Tag Archives: Jewish

sephardic challah bread on a linen tablecloth

This Sephardic-Style Spiced Challah is the Perfect Addition to Your Rosh Hashanah Spread

For most Canadians, challah is best known as a wonderfully fluffy, eggy, yeasty and sweet braided bread appreciated by Jews and non-Jews alike. Whether it’s enjoyed for Shabbat and Jewish holidays or as the base of custardy French toasts and decadent deli sandwiches, this golden Ashkenazi loaf has origins in Central and Eastern Europe and is popular for good reason. But there are other delightful challah traditions, including lighter, more savoury loaves favoured among Sephardic and Mizrahi Jews of North African and Middle Eastern ancestry.

Unlike the multi-stranded braided challahs, these loaves are commonly coiled into festive (and far easier) “crowns,” which, during Rosh Hashanah (the Jewish New Year), take on special meaning to symbolize the continuity of life. The flavours of these loaves are also wildly different. My Moroccan grandmother’s challah was always laced with whole spices such as cumin and caraway seeds that were mixed into the smooth and airy crumb. It was the perfect pairing for a table full of spicy, saucy and tangy cooked salads and tagines. This challah recipe takes me back to everything I loved about my grandmother’s cooking and being in her kitchen.

Note: This recipe can easily be made vegan with a couple simple swaps, outlined below.

sephardic challah bread on a linen tablecloth

Sephardic-Style Challah with Whole Seeds and Spices

Prep Time: 20 minutes
Rest Time: 3-4 hours
Bake Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 4-5 hours
Servings: One large round loaf or two small loaves

Ingredients:
For the dough
1 Tbsp sesame seeds
1 Tbsp cumin or nigella seeds
1 Tbsp of caraway, coriander or anise seeds
4 cups all-purpose flour, spooned and levelled, plus extra for dusting
1½ envelopes (12 grams) instant yeast
1 egg (optional), at room temperature
2 Tbsp sugar
2 tsp salt
6 Tbsp canola or sunflower oil, plus extra for oiling hands and baking sheet
¾-1 cup warm water

For the egg wash and topping (optional)
Cornmeal for dusting baking sheet
1 egg, plus 1 Tbsp water
Salt to taste
Sesame or poppy seeds, for sprinkling

Ingredients for sephardic challah on a white countertop

Directions:

1. For the dough, in a skillet over medium heat, toast sesame seeds,  cumin, caraway or other seeds until fragrant (and before they start to pop), about 1 to 2 minutes. Transfer to a plate and set aside to cool.

Related: Pomegranate Ginger Chicken For a Sweet and Fruitful Rosh Hashanah

Seeds and herbs toasting for sephardic challah

2. Combine all of the dough ingredients (including the seeds), then mix and knead for about 10 minutes by hand, stand mixer (with dough hook) or bread maker until smooth, soft and supple. If using egg, add ¾ cup of warm water first.

Option: For a vegan “water challah” without egg, use 1 cup of water. If the dough is too stiff, add more warm water, one tablespoon at a time, as needed. If it’s too sticky, add a little more flour.

3. Let the dough rise in a tightly covered bowl for roughly 2 hours until puffy and about doubled in size.

Dough for sephardic challah in a mixing bowl

4. Sprinkle cornmeal on a lightly-oiled baking sheet.

5. With oiled hands, gently deflate the dough and transfer it to a lightly greased work surface.

Related: Irresistible Dulce de Leche Rugelach

6. To make one large loaf, roll the dough into a 40- to 50-inch-long rope. (If you don’t have enough work space, roll it one half at a time, bending the rope in the middle.) If the dough isn’t stretching easily, let it rest covered for 5 to 10 minutes, then continue rolling. For two smaller loaves, aim for 25-inch ropes.

7. Let the rope(s) rest for 5 minutes. Form the rope into a coil, starting from one end. Tuck the second end under the finished coil.

Two coils of dough for sephardic challah on a white countertop

8. Place the coil(s) on the prepared baking sheet(s), one loaf per pan.

9. To make the egg wash topping, mix the reserved egg with 1 Tbsp water and a pinch of salt.

Option: For a vegan “water challah” version, skip this step or substitute egg wash with maple syrup or aquafaba (without water).

10. Brush dough coil(s) with a first layer of egg wash. Cover coil(s) with a large inverted bowl. Let stand for 60 to 90 minutes, until very puffy.

10. Near the end of the rising time, place a rack in the middle of your oven and preheat to 400°F.

11. Brush a second layer of egg wash onto dough coil(s) (this extra step will make the loaf beautifully shiny) and sprinkle generously with sesame or poppy seeds.

Dough for sephardic challah sprinkled with sesame seeds on a baking sheet

12. Place baking sheet in center of preheated oven (for two small loaves, place the baking sheets side by side or one at a time) and bake for 30 minutes or until the loaf is a rich, golden colour and the bottom is crispy. To check doneness, a digital thermometer poked into the centre of the loaf should read 190°F. Transfer to a rack to cool before serving or slicing.

Related: An Easy, Tender Brisket Recipe That is Sure to Impress

A golden loaf of sephardic challah on a linen tea towel

Love Claire’s challah? Be sure to try her upside-down apple cake for a gorgeous Rosh Hashanah dessert.

Passover seder meal

How the Passover Dinner (and Passover Story) Are Becoming More Progressive in 2021

For generations, Jews across the world have gathered to scoop fluffy matzo balls from chicken soup and slice piping hot beef brisket — but before they dig into their festive Passover seder meal, they must read a Haggadah. “Basically the Haggadah is… a guidebook, it’s a workbook, it’s a resource all at once. If anything, it’s a lot like a zine,” explained Rabbi Andrea Myers who serves queer Jewish communities in Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa. In sum: the Haggadah is where you talk about the Passover seder plate, sing songs, ask questions and talk about struggles.

Passover seder plate from above

The Book of Exodus in the Torah (or the Old Testament) tells the Passover story of how the Hebrews escaped slave labour at the hands of the Egyptian Pharaoh (spoiler alert: Moses parts the Red Sea and they get away). But while the Exodus text is always the same, there are hundreds, if not thousands of versions of Haggadot (plural of Haggadah), all meant to spark discussion about what we can learn from this collective historical trauma. “It’s not necessarily about the freedom per se, it’s really so much about the struggle,” Myers said. “And in our world today, we understand that we’re not the only ones that struggle.”

Rabbi Andrea Myers

Over time, Haggadot have gone beyond the Exodus tale, reflecting the struggles facing Jews and the communities they share the world with. For instance, the ornate Szyk Haggadah drawn in the mid-1930s highlighted links between Nazi persecution of the Jews and the Pharaoh. In 1997, the Stonewall Seder brought the plight of LGBTQ2+ communities to the forefront.

Lately, there are more and more progressive Haggadot being shared online about a plethora of progressive issues from food justice to refugee rights to incarceration to Black Lives Matter. There’s even a seder for the BDSM community.

Related: What is Food Insecurity? FoodShare’s Paul Taylor Explains (Plus What Canadians Can Do About It)

“The world is a very complex and fraught and grieving place and we need to just be real about that, which is what I think that these Haggadot are saying,” Myers said. “That’s why I love Passover so much because it’s an opportunity for us in our own communities and families or core groups or whatever constellations people have for each other to have these conversations.”

Different foods or cutlery are also now commonly added to the seder meal in order to ignite mindful discussion. “I use a blood orange to represent missing and murdered Indigenous women and it’s not something that people would know unless they’re asked about it,” Myers said.

Pile of blood oranges

Having Your Own Progressive Seder

Ahead of the meal, Myers suggests having a frank conversation with those gathering around your table, virtual or not, about the issues most important to everyone. You don’t need to focus on just one struggle since many Haggadot online are short (Haggadot.com is a helpful tool that lets you customize your own Haggadah).

The idea isn’t to start a fierce mandlen (soup nuts) fight but to show solidarity with other people’s struggles. “Are we going to be people who sit back and say, ‘Oh well, we got ours.’ Or are we going to follow the ethical imperative to look and say, ‘Hey, here’s what we learned, how can we help you?’” Myers asked. “I think [this] is a very valid conversation to have, particularly when there are kids involved when we’re trying to role model what it means to repair the world.”

Did you enjoy this interview? Read more! Here’s our chat with Joshna Maharaj (on food insecurity and inclusion in Canada’s hospitality industry).

Photo of Andrea Myers courtesy of Andrea Myers; food photos courtesy of Getty Images

Rainbow latkes on serving platter

Celebrate Hanukkah at Home With These Vibrant Rainbow Latkes

Although we might not be surrounded by friends and family as we light the Hanukkah candles this year, that doesn’t mean all traditions have to go out the window. Rather, they can be updated with a new vibrant spin: like making rainbow latkes. Step aside boring russet potatoes — your friends the beet, sweet potato, carrot, zucchini and blue potato are ready to steal the latke show. Rainbow latkes are strikingly gorgeous, taste sweet and crisp and are quite nutritious for you too. If you want to connect with friends and family this holiday season but aren’t quite sure how, consider dropping off a box of beautiful, colourful, homemade latkes to brighten their spirits.

Rainbow latkes on serving platter

Vibrant Rainbow Latkes

Prep Time: 40 minutes
Cook Time: 30 minutes
Total Time: 1 hour, 10 minutes
Servings: 9 latkes

Ingredients:

Beet Apple Latkes
¾ lb beets (about 3 medium beets)
1 gala apple
2 Tbsp yellow onion
2 whisked eggs
2 Tbsp spelt flour
½ tsp sea salt

Sweet Potato Carrot Latkes
¾ lb sweet potato (about 2 small sweet potatoes)
2 carrots
3 Tbsp yellow onion
2 whisked eggs
2 Tbsp spelt flour
¼ tsp sea salt

Zucchini Spinach Latkes
2 medium zucchinis
1 cup baby spinach or spinach leaves
¼ cup yellow onion
2 whisked eggs
2 Tbsp spelt flour
½ tsp sea salt

Blue/Purple Potato Latkes
1 lb blue potatoes
½ cup yellow onion
2 whisked eggs
2 Tbsp spelt flour
½ tsp sea salt
¼ tsp black pepper

Rainbow latkes ingredients on kitchen counter

Directions:

1. Using the shredding attachment on your food processor, shred one veggie or fruit at a time and wipe out the food processor before moving onto the next item. For example, shred the beets, place them in a bowl, lightly wipe out the food processor, then shred the apples. Place all shredded vegetables or fruit in their own separate bowls: beets, apple, sweet potato, carrots, zucchini, potatoes and onion. If you don’t have a food processor, you can use a box grater. For the spinach, chop finely or blitz using “S” blade on your food processor.

Rainbow latkes shredded veggies

2. You will have to wring out the excess water from the zucchini and blue potatoes, otherwise those latkes will be too mushy and won’t stick together. You can do this by placing the zucchini and blue potatoes, separately, in kitchen towels or cheese cloth and squeezing the moisture out. Or you can also push the veggies down in your French press or ricer to remove excess liquid.

3. Now you can begin assembling the latkes. Within each of the veggie bowls add the correct amount of shredded onion, whisked eggs, flour, salt, pepper and any other ingredient it may call for.

Rainbow latkes ingredients in bowl

4. Combine the ingredients with your hands and then begin shaping them into latkes. We used a ¼ measuring cup — we like ours the size of a hockey puck, about 3-4 inches in diameter and 1 inch thick.

Related: Traditional Jewish Comfort Food Recipes to Try This Winter

5. If you’re baking them, preheat your oven to 400°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment and pour some oil on the parchment paper and spread it around. This will make the latkes crispy without actually frying them. At the 7-minute mark, flip the latkes, brush the other side with extra virgin olive oil and bake for another 8 minutes.

6. Alternatively, if you are frying them, place a pan over medium heat and add some oil. If you don’t like the olive oil taste, you can use a more neutral one. Slowly put the latkes onto the pan, but don’t crowd them, work in batches. Hear the sizzle and after about 4-5 minutes, flip and continue to fry on the other side until crisp.

7. Place the latkes on a towel or paper towel to sop up the excess oil.

8. Eat as is or serve with applesauce, labneh, Greek yogurt or sour cream.

Like Tamara and Sarah’s rainbow latkes recipe? Try their easy spatchcock chicken recipe or sumac-spiced roasted delicata.

This Upside-Down Apple Cake is a Must-Make Rosh Hashanah Dessert

This flavourful glazed apple cake recipe is a mashup of two of my favourite fall desserts: a simple and delicious honey apple cake that I grew up eating on the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah and a show-stopping upside-down salted caramel apple cake that has become a more recent indulgence. I’ll be serving it for dessert at our Jewish New Year dinner, as well as Thanksgiving, because it’s one of those crowd-pleasing autumn cakes that has something for everyone, from the tender and nutty crumb to the sticky, sweet and salty topping. It’s also made almost entirely in a good old cast-iron skillet, which has become my new go-to for everything from barbecuing to baking.

Upside-Down Apple Cake With Honey and Salted Caramel

Prep Time: 30 minutes
Cook Time: 30 to 40 minutes
Total Time: 60 to 70  minutes
Servings: 8

Ingredients:

Topping
2 Tbsp + ½ cup unsalted butter, divided
4 small or 3 large baking apples such as Gala or Pink Lady, peeled, halved and cores neatly scooped out with a teaspoon or melon baller
⅔ cup dark brown sugar
1 tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
¼ tsp kosher salt
1 tsp vanilla extract

Cake
1 cup all-purpose flour
1 cup almond flour, toasted
1 tsp ground cinnamon
⅛ tsp freshly grated nutmeg
1 ¼ tsp baking soda
½ tsp baking powder
1 tsp kosher salt
½ cup unsalted butter, room temperature
¼ cup light brown sugar
⅓ cup light-coloured honey
2 large eggs, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla extract
½ cup whole milk plain Greek yogurt (4% or 5%), room temperature
Flaked sea salt to finish (optional)

Directions:

1. Set the rack in the centre of the oven and preheat to 350°F. Spread almond flour on a parchment- or silicone-lined baking sheet and toast for 10 to 12 minutes, stirring once or twice, until golden. Set aside to cool. Keep the oven on.

2. Meanwhile, heat a 10-inch cast-iron skillet (or other oven-safe pan) over medium heat. Cast-iron takes longer to heat up than other pans, so leave it on for a good 5 minutes before you start cooking for even heat distribution. Add 2 Tbsp butter to coat and arrange apple halves with cut sides down. Cook apples until cut sides are evenly golden brown. (Don’t stir). This can take 5 to 10 minutes or a bit longer, depending on the type of apples you’re using, so keep a close eye on them and rotate as needed. Turn apples over and cook for about 5 more minutes, until slightly tender and juices start to release. Transfer apples to a plate with cut sides up.

3. To make the caramel sauce, add ½ cup butter to the skillet on low heat. When it starts to bubble, stir in brown sugar. Keep stirring until smooth and thickened for about 2 minutes. (If it’s separating, add one or two spoonfuls of very hot water). Remove from heat and stir in cinnamon, nutmeg, salt and vanilla. Let cool for 1 minute. Arrange apples, cut sides down, on top of the caramel sauce, spacing evenly.

4. For the cake: whisk together flour, toasted almond flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, baking soda, baking powder and salt in a large bowl.

5. Using a handheld or stand mixer fitted with a paddle or whisk attachment, beat butter, brown sugar and honey together on high speed until smooth and creamy, about 2 minutes. On medium speed, add the eggs one at a time, then the vanilla, beating well after each addition. On low speed, beat in half of the flour mixture, then the yogurt, until combined. Beat in remaining flour mixture until incorporated and no flour pockets remain. Do not over-mix.

Related: Transform Those Overripe Bananas Into This Impressive Upside-Down Cake

6. Spoon batter over apples and caramel in skillet, smoothing evenly.

7. Bake until it is evenly browned and the middle springs back when pressed lightly, about 30 to 40 minutes. Let the apple cake cool in the skillet for 10 to 15 minutes, then run a small knife or offset spatula around the edges to loosen and flip over onto a cooling rack or dish. (If any apples stick to the skillet, gently scrape them off and press them back into the top of the cake).

Related: Pomegranate Ginger Chicken for a Sweet and Fruitful Rosh Hashanah

8. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt flakes and serve warm or at room temperature with vanilla ice cream and mint tea. Store covered at room temperature for up to 2 days or up to 1 week in the refrigerator.

Love Claire’s upside-down apple cake? For a main, whip up her vegetarian mujadara dish or seven-vegetable Moroccan couscous.