Saturday, August 31, 2013

Vegetable Kreplach (with video showing assembly)

This vegetarian version of a holiday favorite is delicious in soup or served as a first course with a pureed vegetable sauce. 

Kreplach, a triangle shaped dumpling, is holiday favorite in Jewish homes of Ashkenazi (Eastern European) heritage. Cookbooks often comment that it's traditional to serve kreplach for Yom Kippur, although in our family kreplach is always on the Rosh Hashanah menu as well (why wait for a dinner that is often rushed while people are hurrying to get to synagogue?).

The usual filling is beef or ground/minced chicken and although filling recipes are similar there are subtle differences depending on where the recipe originated. There are cheese variations of kreplach, related to varenikes (Ukrainian) and pierogi (Polish) variations of filled dumplings.

My grandmother (whose family came from Lithuania) made her kreplach with raw ground beef (the tradition I follow); however,  my friend Susan's mom, who emigrated from Poland, made her kreplach with finely diced cooked brisket. My grandmother, at some point, became "modern" and added ketchup to the meat mixture (I continue her tradition). Food historians have traced the evolution of kreplach back to the middle ages when filled dumpling recipes emanating from China made their way along the silk road toward the Middle East and Europe. Kabbalists (Jewish mystics) and Hasidim have attached esoteric meaning to the process of making filled dumplings. 

We have friends who are vegetarians, and for years we've served both chicken and vegetarian vegetable soup at the holiday table. I never, however accommodated the vegetarians with kreplach - they "made do" with matzah balls.  This year I have a surprise for them....a really delicious vegetarian version made with mushrooms, sweet potato and onion.

Kreplach dough is a version of egg pasta dough. It is a bit softer and hand rolled on a work surface. You can take a short cut, as my mother does, and buy pre-made won ton wrappers, place the filling, wet the edges with a bit of water and shape them as you would the hand rolled dough.  I'm attached to the process of making the dough for personal reasons - rolling it out on the same cotton tablecloth my grandmother used to cover her work surface.

Making several dozen kreplach will take the better part of 3 hours from start to finish. You'll cut out about half of the project by using prepared won-ton wrappers.

  • Make the dough, cover loosely with plastic wrap to keep from drying out and allow to rest while you prepare the filling.  The dough will be easier to roll out after the gluten has relaxed.
  • Prepare the filling. 
  • Take two flat plates. Dust one with cornstarch - this is the place you'll place the finished shaped kreplach before you drop them into the boiling water. The cornstarch will help keep them from sticking to the plate or each other. The other should be sprayed with oil spray and will be used as a cooling station for the cooked kreplach. 
  • Fill a large stockpot with water, add a bit of salt and bring to a boil while you are making the kreplach. 
  • Divide the dough into four pieces, continue to keep covered. Kreplach are triangle shaped, my grandmother rolled the dough and cut the sheet into squares; she was very good at creating an equal grid, I was not good at this, so I cut out circles, with the rim of a glass and "pull" the dough into a triangle shape as I seal the edges. Because the dough is softer and wetter than pasta dough it will stick to the work surface,  you must slightly flour the surface and rolling pin as you work.   
  • Scraps and edges  of dough are gathered and placed back in the bowl with the unrolled dough. Allow the scraps to rest which will make them easier to roll out again.
  • Taking one piece of cut dough (square or circle) in your hand, place a spoonful of filling, fold the dough over the filling to create the top point of a triangle. 
  • It's important to NOT use too much filling and to press as much air out of the pocket you are forming as you seal the edges. If the dough feels too dry, wet the edges of the dough so that you make the dough a bit "gluey" along the edge, helping to form a seal.
  • As you finish forming each kreplach, place them on the plate you've dusted with cornstarch. Try to keep them from touching each other, they tend to stick.
  • Cook approximately a dozen kreplach at a time by simmering them for 10-12 minutes in slowly boiling water. The kreplach can be kept in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or frozen for longer storage. 

  • Mixing bowls (one for the dough, another for the filling
  • Mixing spoons, measuring spoons and a glass measuring cup 
  • A large stockpot
  • Work surface, rolling pin, drinking glass or biscuit cutter (about 1.5 inches in diameter) 
  • Small finger bowl for wetting your fingers 
  • Two flat plates or plastic cutting boards, one dusted with cornstarch, the other slightly greased
  • Aluminum foil or plastic containers for storage 


  • 1 3/4- 2 cups all purpose flour 
  • 2 large eggs, mixed with enough water to equal 1/2 cup of liquid 
  • 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil 
Vegetarian filling: 
  • 4 oz onion, finely chopped
  • 5 oz sweet potatoes, peeled and cubed 
  • 5 oz mushrooms (any will do, use your favorites) rinsed and minced
  • 3-4 Tbsp neutral vegetable oil 
  • 1/2 tsp kosher or sea salt 
  • 1/4 tsp black pepper (I love the sharp taste of freshly ground black pepper, but this is up to you)
  • 1/4 tsp garlic powder (yes, for this recipe it will work!) 

The dough:
1. Measure out the ingredients for the dough.

2. Pour the flour into a large mixing bowl and create a well in the center.
3. Combine the remaining ingredients and pour into the well. 
4. Using a flexible scraper or silicone spatula push the flour over the egg mixture and start to mix until you have a ball of dough that holds together.

5. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and set aside. You do not want to handle the dough more than necessary.

The Filling:
6. Place the sweet potatoes in a skillet or deep frying pan with about a 1/2 cup of water. Bring to a simmer and continue to cook and stir for about five minutes. The water will evaporate, the potato pieces will be mashable. If they are not soft, add a bit more water and continue to cook.  Remove cooked sweet potato to a bowl in which you can hand mash it with a fork (you don't want to puree the sweet potato, but rather leave it roughly mashed).

7. Heat the oil in the same pan, add the onions and saute until translucent.
8. Add the mushrooms and continue to cook for an additional 3-4 minutes.
9. Add the salt, pepper and garlic and spoon the mixture into the mashed sweet potato.
10. Set aside and cool the vegetable mixture. Put the stockpot of water on the stove and bring to boil while you prepare the kreplach.
11. Uncover and divide the dough into four pieces. Remove one piece, keeping the others covered to avoid drying. Knead with a few quick turns.  Roll roll out on a lightly floured work surface to form a rectangle of dough, approximately 1/4 inch thick. Dust with flour if the dough begins to stick.  Cut out circles of dough, gather up the scraps and place them back in the bowl with the other pieces of  dough. 
12. Take one piece of dough, stretch it a bit in your hand, place a spoonful of filling in the center. Fold one edge over the filling and press together with the opposite edge. Working around the sides, press the edges together, try to seal without air in the pocket. Pull the dough into a triangle shape and place on the plate dusted with cornstarch. Repeat until you've used all of the circles of dough.  

13. Add the kreplach to the simmering water. Cook for 10-12 minutes. Use a large slotted spoon to remove to the greased plate.  Cool in a single layer.

14. Store the cooled, slightly greasy kreplach in a covered container in the refrigerator for up to 3 days or freeze, wrapping them in foil and then a zip lock bag, or in a plastic container.

15. To serve, place the kreplach on a slightly greased cookie sheet and bake at 350 degrees for about fifteen  minutes, until the edges dry out and begin to brown a bit.

16. Well wrapped kreplach freeze well; when you are ready to use them, defrost them and bake as above.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Spinach Sambusak (Savory Middle Eastern Pastry)

Spinach Sambusak is a savory baked dumpling. This version is made with a yeast- olive oil dough. 
This year we're serving these sambusak for Rosh Hashana. 

Check out the entire recipe at 

Sunday, August 25, 2013

Tuesday, August 20, 2013

Sourdough Honey Challah

Unusual challah, started using a wheat sourdough starter.  (updated June, 2018 *)

A couple of years ago I had tried making sour dough challah; the attempt wasn't particularly successful and I set the project aside.  I decided to re-try making it after we recently took a rye bread class at King Arthur Flour Baking Center in Vermont.  Good quality rye bread requires the use of sour dough starters, this class was a good review and lucky for us, we all went home with some great ripe starter. Thank you to my fellow Bread & Babka bakers for sharing the experience with me! 

Sour dough bread relies on a slow rise and will take more time than regular bread. You can control the time you have to work on the bread by placing the dough in the refrigerator to slow down rising and manipulate when  you work on the bread. This bread was made over the course of a day, using a starter "sponge" that had ripened for eight hours overnight.

  • The length of the process will depend on whether or not you have ripe sour dough starter culture. Instruction for starting sour dough are posted in February, 2013, Starting a Sour Dough Culture .  A live culture can be successfully kept in your refrigerator as long as you "refresh" (feed it)  approximately once a week. The sponge for this bread used ripe starter and then fermented at room temperature for eight hours. It would have been fine to leave the dough for a an hour or two less or another few hours longer, the amount of sour taste varies with the length of the fermentation.  Alternatively, I could have placed the starter in the refrigerator and allow it to slowly ferment/rise over 12-24 hours. 
  • Sour dough starters become specific to the wild yeast and bacteria living in your kitchen, and impart flavors that are affected by the environment in which they grow. Therefore unless you live in San Francisco, don't expect your starter to impart the exact same taste as a bread baked there. 
  • To make the sponge: measure ripe starter culture and mix with additional flour, water and in this case, a small amount of commercial yeast (see note).  The sponge mixture ferments for several hours and then the final bread dough is made much like ordinary dough. 
  • A note about wild and commercial yeast: I used SAF Gold yeast in addition to the wild yeast present in the sour dough. SAF Gold is especially formulated for sweet dough. The presence of sugar and salt control yeast activity; however,  my first couple of tries at making this bread resulted in a heavy dough. I believe it is because the wild yeast is more sensitive to sugar than commercial yeast; thus, I tried several combinations of when to add commercial yeast and how much to use. I came up with a satisfactory solution of adding a small amount of commercial yeast in the sponge starter and then again when creating the full dough. Rise times will be longer than you may be used to, you must have patience when working with wild yeast. 
  • The dough is mixed, shaped and allowed to rise again. The second rising may be a bit slower than bread dough made with a full measure of commercial yeast. 
  • After the second rising the dough is shaped, washed with a glaze if you choose and allowed to rise again. The third rise is slow, some might think painfully slow. The slow rising times allow the bread to develop a special complex taste and texture - you can't duplicate either with a fast rising bread, even a delicious one. 
  • Baking is started at a higher temperature (410- 420 degrees F) and then lowered (350-370 degrees F).  Try to allow the bread to cool before you start eating it! 
Sour dough is an ancient method of baking bread and electric stand mixers date back only to the early 1900's; however, having said this, I wouldn't try this bread without a good mixer that can handle bread dough.

Update June, 2018: Over the last several months, I have started to make this bread without using my Kitchenaid; for various reasons I've taken to hand-kneading/stretching most bread. In order to work around the need to stretch and organize the higher gluten percentage I'm kneading and then increasing proofing time. The initial starter proofing time is at least 8 hours in a warm environment (the proofing cycle in an oven is TOO WARM!!). Making the complete dough, the next proof is 2.5- 3 hours in a warm environment. Check the dough for stretchability (e.g. a window pane test). For one on-line source for how to "do" the windowpane test , click on the link.

Electric stand mixer, flat paddle blade (not the dough hook), large capacity bowl
Scale, measuring cups, spoons
Silcone spatula and flexible scraper
Work surface
Baking pans (I used 2 pie pans, sprayed with oil and dusted with cornmeal for the breads pictured)

Sponge starter :
6 oz ripe sour dough starter culture (I usually use a white wheat starter, but whole wheat or rye starters will work)
1/4 tsp instant yeast (I use SAF Gold, although any instant or active dry will work well. If using active dry yeast, make sure to dissolve it in the water first)
10 oz bread flour
6 oz room temperature water (better results if you let the water stand overnight so that all chlorine evaporates)

Final dough: 
All of the starter
2oz warm water combined with 1/4 tsp instant yeast 
4 oz honey
4 oz olive oil 
2 tsp kosher salt
3 large eggs (slightly beaten)
17- 18 oz all purpose flour
UPDATE 6/18:  knead  1/3 c sesame seeds into the dough 
2-3 Tbsp (approximate) barley flakes or rolled oats for topping or
           eggwash (white) and sesame seeds 
Additional flour for dusting the work surface

1. Make the sponge:  In the bowl of your stand mixer, add the sour dough culture, the water, yeast and bread flour. Mix on the low speed until the culture is broken up into the water and flour. Cover loosely with a smooth dish towel or plastic wrap. Place in a draft free spot (a cool oven works well) and let rest for 6-8 hours. Alternately, you can cover with plastic wrap and allow to rise in the refrigerator overnight.
2. Stir down the sponge starter. Add remaining ingredients except the flour and mix at low speed until everything is blended and then at medium low (speed 4 on a Kitchen-Aid). Occasionally scrape down the sides of the bowl if need be.
Stir down the prepared starter.
Add remaining ingredients except for the flour.
Add the flour and begin mixing, scraping down the sides as needed.
3. Add the flour, starting with 17 oz, adding the remaining 1 oz if you see that the dough is too wet. Increase the mixer speed (Kitchen-Aid speed 6) and beat for 6-10 minutes. The dough will become very stretchy and shiny. The best comparison I can make is that it should remind you of "silly putty," the dough will be slightly sticky, but will stretch in thin wide "ribbons."

After 2-3 minutes of mixing.
After 5-6 minutes of mixing.
After 8-10 minutes of mixing. 
4. Cover loosely with plastic wrap, place in a draft free place and allow to rise for about 2 hours. It will not double, but will be visibly puffier and lighter. 

5. Using a flexible scraper, push the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and turn a few times so that the surface of the dough is lightly covered by flour. This will make the dough easier to work with.

Push dough out of the mixing bowl and onto a lightly floured work surface. 

6. Lightly roll out, fold and form dough into a rectangle. Divide the dough in half, each half will make one loaf.

making a round shape #1
7. Shape the dough and place in greased pans or on baking sheets that have been sprinkled with corn meal. The dough will need to rise again, this rising period will also be slow - you may find it takes as long as 4 hours.  I generally have other things to do and do not keep a close eye on the dough at this point. I find that this type of dough is more temperamental about room temperature, so I generally place it in a cold oven, or an oven that has been heated to about 100 degrees (then turned off) and leave it to rise quietly by itself, checking after about 2 hours.  The second addition of the commercial yeast helps counteract the addition of the honey and salt. After trying (and failing) to create sugar-rich dough that relies entirely on wild yeast, I have found adding small amounts of commercial yeast works well and yields a baked product that still retains the complex sour dough texture and taste.

8. I've made several bread shapes, they all work well. I'm making this bread for Rosh Hashannah, the Jewish New Year, when it is traditional to make round or "crown" shaped breads.
When shaping balls or round shapes a better technique than just rolling a ball of dough in  your hand is to flatten a disk of dough and moving around the circumference, fold edges toward the center, placing all folded seams on the top of the dough, creating a smooth round shape on the bottom. Invert the dough and  place it seam side down on the baking pan. The smooth side, which is now on top, will rise to a beautiful dome.  I brushed a combination of 1/2 soy milk, 1/2 honey on the dough surface and then sprinkled each with barley flakes or rolled oats. Consider other toppings that might include seeds, zatar, onion flakes or cinnamon sugar. You can certainly use an egg wash if that is your preference. 

The dough will be finished rising when it has risen above the pan level and looks smooth and full. 



9. A simple round shape can be baked in a giant muffin tin:
or placed in a pie pan, slashing a design in the top, washed with egg wash or a combination of soy milk and honey

or baked in a round paper pan      

8. About 20 minutes before you start shaping the dough, and set the shelf in the middle of the oven. Baking is started at a higher temperature (410- 420 degrees F) and then after 10 minutes, lower the oven to 350-370 degrees F.  Continue baking for approximately 20 minutes, until the bread is golden brown. The internal temperature of the bread should be between 190 and 200 degrees.

10. Cooled bread can be covered and stored at room temperature for 2 days. Double wrap if you plan to freeze.

Have you read this far?  If yes, and if you try the recipe, or any sour dough recipe,  please leave a comment! I'm more and more interested in working with sour dough cultures and would love to talk to others who are using this baking technique.

Monday, August 19, 2013

Summer's End Spicey Eggplant Pickles

Little Prince container eggplant, mid August, zone 6

These are quick pickles that are NOT processed for long storage and must be kept refrigerated. 

Much of my passion about making pickles is using produce we grow in our garden. I've included the seed sources for the varieties of plants because sometimes it's hard to sort through the myriad of seed suppliers on line - I have found these sources to be reliable over the years. I no longer process pickles, but rather make limited amounts, store the finished pickles in the refrigerator and we consume within 2-3 months. If you are interested in a good starter source of information for canning and processing food, the old stand-by, Ball's Blue Book is easy to find. 

Eggplant, about a day short of harvesting for pickles 
These eggplant pickles are made with "Little Prince" eggplants - a variety that is bred for container gardening. The plants are gorgeous potted plants, the eggplant grow in clusters and are ripe when 2-3 inches! You can let them grow longer, to about 6-7 inches, which make them perfect for roasting directly on the BBQ.   The purple flowers attract variety of pollinators to our garden. The seeds are available on-line, I purchase mine at Renee's Garden Seeds. 

In addition to the eggplant, the recipe calls for garlic (a favorite of ours to grow is "Georgian Fire," purchased through Seed Savers Exchange) and medium hot peppers (I use Cherezo, a cherry-type pepper,  purchased through John Scheepers Kitchen Garden Seeds).  

Cherezo Cherry Pepper at the green stage, they fully ripen to bright red 
Georgian Fire garlic immediately after harvesting 
Let brined vegetables stand for 24 hours at room temperature before refrigerating
The trick to making pickles, processed or not, is to make sure your
equipment is clean and the produce is washed well. There are ratios regarding acid (provided by vinegar), salt (I use kosher salt, which has no additives, there is also "pickling salt.") and water to ensure successful results.  The Blue Book will give you clear information about this.  I fill clean jars (quarts and/or pints) with boiling water while I'm preparing the produce and soak caps in a bowl of boiling hot water.  You'll need tongs to handle the hot jars and caps, there is a specific tong for canning jars that allows you to grab the jar by the neck, hold it firmly and tilt to empty.

Choreography for a non-processed pickle:
The process is simple: clean and "quasi" sterilize the jars and caps by filling with boiling water. Prepare the produce, pack the jars, cover loosely, allow to stand at room temperature for 24 hours, tighten caps and refrigerate. The actual length required for pickling varies, the process of pickling these pickles takes about a week in the refrigerator.

  • A large pot or teakettle for boiling water and a 2nd non-reactive pot for simmering the eggplant
  • Several quart jars (no need for "canning" jars as you will not be processing the pickles), caps that fit the jars well (canning lids fit standard quart "mayonnaise" type jars)
  • Tongs for grabbing the hot jars and lids (canning tongs are a good investment for this)
  • Measuring spoons and glass cups 
Ingredients: (for each quart jar you would like to make)
  • Approximately 1 lb of baby eggplant
  • 1 tsp kosher salt (and additional salt for boiling the eggplant)
  • 2 - 3 Cherezo Cherry peppers, or any hot pepper you like. The peppers can be used at the green or red stage; green chili peppers will be slightly less hot than the red. 
  • 4-5 cloves garlic 
  • 1 tsp whole black peppercorns
  • 4-6 basil leaves, or a short stalk of fresh rosemary, or any other herb flavoring you like 
  • Vinegar mixture (3/4c wine vinegar and 1/2c parts water).  You can use either white or red wine vinegar, this mixture makes about 2 cups of this mixture. 
  • Clean jars and lids. Boil a large tea kettle, pour the boiling water in the jars until flowing over a bit and in the bowl in which you drop the lids 
  • Measure and mix pickling brine items (3 parts vinegar 2 parts boiled and cooled water)  
  • Wash the produce, prepare for pickling on a clean board with a clean sharp knife 
    • Measure the salt, the full amount must be added to the quart jar
    • For this recipe you will need to use UNpeeled larger eggplant. Smaller eggplant can be used whole. Larger eggplant can be cut in half or large chunks 
    • Peel and slightly smash garlic cloves with the side of knife
    • Slit the cheery peppers.  The quantity will be up to you, but I've found that even with very hot peppers (yellow "fish" for example) you won't need more than 3 peppers.  Make a slit in each of the peppers, without opening the pepper up. If you can, you want to avoid loose seeds in the brine 
    • Measure the peppercorns, wash the herb leaves
  • Boil water, with a bit of kosher salt,  in a large stockpot. Add the eggplant, lower the heat to simmering and par-cook for about five minutes. 
  • Empty the water filled jar (s) 
    • Add about 1/2 of the spice mixture and all of the salt
    • Fill with hot eggplant, prepared peppers produce and garlic 
    • Add remaining spices, fill to the top with brine
    • Close the jar tightly enough to shake for a few seconds to ensure that the salt is suspended throughout the liquid. 
    • Loosen cap and let rest at room temperature for about 24 hours 
    • Tighten the cap and store in the refrigerator for one week before using
  • After a week, remove a piece of eggplant and taste, if you want it pickled a bit more, close the jar and store for another few days (in the refrigerator).
  • If you are using 2-part canning lids you may find that the lid appears to have "self sealed," the jar may have formed a semi-vacuum, but these jars are not sealed for long term storage outside of the refrigerator.