One balmy Sunday before Rosh Hashanah, I gathered my little troops — Shloimy, age 8, and Rachel, age 6 — for a day of heimishe baking. While my little ones were struggling to knead the challah dough into perfect heart shapes and ninjas, I got the kokosh cake underway. One of my favorite comfort foods, kokosh cake is an Eastern European Jewish cake, much like the more popular babke, and is made of a rich, buttery dough filled with cocoa and/or cinnamon sugar, twisted into a loaf, and topped with struesel. This is the cake my siblings and I would covertly nibble at from my mother’s hidden stash of delicacies in the basement freezer.
To this day, I still think back nostalgically — not to my childhood per se, but to my mother’s food that brought so much comfort into a home that was, at times, very tumultuous.
I was born and bred in the insular Satmar community of Kiryas Joel, which I left with my husband and two children a few years ago. Many parents in the community were second generation Holocaust survivors originating from the Hasidic enclaves of Hungary. Hungarian food, and food in general, figured prominently in our lives. Women spent much of their days cooking and baking, the aromas wafting through open windows and onto the streets. My mother’s house was no different.
Pastrami, knishes and smoked fish found their way into Serious Eats’ roundup of can’t-miss NYC food institutions. [Serious Eats]
Try a special babka recipe for Tu B’Shvat. [Kosher Eye]
Did you know Bone Suckin’ Sauce is kosher? The company debuts two new seasoning rubs. [Kosher Nexus]
Michael Solomonov talks about paying homage at Zahav to his brother, who died serving in the IDF. [Boston Globe]
Love to Instagram everything you eat? Watch out — some restaurants are banning tableside photography. [Epicurious]
Your bubbe knows cabbage is awesome. Ten more recipes take this humble winter vegetable beyond borscht. [The Kitchn]
5,606 new food products put on the market in 2011 carry a kosher label. That’s a whole lot of new options. Let us know your favorite! [Food Navigator]
We’ve tried a lot of babka here at the Jew and the Carrot. But this almond cream filled babka is calling us at the moment. [Serious Eats]
The New York Daily News is reviving its restaurant coverage and Forward/JCarrot contributor Michael Kaminer will be one of the new restaurant critics. Bon Appetit, Michael! [Diner’s Journal]
This winter hasn’t been the coldest, but we’re still craving bowls of steaming delicious soups. Leah Koenig rounds up her nine favorite Jewish soups from around the globe. Spoons up! [Forward]
Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding. Need we say more? [Serious Eats]
A new fellowship in organic plant breeding is getting off the ground, thanks to the Clif Bar Family Foundation. [LA Times]
These might just be the most interesting rugelach we’ve ever heard of. Try out a recipe for pumpkin, sage and walnut rugelach. [Food 52]
With Thanksgiving around the corner, master chef Jacques Pepin shares his secrets. [Village Voice]
This might just be the best sounding babka we’ve ever heard of. Abraco is selling ricotta and orange blossom babka. [Serious Eats]
Want to see just how much you know about the laws of Kashrut? Take this quiz. [My Jewish Learning]
Are we in a bagel crisis? [New York Post]
Elaine Benes was onto something when she declared “You can’t beat a babka” in a 1994 episode of “Seinfeld” (clip below). Next to brisket and latkes, babka may be the ultimate Jewish comfort food. (For those unfamiliar, babka is yeasty, risen dough that twists around a sweet filling to create striations, or, in laymen’s terms, layers of deliciousness.) Sometimes spelled bobke, recipes for this treat have been passed down by Eastern European grandmothers throughout the Diaspora. And while it may appear as though chocolate is the traditional babka (didn’t Elaine also declare cinnamon “the lesser babka”?), the truth is that it is a decadent, twentieth century American addition.
According to Gil Marks in “The Encyclopedia of Jewish Food”, babka originated in Poland or Ukraine where the word baba (similar to the Yiddish word bubbe) means grandmother. Babka is the diminutive, and the name arose either because grandmothers were the primary purveyors of this treat or because the tall, fluted pans originally used resembled folds in a grandmother’s skirt. Marks notes that the Jewish-style loaves probably came about in the mid-nineteenth century as a way to turn extra challah dough into a Shabbat treat.
In 1984 President Ronald Reagan declared July National Ice Cream Month. In honor of the month, we’ll be celebrating this delicious food each week with Frozen Fridays, a series about Jews and ice cream.
It all started when I tried to make a “Jewish” ice cream flavor. Is there such a thing? I thought about milk and honey ice cream (too cliched); date and pomegranate ice cream (more Israeli than Jewish); even ricotta-brown sugar ice cream, supposedly inspired by kugel (such a stretch!). The ideas, they didn’t come so quickly. I was stuck. But it’s National Ice Cream Month and I had committed to being part JCarrot’s Frozen Fridays. So there was no way out: I’d be figuring out a Jewish ice cream flavor, yes I would.
Just when I thought I was out of ideas, I remembered the one Jewish food that was a staple of my childhood. Not only is it quintessentially Jewish, it’s delicious — and a perfect inspiration for an ice cream flavor. But I’m getting ahead of myself.
Baking is caught somewhere between a science and an art. Chemical reactions take place at the same time as layers of cake are artfully constructed or sugar is exquisitely pulled and colored. Mastering both the art and the science takes endless hours of practice or unfailingly good guidance. It is just this type of guidance that Sarabeth Levine, the owner of Sarabeth’s restaurants and jam maker, shares with home bakers in her new book “Sarabeth’s Bakery, From My Hands to Yours.”
Her career started with a secret family recipe for Orange-Apricot Marmalade, which she served at her husband’s café and grew from there. For the past 30 years she has been baking breakfast treats and whipping up silken eggs at her restaurants, which helped revolutionize the city’s brunch scene.
Drizzled throughout her book are recipes for a several traditional Jewish baked goods. Her rugelach, which former New York Times Dining columnist Mimi Sheraton calls “the best rugelach in New York and the best I have ever had this side of my grandmother’s kitchen,” are rich with cream cheese and crisp on top. Her babka is a riff on a traditional recipe, made with a breakfast Danish dough.
She talked with us about the roots of her recipes, being a self-taught baker and just how important technique (and flour selection) is in baking. She also shares with us her rugelach and babka recipes.
As a participant at the 5th annual Hazon Food Conference in Sonoma, CA I was set to learn about the current state of the Jewish food movement. I was ready for the conversations about raw vegan fare, workshops on organic produce, and sessions on new urban farming techniques.
But as I looked at the first item on the schedule, there it was. Babka. Front and center as one of the opening sessions offered at the conference. Why babka? Why here? Why now?
In a way, it felt like a step backwards to me. A loaf of refined sugar, white flour, and enough butter to even make Paula Dean blush. It’s definitely not your typical eco-friendly treat.
Chowhound argues that the world’s best chocolate babka can be found in Williamsburg, Brooklyn.
Israelis were surprised to see fraudulent posters appearing to be from the Ministry of Health decrying the health risks of drinking milk.
From a Swedish advertising student comes Neighbor Dining. Social media and hachnasat orchim (the Mitzvah of welcoming guests) come together!