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Tuesday, October 13, 2015

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Pan pals share holiday favourites

Tags: Food

Every year, I ask my “pan pals” from near and far to share special memories and recipes that are on their menus for the High Holidays. Some of my pan pals are members of my family. Others are Facebook friends, or fans of my cookbooks whom I’ve never met in person although we share food memories with a passion. Some are professional cookbook authors, others are home cooks, but we’re all connected by a culinary umbilical cord that circles the globe.

My sister Rhonda Matias of Toronto will be making her Mish Mash Chicken Soup, which includes matzah balls, noodles and kreplach. Sweet and sour meatballs, kasha and bowties, lokshen kugel and roast chicken are also on the menu. I plan to bring my super roast brisket, carrot tzimmes and honey chiffon cake. Maybe I’ll make our late mom’s potato knishes. I know they won’t compare to the incredible knishes that mom made, but they’ll be pretty close. Belle’s secret was simple: she always added lots of fried onions and usually some ground-up leftover cooked chicken, and her dough was rolled paper-thin. I can still taste them in my taste memory.

Other holiday favourites that my pan pals have on their menus include challah (usually round), chopped liver, gefilte fish, glazed corned beef, roast turkey, assorted kugels (potato, sweet potato, apple), poppy seed cookies, mandel bread, rogelach, rolly polly, fruit fluden and apple cake. Many make recipes from the spattered pages of my cookbooks, others make recipes that have been in their family for generations.

Gluten-free recipes are now finding their place on many holiday tables, and I’ve started to get requests for gluten-free challah, which I’ve never been able to make successfully. My pan pals Lisa and Tim Horel of San Francisco have been baking gluten-free for about 10 years. They recently published Gluten-Free Canteen’s Book of Nosh: Jewish Holiday Baking and More, recreating Lisa’s favourite Jewish baked goods along with Tim’s full-colour photos.

To ensure successful results when baking gluten-free, Lisa uses a blend of superfine GF flours from Authentic Foods and always weighs her ingredients: “Using weights will give you a better and more accurate result.” She provides detailed information about all sorts of flours, weights, conversions and qualities on her blog, Gluten Free Canteen.

Lisa writes, “It was lucky for me that my mother taught me as much as she did in the short time we had together… I learned some pretty good lessons about Jewish baking. First, everything should be made with love. And second, a little bit is never enough. You just never know who is going to be coming over for dinner, or a nosh.”

Lisa’s quick challah can be made in a few hours from start to finish. Her book also includes tempting recipes for Braided Challah, Honey Cake, Fig Tart and Apple Upside-Down Cake for the High Holidays – all gluten-free, of course!




Prep time is about 20 minutes plus rising and baking. Makes about a 2 lb. loaf or round challah.


300 g (about 2 1/3 cups total) GF AP flour (150 g superfine brown rice flour, 75 g each superfine white rice flour and tapioca starch/flour)

50 g (5 tbsp.) tapioca starch/flour

60 g (5 tbsp.) superfine sweet white rice flour

50 g (5 tbsp.) Expandex Modified Tapioca Starch/Flour *

4 heaping tbsp. granulated sugar

2 heaping tbsp. instant or bread machine Red Star Yeast

2 1/2 tsp. kosher salt

2 tsp. xanthan gum

1/4 tsp. pectin

1/4 tsp. guar gum

240 g egg (4 whole extra-large eggs)

60 g egg yolks (3 extra-large egg yolks)

2 tbsp. Lyle’s Golden Syrup or honey

75 g (heaping 1/3 cup) canola oil

100-130g (1/2 cup plus 3 tbsp.) Pellegrino sparkling water

1 extra-large egg, beaten – for brushing top of dough

1-2 tbsp. white sesame or poppy seeds


Place flours, starches, sugar, yeast, salt, xanthan gum, pectin and guar gum in a stand mixer bowl and whisk. In another small container whisk 4 whole extra-large eggs, 3 extra-large egg yolks, honey or Lyle’s syrup and canola oil.

Add 100 grams Pellegrino to dry mixture. Add egg/oil mixture to dry mixture. Using a fork, work the flour mixture into the wet until it is just combined. Place on stand and using dough hook, mix on speed 2 or 3 for about 5-7 minutes or until dough looks shiny and stretchy. If the dough looks very sticky and tough, add up to 30 grams Pellegrino.

Grease a tube pan (or a 9x5-inch loaf pan) with nonstick spray. Wipe out excess. Place dough all around the bottom of the tube or loaf pan using a silicone spatula. Wet the spatula with water and smooth the dough. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and let the dough rise in a draft free place until double or nearly to the top, about 1-1/2 to 2 hours.

Preheat oven to 350. Place a cast iron skillet or other heatproof pan (not glass) on the bottom rack to heat up with the oven.

Beat remaining egg and brush it gently over the top of the bread. Repeat. Sprinkle top with poppy or sesame seeds. Right before putting the bread in the oven, place a large handful of ice cubes in the hot cast iron skillet or heatproof (not glass) pan in the oven to create steam. Be careful to not burn yourself.

Place bread in the oven and time for 12 minutes. Remove cast iron or heatproof pan carefully. Time the bread for another 20 minutes and remove when the internal temperature is 185 to 190 degrees and the top is pale golden brown. Don’t overbake the bread or it will be a little tough. Let cool for a couple of minutes in the pan and then remove bread from pan and cool completely.

Notes: Superfine flours are available at Authentic Foods. They ship to Canada. Superfine flours make all the difference in the taste and texture when baking gluten-free. If you cannot find Expandex, add an additional 50 grams or 5 tablespoons of all-purpose GF flour.

* * *

I first connected with Dafi Forer Kremer of Israel several years ago. She had emailed me to ask if I would contribute a recipe for the unique cookbook she was compiling to celebrate Israel’s 60th birthday. The Melting Pot: Embarking on Israel’s Seventh Decade with Spiritual and Savory Servings reflects the myriad of unique Jewish voices and tastes from Israel and the world over.

There’s a recipe to match each week’s Torah portion plus an additional chapter for other Jewish and Israeli festivals, along with gorgeous colour photographs. Just as Israel has brought together every ethnic group, making for a vibrant and colourful tapestry, The Melting Pot has combined well-respected teachers and delicious dishes from across the globe, catering to the reader’s physical and spiritual needs. Here is Dafi Kremer’s kreplach recipe, along with her enlightening comments. They make a perfect accompaniment to golden chicken soup garnished with carrot coins.




“It is the custom to eat kreplach on the eve of Yom Kippur. Why? The dough of the kreplach is white and protective. Their shape is reminiscent of a heart, and the filling is made of red meat. We too, are attired in white during this time of the year. We look like angels, yet we have human hearts – of flesh and blood.”



2 eggs

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp. salt

2 tbsp. oil

1/4 cup water


2 onions, finely chopped

4 tbsp. oil

10 1/2 oz.  minced meat, cooked (see note)

salt and black pepper


Dough: Place all the ingredients in a bowl and knead into a smooth, even dough. Place on a floured surface and knead into a ball. Cover with a towel and let the dough settle for half an hour.

Filling: Sauté the onions in oil until soft. Place in a bowl along with the minced meat and mix well. Season with salt and pepper. Let cool.

To prepare the kreplach: Divide the dough into two and knead out into a thin leaf on a floured counter. Using a floured cup, carve out circles from the dough. Place a teaspoon of filling in the centre of each circle and smear the edges of the circle with a little water. Fold in two and press the edges together all around to form a half-circle.

Fill a pot with water, add in a tablespoon of salt and bring to a boil. Cook the kreplach for 10 minutes in the boiling water. Remove with a perforated spoon and serve with chicken soup.

Notes: One can use fresh minced meat for the filling, in which case it should be sautéed with the onions.

The kreplach can be fried in oil instead of cooked in water.

* * *

My friend Rachelle Enkin’s 92-year-old mother-in-law, Rose Enkin, recently died. I had met Rose at the Enkins’ Purim seudah last spring and we had spoken on the phone when I had some questions about one of Rose’s recipes that she had contributed to the Terraces of Baycrest cookbook, which I am currently editing.

At the shivah, the family talked about Rose’s love of cooking and the discussion turned to her gefilte fish, a family favourite. Her daughter, Esther Enkin, sadly commented, “My children keep asking who is going to make the gefilte fish this yom tov.” Rachelle Enkin shared the following food memory as a tribute to her mother-in-law:

“Among her many accomplishments, Rose Enkin was justly revered for her gefilte fish. Her nephew’s wife, Laurie, a fine gourmet cook on her own, learned Rose’s secret. Laurie tried her own gefilte fish recipe and asked Aunt Rose for her opinion. Rose responded, ‘It’s okay, but would you like to see how it’s really done?’ The rest is history. Many years later, while attending the bar mitzvah of Laurie and Jerry’s son in Seattle, people kept coming up to her [and asking about] Aunt Rose’s Gefilte Fish? Her nephew Jerry says everyone in Seattle is now using the recipe. Aunt Rose’s secret is that the fish is baked, not boiled.”




3 large onions, diced

oil for frying

2 eggs

1 1/2 lb. minced fish

3 tbsp. matzah meal

1/2 tsp. pepper

1 1/2 tbsp. sugar


In a large frying pan, sauté the onions in oil on medium heat but don’t let them get brown. Cover the pot so onions become transparent.

Put the eggs, minced fish and onions in the food processor. Add matzah meal, pepper and sugar. Process until well mixed. 

Before putting the fish mixture into the baking pan, throw a small bit into the frying pan, cook it, then taste it. Adjust the seasonings as desired.

Put the fish mixture in a greased loaf pan and bake uncovered at 325  for one hour. Chill before serving. Slice, serve and enjoy! Yield: 8 servings.

* * *

Cookbook author and cooking teacher, Levana Kirschenbaum of New York City, writes: “I couldn’t resist drawing liberally from my Sephardi heritage to make my Rosh Hashanah menu selection. Our holiday dishes as I remember them served in my childhood home and beyond still make my tongue smile, even after all these years. And if all the pre-Rosh Hashanah cooking demos I have been invited to give in and around town are any indication, the feeling is shared by countless Sephardi food enthusiasts! I’m doing my best to spread the good word: quick, simple and healthy!

“This dish is excerpted from my new cookbook, The Whole Foods Kosher Kitchen: Glorious Meals Pure and Simple.”




Sweet-and-sour combinations work beautifully with salmon. The onions caramelize and contribute a sweet counterpoint to the vinegar. Another quick and delicious dish, just the way I like it – one pan, one step.


1 whole side salmon, no skin, no bones, about 3 1/2 pounds, trimmed

1 large red onion, sliced very thin (use the food processor)

1/4 cup olive oil

1 cup pomegranate juice

1/4 cup unfiltered apple cider vinegar

2 tbsp. tomato paste

salt and pepper to taste

1 tsp turmeric


Preheat the oven to 425. Place the salmon in a pan just large enough to accommodate the fish in one layer. Scatter the onions on top and on the sides of the fish. Mix the oil, juice, vinegar, tomato paste, salt, pepper and turmeric in a bowl, and pour over the fish. Cook about 20 minutes, or a tiny bit more until the fish flakes easily and the liquids thicken. Serve hot or at room temperature. Yield: 8 main course servings or a dozen or more first course servings.

* * *

Tolsa Greenberg and I are close friends, connected to each other by our love of good food. She stepped up to the plate when I asked her what was on her menu for the upcoming High Holidays.

“I make these cookies every fall for Rosh Hashanah and the kids fight for them!” I didn’t need more of a recommendation than that to include this scrumptious cookie recipe from her tried and true collection.




Courtesy of her daughters Karen Filderman and Phyllis Freeman


2 cups sifted pastry flour

2 tsp. baking soda

3/4 tsp. cinnamon

2/3 cup salad oil

1 cup granulated sugar

1 egg, unbeaten

1/4 cup honey

granulated sugar for rolling


Preheat oven to 350. Sift flour together with baking soda and cinnamon.

In a large bowl, beat oil with 1 cup of sugar with a fork. Add egg and beat well. Stir in honey and then stir in flour mixture. Make balls of dough and roll each one in sugar. Place balls 3 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheet. Bake 12-15 minutes. Let stand 1 minute and remove from cookie sheet. Yield: approximately 3 dozen, depending on size.

Note: For each cup of pastry flour, substitute 1 cup minus 2 tbsp. sifted all-purpose flour. 




Makes 2 small cakes, on large Bundt or one loaf. Prep time about 20 minutes plus baking.


55 g (scant 1/3 cup) Spectrum solid vegetable shortening

100 g (1/2 cup) granulated sugar

180 g eggs (3 extra-large whole eggs)

325 g (about 1 cup) good quality honey

zest from 1 lemon

zest from 1 orange

1/2 tsp. pure vanilla extract

1 tbsp. dark rum

300 g gluten-free all-purpose flour (2-1/3 cups –150 g superfine brown rice flour, 75 g each superfine white rice flour and tapioca starch/flour)

1 tbsp. instant espresso powder

1 tbsp. unsweetened cocoa powder

1/4 tsp. kosher salt

1/2 tsp. baking soda

1/4 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. ground cloves


Preheat oven to 350. Spray a 9.5x5-inch loaf pan or two small Bundt pans (small pans hold 3 cups of batter each) or one regular sized Bundt pan with high heat baking spray. Set aside.

Place shortening and sugar in a stand mixer bowl. Blend together until light and fluffy. Scrape down sides as needed. Add the eggs and mix on medium-high until well blended. Place honey in a small bowl and whisk in zests, vanilla and rum. Add to the stand mixer bowl and blend thoroughly.

In a small bowl, whisk to combine flour with espresso powder, cocoa, salt, baking soda, cinnamon and cloves. With the mixer on low, add the flour mixture to the wet ingredients and blend thoroughly. Turn mixer on medium high and let it mix for two minutes.

Scrape down sides with a spatula and fold until all the dry matter is incorporated. Pour batter (or scrape batter is more like it) into the prepared pan(s).

Bake about 20 minutes and rotate. Bake about 18-24 minutes more and keep an eye on the cake. Remove as soon as a toothpick comes out with a few clingy crumbs. Don't overbake the cake because it will dry out. Cool for a minute or two and then invert on a rack and cool completely. Wrap cooled cake and let the flavours fuse at least 24 hours before serving for best results.



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