Pascale’s Kitchen: Delicacies for festival rejoicing

There are some basic foods that you simply cannot give up on Shabbat: good cake, cholent, a small kiddush (breakfast) and, of course, challah.

 Babka/Kugelhopf with almond nougat (photo credit: Anatoly Michaello)
Babka/Kugelhopf with almond nougat
(photo credit: Anatoly Michaello)

Tishrei’s last holiday is upon us, so that’s why I chose to offer in this column delicacies that are suitable for both Simhat Torah and Shabbat. There are some basic foods that you simply cannot give up on Shabbat: good cake, cholent, a small kiddush (breakfast) and, of course, challah.

Challah has a place of honor. It always stands out from the other great foods served on Shabbat evening, placed in the center of the table and slightly elevated. In honor of Shabbat and the holiday, I chose a great recipe for sweet challah. It is made with white flour, but you can replace it with whole wheat flour, and add almost another glass of water for that. The white sugar can also be replaced with brown sugar. This time, I chose to suggest that you design the challah in a slightly different, not complicated way, which will create a big impression.

For the main course, I chose a whole chicken in olive oil and spices, which is cooked for a long time with potatoes on the side. When it’s done cooking, you get browned chicken, which is served with rice.

My Shabbat cake is a classic yeast cake. Almost every home has one version or another of this recipe. This time, I chose to make a very tasty marzipan nougat version. You can stick to the recipe or change the flavors and combine chocolate chips and dried fruits. You can add citrus peels, vanilla, cinnamon and more to the dough.

 Sweet challah (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Sweet challah (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)

This is how you make a successful challah:

  • Make sure to knead the dough properly and for a long time. 
  • Before baking, put a bowl with hot water in the oven so that steam is created.
  • You can bake the challah in special molds to get interesting designs.
  • Any challah can be sweetened according to taste with silan, brown sugar or honey.
  • To get challah that is not sweet, halve the amount of sugar and increase the amount of salt. Add spices to taste.
  • Enrich the challah with raisins and nuts (although in my experience, children usually pick at the challah to remove them).

Babka/Kugelhopf with almond nougat

Note: The dough is slightly soft, not similar to the texture of the yeast dough you know, but that’s how it should be. You can add a little flour to help you handle the dough, but not too much.

For a tube pan with a 24 cm. (9.5 in.) diameter

  • 1/2 kg. flour, sifted
  • 25 gr. yeast
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 130 gr. butter, softened
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 1.5 cups milk

For the filling:

  • 100 gr. nougat or date spread
  • 1/2 cup orange or other jam, runny
  • 1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
  • 1/2 cup light raisins
  • Grated orange peel
  • 1/2 cup blanched almonds, sliced
  • 200 gr. prepared marzipan, sliced

For dusting:

  • 1/2 cup powdered sugar

To prepare the dough: 

Place the flour, yeast and sugar in a mixing bowl and mix with a kneading hook for a minute or two.

While slowly mixing, add the eggs, butter, salt and milk. Mix until a flexible dough is obtained. Grease a bowl and transfer the dough into it.

Cover with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to rise for half an hour.

To make the filling: 

Mix all the filling ingredients, except the marzipan, into a paste. Add the marzipan pieces while stirring to obtain a uniform mixture.

On a floured work surface, roll out the dough onto a sheet 1/2 cm. thick. Spread the filling in an even layer on the sheet of dough and roll up from you outward (the dough is really soft). Firmly tighten the two ends of the roll to form a ring.

Grease and flour the pan, and place the rolled up dough in it. Cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place, at least an hour and a half.

Bake in an oven preheated to medium low heat (170°-180°) for about 35 minutes. Cool and sprinkle with powdered sugar.

Difficulty level: MediumTime: About two hours, including risingStatus: Dairy

Sweet challah

Makes two medium-sized challot or one big one.

  • 1 kg. flour, sifted
  • 1/2 cup olive oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 tsp. salt
  • 50 gr. fresh yeast or 2 Tbsp. dry yeast
  • 4 Tbsp. sugar
  • 2-2.5 cups water

For brushing:

  • 1 egg, beaten

For coating:

  • 1 cup light and dark sesame seeds

Place flour in a mixing bowl. Make a well in the center and pour the olive oil, egg and salt into it. Sprinkle yeast and sugar around the sides.

Mix with a kneading hook at medium speed and gradually add water, while increasing the speed. Stop when you get a soft and flexible dough that detaches from the sides of the bowl.

Transfer the dough to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap and leave to rise in a warm place for about an hour and a half or until doubled in size.

Work the dough a little to remove the air. Divide the dough into six equal parts. Roll each part into a strip of equal length and thickness. Take two strips of dough, dip them in water and roll in sesame.

Work with clean hands. Take one strip and place it on a work surface. Place one sesame-coated strip next to it, and add an uncoated one next to that. You get three strips, with the middle strip being the sesame-coated one. Arrange the other strips in the same way. Fasten one end. Now we have two wide strips, connected with three strips of dough. Connect the two strips on one side and tie them together like a braid but of two strips. Place in a greased baking pan and leave for about 20 minutes to rise.

Brush the uncoated strips of dough with egg and bake in an oven preheated to 180° for 25-30 minutes, until nicely browned. Take out and let cool on a wire rack.

Difficulty level: MediumTime: About two hoursStatus: Parve

 Whole chicken with spices and potatoes (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN) Whole chicken with spices and potatoes (credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Whole chicken with spices and potatoes

Makes about eight to 10 servings.

  • 1 whole chicken, about 1.2-1.3 kg.
  • 1-2 large eggs
  • 4-5 potatoes, peeled and halved
  • 4 onions
  • 10 cloves of garlic
  • 1/2 cup dried, chopped parsley
  • 1/4 cup dried, chopped cilantro
  • 2 Tbsp. dried, finely chopped basil
  • 1 Tbsp. dried spicy pepper, crushed
  • 4 Tbsp. olive oil
  • 1/2 cup silan or honey
  • 1/2 cup crushed tomatoes
  • 1/2 cup dry white wine
  • 1/2-3/4 cup water
  • Salt and crushed black pepper

Wash and clean the chicken well. Place in a large, wide pan (with a matching lid) that can comfortably contain the whole chicken and the potatoes. Cut the onions into slices or quarters and scatter around the chicken. Arrange the halved potatoes around the chicken and scatter the garlic cloves. Sprinkle the dry parsley, cilantro and basil over the chicken.

In a medium bowl, place the spicy dried pepper, add the olive oil, silan, crushed tomatoes and wine. Mix well. Pour it over the chicken and around it. Add the water, and season with salt and pepper to taste.

Put in an oven preheated to medium-high heat (190°-200°). Bake for 30 minutes covered. Lower the heat to (150°-160°) and continue baking for about two hours, until the chicken is browned and tender. Occasionally moisten the potatoes and chicken with the sauce.

About 10 minutes before it’s finished cooking, remove the cover and brown the chicken well for about 15 minutes at high heat. Serve with rice.

Difficulty level: Light-mediumTime: About three hoursStatus: Meat

Translated by Tzvi Joffre.