Friday, April 29, 2011

Challah Dough

If you'd like to make Key-Challah but don't have a recipe, here's a lowfat and delicious one.

Pour into a large bowl:
6 1/2 cups of warm water

Stir in:
1/4 cup of granulated sugar
2 Tablespoons of dry yeast

When this has started to bubble, add:
5 lbs. of unbleached white or whole-wheat white flour (I prefer King Arthur)
1/2 cup of vegetable or canola oil
1-2 Tablespoons of salt

Mix the dough and knead until smooth.  Grease the bowl with a small quantity of oil and coat both sides of the dough.  Cover it with a clean dishtowel and set it to rise away from any drafts. 

When the dough has doubled, punch it down, kneading it.  This is an auspicious time to pray.

Now we perform the mitzvah of hafrashat challah.
  1. Say the following blessing: "Baruch Atah Adonoi Eloheinu Melech Ha-olam, asher kideshanu bemitzvotav vetzivanu lehafrish challah."  Blessed are You My L-rd Our G-d, King of the Universe, Who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.  
  2. Remove a piece of dough larger than a golf ball but smaller than a tennis ball.  Lift it up and say, "Harei zu challah." This is the challah.  
  3. Burn this piece on your burners or over-bake in the oven and then discarded. 
    Divide the remaining dough into six or eight pieces.  If you don't need all the challah for this Shabbat, you can place the portioned dough into plastic bags and freeze them for next week (just remove them Thursday night and set them to thaw).   Line your baking pans with parchment paper (or use these handy paper molds) for easy clean-up. Shape each piece of dough into a challah - in this case, one of the "key" shapes.

     Brush the loaves with 1 beaten egg and sprinkle on your favorite topping: sesame seeds, caraway seeds, poppy seeds, chopped dried onion, salt -- or combine them.

    Bake at 350 for 35-50 minutes (depending on the size of your loaves).  You may want to rotate the pans halfway through for even baking.

    Shabbat Shalom!
For more on the mitzvah of hafrashat challah, see here and here.  Or listen to these classes about challah, while you work.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Maimouna and Key-Challah

At the close of the 8th day of Passover, Chassidim gather to observe Moshiach’s Seudah, drinking four cups of wine, eating matzah, and singing songs of mystical import. 

North African Jews mark the conclusion of Passover with Maimouna, held later that night.  Maimouna is a derivative of the word emunah – faith.  Both Moshiach’s Seudah and Maimouna join together the first and last days of Passover.  We begin Passover by commemorating our initial redemption from Egyptian slavery, guided by Moses, and conclude Passover by anticipating our final redemption from our current exile, guided by the Messiah.  We have faith that just as G-d freed us from Egypt, He will again show us wonders, "as in the days of your exodus from Egypt."
Maimouna is also connected with the word mammon –money, and has another mirror custom practiced by some Ashkenazim.  The Maimouna tables are laden with foods that symbolize blessing:  bowls of coin-spangled wheat, garlands of leaves and flowers, milk products, fruit and nuts, and mofletta, a stack of sweet yeasted cr√™pes slathered in butter and honey.  The doors are open to welcome in celebrants, who wish each other success and good fortune. 

The first Shabbat after Pesach, many Ashkenzim bake “shlissel-challah,” key-challah.  This bread might be shaped like a key, with the house-key baked into it, flat like matzah bearing the impression of a key, or a loaf into which a key has been inserted and turned, as if opening a lock.  Shlissel-challah is said to be an amulet for financial good-fortune and for faith.  Song of Songs, traditionally read on Passover states, Open for Me, My sister My beloved.  G-d says, “If you make a small opening by doing just one mitzvah [Shabbat] I will unlock the gates of Heaven and pour down blessings upon you.”

The common theme underlying these various post-Passover customs has its roots in a recreation of a national experience.  When we entered the Land of Israel under Joshua, the Jews “ate of the old grain of the land on the next day after Passover, unleavened cakes, and dried grain in the same day; and the manna ceased on the next day” (Joshua 5:11-12).  This event marked a developmental turning point.  Instead of being provided for in a miraculous fashion – manna from Heaven – we would have to work for our sustenance.  But at that brief moment we ate manna, matzah, and leavened bread at the same time.
Each of these types of bread captures a different concept.  Manna is the daily bread that descended without any effort on our part.  Matzah is the bread of faith.  Our ancestors fled Egypt with no food but the dough on their backs, trusting in G-d to provide.  Leavened bread is our toil to integrate the pleasures of this world (yeast symbolizing our animal instincts) into our service of G-d.  And while we draw sharp distinctions between these paths to sustenance, in truth they stem from a single source: G-d.  Eating all three types of bread at the same time indicated our awareness of this truth.
Today, Maimouna and Key-Challah remind us that while the effort to earn a livelihood is in our control, the outcome is in G-d’s, and that Our faith in Him is as much an effort to create livelihood as the work of our hands. “Three keys in the hands of G-d are not entrusted to an agent.  These are the key of rain (livelihood), the key of conception and childbirth, and the key of revival of the dead” (Taanit 2a.) 

May G-d open His treasure-house to you, and may the Heavens rain down blessing upon you.
Shabbat Shalom.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

How to Exodus in 2011

In preparation for Passover, TorahCaf√©.com hit the big city to find out what the average person on the street has to say about the upcoming holiday.   Ever ask yourself…
·         Which of the seder’s four sons you would be? 
·         What freedom means to you?
·         Why is this night different from all other nights?
·         The redemption from Egypt happened over 3,300 years ago; is it still relevant to our lives today? 

Our interviewees answer these questions and more in this hilarious, yet thoughtful video montage.
Passover is when we not only remember the past salvation, but express our belief in the future and ultimate redemption as we declare, “Next Year in Jerusalem!”  YouTube singer sensation and star of the recent films X-Men 3 and Spud, Troye Sivan Mellet, gives voice to the words of  Ani Ma’amin, I believe.

Tuesday, April 12, 2011

The Great Shabbat

The upcoming Shabbat, which precedes Passover, is called Shabbat haGadol, the Great Sabbath What makes it worthy of the title “great?”
It was Shabbat, the tenth of Nissan, 2448 and the Jews of Egypt were given a special mitzvah just for that year: each man should take a lamb for the household, a lamb for each home (Exodus 12:3).  What is the significance of this unique one-time command?
The Egyptians believed in Aries as the chief constellation that guided all of existence, and therefore, worshipped its physical counterpart: the sheep.   It was specifically for this reason that G-d chose the sheep as the Pascal Offering.   Furthermore, G-d commanded the Jews to sacrifice the lamb during the first third of the month, when Aries is at its peak, and yet, would be powerless to stop the sacrifice.  This underscores the existence of G-d and His supremacy over all.
But it wasn’t only the Egyptians who worshipped idols.  In fact, when Moses told the Jews that they’d be redeemed shortly, they initially expressed surprise: “How could we possibly be redeemed, given that our idolatry fills Egypt?” 

Imagine the emotional journey it took to get from that place to one where they willingly sacrificed the idol they had previously worshipped.  Surrounded by Egypt's overt displays of power and might, its gods, they had the courage to defy it.  
To me, that’s a hopeful thought; an acknowledgment that when we finally meet the truth, we be willing to toss out all the stale ideologies we had hitherto worshipped, in favor of one overarching truth: G-d and His power.
And that is great.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Quick and Gourmet Shabbat Chicken

This is for all you working folks out there (and who isn't?).  You can add or subtract veggies depending on the season, your flavor preference, or what you find in your 'fridge. Quantities are likewise flexible.

  1. Chop onions, red potatoes, parsnips, and carrots into chunks. Place in a roasting pan.  Add some cherry or grape tomatoes if you like.
  2. Rise and pat-dry cut-up chicken pieces.  Place these on top of the veggies.
  3. Drizzle 2 T. of olive oil across the contents of the entire pan.
  4. Sprinkle with fresh or dried rosemary and a few grinds of pepper.
  5. Roast.
  6. Enjoy!

Tip: You may want to roast this for  less time than you usually would.  Then, you can pop it back in the oven right before Shabbat, turn off the oven light, and you'll have freshly roasted chicken for your evening meal.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Oasis in Time: Shabbat

Shabbat is the only Jewish ritual included in the Ten Commandments. It's one of the most well-known but least understood Jewish observances.  From the outside it can seem like a day filled with stifling restrictions.  But to those who observe Shabbat, it is a precious gift from G-d.  Join us for the upcoming six-week course, Oasis in Time: Shabbat, to find out why.

Super-Easy Moist Chocolate Cake

This is the cake to make when you're in a hurry, realize you have no eggs, or just want a moist chocolately cake!  You can even skip the whole mix-in-a-bowl thing and just dump all the ingredients into the baking pan.  Easier than mixes!  (It also freezes well.)
You might want to double this recipe...

Betty Crocker’s Chocolate Cake
1 ½ c. flour
1 c. sugar
¼ c. cocoa powder
1 t. baking soda mixed with
1 t. white vinegar
½ t. salt
⅓ c. vegetable oil
½ t. vanilla
1 c. cold water

Mix all ingredients an 8x8x2 pan!  Bake 375˚ for 20-25 minutes.  Ess gezunterheit.

Thursday, April 7, 2011

Knaidlach Two Ways

In August of 2009, the world's larget knaidl was unveiled on the lower East Side of New York.  The matzah ball was cooked for almost twenty hours in a 100 gallon pot and emerged weighing 267 lbs. with a 29 inch waistline.  Seymour Kestenbaum, 91, had this to say about it:  "This is not like my mother's matzo balls.  I  love matzo balls, [but] they have to be like my mother's."   I don't know if these two recipes would meet Mr. Kestenbaum's standards, but my family likes them (then again, I am the mother here).

Super-Fluffy Knaidlach

3 eggs (or, 2 eggs and two egg whites)
1 ½ T. melted margarine or schmaltz
⅓ c. plain seltzer
¾ c. matzo meal
1 t. salt

Combine all, chill 1 hour.  Shape into 16 balls, simmer in broth or water 20 minutes.

Quick Flour Knaidlach
2 eggs
½ c. flour
6 T. margarine
½ t. salt
dash pepper

Bring 4 quarts of water to a boil, drop dough in by ½ teaspoonfuls.  When they rise to the top, simmer 5 more minutes, then remove with a slotted spoon.

Has anyone out there tried Egg Beaters in knaidlach?  How'd it go?