Challah Bread

This year Good Friday and the start of Passover were on the same day—-a rare occurrence given the difference between the Gregorian calendar used by most Western countries and the lunar calendar observed by the Jewish faith. Indeed, the Seder plate used during the first night of Passover tells the dramatic story of the Israelites’ exodus from slavery in Egypt and includes reminders of their captivity: bitter herbs to signify the bitterness of slavery, haroset which is a reminder of the mortar used between bricks, a shank bone to remember the Passover sacrifice and an egg which represents the new life promised to them after the Red Sea crossing.

Borrowing from our Jewish roots, our own Good Friday dinner was a cross-section of the Judeo-Christian traditions that mark this holy season of the year. Beginning with a candle lighting and blessing at 6:45—the official start of the eight-day Passover festival—and continuing with the meal which included some dishes found at a traditional Passover Seder table including Matzo ball soup, roasted chicken (with haroset stuffing), marinated green beans, Israeli couscous and tabouleh salad. Also gracing our table was one of our year-round favorites: fresh Challah bread baked that afternoon. While Challah—and dishes containing yeast—are not eaten during Passover, we couldn’t help ourselves! This braided bread is so delicious and beautiful to look at and made an honorary appearance on our Good Friday Passover table. Best when eaten fresh, this versatile bread is also wonderful toasted the next morning day. Try out the recipe below and see for yourself!

With wishes for a joyful conclusion for the Passover and Easter seasons, we look forward to the promise of new life this spring!

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Challah Bread
SERVINGS
3loaves
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaves
COOK TIME
30mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
1 hr15 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Combine the first three ingredients to dissolve the yeast. Let sit for 5 min. or until foamy.
  2. Add the next 4 ingredients and then the flour and salt, adding as much flour as you need for the dough to start pulling away from the side of the bowl.
  3. Remove to a floured surface and knead until the dough is no longer sticky.
  4. Place in an oiled bowl, turn over once, cover and let rise until doubled in bulk.
  5. Divide dough into 9 balls and roll each ball into a “rope” using your hands.
  6. Braid 3 ropes together into 1 braided loaf of bread and continue with the other 6 ropes, making 3 loaves in all.
  7. Let the bread rise again.
  8. Make an egg wash and brush on the bread and bake in a 325º oven until golden and cooked through, about 30 min.

Hot Cross Buns

One of our favorite Lenten traditions here at the C of J is the baking and sharing of Hot cross buns on Good Friday a.m. First attributed to a 12th century monk, it has blesses countless numbers of believers over the years. This meaningful little act is a significant way of remembering and acknowledging our Lord’s death on the cross on our behalf.

There are many legends connected with this tradition. One of my favorites is that a fresh baked bun hung in your kitchen window will bring blessing upon all the baking done there throughout the coming year.

Each year I intend to do this, but before I get to it every bun has disappeared.

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Hot Cross Buns
SERVINGS
1dozen buns
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
dozen buns
COOK TIME
25mins
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
3hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Dissolve the yeast by sprinkling it over the very warm water and add a pinch of sugar to activate.
  2. Heat milk in a medium saucepan over low heat until about 100 degrees F. (but no more than 110 degrees)
  3. In a mixer, fitted with a dough hook, add the warmed milk to the yeast mixture.
  4. Plump the raisins (or currants) and citron in the microwave with a little orange juice; cool and set aside
  5. To the yeast & milk mixture add the remaining sugar, melted butter, egg yolk and extract.
  6. Add the salt, nutmeg, cinnamon and ginger to the mixture and continue kneading.
  7. Add the flour, 1 cup at a time, until the dough starts pulling away from the sides of the bowl.
  8. Remove the orange juice from the raisins and citron and discard.
  9. Add the raisins and citron to the dough and mix well. The dough should be slightly sticky and not dry.
  10. Knead until soft and elastic, about 8 min. Shape into a ball.
  11. Brush the inside of a large bowl with butter. Put dough in the bowl and turn to coat. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise at room temperature until doubled in size, about 1 hr. 30 min. **
  12. To form the rolls: Pam a 9x13” pyrex pan. Turn the dought out of the bowl and roll into a log. With a dough cutter or sharp knife, divide the dough into 12 equal portions. Roll each of these pieces into a round bun shape, tucking the edges under.
  13. Place them seam side down in the prepared pan, leaving a little space between each roll. Cover the pan with plastic wrap and let rise in a warm place until the rolls are doubled in size, about 45 min. or longer.
  14. Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. and prepare your egg wash.
  15. Prepare glaze: In a mixer, combine powdered sugar, milk and vanilla or almond extract and oil until smooth (the oil will give it a high gloss). The icing should be quite thick. If too runny, add more powdered sugar. Transfer icing to a pastry bag or a ziplock bag with a corner snipped off.
  16. Remove the plastic wrap from the top of the rolls and brush the buns with egg wash. Bake rolls until golden brown and puffy, about 25 min. (an instant read thermometer inserted into the roll should read 190 degrees F.)
  17. Ice buns with a thick cross shape on the top of the warm buns and serve.

Fruit and Nut Muesli Bread

Lent inspires most of us to not only pause and reflect on our spiritual life but also time to choose a simpler and healthier lifestyle – away from the sugars and fats that infiltrate our daily life. Our Convent has been scaling back this lent and doing just this. It has made us more grateful for what we have and savor the more special moments.
One of our Sisters, who spent some time in Germany, is a big fan of homemade Muesli. I got inspired to take this idea into a bread. Since one of our most visited recipes is a gluten free oat bread,  I thought readers might enjoy this hearty and beautiful muesli bread which is also gluten free! Packed with fiber, dried fruits and nuts, it’s so hearty that one slice will easily take care of your morning hunger pangs. If you are on a low fat, low sugar diet, this is the recipe for you.  Blessed Lent!

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Fruit and Nut Muesli Bread
SERVINGS
1loaf (12 slices)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
loaf (12 slices)
COOK TIME
1hr
PREP TIME
30mins
READY IN
2 hrs30 mins

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 7-by-3-inch loaf pan with pam and dust with almond flour or lined with baking paper.
  2. In a large bowl, mix the almond butter and agave nectar with a handheld mixer until smooth, then blend in the eggs. In a medium bowl, combine the almond flour, arrowroot powder, salt, baking soda, and flax meal. Blend the almond flour mixture into the wet ingredients until thoroughly combined. Fold in the apricots, cranberries, pistachios, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, and sunflower seeds. Pour the batter into the loaf pan.
  3. Bake for 50 to 60 minutes on the bottom rack of the oven, until a knife inserted into the center of the loaf comes out clean. Let the bread cool in the pan for 1 hour, then serve.

Classic Bread Pudding

Atop the microwave in the Convent kitchen sits a woven wicker bread basket that collects all kinds of interesting mixed bread goods. From soft white leftover sandwich bread to crunchy crusts of Italian loaves. Each time I pass the overflowing basket I think of all the ways bread could be used: stuffing for a nice chicken or pork roast, croutons for a great Caesar salad, or baked into a nice golden cheese strata. But the one idea that keeps presenting itself is old-fashioned Bread Pudding. Whether it’s spiked with Bourbon the way Thomas Jefferson liked it or simply seasoned with a touch of vanilla as I myself prefer it. It is almost always welcomed by anyone to whom it is offered!

 

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Classic Bread Pudding
SERVINGS
8servings
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings
COOK TIME
45mins
PREP TIME
15mins
READY IN
1hr

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Preheat oven to 350ºF.
  2. Heat milk and butter over medium heat until butter is melted and milk is hot.
  3. Mix eggs, sugar, cinnamon and salt in a separate bowl and stir in bread cubes and raisins.
  4. Stir in milk and butter mixture and pour into an ungreased pan.
  5. Cover with foil and bake 40 to 45 minute or until a knife inserted in the middle comes out clean.

Serve warm with a dollop of whipped cream!

Swedish Plattar Pancakes – Shrove Tuesday

One of our favorite breakfast recipes is a special Swedish crepe called Plattar. With Shrove Tuesday just around the corner, we thought it was the perfect time to share this special recipe.

I’ve always wondered why we eat pancakes on Shrove Tuesday. After some quick research on the internet, I learned that since the 1500s, people have been making pancakes on “Shrove Tuesday” or “Fat Tuesday” as a way to use up all of the eggs, butter and fat in the home before the beginning of Lent, a time of fasting.

This recipe comes from Sr. Madeleine who is currently studying lace making in Brugge, Belgium. We asked her how this Swedish crepe came to be one of their family recipes, a recipe she makes for her two daughter’s birthdays every year. This is what she wrote me.

“Swedish Plattar is a recipe from a collection of Swedish recipes celebrating the seasons of the year. The author of the recipe remembers her mother preparing these recipes to remind her family of the goodness of God. Personally, when I was young I had not learned to cook or bake; I too, like the writer, wanted to both cook for my young family and to emphasize the love of God and His goodness. Swedish plattar was by far the biggest hit! I made it regularly every Saturday morning for my family, standing patiently beside the electric frying pan (popular in those days) until many Swedish Plattar were made and the the hungry mouths of all were filled. Swedish Plattar takes time to fry, so the making is a labor of love (due to the sheer volume of the batter, and the number you need to fill someone up!). The smudges and dribbles on the page make the recipe easy to find in the cookbook, and also attest to its perennial popularity. My daughters and I are all three nuns now and they as well as I continue the practice of making Swedish plattar for celebrations of God and His goodness.”

You can read more about Sr. Madeleine’s experiences in her blog Belgian Prayers and Lace.

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Swedish Plattar Pancakes - Shrove Tuesday
SERVINGS
4-6people
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
people
COOK TIME
1hour
PREP TIME
5 minutes (plus 2 hours standing time)
READY IN
1hour

Ingredients

Instructions

  1. Beat the eggs add the milk, then the flour and whisk well. Add the melted butter, sugar, salt and vanilla and whisk.
  2. Let the batter stand for two hours or overnight
  3. Preheat a griddle to 325 degrees and brush with butter
  4. When the skillet is hot, drop in two - three tablespoons of batter for each pancake – about 4” in diameter
  5. Cook until golden on one side, and then flip to the other side (about 2 min. on each side)
  6. When golden, fold into thirds and remove to a plate and continue with the rest of the batter.
  7. The pancakes can be kept warm in a low oven. One recipe makes 30 - 4” pancakes. Serve with the jam and a sprinkling of powdered sugar. Fresh fruit on the side makes a lovely presentation.

Matzo Ball Soup

Just out of High School I was working in our city’s leading flower shop. The owner of the shop was Jewish and from time to time his mother would surprise all of us employed there with one of her home cooked Jewish dishes. Her chicken Matzo Ball soup with its distinctive flavor was my favorite.

When the sister cooking our convent lunch this week agreed to make this for us I could not have been happier. For many of the sisters this was a brand new taste experience. For me it was a reviving of one of my happiest early life memories.

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Original Streits Matzo Ball Recipe
SERVINGS
4servings (16-20 Matzo Balls)
CHANGE SERVING SIZE
servings (16-20 Matzo Balls)
COOK TIME
1 1/4mins
PREP TIME
10mins
READY IN
1 3/4hrs

Ingredients

Instructions

Matzo Balls
  1. Beat eggs in a bowl. Then add water, margarine/oil, salt and pepper to the beaten eggs. Mix well. Add Matzo meal and stir.
  2. Refrigerate at least one hour.
  3. Form into balls and drop into pot soup or boiling water. Cook 20 minutes.
Soup
  1. Mince the garlic and dice the onion, celery, and carrots.
  2. Sauté the garlic, onion, celery, and carrots with the vegetable oil in a pot
  3. until the onions become transparent.
  4. Add chicken broth, 2 cups water, pepper, and one or two sprigs of dill to the pot.
  5. Place a lid on the pot and let it come up to a boil. Once it reaches a boil, turn the heat down and simmer for 30 minutes.
  6. After the soup has simmered, add the shredded chicken breast to soup.
  7. Add matzo balls to the soup and let them simmer for 20 minutes without removing the lid.
  8. Garnish with fresh dill before serving

NOTE: The soup can be done while the matzo balls are chilling in the refrigerator