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Sourdough: A Love Story.

9 Jul
Zak + Batsheva - The day they announced their engagement.

Zak + Batsheva – The day they announced their engagement.

Several years ago I worked at a Jewish summer camp. I’m gonna be real honest and let you know that this wasn’t an idyllic summer. I was back in Asheville, NC after spending a magical year in Jerusalem falling in love with my Judaism, with Isreal, with food and most importantly, my now husband. But reality was setting in and I needed some cash money in a big way so while I was still in Israel, I started applying to several Jewish camps as a program director as I had spent roughly 8 years, up to that point, in Jewish programming. It was the obvious choice. I was almost hired by a Jewish camp in the Carolina mountains but they had a real issue with my shabbat-observance (don’t even get me started). So, I took another offer.   I actually went to this camp as a teenager for one summer. I remember having an amazing time. But, as an adult, it just wasn’t my bag. When I arrived, I was instantly homesick. I missed my man, my Israel people and my environment back in Jerusalem. Several days of misery went by and then one day I decided to visit the camp’s edible garden. I don’t even really remember the first time I spoke with Zak, but we kind of clicked. I was so desperate for someone more my speed so when I met this Pharmaceutical school drop out cum hippie baker/gardener/cheese maker/wanderer, well, let’s just say he didn’t have a choice. We were gonna be friends. I was on the cusp of my own food revolution at the time (reading up on the realities of true organics, whole foods, etc.) and here was this guy LIVING a food revolution. On shabbat, I read in the garden he tended for the camp. On our nights, off he introduced me to “Freeganism”, which is basically just permanently borrowing people’s leftovers/trash. On one particular night off, we went to a Mexican restaurant and ‘Freegan-ed” the untouched margaritas left behind by some underage counselors who started running the minute they saw us coming.  He also took me dumpster diving in the name of “Freeganism” and I’m pretty sure I still have the cookbook he taught my campers how to make, which introduced them to composting (did you know that poop AND humans are compostable!?). I owe so much to Zak for that summer. I’m still not sure he realizes how much he saved me that summer.

Zak and his Israeli gang of bread makers

First they came for our carbs, and nobody said anything. Then they came for our gluten, and nobody said anything. Now they want our grains and we say, NO!

The team behind "Zak the Baker".  They do smile, a lot, I promise.

The team behind “Zak the Baker”. They do smile, a lot, I promise.

Flash forward 2 and a half years and I find out via Facebook that after much travel, Zak is back in Miami, where my husband and I are now living. He came over for a shabbat meal, we caught up and then just as quick as he entered my life for the second time, he was gone. This time, Zak decided to follow his heart to (get ready for this . . . seriously) Tuscany where he opened his own bakery. I mean, can you picture it? When I try to envision it I’m seeing sunflowers, flour clouds every where and hunky dudes with sweat dripping . . . oh, ok, sorry, I’m getting myself under control. Anyway, long story short, he had a bakery in Tuscany, met a girl, they ran away to a goat cheese farm in France, where she promptly realized that farm life is hard and high-tailed it back to the States. Zak then made his way back home to Miami, where a kind and supportive family friend let him set up his own bakery in his garage. Soon it wasn’t just a bakery Zak was housing in his incredibly supportive friend’s garage but also 5 chickens, 4 ducklings, 4 baby goats and apprentices from around the globe (mainly Israel). When it was clear that the goats were taking over, Zak found shelter with the Earth n’ Us Farm in the Little Haiti neighborhood of Miami (find out more about this amazing farm here) and began renting out a space for baking bread in Hialeah. He currently sells every Sunday at the Pinecrest Farmer’s Market. He also sells sandwiches and bread at the University of Miami and, most importantly to his ever-growing business, Zak the Baker bread can be enjoyed at celebrity-chef Michelle Bernstein’s namesake restaurant, Michy’s (as well as other grocers in the area, like Laurenzo’s. Check out the blog for a complete list of retailers and restaurants selling Zak’s bread).

So, grab a glass of wine and some crusty bread with some soft cheese and tuck in for a very romantic story of love, life, travel and bread.

Zak in action

Zak in action

Jewhungry: So how did your sourdough revolution begin?

Zak: For 10 years, this is the way my life looked like: I would teach at the camp for 2 months, make enough money and then go back on the road and travel for 10 months. What I would do is I would take everything I learned that year on the road and integrate it into the lesson plans for the camp. I had always done a workshop on bread at the camp. We went through the whole process and the theory of it. It wasn’t ever my dream to be a baker and open my own baker. It’s a hard life—you wake up so early, it’s a hard job.  What happened though was that I came back from traveling and asked myself, “What am I going to do with my life”? I came back to Miami and thought, well, I know how to make bread. I know how to make cheese and work a farm. Miami wasn’t my dream spot to open a bakery, but thank Gd, it turned out to be perfect.

Jewhungry: How did you meet Batsheva

Zak: I met Batsheva while I was apprenticing with a cheese maker in Israel on a farm in the North about 3 or 4 years ago. I was working with this really mythical cheese maker who had 200 goats that he would milk every night. I had taken some time off to travel with my friend, Phil, who was a musician. We went to a coffee shop in Jerusalem. Our waitress just happened to be Batsheva’s sister. We were playing music outside, drinking coffee and didn’t really communicate much with her; just said hi and that was it.  I didn’t know her at all. Then the next day we were going back up North and waiting in the bus station, hanging out, playing music and drinking coffee and there she was again, Ori, but this time she was with her sister, Batsheva. We invited them over to come and hang out with us at our table. Turns out we had forgotten to pay for our coffee the day before so being the nice boys that we are, we paid for it. And of course, as it works in Israel, one thing led to another and they invited us to their family’s house for Sukkot. They live in this very special village in the Gush. The family is beautiful and big and very warm. Phil and I at one point were sitting at this big table under the sukkah and, out comes one beautiful, ethereal sister after that other to sit with us. It was a dream! Phil and I were just sitting there taking it all it. It was a wonderful night and we got along and ate and then Phil and I made our way back up North and life moved on. Then, one day, I received a call from Batsheva’s sister, Chedva, who called me up because she and Batsheva wanted to learn how to bake bread with a dream of one day opening their own bakery in Israel.  However, no bakery in Israel would let them in as apprentices because they are women. The bakeries assumed that as women, Batsheva and Chedva wouldn’t be able to do the work. In addition, they don’t want girls working in the kitchen. So in that moment, when Chedva called, I just thought of course. Come on! And then two weeks later they had a ticket and were on their way. Eventually, I realized, “Wait, let me tell you, this is really hard work. I can’t pay you. We work insane hours. It’s a work exchange, you work and I give you room and board”. And then I told them I have a farm in Miami and you’ll live outdoors in a tent. At that point, the girls were imagining rolling hills and building a tent under a chestnut tree and living amongst the greenery. But in reality, it was my old tent in my yard in Little Haiti. Eventually, after about a week of living in the tent, I kept getting, “Zak, mazeh cold? Mazeh raining? (Zak, what is this cold? What is this rain?” So I gave up my bedroom indoors and I slept out in the tent by the goats for several weeks until a room opened up in the house. Eventually, Chedva wanted to leave but Batsheva wanted to stay and one month turned into 2 and then 3 and then 4 and then all of a sudden, Batsheva and I realize we are in love. We revealed our love for one another on a Friday and by the next day, on Shabbat, we decided that this is it and we want to get married. Now, we are partners. We are in love. We will move forward together as a unit.

Two bakers in love

Two bakers in love

Siona and I flanked by food greatness

Siona and I flanked by food greatness

Jewhungry: Is the gluten-free/grain-free trend affecting your business?

Zak: Those trends and those fashions don’t concern me at all. I’m being very nice about my feelings, please understand. I don’t want to concern myself with marketing and other things that aren’t pure. A lot of these things are being pushed or promoted by marketing/business. Ultimately, I’m not concerned with any of it. At the end of the day, we need bread. We need eggs, we need cheese, we need meat. These are the basics that we need. All these vegan/gluten-free diet phases, they pass and what is always there and what will always be there in the end are the basics. Therefore, I am not concerned with the fashions of the health or the food industry. That’s my polite answer. If you want to eat something gluten-free, go eat a tortilla or a rice crack or a bowl of rice. Trying to make bread gluten-free is like trying to make turkey meat-free. I’ll wait for it to pass and wait for folks to get interested in the next food/health craze and then I’ll be disinterested in that as well. So to sum it up in one word: Disinterested.

Jewhungry: What is your most favorite or first food memory?

Batsheva: For me, it’s my mom’s chicken soup. My mom used to make a big pot of chicken soup every shabbat. There was nothing special about it.  It was pretty plain but it had big onions and all of us used to fight over the onions. She used to make a lot of it and in fact, she had a gemach for chicken soup and so in the village, if someone wasn’t feeling well they would call up and she would bring them soup.

Zak: When we visited my grandmother in Del Ray, we used to always have an everything bagel toasted well with chopped liver, egg salad, kugel, rugelach, cookies, white fish spread, mayonnaise, a platter of smoked salmon with onions, tomatoes and capers. Of course there would be an assortment of pickles. Oy, I can taste it right now. Ashkenaz food; I’m telling you! (Please note that at this point in the interview, Batsheva is making vomit noises because the idea of the aforementioned Del Ray Bubbe/Ashkenazi spread sounds disgusting to her).

Jewhungry: So what are the plans for the bakery?

Zak: We are working on opening the bakery in Wynwood. It’s mainly going to be a wholesale production bakery but with a retail component where folks can see the whole process from start to finish and also purchase delicious food. We want to make the entire bakery kosher so we need help with that. If anybody knows how to get started, how to do it all? A rabbi who can help guide us through the process? All of our products are kosher and we don’t use meat at all. All of our sandwiches will be dairy/vegetarian. It just makes sense for where we want to go but we need help. 

20130709-113320.jpg

Zak’s got an awesome beard AND accessories so clearly, Siona’s a fan.

Jewhungry: Why do you want to go kosher?

Zak: Basically, I was trying to impress Batsheva, so I thought, “if I make the bakery kosher, she’d be really impressed with me” and it worked! Just kidding. The reason is that it feels like the right thing to do. We’re not far away from it. We don’t work on Saturday regardless. All of our ingredients are kosher. And once upon a time, I heard it was a mitzvah to make kosher bread. I want to make something that is delicious and pure and that everyone could feel comfortable eating but also just happens to be kosher. I don’t want people to eat it because it’s organic or eat it because it’s kosher. Miami has room for what we do, you know? Ultimately, it’s the right thing for Batsheva and I to do.

Monday Round-up: Cookies and Question

11 Feb

This month’s Kosher Connection challenge asked us to make ‘something that you’d put in a mishloach manot bag.  I mean, what popped in my head was cookie . . . .cookie, cookie COOKIE! Now look, e’rybody has a hamentaschen recipe so I wasn’t going to attempt to reinvent the wheel plus, this past week was super stressful and there are no signs of stopping.  After parent/teacher conferences, a larger amount than usual of 6th grade girls coming to my office to sob like a babies talk things out, and a few heart-breaking conversations with parents dealing with divorce, I wasn’t really in a creative frame of mind.  I coudn’t tap into that part of me that gets jazzed for some cooking/baking and it was getting frustrating but more on that later.

Siona will eventually get Uncle Dave's nose

Siona will eventually get Uncle Dave’s nose

The biggest thing on my mind over this shabbat was connection.  As you know if you’ve read this blog before, I’m a school counselor for a Jewish day school.  I love my job and I take it seriously.  The biggest part of my job that I wish I had more time to cultivate is my work with connecting girls with Judaism.  I’m getting really frustrated (oy, apparently I need a vacay.  I’m getting frustrated a lot this week) with the lack of opportunities for connection for our girls.  If I hear one more girls program on tzniut I might scream.  It’s nice that there are programs for Jewish girls to connect via challah-baking and mikveh-visiting but this can’t be the only way we offer our girls connection, right? But what is that within the Orthodox community? What does that connection and the subsequent programming look like? I feel very strongly that the message we’re sending our girls is that their place within our community lies solely in home-making and child-rearing and sometimes educating but even that education is within a box.  We don’t invest the time and energy in educating our girls about how to daven and why we daven like we do with our boys. I want to inspire girls to love their culture, community, and religion but I’m not sure how to do that.  When I think back about what inspired me so much of it was self-directed but of course, came from the home.  My mom was very involved within our Reform synagogue and I was involved with our area youth group but what brought me to being more observant and more appreciative and knowledgeable about Judaism as an adult was education, inspiring female educators and a partner who loves his religion. So what does that inspiration look like for middle and high school girls?  What inspires/d you? I’m truly looking for help and guidance and would love your opinion.

I had to bake with Siona attached to me, which meant that sneaky little foot kept getting into the pictures.

I had to bake with Siona attached to me, which meant that sneaky little foot kept getting into the pictures.

Anyway, ok, so back to cookies. COOKIES!  We had a dear friend of my husband come and visit this weekend.  He lives in LA and is doing the struggling actor thing.  I’m convinced that he will be famous one day but in the meantime he’s doing whatever he can to make a paycheck.  One thing he’s doing to make ends meet is a ‘before and after’ muscle-building program complete with protein shake powder that smells like hot chocolate powder.  The bag of it sat on our counter all weekend, which meant all weekend I was craving anything with cocoa powder thus, the double chocolate chip oatmeal cookies.  So when someone asked me to make something I’d want in my mishloach manot bag that answer will always be cookies . . . cookies and cash but you know, I can’t really ‘make’ cash.

Cocoa and flour in harmoney

Cocoa and flour in harmony

How!?

  1. 1/2 c unsalted butter, softened
  2. 3/4 c granulated sugar
  3. 1/2 c packed dark brown sugar
  4. 1 large egg
  5. 1 tsp vanilla extract
  6. 3/4 c all-purpose flour
  7. 1/4 c unsweetened cocoa powder
  8. 1/2 tsp baking soda
  9. 1/4 tsp salt
  10. 2 c old-fashioned oats
  11. 1/2 c semi-sweet chocolate chips

How’s That Now!?

  1. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together dry ingredients ( flour, cocoa powder, soda and salt ). Set aside.
  2. Place butter and both sugars in a large mixing bowl of a stand mixer or hand-mixer and cream until light and fluffy.
  3. Add egg and vanilla and mix just until combined.
  4. With mixer on low speed, add dry ingredients and mix just until combined. Fold in chocolate chips.
  5. When ready to bake, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Line your cookies sheet with parchment paper. Scoop out the dough into a tablespoon size balls and place on prepared sheet, leaving at least 2 inches of space between cookie balls. They will spread!
  6. Bake 9 to 11 minutes. Cool on a sheet for 3 minutes, then transfer onto a cooling rack.
A li'l something special for your mishloach manot this year

A li’l something special for your mishloach manot this year

 

 

 

 

 

**(Updated Recipe!)** Red, Pink and Chocolate Chip

6 Feb

Scalloped hearts from youngheartslove etsy.com shop

**Recipe is being revised. Please check back soon! 10/26/13***

Something is happening to me in my old age. I’m loving colors I never really responded to before. Has that ever happened to you? I once asked my husband, the scientist, if there was any correlation that he is aware of between mood-levels and color-affinity. For example, I used to loathe the color red. I mean really and truly hate. I’m not sure if it was the excessive use of red, black and white in 80s home decor (please don’t even try to lie to yourself right now. You know you were a part of that ‘situation’). Maybe it was the excess of red leather jackets, also occurring in the 80s, that rubbed me the wrong way? Maybe it was just the 80s in general and what they did to color? Who knows but what I can tell you is that immediately after our wedding I started L-O-V-I-N-G loving the color red. Someone got us a set of red Fiesta ware plates for our wedding and I couldn’t stop using the mug. I was so drawn to the color. It just made me so happy so I figured, well, I am so happy in life so maybe red is the color of happiness? From there I started wearing red shoes and started the search for the perfect red lipstick (I am still, in fact, on that search) and my red obsession hasn’t stopped.

Just me and my red leather jacket circa 1983

Just me and my red leather jacket circa 1983

This brings us to pink. When my daughter was born, I felt very strongly about the color pink. Actually, let me correct myself. Before my daughter was born I felt very strongly about the color pink. In fact, I enlisted my bestie, Jackie, to send a message, not literally but rather to be a point person if need be, to let folks know that should they be looking to get us a gift, please please please, do. not. get. anything. pink. Incidentally, I also asked that there should be nothing with the words, “princess”, “queen”, “cutie”, or “sweetie” on it. In case you haven’t noticed, I’m somewhat opinionated. Anywho, the point is, no pink. Of course, the inevitable happened and it was like a pink parade. I mean seriously, there was pink coming out of our ears at her Simchat Bat. You can’t fight it. People love giving little girls pink stuff. We’ve been conditioned to do it. And I tried fighting it. I really, really did. When she was really tiny, I would dress her in as much gender-neutral color as possible while strolling her in her gender-neutral colored stroller or carrying her in her gender-neutral colored Baby K’tan and I would always get comments when we were out. “How old is your little boy?”, asked well-meaning Bubbie from across the hall. “What an adorable little boy. What’s his name?”, asked well-meaning Bubbie at Target. “Oh, your little boy sure is bald”, said well-meaning Bubbie at Winn-Dixie. For the record, little boys do not have the market cornered on bald and the color orange. Regardless, the point is. I fought it and Bubbies all across South Florida were pissed. So it came to pass that on the random occasion I dressed her in something pink. Maybe a hand-me-down from a dear friend at work (my fancy friend. Y’all have a ‘fancy’ friend, right? That one friend who wears designer clothing, drives a luxury car, goes on fancy vacations but can still hang.) who gave us a bunch of clothing from her baby girl and you know, even I had to admit that it looked cute but I was still worried about the ‘gender box’ so nothing was too frilly. But then it happened. Oh dear. It happened. My sister-in-law, Caitlin, gave us a hand-me-down of a pink polka-dot dress with matching leggings that her dad’s neighbor made and oh sweet Lord when it was on, that was it. The pink flood gates opened. Now, OK, I’m not fully embracing pink and you can tell the day care ladies are desperate for me to dress her in more pink since every time I pick her up she’s conveniently wearing all of the extra clothing I brought throughout the week that just happens to be pink but still, I love it. In fact, I’m typing this while wearing my new pink and white stripped pajamas that I got from scientist husband for Chanukah this year. Hmmm . . . I wonder if they have this in baby sizes?

Embracing our pink

Embracing our pink

So all this talk of red and pink has me excited for Valentine’s Day. And yes, we’re Jews, observant-y Jews at that so we don’t really “do” Valentine’s Day. But, I can still oggle all the pink and red hearts all over Pinterest these days and I will possibly pick up a super cute Valentine’s Day mug at Target just for myself because hey, besides my mom, I was my original Valentine. And, of course, with Valentine’s Day comes cookies. The following cookie recipe is a healthy one because I care about your heart too!

Getting There

Getting There

I recently made Paleo cookies for my friend and customer, Dana, and she actually liked them. I want to use the term “cookie” loosely here because I think they’re better described as ‘treat’. A breakfast treat at that. I used coconut flour for this recipe but I had made these a while back with almond flour and much preferred the taste and texture of the almond flour versus the coconut flour. I scoured the internet for recipes but eventually took bits and pieces of several recipes and created my own. I hope you enjoy! They’re best enjoyed in the morning with a hot cup of coffee . . . .possibly in a red mug.

Recipe Updated! — Happy Heart Chocolate Chip Cookies

What’s That!?

  • 1 cup of almond flour
  • 1/4 cup coconut flour
  • 1/2 cup of coconut oil
  • 3 tbs of maple syrup
  • 4 eggs
  • 1 tsp of vanilla extract
  • 1/8 tsp of sea salt
  • 1/2 cup of chocolate chips
A place for everyone and everyone in it's place.

A place for everyone and everyone in it’s place.

How’s That Now?!

  1. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
  2. Melt the coconut oil on the stove for until runny
  3. In a large bowl mix together the coconut oil, syrup, eggs, vanilla extract and sea salt.
  4. Stir in the coconut flour and chocolate chips.
  5. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and roll out little tbs size balls of cookie dough. Place on the baking sheet and gently press down so they look pretty once baked 🙂
  6. Bake for 12-15 or until golden brown.
LET THEM COOL -- they'll harden up after a few minutes of cooling.

LET THEM COOL — they’ll harden up after a few minutes of cooling.

***Scalloped hearts photo taken from youngheartslove etsy shop. Check them out here.

Paging Nurse Latke.

14 Jan

It’s day four of quarantine.  I’ve had some nasty virus for four days and I am officially over it.  When I first started feeling yucky I thought I could pump myself full of Emergen-Cee and multi-vitamins and that that would do the trick.  Little did I know that this thing would get so fierce it would land me in the ER on shabbat so dehydrated that they gave me two bags of fluids.  The last time I felt remotely this crappy was when I went to Israel in 2008.  I landed in Tel Aviv, spent all day Friday with a dear friend and then she headed back to Chicago and I headed to Jerusalem only to be smacked in the face with what I have since self-diagnosed as dysentery.  I was rescued then by my very amazing friend, Jessie, who picked me up after a long day at Pardes and took me to Terem (Israel’s urgent care) where I was treated by a very brash and very ironically named nurse . . . Simcha Latke (Happy Latke).  I kid you not.  This nurse’s name was Simcha Latke and she could not have been more cold if she tried.  I will never forget her handing me a cup, looking at me up and down (the hot mess that I was) and saying, “You go. Make pee pee. Bring back. Now.”  Yes Nurse Latke.

This time around I was rescued by my dear friend, Dina, who spent an insanely boring four hours with me at the ER and then subsequently, the local Walgreens and let me just tell you, if you need to get sh*t done and you need it done now then you need Dina in your corner.  That woman doesn’t take crap from no one.  The nurse who initially took my temperature took it incorrectly and boy, you better believe the doctor in charge heard about it.  Then there was the hour long wait at Walgreen after being told it would only take 20 minutes.  Girlfriend was not having any of that either.  Seriously, she was/is my hero and I am totally in her debt.

IMG_5480

Probably discussing Eli Manning’s abysmal 2012-2013 season.

Now being a mommy and being sick means that I haven’t left the bedroom in four days (except for aforementioned ER visit) so as not to get any of these germs around the baby.  It also means that I haven’t been able to hug and kiss my sweet little girl and that my husband has been taking care of me and the baby all by himself and let me just say, he is a rock star. Seriously, this man deserves a medal of some kind; definitely a Purple Heart.  He also definitely deserves a vacation of some sort after I’m all better, which we can’t afford but something should be worked out.  Regardless, what I’m trying to say is I am blessed with a tremendously amazing husband and since we can’t afford for him to go on vacation, the next best thing in his eyes are fresh baked cookies, lots and lots of freshly baked cookies.  The man loves fresh baked cookies so much he actually told the cookie lady in the maternity ward our baby’s name before ANYONE else knew (and before the Simchat Bat) just to score an extra cookie. The cookie lady knew Siona’s name before her own grandparents did, that’s the kind of power fresh baked goods have over my husband.  Therefore, when I get better, there will be freshly baked cookies aplenty in this apartment.  One batch will be of what he has named Kitchen Sink Cookies because I just go ahead and put everything in there except the kitchen sink.  The base is from a Smitten Kitchen recipe and the rest is basically everything we like in a cookie packed into one bite.

Butter: The classic frenemy

Butter: The classic frenemy

That's a whole lotta goodness

That’s a whole lotta goodness

Kitchen Sink Cookies

What!?

1/2 cup (1 stick, 4 ounces) butter, softened
2/3 cup  light brown sugar, packed
1 large egg
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon table salt
1  cups rolled oats
1/4 cup dried tart cherries
1/4 cup walnuts or pecans, chopped
1/2 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup white chocolate chips
Sea salt for topping

How’s That Now!?

In a large bowl, cream together the butter, brown sugar, egg and vanilla until smooth. In a separate bowl, whisk the flour, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together. Stir this into the butter/sugar mixture. Stir in the oats, raisins and walnuts, if using them.

At this point you can either chill the dough for a bit in the fridge and then scoop it, or scoop the cookies onto a sheet and then chill the whole tray before baking them. You could also bake them right away, if you’re impatient, but I do find that they end up slighly less thick. Either way, heat oven to 350°F  before you scoop the cookies, so that it’s fully heated when you’re ready to put them in.

The cookies should be two inches apart on a parchment-lined baking sheet. Bake them for 10 to 12 minutes (your baking time will vary, depending on your oven and how cold the cookies were going in), taking them out when golden at the edges but still a little undercooked-looking on top.  Let them sit on the hot baking sheet for five minutes before transferring them to a rack to cool.

Sprinkle with sea salt while they are cooling

Wish I could eat them now

Wish I could eat them now

Cheddar and Scallion Biscuits on a Sunday Morning

23 Dec

It’s Sunday and I’m not going to work tomorrow.  Wait. Waaaait wait wait.  Before I even get into anything we have to take a moment of silence for the fact that my co-blogger, Jeremy, and I are both in the same state. Holler!  Every winter Jeremy and his family venture to Little Israel, otherwise known as South Florida, and spend two weeks lounging by the pool and seeing movies every night while the rest of the world is eating Chinese food and throwin’ bows (a.k.a. elbows) at the local mall.  I visited them last year on their vacay.  It was pretty awesome, except for the fact that I was in my first trimester of pregnancy and was fighting the need to puke at all cost as no one knew I was pregnant.  Fun times.  This year we have big plans of going to see Les Miz and crying in our popcorn buckets.  I can’t wait.

Jeremy and I in a scene from Les Miz. What? Ya'll didn't know we were in it? Weird.

Jeremy and I in a scene from Les Miz. What? Ya’ll didn’t know we were in it? Weird.

But anyway.  It’s finally ‘winter break’ and it’s actually been cold in Florida for the past 2 days. I mean we dipped down into the 60s here people.  I’m very excited to have a week and a half straight with the family.  We have some plans but mostly I hope we get to cook and sleep a little and enjoy this gorgeous weather together.

We kicked off winter break this morning with a visit from some dear friends of ours from our Israel days.  The hubby and I met in Israel over 4 years ago.  He was in Israel to get his Master’s degree in Marine Sciences from Hebrew University and I had decided to take a year to learn in an egalitarian yeshiva in Jerusalem called Pardes.  Pardes is one of those places where you either drink the kool-aid and ‘get it’ or you don’t drink the kool-aid and you run away fast.  I drank the kool-aid.   I love Pardes and will forever be grateful for what it gave me.  I was raised in the Reform movement in Marietta, GA and had a wonderful experience with the Judaism.  I participated in youth group activities and was really involved in my synagogue.  My Jewish identity was strong and even led me to take jobs within the Jewish community however my knowledge-base of anything Jewish was extremely limited.  I used to lead Birthright Israel trips and my participants would call me “super Jew” because it blew their minds that I got paid to go to Israel and I worked in the Jewish community yet I knew I was most certainly NOT a ‘super Jew’.  I didn’t keep kosher.  I definitely didn’t keep shabbat (not that either of those makes you a ‘super’ Jew) and I didn’t know much about laws and well, really anything.  I just knew I loved being Jewish.  By the time I made my decision to do a year of intensive Jewish learning I was 28 and fed up with not knowing the answers to a lot of the “Jewish” questions I was asked so off to Israel I went.

Pardes is a special place.  It’s the only co-ed, egalitarian (but with an Orthodox lens) yeshiva in Israel. People from all over the world come to Pardes to study in this environment.  The learning at Pardes is incredible—by the time I left my brain was able to look at things and think about things in ways I never could before. When you study Torah and you’re trying to decipher the meaning of a certain text, well, let’s just say now I get why are people are good at law.

Most everyone who was in the same ‘year’ program I was had relatively the same background that I have; loved being Jewish but was definitely searching for something more.  Due to my inability to get passed the 4th letter of the Hebrew alphabet on my entrance exam I was placed in the ‘newbie’ class and can I just say, thank goodness.  The people who also placed in this class were pretty amazing.  We were a motley crew who I think, if we tried really hard and combined our collective knowledge, could probably say the entire Hebrew alphabet and most of us were still eating cheeseburgers when we started our year at Pardes.  However, by the end of our year of learning, most of us were able to read directly from the Chumash, and were keeping kosher and shabbat.  My year at Pardes was one of the best years of my life.  I hope Pardes is still alive and thriving by the time our children are old enough to study.  It would truly be a dream come true if they could study there as well.

Some of our Pardes friends at our wedding.

Some of our Pardes friends at our wedding.

I launched into all of this because I’m still very close with a lot of the people I met at Pardes and two such friends, Ali and Noam, came over this morning for a lovely breakfast.  So many of my Pardes friends were at our wedding, which was so lovely.  And now,  three years after we left Pardes, our friends are meeting our daughter.  It’s pretty awesome.  To celebrate our friends’ morning visit, I decided to go big and make cheddar and scallion biscuits.  What else would you expect from a Southern Jewess when her friends stop y for a morning visit?

 

Flour

Flour

 

Pea-sized butter.  It's in there!

Pea-sized butter. It’s in there!

Scallion-flecked dough

Scallion-flecked dough

 

White Cheddar and Scallion Biscuits

What!?

  • 2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tablespoon baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 teaspoon sugar
  • 1/4 pound (1 stick) cold unsalted butter, diced
  • 3/4 cup half-and-half
  • 1/2 cup chopped fresh scallions
  • 1/2 cup white cheddar
  • 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water, for egg wash

How’s That Now?!

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking powder, salt, and sugar in the bowl.  Stir with flat spatula.  Add the butter and mix using a crust cutter until the butter is the size of peas. Slowly add the half-and-half and beat until just mixed. Add the scallions and the cheddar and mix until just combined.

Dump the dough out on a well-floured board and knead lightly into a rectangle 3/4-inch thick. Cut out rounds with a 2 1/2-inch round cutter* and place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper. Brush with the egg wash.

Bake for 20 to 22 minutes, until the tops are browned and the insides are firm. Serve warm.

*If you don’t have a round cutter you can always use a glass.  That’s what I had to do and it worked perfectly.

Flattened dough

Flatted dough

Biscuit-y goodness

Biscuit-y goodness

 

Annnnnnnnnnd we’re back (we hope).

12 Oct

Well, it’s been a while, to say the least.  It would appear that our last blog post was almost a year ago.  Ugh.  So here’s what happened (at least with one of us.  I’ll let Jeremy explain himself 😉
So I got pregnant.  My husband and I had our first child in August and around the time of the last blog post is when I started the ever so ladylike first trimester symptom of nauseous and vomiting.  Yum, right?  It go so bad that I stopped eating cheese! CHEESE PEOPLE! I LOVE CHEESE! There was one week in the first trimester that I only ate peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  Then there was that one time that my hubby made himself a veggie burger and the sheer smell of it made me, well, yeah. And then the second trimester hit and out went the nausea and in came the intense cravings.  There was that one time I wanted turkey and stuffing dinner so so badly that I ended up in tears because Boston Market isn’t kosher.  But now, almost a year later, in place of intense cravings and puking and rallying is the most beautiful baby in the world (no, seriously).  Ever since the little one was born, I’ve spent an insane amount on my iPhone, especially during the first several weeks of her life.  When a newborn wants to eat every 2 to 3 hours around the clock and it’s 3 am, you need to do something to keep yourself awake and for me, that was perusing apps like Pinterest and Punchfork.  And now that babe is finally on a bit of a schedule and the glory of nap time has entered my life (as well as the glory of an Ergo.  Oh sweet, sweet Ergo), I’m able to cook again.  Cooking is such a great creative outlet for me.  And I didn’t realize it until it wasn’t there anymore, but so was this blog.  And though my family is my whole world, a woman needs something for herself, well, at least this woman does.  so back to the blog we go.   This past Simchat Torah we hosted family and friends for lunch and it was wonderful having people around the table enjoying my food again.  Now, don’t get it twisted, the time to actually sit down and write is limited but I’m gonna try my best to get back to it (and Jeremy promises to do the same.  He told me so himself!)  We know there are a bajillion food blogs out there so we’re grateful you’re back reading ours.

Tiny One

Ok, so Simcaht Torah lunch was a dairy sensation.  We don’t usually go dairy on holidays but I spent the shabbat before reading the Southern Living my sister-in-law left after the family visited and my goodness, there was this recipe for caramel coffee cake that made my mouth water.  Now being Southern myself, I couldn’t believe it took me 32 years to actually read my first Southern Living and it was revelatory.  Sure, 85% of the recipes in it call for bacon but I find it only a challenge I wish to take on rather than a big stop sign.  And sure, 100% of the recipes in the magazine could clog your arteries just by looking at them but again, challenge to make healthier, not stop sign.  And Lord knows I need things to be healthier now that I gots some baby weight to lose. But I digress, let’s get back to the coffee cake.  Did I mention caramel sauce?  Also, did you know caramel sauce take 10 seconds to make?  Dangerous.  The men around the table asked for seconds so I’m gonna assume that the cake tasted good but, why don’t you give it a try and let me know 🙂

Crumbs

Mess

Cake Ingredients:

2 Tbsp butter
1/2 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 large eggs
2 cups all-purpose flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup milk
2 tsp vanilla

Preparation:

  1. 1. Preheat oven to 350°. Melt 2 Tbsp. butter in a large skillet over medium-high heat; add apples; sauté 5 minutes or until softened. Remove from heat; cool completely (about 30 minutes).
  2. 2. Meanwhile, prepare Streusel Topping and Caramel Sauce. Reserve 1/2 cup Caramel Sauce for another use.
  3. 3. Beat butter at medium speed with an electric mixer until creamy; gradually add sugar, beating well. Add eggs, 1 at a time, beating until blended after each addition.
  4. 4. Combine flour, baking powder, and salt; add to butter mixture alternately with milk, beginning and ending with flour mixture. Beat at low speed until blended after each addition. Stir in vanilla. Pour batter into a greased and floured shiny 9-inch springform pan; top with apples. Drizzle with 1/2 cup Caramel Sauce; sprinkle with Streusel Topping.
  5. 5. Bake at 350° for 45 minutes. Cover loosely with aluminum foil to prevent excessive browning; bake 25 to 30 minutes or until center is set. (A wooden pick will not come out clean.) Cool in pan on a wire rack 30 minutes; remove sides of pan. Cool completely on wire rack (about 1 1/2 hours). Drizzle with 1/2 cup Caramel Sauce.

Caramel Sauce

Bring 1 cup firmly packed light brown sugar, 1/2 cup butter, 1/4 cup whipping cream (I used half & half), and 1/4 cup honey to a boil in a medium saucepan over medium-high heat, stirring constantly; boil, stirring frequently, 2 minutes.  Remove from heat, and cool 15 minutes before serving.

Streussel Topping

  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1/2 cup butter, melted
  • 1/2 cup firmly packed light brown sugar
  • 1/4 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground cinnamon
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt

Preparation

  1. Stir together flour, pecans, melted butter, brown sugar, granulated sugar, cinnamon, and salt until blended. Let stand 30 minutes or until firm enough to crumble into small pieces.

 

Scones . . . it’s what’s for breakfast on shabbos mornin’ (and seuda shlishit)

11 Jul

Like I said, I’ve got some free time.  Therefore, I feel the pressure to step it up when it comes to shabbat cooking.  I have to confess, when it comes to shabbat dinner planning, I usually go big for dinner but as a result, lunch gets a bit, well, sad and seuda shlishit (third meal) turns into leftover challah and hummus.  But not this Shabbat. Oh no my friends, this Shabbat I showed up.  I made SCONES. But not just any dinner AND scones.  I made cherry scones with orange zest and organic whole wheat pastry flower and oats. I mean these were delicious. We were asked out to a seuda shlishit (third meal — it’s required on shabbat to have three meals.  You first is dinner, second is lunch and third is a little snack before post-shabbat dinner.  This idea is linked to a section of Torah that states “And Moshe said: Eat it (the Manna) today, for today is Shabbat to Gd; today you will not find it in the field.” The use of the word today three times in the sentence in reference to eating the manna is considered the background resource  for the Rabbinic rule requiring three meals on Shabbat), which we never get asked out to so I figured I should bring it and ‘it’ was scones.  yum. Now, the thing about scones, for those who aren’t as familiar, is that they are not super duper sweet.  You will be sorely disappointed if you’re expecting a sugary sweet breakfast treat.  You will not, however, be disappointed if you’re expecting a buttery, almost biscuit-like treat that tastes good either with jalapeno and white cheddar or with orange zest and cherries.

Orange and Oat Scones
(as adapted from 101Cookbooks.com)

WHAT?

3 cups whole wheat pastry flour
1/2 cup turbinado sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into small pieces
2 cups rolled oats
zest of 1 orange
1 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup coarse turbinado or Demerara sugar, for sprinkling
2/3 cup dried cherries

How?!

Preheat the oven to 350F degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Combine the flour, 1/2 cup of turbinado sugar, baking powder, and baking soda in the bowl of a food processor. Add the butter and pulse 15-20 times or until it looks like sandy pearls. (If you are working by hand, cut the butter into the flour mixture using a pastry cutter.) Transfer the dough to a bowl and stir in the oats and zest. Stir in the buttermilk and currants until just moistened.

Bring the dough together with your hands. If the dough is still too crumbly, stir in more buttermilk a tiny splash at a time, but try to avoid over mixing. After bringing the dough together, gently pat it into an 8-inch round. Cut into triangle shapes (see photo) and transfer to the prepared baking sheet with some room between each scone. Sprinkle the tops with coarse sugar. Bake for 12 to 15 minute or until the bottoms are deeply golden.

Makes 8 extra-large scones, or 12 to 16 larger ones.

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