilla extract

 

Egg Wash

  • Reserved egg yolk from dough recipe
  • Pinch of salt
  • 1 teaspoon cold water

 

Directions:

1. Coat a large bowl with cooking spray or olive oil and set aside.

2. Heat rum in the microwave or on stovetop until hot. Pour over raisins to submerge them completely. Let stand about 10 minutes. Drain and discard the rum and pat the raisins dry. Set aside.

3. Dissolve the yeast and the warm water in a large bowl, about five minutes. Mix in the sugar, three whole eggs and the one egg white, butter and vanilla. Stir in 2½ cups of the flour and the salt, and combine well. Then add 2½ more cups of flour and mix well. Add additional flour as needed to form a cohesive dough.

4. Transfer the dough to a lightly floured surface and knead for about 10 minutes until smooth and elastic. Press the dough into a large thick disk, and insert a handful of the raisins, spaced apart. Fold the dough over the raisins and flatten again; continue inserting raisins this way until all are incorporated and well distributed.

5. Place the dough in the oiled bowl, then lift out, turn over, and place it (oiled side up) back in the bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and set in a warm place to rise until doubled, about 1½ to 2 hours.

6. Uncover the dough and press down on the middle to deflate. Cover and let rest for a few minutes.

7. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and set aside. Prepare the filling by stirring together the brown sugar and cinnamon. In a separate bowl, combine the vanilla extract and the melted butter or margarine.

8. Divide the dough in half. Return one half to the bowl and cover. Place the other half on a lightly floured surface. Roll out to a large rectangle, about 20 inches long by 9 to 10 inches wide. Brush a thin layer of the butter over the dough. Then sprinkle with half the brown sugar mixture.

9. Starting at one long edge of the dough, roll it (jelly-roll style) gently but firmly to the other edge. Press the seam and ends to seal. Gently pull and roll this log until it is about 24 inches long, keeping the original thickness on one end and gradually narrowing the other end. Twine the narrow end around the larger end to make a large pinwheel. Press the loose end to seal. Gently press down on the top of the entire loaf to level it.

10. Transfer to prepared baking sheet. Repeat with remaining dough. Prepare the egg wash by lightly beating the reserved egg yolk, a pinch of salt, and 1 teaspoon cold water to combine. Brush on shaped loaves. Gently cover the loaves with oiled plastic wrap and let rise about 45 minutes, until nearly doubled. Halfway through the rise, preheat the oven to 375 degrees.

11. Bake for 20 minutes, and then reduce heat to 350 degrees. Bake another 15 to 18 minutes, until loaf sounds hollow when tapped (the interior should be between 185 and 190 degrees). Some of the sugar mixture might seep out and create a sweet undercrust, which I consider ideal. Serve the same day or freeze.

cinnamon raisin challah sliced

 

marcia_friedman_smallMarcia Friedman is the author of Meatballs and Matzah Balls: Recipes and Reflections from a Jewish and Italian Life. She continues to write about her journey and the intersection of Jewish and Italian food at meatballsandmatzahballs.com.