A blog about food
Challah for Hanukkah
“I don’t want this plate, I want that one,” declared Benjamin last week at the Hanukkah party. Having been given the distinguished position of Menorah lighter, he puffed with importance, a three-year-old in possession of power. I complied of course, and swapped out my plate of food for his. I understood; mine was piled high with succulent beef brisket and golden crusted latkes, a mountain of beautiful salad alongside. Ben’s ‘kid-sized’ plate just didn’t look as cool.
He nibbled away, picking carrots and pieces of brisket with his tiny fingers, a child after my own heart. Meanwhile, the rest of us downed delicious brothy bowls of Matzo ball soup before digging into dinner proper. A beautiful 25-pound boy named Abraham sat on my left hip as I sipped away, reaching out in interest with his minuscule fingers to taste all that passed by his face. I obliged; after all, these are how taste memories begin. Who doesn’t want to be the auntie who shares excellent food?
Living half a country away from my family can make for some melancholy holiday moments, but friends and their various traditions do much to fill the convivial community gap. As friends have children, the deeper generational history begins to fill in, creating families of a different sort in a different place. I relish these moments of “aunti-ness,” and I play tickle monster, or wooden block builder or flying air captain with equal sincerity.
Earlier in the morning, I combined flour, eggs, butter, sugar and more in preparation for making Challah. Having never attended a Hanukkah party, I claimed the food most suited to my avid bread baking habit. After several risings, it was time to separate the dough into four strands and braid them as we plait our friendships. Completed, the Challah loaf looks to be the intertwining of us all. Sliced open, it reveals a moist crumb, hard to eat just one piece, and perfect for French toast the following morning.
It was a multi-cultural day; after mixing up the dough, my boyfriend, Justin, and I drove north in search of a Christmas tree and the beginning of our own holiday traditions. A grand adventure t’was—plodding up hills, waist deep snow on the north sides, the doggies rocking powdery turns around us. We hiked hard, eager to find the perfect tree, and in anticipation of the hearty holiday meal awaiting us.
Ever the sweet tooth, I decided to crank out a dessert in addition to the Challah. Back home, Justin and I trimmed the Christmas tree while nibbling on Rugelach. Two nomadic souls settling into existence together, we reached out to nature’s willow and bough offerings for décor, lacking other ornaments for such an occasion. And so a holiday begins, intertwining bough and body, in Challah and friendship.
5 cups all purpose flour
2 tsp. salt
¾ oz fre yeast
scant cup of lukewarm water
2 Tbs. sugar (I use honey often)
6 Tbs butter melted (my variance on traditional use of oil)
1 egg yolk
1 Tbs water
2 tsp poppy seeds for the glaze.
Sift the flower and salt together. Mix yeast, water and sugar. Add to center of flour with eggs and melted butter, gradually for a soft dough. Turn out and knead 10 minutes or until smooth and elastic. Put back in an oiled bowl, cover and let rise until doubled. Punch Down, let rise again until doubles. Punch down one more time, turn out and divide into four pieces. Roll each into a rope about 18 inches long. Pinch the ends together and braid. Tuck the final ends under, place on a greased baking sheet. Cover and let rise until doubled. Turn oven to 400 degrees F. Put egg glaze on bread and poppy seeds. Bake 35-40 minutes, until deep golden brown.
Basic cookie dough (Toll House, but add 1/3 cup flour)
1 cup dried currants
2/3 cup walnuts or pecans, finely chopped
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tsp apple pie spice
3 Tbs granulated sugar
1/2 cup + apple butter.
Prepare the basic cookie dough. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces, flatten each piece into a disk; wrap each disk with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm enough to roll.
Mix currants, walnuts, brown sugar, and 2 tsp apple pie spice (nutmeg, cinnamon, allspice, cardammon). Mix granulated sugar with remaining 1/2 teaspoon apple pie spice.
Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Roll 1 disk of dough into 9-inch round (wax paper helps). Spread dough with apple butter; sprinkle with 1/2 cup fruit mixture, leaving 1/4-inch border around edge.
Cut round into 12 wedges. (If too soft, place in refrigerator to firm up.) Starting at curved edge, roll up each wedge. Place cookies 1 inch apart, on greased large cookie sheet; shape into crescents. Brush tops with water and sprinkle with spiced sugar. Bake cookies 15 minutes or until golden-brown. Transfer to rack to cool.