Category Archives: Jewish

Rugel-what?

All raspberry to the right, raspberry plus chocolate and nuts on the left.

Rugelach. The ‘ach’ is as in ‘Bach’, though the a is a bit shorter. Anyway, not ‘atch’ as in ‘batch’. Challah is another word pronounced with the slightly gutturalized ‘h’ sound, as opposed to ‘ch’ as in ‘chips’, but challah is from Hebrew while rugelach is from Yiddish and…

Oh, sorry, I got distracted there; what is a rugelach? It’s a sweet, a biscuit, a cookie, of Eastern-European Jewish origin. A rugelach is rolled like a wee croissant; it’s a rich dough – often based on cream cheese and butter – filled with all the sweet stuff you can find: jam, chocolate, sugar, dried fruit, cinnamon, some nuts maybe, with a bit more sugar sprinkled on top, just to make sure. The dough itself is not very sweet, though, so it balances the fillings.

This recipe is from Dorie Greenspan, with minor changes; I’ve adapted the measurements for the UK, but the original, with US measurements, can be found here. It’s also in her book Baking: From My Home to Yours.She also includes currants, but when rolling mine up I found there was already plenty of stuff in there for the tiny cookies to hold.

Traditional Rugelach

Dough

115 g cream cheese, cold, in chunks

115 g unsalted butter, cold, in chunks

125 g plain flour

1/4 tsp salt

Glaze

1 large egg

1 tsp cold water

2 Tbsp coarse white sugar

Filling

225 g raspberry jam, apricot jam or marmalade. (I recommend a low-sugar, high-fruit style of jam or preserves.)

2 Tbsp caster sugar

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

50 g chopped nuts: walnuts are traditional, but pecans or almonds are also fine

115 g 80% dark chocolate, finely chopped

Makes 32 small cookies.

TO MAKE THE DOUGH: Let the cream cheese and butter rest on the counter for 10 minutes — you want them to be slightly softened but still cool.

Put the flour and salt in a food processor, add the chunks of cream cheese and butter and pulse the machine 6 to 10 times. Then process, scraping down the sides of the bowl often, just until the dough forms large clumps, not until it forms a ball on the blade. It should, though, stick together when you squeeze it.

Turn the dough out, gather it into a ball and divide it into two approximately equal balls. Flatten each ball into a disk, wrap them in cling film and chill in the fridge for at least 2 hours, or up to 1 day. (Wrapped airtight, the dough can also be frozen for longer periods.)

TO MAKE THE FILLING: Heat the jam in a saucepan over low heat, or do this in a microwave, until it melts. In a separate bowl, mix the sugar and cinnamon together.

Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

TO ROLL THE RUGELACH (this is the fun bit): Pull one dough disk from the fridge. If it is too firm to roll easily, give it a few bashes with your rolling pin, but don’t be afraid to lean on it.

On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough into an 11- to 12-inch circle; the dough will be about 1/8″ thick. Brush a *thin* gloss of jam over the dough – too much and it will leak out and burn or get stick-to-your-teeth chewy – and sprinkle over half of the cinnamon sugar. Scatter over half of the nuts and half of the chopped chocolate. Cover the filling with a piece of wax paper and gently press the filling into the dough, then remove the paper and save it for the next batch. This will help keep the chopped nuts from getting lost.

*This is a good time to preheat the oven to 175°C .*

Using a pizza wheel or a sharp knife, cut the dough into 16 wedges, or triangles. (The easiest way to do this is to cut the dough into quarters, then to cut each quarter into 4 triangles.) *Starting at the base of each triangle*, roll the dough up into a crescent. Arrange the rolls on a baking sheet, making sure the points are underneath the cookies, and refrigerate. Repeat the steps above with the second disk of dough, and refrigerate the cookies for at least 30 minutes before baking.

TO GLAZE: Stir the egg and water together, and brush a bit over each crescent. Sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake the rugelach for 20 to 25 minutes, rotating the baking sheets if necessary, until cookies are puffed and golden. Transfer the cookies to cooling racks and cool to room temperature.

STORING: You may want to use sheets of baking parchment or grease-proof paper between layers of rugelach in a tin or in the freezer to prevent them sticking together and breaking. They can be kept covered at room temperature for up to 3 days. or wrapped airtight and frozen for up to 2 months.

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Filed under baking, biscuits, cookies, Jewish, recipe

How to make a falafel dinner

RYMFB4ZQPTT6 Falafel, in the Middle East, is a stealth vegetarian meal. Everyone likes it (at least, everyone I’ve met), it’s the perfect street food, it’s so tasty that no one misses the meat, and it’s a great way to get extra vegetables into your diet.

There’s an ongoing argument about the provenance of falafel – a fried, seasoned ball of ground chickpeas – and who owns the original idea, but it’s a basic staple of the eastern Mediterranean. Some of the best falafel is found in grittier areas of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem. The concept is thus: you order a whole or a half sandwich, and choose from toppings to stuff precariously into your pita. Those toppings include a rainbow of shredded or chopped salads, fried eggplant, chips (in the British sense), tahini sauce, and a super-hot Yemeni condiment called zhug, which I think you have to be Yemeni to pronounce correctly.

Oh, the memories. No, I won’t tell you how old those memories are, but I did live in Israel for 10 months in my early 20s so you can do the math if you have the right additional info.

The international chain Maoz, now in big cities in Europe and North America, is very, very good, but it’s fun and possible to have a real falafel experience at home, from scratch. (That said, I tried making falafel recently when I was cooking for myself – I’ve done it before, I swear – and dangit! they fell apart. It is a bit of a stretch to try and nail fresh pita bread AND fresh falafel AND two or three toppings by one’s self in a few hours. The pics are from a more relaxed and successful attempt.)

Here are the elements:

Tahini sauce – tahini from a jar (the Lebanese kind is best), thinned with water and lemon juice and with some chopped garlic mixed in, like hummous without the chickpeas
‘Israeli salad’ – simply chopped cucumbers and tomatoes
Pitta or pita bread – Worth making yourself, I swear, and surprisingly easy. Try this recipe if you’re used to working with cup measurements, and this one if you prefer weights and have a gram scale; I’ve had good success with both. Whether or not you make them in advance, wrap them in a towel as they come out of the oven to keep them soft.
Chips or french fries – not a requirement, but I love them, and they are a traditional falafel stuffing in Israel
Falafel – ah. Here’s where I have to be a bit bashful and confess that I tend to use a mix, as falafel made thus are quick, tasty, and reliable. I promise that I will continue to work toward my own recipe for falafel from scratch. Watch this space! Update: Here is a post from Zeb Bakes full of super-useful tips on rolling your own, from dried fava beans. I think that means I’m next!
Zhug – it really does help set off the flavours to include something spicy. Here is a legit one from The Atlantic so as to avoid linking to one out there that seems to have been ripped off without permission.
Eggplant – thin, fried (or oven fried) slices are a very nice addition.

You can also look around for vinegary pickled cucumbers or other vegetables, and maybe throw together a salad of shredded carrots or beets.

Enjoy and let us know how it goes!

RYMFB4ZQPTT6

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Filed under baking, cooking, dinner, food, how to, Israel, Jewish, vegan, vegetarian

Bagels, part 2

We’re getting close now. This recipe is worth trying, and making your own. Made with very strong flour and less water, they’re chewier inside, retaining a crispy crust when fresh. Relative to my earlier recipe, based on that of Jo Goldenberg of Paris, these are less sweet. I also tried malt syrup in the dough as well as in the water, and didn’t like the colour or flavour. So, plain old table sugar it is. In addition, these bagels need less yeast because they rise in the fridge overnight once shaped. This makes them easier to manage in the boiling process, and a slow ferment is always good for flavour.

And more on upping the chewy-factor: Normally, for pretty much any yeast bread, I use the Dan Lepard approach to kneading, i.e. 10 seconds of kneading followed by 10 seconds of rest, in three cycles. In this case, however, continuous, serious kneading seems to be necessary to maximize the gluten, possibly, too, because the dough is drier. So it’s a good recipe to make if you enjoy getting your back into it, as well as, eventually, your teeth.

Finally, it has some sourdough starter in it, mostly for taste, so it doesn’t have to be terribly active. My starter began with a couple of tablespoons of yoghurt for the bacteria. Whether or not that makes my bagels dairy, after many generations with no further yoghurt added, is a question for the rabbis, but there are perfectly good starters with no yoghurt in their history, too.

New York/Boston-style Bagels

450 g very strong white flour
150 g active sourdough starter
250 ml warm water
1/2 tsp dry yeast
2 Tbsp honey (or sugar)
2 tsp salt
1 Tbsp malt syrup (or sugar, or treacle) for boiling
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
1 egg white+1 Tbsp water for glaze

Toppings: poppy and sesame are most traditional; nigella, caraway seeds, onion or garlic bits and sea salt are other possibilities – or all of the above: the Everything Bagel.

Combine flour with dry yeast, sugar and salt; stir with a fork. Dissolve starter in warm water and add to flour mixture. Stir till combined and let rest for 10 minutes.

Turn dough out onto smooth surface and knead vigorously for 10 minutes. Dough should be on the dry side at this point. When dough is very smooth and springy, put it in a lightly greased bowl, cover and let rise until doubled in volume.

Divide risen dough into 8 or 10 equally sized pieces and form into tight ball shapes. Let these rest for 10 minutes, then form your bagels thus:

–       Roll a ball into a snake shape about 6 inches long, its ends somewhat tapered.
–       Wrap the middle of the snake around the tops of your fingers and pull and pinch the ends together between your thumb and fingers.
–       With the bagel still wrapped around your fingers, roll the joined bit back and forth on your work surface to seal the join.

Put the formed bagels on baking paper (parchment) on a baking sheet with at least half an inch between them. Cover securely but not tightly with cling film (plastic wrap) and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, preheat oven to 210°C. Take the bagels out of the fridge and let them rest while you get set up for boiling, decorating and baking. They don’t have to be completely warmed up to be boiled, however. Now is a good time to mix your egg/water glaze and set up your seed toppings.

Set a medium-to-large pan to boiling. Add sweetener and bicarb. Once the water boils, turn it down until the surface is just barely moving. Add 2 or 3 bagels to the water, flip them after about half a minute, and continue to simmer for half a minute more. Scoop out and remove to a clean tea towel. Be gentle, as they will be quite soft at this point; a big slotted spoon is good for this task.

Brush the boiled bagels with egg glaze and sprinkle with seeds to taste.

Bake for about 25 minutes in the middle of the oven. About halfway through baking, flip the bagels over to prevent excessive flattening of one side.

Update: My friend Azélia gave me a hint on the sweetener: apparently honey improves the texture of the dough, and it seemed to be the case the last time I tried the recipe substituting it for sugar. They came out smoother and shinier. Malt syrup, used in some traditional recipes, apparently has the same function, but I found it gave the bagels a misleading brownish colour given that they were actually made with white flour, and anyway honey is something most people are more likely to have around the house.

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Filed under bread, Jewish, recipe, sourdough