It's the Holidays! (December 10, 2004)
All New Yorkers remember the large subway poster, "You don't have
to be Jewish to love Levy's Rye bread," featuring a rainbow coalition
of grinning models chomping down on thick, delicious sandwiches...
And we echo the phrase with two wonderful cookbooks A Blessing
of Bread by Maggie Glezer and Marcy Goldman's A Treasury of Jewish
Holiday Baking that, no matter your background or beliefs,
are going to meet your winter baking needs! A third cookbook and perennial
favourite of ours is A Holiday Collection 2004 from our good friends,
the Home Economists in the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen in Alberta, Canada.
A Blessing of Bread presents for the first time the diverse bread-baking
traditions of the Jewish people. So what's your pleasure? Babkas, honey
cakes? Perhaps a bite of bagel or matzoh or just that delicious deli rye
bread. Maggie Glezer worked with bakers from Guatemala to Russia, endlessly
testing each recipe, as many had never been written down and were simply
part of riveting oral histories and ancient legends. Glezer reminds us
that there is a special urgency to record, learn and pass on culinary
history if we are to preserve our traditional foods and customs. A
Blessing of Bread grew out of an interview that she conducted with
a rabbi's wife about the symbolism of challah, that bakery staple deeply
rooted in Jewish traditions. Captivated by the myriad meaning in every
twist of the bread's braid, she spent many years doing research and testing.
Thank you, Maggie; Ron confesses that he's always wanted to bake a really
great bagel, while Helen can't wait to try the anise-, almond- and sesame-studded
Moroccan Purim bread!
Moving right along, we have A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking
now in soft cover. First printed in 1998, the Treasury has become
a sought-after classic. It's a lovingly assembled, comprehensive collection
of delicious, fail-proof baked goods for the Jewish holidays and throughout
the year. We fell for the hamantaschen pastries and then found the double
fudge cake, and we know why this book is a perennial bestseller.
A lovely variation on the theme is just in, and you still have time to
snag your copy. A Holiday Collection 2004 is available by mail,
and what a terrific little book it is! This annual tradition from the
Home Economists with the Alberta utility company never fail to give us
wonderful recipes and ideas not only for the holidays, but for the coming
months as well. We glanced at the contents, and were delighted to see
everything from Great Beginnings with beverages and hors d'oeuvres, In
the Christmas Tradition and The Day After, to a totally practical as well
as delicious chapter on Casserole Cuisine! It's not just the holiday season,
for this is a year-round book with recipes for every occasion and palate...
Try Roasted Tomato Bruschetta, Pomegranate and Jasmine Rice Salad with
Oranges, Individual Christmas Puddings, Trade Winds Beef Stew, and one
that really caught our eye and tummy, Asparagus Cordon Bleu! This is a
marvellous book for the experienced cook as well as the beginner; you'll
want to order more than one for this holiday! Details below.
So... all you have to be is a gourmand who enjoys a little baking and
some good cooking to love these fine books. Whichever holiday you celebrate,
you'll want to give and receive A Blessing of Bread, A Treasury
of Jewish Holiday Baking and A Holiday Collection 2004 from
the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen Home Economists! Trust us, we know!
Many happy meals, everyone!
On today's menu:
Download these recipes in printable form
as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (87 KB)
Crackling Thin Iraqi Whole
from A Blessing of Bread
You've spotted this one on the cover of A Blessing of Bread and,
if you're like us, you've always wanted to do a tasty flatbread. This
recipe needs care, but it's worth it. Matzot is probably the oldest and
most iconic of all Jewish breads. It's mentioned numerous times in the
Bible, and not just in the context of Passover. The original was probably
made from barley, but with wheat being the preferred grain, for centuries
almost all matzot has been made from the best wheat flour carefully guarded
During Passover, observant Jews do not eat any grain or bread other than
this unleavened flatbread, to connect in a tangible way with the Exodus.
Whatever your feelings, this is a wonderful crisp cracker of a bread.
It stands alone or is perfect topped with almost anything you want.
Glezer comments that Matzot is never rolled out with any flour, so it's
important to get the consistency of the dough just right so it rolls out
easily; if the dough is too soft, it will stick; if it's too firm it will
resist extending. Most matzot must be docked, punctured or pierced, but
these are thin so they do not need it.
If this sounds complicated, not to worry Glezer has rated the
skill level as "Beginner".
Makes: 16 9-inch matzot
Recipe synopsis: Mix the dough. Divide the dough and roll it into
the thinnest circles possible. Bake the matzot for 5 to 10 minutes per
batch. Time required: about one hour.
- About 5 cups coarsely ground whole wheat flour
- About 1½ cups water
Preheating the oven: Arrange the oven racks in the upper and lower
third positions and preheat the oven to 450°F.
Sifting the flour: Using a very fine mesh strainer, sift the flour
into a large bowl; reserve the bran for another purpose. (This step can
be skipped if you like, but you will need to add extra water to the dough.)
Mixing the dough: Pour the water into the sifted flour and mix
until a rough dough forms. Turn the dough out onto your work surface and
knead until it is smooth, adding more flour or water as necessary to make
a firm dough that can be easily stretched but is not at all sticky and
does not stick to the kneading surface. Divide the dough into sixteen
Rolling out and baking the matzot: Roll out and bake two to four
matzot at a time, depending on the size of your baking sheets. Using no
flour, roll out each ball with a heavy rolling pin into the thinnest possible
circle, about 9 inches across. (If you cannot roll out the dough that
thin, be sure to pierce the dough all over with a fork.) Place each matzoh
(two if they will fit) on a baking sheet and bake for 5 to 10 minutes,
or until it curls up at the edges and is browned and dry. Transfer to
a rack to cool. Store the matzot in a large tin or airtight plastic bag.
from Jewish Holiday Baking
Sometime in March (or, in the Hebrew Calendar, on the 14th day of Adar),
Jews around the world celebrate the "Festival of Lots" based
on events found in the Book of Esther that occurred around the fifth century
BC. It's quite a story of courage and triumph. Esther was Queen of the
Persian ruler, King Ahasuerus, who was unaware that his queen was Jewish.
An advisor to the king, Haman, was secretly planning a mass murder of
all the Jews in the kingdom. Esther got word of the plot from her uncle
and informed her husband of these sinister maneuverings. She presented
her case in such a convincing fashion that her husband the king was moved
to intercede. Queen Esther's intervention saved the Persian Jews! What
a woman! Celebrations today include rambunctious parties punctuated by
colourful costumes and music, with platters of fruit-filled hamantaschen
served with sweet kosher wine, which one is encouraged to consume in copious
Why wait? Celebrate today with your own delicious batch!
Makes 4 to 6 dozen pastries
- ½ cup vegetable shortening
- ½ cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or unsalted margarine
- 1¼ cups sugar
- 3 eggs
- ¼ cup orange juice or milk
- 1½ tsp vanilla extract
- Approximately 4 cups all -purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- ½ tsp baking powder
- Golden egg wash (recipe below)
- 34 cups store-bought fillings: cherry, apricot, prune or your
- Regular or coarse sugar (optional)
Golden egg wash
This all-purpose glaze brings a golden glow to most pastries and acts
as a "glue" when sealing pastries.
- 1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
- 12 Tbsp milk or water
- Pinch of sugar
In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Use a pastry brush
to glaze or brush on prepared unbaked hamantaschen.
In a mixing bowl, cream the shortening, butter and sugar together.
Add the eggs and blend until smooth. (If the mixture is hard to blend
or seems curdled, add a bit of the flour to bind it.)
Stir in the orange juice or milk and the vanilla. Fold in the flour,
salt, and baking powder and mix to make a firm but soft dough. Transfer
the dough to a lightly floured work surface and pat the dough into a smooth
mass. Cover and let it rest for 10 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line 2 large baking sheets with parchment
Divide the dough into 2 or 3 flattened discs and work with one portion
at a time.
Roll out the dough on a lightly floured board to a thickness of 1/8 inch.
Use a 3-inch cookie cutter and cut as many roughs as you can. Brush the
round with egg wash. Fill with a generous teaspoonful of the desired filling.
Draw 3 sides together into the center. You should now have a 3-cornered
or triangular pastry. Repeat this process with the remaining dough and
filling. Brush the pastries with additional egg wash. If desired, sprinkle
with regular or coarse sugar, and bake in the center of the preheated
oven until golden brown (18 to 25 minutes.) Cool on the baking sheets.
If you prefer this dough can be made ahead and refrigerated, wrapped
in plastic, for up to 2 days, or frozen (either as a disc of dough or
as already formed and filled pastries) for a couple of months. If refrigerating,
allow the dough to warm up before rolling out. For frozen pastries, bake
Chanukah Gelt Double Fudge
Chocolate Layer Cake None Better!!!
from Jewish Holiday Baking
Marcy Goldman says, "A boastful title to be sure, but absolutely
true. You just don't get cakes like this every day; easy to make, moist,
almost half a hoot high, non dairy but very flavourful, stays fresh for
days, can be frozen for months."
Oh, my what else is there, we answer. And... this cake won't ever make
it to the freezer!
Makes 12 to 16 servings
- 2 cups granulated sugar
- 1¼ cups vegetable oil
- 3 eggs
- 2 tsp vanilla extract
- 2½ cups all purpose flour
- ½ tsp salt
- 1½ tsp baking soda
- 1½ tsp ground cinnamon
- 1 cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 1½ cups warm, flat cola soda
- ½ cup chocolate chips, melted and cooled
- 2 Tbsp vegetable shortening
- ¾ cup (1½ sticks) unsalted butter or unsalted margarine
- 1 tsp vanilla extract
- ¾ cup unsweetened cocoa powder, sifted
- 34 cups confectioners' sugar, sifted
- ½ cup water, cola, or half and half
- Coloured sprinkles
- 2030 gold coloured chocolate coins
- Miniature decorative plastic dreidels
Preheat the oven to 350°F. Lightly grease two 9-inch layer pans and
line them with parchment paper circles. In a large mixing bowl, blend
the sugar and oil. Add the eggs and vanilla and combine until the mixture
is well blended. In a separate bowl, stir together the dry ingredients.
Fold them into the wet, and mix, drizzling in the cola as the mixture
blends. If using an electric mixer, use the low speed and mix for about
3 minutes, scraping the sides and bottom once to incorporate all the 8ingredients.
This is a thin batter.
Bake on the middle rack of the preheated oven for 34 to 40 minutes, until
the cakes spring back when lightly touched.
Chocolate icing: In a bowl, cream together the melted chocolate,
shortening, butter and vanilla with the cocoa and 1 cup of the confectioners'
sugar. Add the remaining confectioners' sugar and whip on high speed,
adding a bit of water, cola or half and half to get a light, fluffy consistency.
If you're not frosting the cake right away, rewhip before using, adding
additional warm water, a tablespoon at a time, to achiever the right consistency.
Note: we did not have a photograph of this masterpiece, so called
Kraft Kitchens for help. They provided us with a lovely "ungelted"
iced chocolate cake; use your imagination or Marcie's directions that
follow to decorate!
To decorate: Place one layer on a cardboard circle. Ice it with
about ½ inch of frosting. Cover with the second layer and ice the
sides first, then the top. Coat the sides with coloured sprinkles. Garnish
the bottom edge with gold covered coins. Garnish the top with gold-coloured
coins, making any arrangement you want, placing the coins either flat
on top of the cake or standing up, sticking them in the icing to hold.
(You may cut some of the coins in half to garnish the border of the top
layer.) Place a couple of miniature dreidels in the center if you wish,
or Hanukkah candles. (They can be lit when the menorah is lit.)
Mincemeat Pies and Tarts
from A Holiday Collection 2004
Once you've got the mincemeat made up, you can do almost anything with
it, and it keeps beautifully in the freezer for up to one month. We love
the ATCO version of little individual tarts with a star topping. Simply
make up pastry for a double-crust pie; divide in half and use one part
for the tart shell, the second half for the star topping made from a cookie
cutter or free hand!
How many can you eat? Oh really? Well... me too!
Makes 4 cups or enough mincemeat for one 9-inch pie
- 3 cups diced peeled Golden Delicious apples
- ¾ cup packed dark brown sugar
- ¼ cup water
- ½ tsp cinnamon
- ¼ tsp ginger
- 1/8 tsp ground cloves
- 1/8 tsp nutmeg
- 2¾ cups dark raisins
- 1 cup toasted slivered almonds, chopped
- ½ cup brandy
- ¼ cup fresh orange juice
- ¼ cup fresh lemon juice
- 1 tsp grated orange peel
- 1 tsp grated lemon peel
Combine first 7 ingredients (apples through nutmeg) in a large saucepan.
Bring to a boil over medium heat. Reduce heat and simmer, covered, for
5 to 7 minutes or until apples are tender. Add remaining ingredients (raisins
through lemon peel). Simmer, uncovered, until thickened, about 1520
minutes. Cool. Spoon mincemeat into a freezer container. Cover and freeze
for up to one month.
Baking mincemeat pies and tarts
To bake mincemeat pies, bake at 425°F for 10 minutes. Reduce temperature
to 350°F and continue baking for 4045 minutes or until mincemeat
is bubbly and pastry is golden. To bake mincemeat tarts, bake at 375°F
or 17 to 20 minutes or until mincemeat is bubbly and pastry is golden.
We wish to thank the following for permission to publish material and
A Blessing of Bread by Maggie Glezer and Broadway Books, a division
of Random House, Inc. © 2004 by Maggie Glezer. Photograph ©
by Jim Scherer.
A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking by Marcy Goldman and Broadway
Books, a division of Random House, Inc. © 1998 by Marcy Goldman.
Photograph © FoodPix/Steve Cohen.
A Holiday Collection 2004 from the ATCO Blue Flame Kitchen. To
order, call 800-840-3393 (in Canada) or 780-420-1010. Price $5.00(Canadian
funds) plus postage. For more terrific recipes and ideas, go to www.atcoblueflamekitchen.com.
Kraft Kitchens Canada for the chocolate cake photograph. For more information,
ideas, and to sign up for your free subscription to What's Cooking
Magazine, go to www.kraftcanada.com.
Happily tested by Helen Hatton and Ron Morris.
Download these recipes in printable form
as an Adobe Acrobat PDF (87 KB)