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Fixing a small challah problem…

What with the kids making challahs yesterday, I realized I had too many if I made all my “snakes” into 4-braid challahs.  So I decided, with the snakes I’d already rolled out, to make 2 6-braid loaves instead of 3 4-braid loaves.

DSC03316Rolled out the snakes nicely: long and thin, because if they’re too fat, a 6-braid can easily turn into a round challah.  Braided them up… and then noticed an extra snake sitting on the table: I’d forgotten to include it, and one of my beautiful “6-braids” was actually only 5.  Can you guess which one???


Quick fix – and seriously, this was the easiest solution to any bread problem I have ever encountered:  tuck the extra snake underneath the braided challah in the pan.  Can you see it hiding under there???


Left it to rise, baked as usual… and nobody ever noticed the difference.  The volume of the finished challahs is identical, because they both contain 6 strands – just one has the extra strand hidden inside…


(yes, I managed to take pictures of MY challah when it was baked, but not Gavriel Zev’s landmark First Challah Ever – I know; I’m a terrible parent…)

These are extra-large loaf pans, by the way.  I use 170g strands, so 4 makes a 675g (1.5lb) challah, and 6 makes a 1020g (2.25lb) challah.

I realized as I was talking to a friend last week that I never explained here why I do four as my standard Shabbos challah when most people do a 3-braid. 

It’s a stupid reason:  I read on some kind of Hebrew-Christian (“messianic Jewish”) blog or site or maybe even a book that three is a great number for challah because it represents the three parts of the trinity: father, son,  Holy Ghost.  At that moment, I thought, “okay, no more 3-braids for me!”

I do still sometimes make a 3-braid, but I also like the lovely 3-dimensional look of a 4-braid, which can be done using the exact same technique as Maggie Glezer’s 6-braid. 

I’ve posted this before, but I thought it might be helpful to once again share this video of Maggie Glezer doing a 6-braid in case you’d like to try it at home. 

I do a little chant while I work:  “second from the left to the faaar right, and the far left to the middle; second from the right to the faaaar left, and the far right to the middle!”

(I think it’s very charitable of her to say in this video that the “technique” of stacking two 3-braid challahs is “an okay look,” because I actually think it’s a bit of “a goofy look.”  But then, you’ve always known I was a snob, right???)

And now you know - if you forget one of the snakes, don’t worry – just tuck it in underneath!

A wonderful first!

I don’t know if this would be as much of a milestone in some families, but around here, your first challah is a big deal.

So it is with great pride that I announce that Gavriel Zev made his VERY FIRST CHALLAH!

I usually give him a choice, and he says no, or says he’ll just play with the “extra” piece (the small piece I separate for challah). 

But yesterday, I insisted… and I gave him a full-sized blob of challah dough – 675g, enough to make a very respectable loaf.

He played with it, and pulled at it, and buried a knife in it (“that won’t be a nice surprise if Abba or somebody else bites into their challah and finds a knife!”), stuck his fist into it (“or if they find a boy attached to their challah!”).  And then he lost interest and decided to leave the table.

But I have been pushing him a bit lately with things like handwriting., and by goodness-knows-what instinct mamas have, I decided it was time to push him in this direction, too.

I said he could go down and play when he was finished making his challah.  And I asked him if he wanted me to cut it in three for him.  He said yes.  So I cut it in three parts, but then noticed there was a little left over, so I just stuck the leftover bit into the bottom of the pan.

And he rolled them into snakes, and the snakes were not very good.  They were soggy and floppy and uneven.  But I led his hands in braiding them and I think the end result was very nice.


Here it is with Naomi Rivka’s.  She actually made this one entirely on her own – I didn’t have anything to do with it!


Our whole “family” of challahs!


After this, Naomi Rivka actually had a first as well – she made this fabulously easy pareve brownie recipe, courtesy of Mrs. S. from Our Shiputzim, all by herself. 

I brought the ingredients as she read them out to me, and she cracked the eggs and measured it all out herself (I was a bit nervous, because she reads 1 1/2 as “one-half” and vice versa sometimes).  I had to show her the 2/3 line on the measuring cup, but beyond that, she did great. 

Okay, I glanced over at one point and saw her picking out bits of eggshell.  Fine – I do that sometimes, too (and wouldn’t you rather have a kid who picks out eggshell than one who doesn’t???).

She didn’t make the suggested frosting for the brownies – I was in a hurry (this was right before Shabbos), so I just mixed some coconut oil, cocoa and icing / confectioner’s sugar with half a packet of Starbucks instant coffee and a bit of chocolate almond milk.  It was actually a really nice frosting to top off delicious handmade-by-kid brownies.

As usual, I forgot to take a picture of either this brownie or Gavriel Zev’s landmark first challah coming out of the oven.  But he was proud enough of his challah (I topped it with some leftover streusel at his request) to ask that it be the one we make hamotzi on Friday night.  So delicious… the challah, and the nachas…

More nachas:  read about Gavriel Zev’s other big first this week – copywork!

Slightly cheaty strawberry tarts

DSC03336It’s strawberry season!  The time of year all us snob-berries look forward to more than anything else! (okay, tomato season is good, too)

So why not celebrate by buying tinned strawberry PIE FILLING?  Um, no.  But indeed, Ted wanted strawberry tarts and seemed rather pleased that he had the filling to make them and everything. 

He also bought a package of 12 pareve tart shells – the usual store-bought ones are dairy, so that was a nice find.

With very little time on a busy erev-Shabbos afternoon, I came up with these coconut-custard semi-fresh kinda-real strawberry tarts. 

I made a coconut custard based on Shoshana’s recipe here at Couldn’t be Parve, but instead of soy milk (which I didn’t have and don’t like anyway), I just used 1 tin of coconut milk.  I kept back some of the watery part of the coconut milk and mixed it with 1-2 tbsp cornstarch for a thicker finished pudding.

Basically, I heated the coconut  milk slightly (right on the burner; mistake #1), and added half of Shoshana’s custard recipe:

  • 1 large egg
  • 2 large yolks
  • 1/4 cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla

Then I mixed in the cornstarch-coconut water mixture and whisked the whole thing until bubbles appeared on the surface.  Kept stirring, like you do with pudding, for 1 minute more.  At which point, the whole thing broke and curdled and I almost wept. 

It did thicken up a lot, so I turned off the heat and let it rest for a bit, then threw it in the food processor to try to whiz it back into a semblance of custard.  Miraculously, it worked! 


It was a tasty, very presentable pareve coconut custard (ignore the tiny black specks – I only have one pareve pot, which is the dutch oven I use for both bread-baking and candy-making, so it is somewhat speckled with burnt stuff inside).

I spooned this mixture (messily) into the tart shells:


Then topped each tart shell with several halves and quarters of REAL fresh Ontario strawberries, which we had in the fridge, but which Ted hadn’t thought of including in the strawberry tarts.


Finally, I spooned a bit of the strawberry pie filling into each tart shell to cover the strawberries and give each tart a nice, glossy top.

I didn’t bake them long enough, so the tarts themselves were not quite crispy enough.   If I was doing this again, I’d probably parbake them empty, because the actual filling doesn’t need much cooking time at all.

But I think they were really quite lovely!  I used the rest of the pie filling to top a cheesecake I made to use up some blocks of cream cheese Ted bought for Shavuos which would have expired tomorrow.  (mysteriously, he bought four and two would have expired tomorrow and two are still good until September!)

How do you celebrate fresh strawberry season???

Lazy-Day pretzels for lunch!

DSC03284 There’s really no way to make a picture of pretzels with a goober of mustard look appetizing, is there…well, maybe a professional food photographer could do it, but I sure can’t.


I decided to make soft pretzels for Elisheva because she loves them and she’s in the middle of exam week (actually, sort of still near the beginning – Exam 3 of 10, I believe).  I thought they’d be super-nice to come home to, because the big kids are always hungry when they walk through the door (in an inward direction).

It’s a pretty basic, yeast-based, white-flour-based, web-based, hundreds-of-happy-reviews recipe, that also happens to be pareve and as a bonus doesn’t need kneading (though it’s thicker than most no-knead dough).

After I’d been working on them all morning, and the scent of fresh-baked pretzels was filling the house, I promised Naomi she could have them at snacktime.  Well, she started crying – she wanted one NOW, for lunch.

And I thought, hmm… and said yes.  Because, really, on a plate with a slice of cheese and vegetable, they’re probably not much worse than a grilled cheese sandwich, or the tuna ice-cream cones I was thinking of serving.


Indeed, I have even used this recipe to make homemade “bagels,” and even with the quick rise, the dipping step gives them some degree of sheen and chewy authenticity (I wouldn’t trust them for staying fresh after a few hours, but I find that fresh bagels don’t stick around that long anyway with two starch-hangry teenagers).

Hangry?  What’s hangry?  It’s the kind of grrrr-RAGE you start to feel when you are hungry deep down inside but don’t quite realize it so you just take everything out on everyone around you.  Hangry: a first world problem for sure.

Sara’s Loaves of Wonder

DSC03268 I could have sworn I’d posted this on here before… this is a super-easy recipe for any kind of loaf – apple, carrot, zucchini (maybe others, but that’s what we’ve tried it with). 

Optional Add-ins:  For zucchini, Sara adds chocolate chips; she uses walnuts instead for apple loaf.  Right now, I’m baking the carrot version and I suppose you could add walnuts or raisins, but why mess with perfection???

However:  you’ll have to promise not to scream at the quantity of sugar.  Sara mentioned she cuts it to about 400g; you could probably bring it down lower, and maybe healthy this up a bit by subbing some of the oil with applesauce.

Here’s my scalable spreadsheet version!


And here’s the text version:

Sara’s (pareve) Loaves of Wonder

MAKES  2 generous loaf pan-sized loaves.


  • 3 eggs
  • 224g vegetable oil (I use canola)
  • 462g brown sugar
  • 5g vanilla


  • 475g all-purpose flour (I used cake flour today because I happened to have some sitting around still from Shavuos)
  • 1.5g baking powder (yes, I know that’s not very much!)
  • 7g baking soda (ditto)
  • 3.5g salt
  • 15g cinnamon (I know this is TOO much; I have never had the nerve to take it up past 10g)


  • 500g grated carrots, zucchini or apple
  • 125g pareve chocolate chips, if desired


  1. Combine dry ingredients in bowl, wet in another,
  2. Combine the two without overmixing (I use my dough whisk – perfect!)
  3. Pour into prepared pans,
  4. *** (see note after instruction) Bake at 355 for about an hour *** NOTE:  CHECK FOR DONENESS AFTER 45 MINUTES – I think my pans are smaller than Sara’s and this seems to bake much quicker)
  5. (optional:  rotate pans during bake time to ensure even baking)
  6. Cool, (ice with pareve cream cheese frosting if carrot cake!), serve, enjoy!

Will post pics when they’re out of the oven.

OMG, I want – no, NEED – this:


My eyes have been opened.

In case you have slept through the last decade, culinarily, you might not have heard of the turducken.

Wikipedia says it best:  “A turducken is a dish consisting of a de-boned chicken stuffed into a de-boned duck, which itself is stuffed into a de-boned turkey. The word turducken is a portmanteau of turkey, duck, and chicken or hen. The dish is a form of engastration, a recipe method in which one animal is stuffed inside the gastric passage of another.[1]

Yes, it is indeed.  Here is one:

Just to put your mind at ease, I have never really had any desire to EAT a turducken.

But now… there’s piecaken.  A portmanteau in its own right:  PIE + CAKE = piecaken.

You take a pie, you bake it in a cake, you ice the whole thing all lovely and shiny and serve it up… surprise!!!  Here’s a reasonably professional-looking one:

Here’s another to drool over:

One mostly-not-a-food-blogger describes the process:  “You bake a pie, then you put it in a cake, then you decorate it as if you haven't just done something really bizarre.”

Hers looked reasonably good, but in the hands of an amateur, or one who ignores or skimps on the crucial “as if you haven’t just done something really bizarre” decorating step, the piecaken takes on a far less fantastical, more nightmarish appearance:

At best, however, they are just shockingly beautiful.  Despite the fact that I really kind of (shh) don’t like pie very much.

But that’s not the point.  I want this, nay, NEED this confection not necessarily for its fruity, flaky heart, but for the sheer kitsch value, not to mention the decadence of eating TWO desserts at the same time!

Does anyone else believe this thing is utterly fabulous???

The Wettest Challah Dough

DSC03235This is another stab at blender challah, but it turned out super-wet, for some reason, skirting that fine line between soft, wet dough and extra-firm cake batter.

Here’s the formula – super-simple and quick, once you’ve weighed everything out:

Mix in blender:   
401    g flour
711    g water
189    g sugar
156    g oil
40    g salt
21    g yeast
3     large eggs

Pour over in bowl:
802    g flour

Stir with dough whisk, wooden spoon, or really anything.  Let rise, etc.

I definitely should have done the Stretch and Fold move on this dough after it had risen, but I was in a hurry and figured I can do anything with even the wettest of doughs.  Even with stretching and folding, I still wouldn’t have been able to let the kids help out with this dough, which they were very disappointed by.  I promised that next week they could help.

Here’s what the pieces looked like (I use 4x170g pieces to make one 1.5-lb “standard” challah) once I pancaked them with the rolling pin, then rolled them up into “slugs” to give them some structure.  Still mighty floppy; you can see that they’ve already started spreading out onto the table.  The piece above (on the red silicone scraper) is the separated “challah,” which totally turned into an amorphous blob – kinda like how I felt when I woke up this morning...


Thanks to lots of oil spread on the table and my hands, I rolled them out pretty well into these ugly-looking snakes, which actually held up okay once they were braided.  The more you work the dough, the stronger it gets.

DSC03237 DSC03238 

DSC03241Forgot to get a picture going into the oven, but at least I remembered to capture those all-important FINISHED shot that I always forget.  The braids lost a little definition (probably would have lost all of it if they weren’t in loaf pans!), but otherwise rose up high and tanned quite nicely.  This always makes me think of how forgiving bread is, that you can start off with such an undesirable soupy glop and still end up with extraordinary bread, even if it isn’t the most photogenic I’ve ever made.


Good Shabbos, world!

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