Pump­kin-Spice Chal­lah

Forward Magazine - - Contents - By LIZA SCHOENFEIN

Con­fes­sion time: Un­til a few days ago, I had never made chal­lah.

I re­al­ize this isn’t en­tirely anoma­lous among the gen­eral Jewish pop­u­la­tion (though chal­lah-mak­ing cer­tainly does seem to be a grow­ing trend). But as the food ed­i­tor of the For­ward, this just felt like some­thing I should know how to do.

And so, upon re­ceiv­ing a copy of the new “Mod­ern Jewish Baker: Chal­lah, Babka, Bagels & More,” by the Nosher’s food ed­i­tor, Shannon Sarna, and upon notic­ing a chal­lah recipe that seemed par­tic­u­larly au­tum­nal — per­fect for a Novem­ber Shab­bat or a Jewish ad­di­tion to the Thanks­giv­ing ta­ble — I de­cided it was time to take the plunge.

Af­ter ac­cept­ing my mis­sion, I found that there was a sec­ond hur­dle to ad­dress. The loaf in ques­tion is called “pump­kin spice chal­lah.” As Sarna her­self writes in the recipe head­note, “Peo­ple have some strong feel­ings about pump­kin spice: some love it, some loathe it.” She is cor­rect. But a glance at the in­gre­di­ent list gave me the con­fi­dence to pro­ceed. In a recipe that would yield two loaves of bread, only a half cup of pureed pump­kin was called for, along with what looked like a rea­son­able amount of fra­grant bak­ing spices: cin­na­mon, nut­meg, clove and ground ginger. In ad­di­tion to pump­kin seeds and coarse sea salt, the chal­lah was meant to be topped with a cin­na­mon-sugar mix­ture, which I de­cided I would sprin­kle on only one of the loaves, lest it make the bread taste like nurs­ery food.

I amended the recipe in one other way, too — and I wish I could say I did so in­ten­tion­ally. Since I’m in a con­fes­sional mood, though, I’ll ad­mit that the mod­i­fi­ca­tion was a re­sult of small, pale print meet­ing mid­dleage eye­sight. Where the recipe calls for three-quar­ters of a cup of sugar, I read the quan­tity as one quar­ter. By the time I re­al­ized my mis­take, my dough was al­ready ris­ing and I ra­tio­nal­ized the er­ror with the thought that the miss­ing sugar, had it been in­cluded, might

‘Peo­ple have strong feel­ings about pump­kin spice: some love it, some loathe it.’

have made the chal­lah too cake­like or cloy­ing.

Be­fore I share the re­sults of my un­der­tak­ing, I’ll tell you a lit­tle about Sarna’s book. “Mod­ern Jewish Baker” is ba­si­cally a mas­ter class in mak­ing seven clas­sic Jewish breads: chal­lah, babka, bagel, pita, haman­taschen, rugelach and matzo. First she of­fers the ba­sic recipe and step-bystep tech­niques, then she sup­plies sev­eral fla­vor vari­a­tions for each type of bread, many of which sound de­li­cious (oth­ers a lit­tle too “in­ter­est­ing” for my taste).

In ad­di­tion to ba­sic rugelach filled with jam or choco­late, there are harissa and goat cheese rugelach (yum) and choco­late­pep­per­mint rugelach (not so much?). Haman­taschen might be made sa­vory with Brie and herbs or slightly sus­pect with rye and grape jelly.

I’ve never made babka ei­ther, and af­ter start­ing with Sarna’s ba­sic recipe, I would be cu­ri­ous to try the one made with onion jam, to serve not as dessert but along­side a cheese plate.

Now back to that chal­lah. The bread was easy (and very sat­is­fy­ing) to make, as well as both beau­ti­ful and de­li­cious when it came out of the oven. It was just sweet enough for me, though I could imag­ine adding back per­haps another quar­ter cup of sugar next time around. (I do think that the lower sugar con­tent might ac­count at least in part for the fact that there was ab­so­lutely none of the ob­nox­ious fall fla­vor­ing that pump­kin-spice skep­tics re­ject.)

You will never find me mak­ing Sarna’s blueberry bagels or the peach, al­mond and white­choco­late rugelach, but I’m def­i­nitely think­ing about adding her Brie and herb haman­taschen and za’atar and gar­lic chal­lah to my ex­pand­ing reper­toire of Jewish bread recipes.

Liza Schoenfein is the food ed­i­tor of the For­ward. Con­tact her at schoenfein@for­ward.com or on Twit­ter, @LifeDeathDin­ner

LIZA SCHOENFEIN

By Shannon Sarna

MOD­ERN JEWISH BAKER Coun­try­man Press

$29.95 264 pages

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