Pulled Beef Babka

pulled beef babka ready to eat.jpg

Today’s stormy and snowy weather in the Northeast was already predicted several days ago.  The first snow of the season is exciting, especially when it greets us before Thanksgiving.  Although Thursdays typically are spent in the car, I sorted out my day to start early and finish in the early afternoon, before the storm was to hit.

I arrived home just as the snow was beginning to accumulate and I headed to the kitchen.   My kitchen faces the backyard and as I cook,  I can enjoy the snowflakes and the changing landscape.   With my head full of new recipe ideas and the snowflakes arriving furiously, I began to cook in the snow.

snowy backyard.jpg

The idea of a savory pulled beef babka has been consuming me.  I had already prepared pulled beef to serve Friday night and I had been mulling over the simplest way to transform some of the pulled beef into a savory babka to serve for Shabbos lunch.  One of my favorite shortcuts is to prepare one dish and serve it in a multitude of different ways.  Pulled beef is that type of recipe.

I thought long and hard about how to prepare this simply with minimal cleanup.  And, I think I nailed it.  Because, it really was simple to prepare.  And, it was easy to clean up afterward.  Best of all, the pulled beef babka was delicious and gorgeous.

Now, let’s see what my fifteen Shabbos guests say!


1 lb. pizza dough or challah dough
1/2 cup barbecue sauce
2 cups thinly shredded  Pulled Beef



Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

On a large piece of parchment paper, roll the pizza dough out into the thinnest rectangle that you can.

pulled beef dough rolled out.jpg

Spread the pulled beef onto the top of the rolled-out dough, leaving up to an inch of dough all around.

pulled beef babka spread over dough.jpg

Roll the dough jelly-roll style until completely rolled up.

Cut the roll in two lengthwise down the center.

Carefully twist the two jelly roll logs together, trying to keep the twists together as much as possible.  If some of the pulled beef protrudes, don’t worry.  Those pulled beef pieces on the surface will caramelize during baking and will add extra flavor and texture.

pulled beef babka twisted and ready for loaf pan.jpg

Carefully place the parchment paper into a loaf pan, trimming the edges if necessary.  Stick some extra pulled beef and brush extra barbecue sauce on top.

Bake until golden brown, about 40-50 minutes.

pulled beef babka ready to eat

Remove from the loaf pan and slice. Serve warm.

pulled beef babka slice.jpg


Prepare a large batch of  Pulled Beef and serve the rest over rice or farfel

Tear open a paper bag and work over the inside of the bag.  Roll everything up after this messy preparation to save cleaning up loose flour and dough bits.


Sukkos No-Knead Ciabatta: Harvest and Humility

harvest ciabatta


The Autumn Jewish holiday of Sukkos is referred to as Zman Simchaseinu  (season of rejoicing) and Chag Ha’Asif (Festival of of Gathering).  It falls at the time of year in Israel that the grain, grapes and olives are ready to be harvested and brought to market.  The winter, spring and summer months of hard work in the field, orchards and vineyards have finally paid off.  For anyone in the agricultural sector, it is truly the season of rejoicing.

At the time of harvest, it is natural for us to feel proud of our material accomplishments and to attribute our success entirely to our efforts and good fortune.   It is precisely at this time that we are commanded to rejoice humbly within the context of the holiday of Sukkos and to give thought to all that G-d has contributed to the success of our bounty.   We are cautioned to maintain our humility, even through the bountiful harvest.

G-d has given us the gift of Sukkos to enjoy the material benefits of a rich bounty within the context of Torah and mitzvos (commandments).  During Sukkos, we read King Solomon’s  scroll of Koheles (Ecclesiastes).   King Solomon, who was the wisest of men, reflects upon the vanity of the pleasures of this world and sums it up in the last verse of .Koheles.  He declares, “the sum of the matter, when all is considered: Fear G‑d and keep His commandments, for this is the entire purpose of man.”

In keeping with the Sukkos themes of Zman Simchaseinu  (season of rejoicing) and Chag Ha’Asif (Festival of of Gathering), I created this wonderful ciabatta recipe.  It uses the basic no-knead dough that I introduced in Ciabatta Challah: a Simple No-Knead Solution with some technique simplifications and addition of pecans, chocolate and raisins.  It highlights the bounty of the season and is the perfect bread to serve at the first Sukkos meal.

It is best prepared in a covered dutch oven but can also be prepared in a heavy loaf pan or crock with a pot lid on top.  It has an absolutely wonderful crunchy crust and delicious interior dotted with nuts, craisins and chocolate.  Although it is best served within 12 hours of baking, my family enjoys it way past those 12 hours.

Happy Sukkos!

3 cups all purpose flour
1 3/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp active dry yeast
1 1/2 cups room temperature water

handful of craisins
handful of pecans, chopped
handful of chocolate chips
sprinkle of flour or cornmeal


In a mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and yeast together.  Slowly add water and  mix very well with a wooden spoon or firm spatula to form a sticky dough.  If dough is not sticky, add a bit more water.  Fold in craisins, pecans and chocolate chips.

sukkos ciabatta.jpg

Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and let rise for 12 to 18 hours.

sukkos ciabatta covered

Preheat oven to 450 F degrees.   Place small covered dutch oven or heavy loaf pan with metal cover in the oven for at least 10 minutes.

Remove the pot or pan from oven and remove the lid.

Sprinkle a bit of flour or cornmeal on the top of the dough to ensure that dough does not stick.  Gently coax the dough from the bowl and shape into a rough ball.   Place dough ball upside down in the pot/pan and sprinkle a bit more flour or cornmeal on the top of the dough.

Bake for 30 minutes covered and then remove the lid and bake uncovered for 15 to 20 minutes more.  Dough should be golden brown when ready.

Challah: Wrapping Up a Bit of Heaven

wrapping a bit of heavenTraditionally, we bake braided challah for Shabbos.    The Hebrew word, challah, actually means loaf of bread and alludes to the mitzvah (commandment) of challah, the blessing and setting aside of a small piece of bread dough during the bread preparation process.

At our Shabbos meals, after we say the kiddush (blessing on wine), we recite a blessing over two loaves of bread on a tray that are covered.  These braided loaves are referred to as Challah, for their importance in our fulfillment of the mitzvah of  challah.

challah x 2

In Numbers 15:17-19, we are taught that at the time of the Temple, when we bake bread, we were to set aside a small piece of dough and give it to the Kohen (priest) to eat.  Today, when we no longer have the Holy Temple, we separate a piece of dough whenever we bake bread.


If we have prepared a large batch of dough (at least five pounds), we make the following blessing:

ברוך אתה י-י אלקינו מלך העולם אשר קדשנו במצוותיו וציונו להפריש חלה

Ba-Ruch A-tah A-do-noi Elo-hai-nu Me-lech Ha-O-Lam A-sher Ke-di-sha-nu Be-mitz-vo-sav Ve-tzi-va-nu Le-Haf-rish Cha-lah

Blessed are You, our G‑d, King of the Universe, who has sanctified us with His commandments and commanded us to separate challah.

We carefully discard the small piece of challah or we burn it.  We call this mitzvah (commandment)  challah.

challah top and bottom dew.jpg

As our ancestors traveled in the desert, the Maan (manna) fell from heaven to physically sustain them.  Every morning, they would go out and collect the Maan.  On the Friday morning before our very first Shabbos in the desert, two portions of the Maan (manna) fell for each person so that they would not collect the Maan on Shabbos.   To commemorate this double portion of Maan,  we set two loaves of challah at our Shabbos table.  The loaves are set upon a bread tray and covered with a decorative challah cover.  The layers underneath and atop the loaves of challah remind us of the layers of dew sent by G-d to lovingly protect the precious Maan, both on top and bottom.

challah a bit of heaven.jpg

The root of the word challah is chol which means secular or common.  The etymology of its name teaches us much about the challah and our relationship to Shabbos and to the world.   The challah tradition takes a mundane, though rhythmic and beautiful, chol (secular or common) task of baking bread  and elevates it into something extraordinary and holy.  It recreates a physical baking process into a spiritual tradition that provides service and generosity from the baker to the Kohen and ultimately to G-d.

The challah is typically braided with three strands.  The two loaves contain six strands of dough.  This symbolizes the six days of the week preceding Shabbos.  The braids allude to our bringing together the six weekdays of material sustenance into Shabbos, when we create unity and harmony by infusing our lives with spiritual sustenance.

Shabbos and the challah represents unity and spiritual direction.  The six weekdays represent the diverse secular part of our week.   The days, Sunday through Friday, each represent one of the six directions in our secular world: North, South, East, West, upward and downward.  During these weekdays, we move outward as we attempt to master our physical environment.

Shabbos is different.  It points inward, and we attempt to infuse our neshoma (soul) with the gifts of spiritual sustenance.  We try to achieve a sense of peace and unity as we direct the blessings of the week into our homes.   On Shabbos, we greet each other with the words, Shabbat Shalom (peaceful Shabbos) as that is the ultimate goal, one of finding great inner peace as we bring ourselves closer to the ones we love and to G-d.

In the past, when I performed the challah tradition, I either burned the challah portion or carefully wrapped it and discarded it according to the letter of the law.  After today’s baking of the challah, I added something else.  I added a pretty bag and a bow to the discarded piece of challah.  If I were to bring it to the Kohen, I would wrap it properly, so certainly, if I am designated this small piece of dough for G-d, I must present it well.  If my weekday recipes must be simple to wow, then certainly my spiritual traditions must be up to par!

Does G-d really care about the external trappings?  Maybe, yes or maybe, no.  But, there are at least two parts of every mitzvah (commandment).  There is the relationship part of the mitzvah that connects a person to G-d.  Then, there is another part of every mitzvah that is at least as important.  It is how that mitzvah cleanses and imprints the soul of the individual performing the mitzvah.  So, wrapping the piece of donated challah with a bow may not affect G-d’s relationship with me, but that special wrapping of the challah donation really imprints me with a greater sensitivity, understanding and yearning to perform the mitzvos (commandments).



Same-Day Ciabatta is in the Bag

For those weeks when you remember to start the ciabatta the night before, my no-knead ciabatta recipe is perfect.  It requires no kneading, very little effort in preparation and produces a delicious ciabatta bread with a crusty exterior and large air pocket holes on the inside.  The only downside to this recipe is that it requires slow overnight rising of at least 12 hours.

Every once in a while, I intend to start the ciabatta the night before and life just gets in the way.   This past week was one of those weeks.

I woke up Friday morning and still wanted to prepare ciabatta, but just didn’t have enough time for the slow-rise method.

So, I had to adapt another recipe that would be ready in a lot less time.

Oh, and, while I was experimenting, I decided to prepare it in a zipper bag to eliminate most of the mess.

It worked out perfectly.

This original The Crepes of Wrath recipe was sent to me by Kaitlyn last year.  I simplified the preparation and adapted it to my measurement and temperature preferences.  Best of all, I adapted the recipe to be prepared in a zipper bag.

And, yes, without the overnight rise it still produces the enviable crust, so chewy inside with those oh, so wonderful air pockets.

Here it is.

ciabatta in the oven.jpg


Davida’s Easy and Delicious Calzones for a Melave Malka Feast

Melave Malka (Saturday night meal) is the name given to the meal that we eat at the Shabbos has departed.  The literal meaning of the words Melave Malka is “accompaniment of the queen”, referring to our escorting of the Shabbos Queen out of our homes after the spiritually uplifting Shabbos.  The Shabbos is often metaphorically described as a Queen and the purpose of the Melave Malka meal is to figuratively escort the Shabbos away with singing and eating,  much as one would escort a royal guest who is about to leave.

According to Kaballah,  the luz bone at the base of the skull is nourished by the Melave Malkah meal.  The Neshoma Ye’sara (additional soul)  that accompanies a person through the Shabbos does not leave until after the Melave Malka has been enjoyed.  

Aaron used to be our resident Saturday night cook and we always looked forward to his delicious dairy Melave Malka dishes.  He had quite a repertoire of Melave Malka selections like pasta, pizza and all types of popcorn.  Now that Aaron is studying in yeshiva in Israel, Davida has cheerfully taken over this role.  She has become an excellent Saturday night cook and has brought  Melave Malka to a whole new level.

This Motzei Shabbos (Saturday Night), Davida and her friend, Chava, made the most delicious cheese calzones.  She prepared the ingredients and before we knew it, we had delicious warm calzones to enjoy for  our Melave Malka.   I asked her to share the recipe and now I am happy to share it with all of you.

calzones (more…)

Simple and Delicious Croutons Fashioned from Leftover Bread or Challah

Last week, I focused on bread and challah-related recipes.   This week, you may have some leftover challah.  I rarely put leftover challah into my freezer.  Instead, I convert it into croutons or bread crumbs.  I find that when I put leftover challah in the freezer, it usually just sits there until just before next Pesach when I use it to feed the birds.

Here is my simple crouton recipe.  It is so delicious that you may find yourself munching on the croutons even before you put them into your salad.

Although I usually just cube the bread, I find that if I am hosting a birthday party or themed dinner, I use a small cookie cutter to cut the bread into themed croutons.



leftover bread or challah

oil or cooking spray

Garlic Salt or Italian Seasoning (optional)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees F

Optionally remove crusts from challah or bread and slice. Brush bread on both sides with oil or spray with oil cooking spray. Sprinkle lightly with garlic salt or Italian seasoning. Cut bread slices into small cubes or your favorite shapes.


Place croutons in a single layer on a parchment paper-lined cookie sheet.  Bake  for 15 minutes or until browned. Shut oven and be careful to watch the croutons, so they do not burn.  Allow to cool before serving over salad, stew or soup.


Deliciously Simple Onion and Garlic Rolls

These onion and  garlic rolls are simple to prepare and delicious.  When I was first married, I prepared these onion/garlic rolls regularly.  Since the total rising time is less than two hours, I found that I was able to start these after work on Friday and still have them ready for Shabbos.

onion garlic rolls up front


Pretzel Challah: Crusty and Salted

pretzel challah rolls

One challah recipe would never suffice in a family with many types of palates and personalities.   This pretzel challah recipe is unique, delicious and oh, so reminiscent of hot pretzels that you may just want to serve it with mustard.

Our youngest daughter, Davida, decided to try a new pretzel challah recipe. We were all skeptical, but it turned out to be delicious. This challah has a crusty, salty outside and a deliciously doughy inside. It is best enjoyed hot within 24 hours of baking. Unlike most challah recipes, it is not suitable for freezing.

She found the basic recipe in the Kosher by Design: Teens and 20-Somethings cookbook We made some minor changes and simplifications.


(I use two bowls for a total of  five pounds of flour)

1 pkg  or 2 tablespoons yeast
2 1/2 cup warm water
1 tablespoon sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/4 cup oil
3 tablespoons sugar
2 1/2 pounds (6 cups) of bread or high-gluten flour

8 cups room-temperature water
2/3 cup baking soda
kosher salt or everything mix (see notes)
optional egg wash (a bit of egg mixed with a few drops of warm water)
sesame and  poppy seeds (optional)


Simple and Delicious Challah to Wow your Shabbos Guests

I recently hosted a few boys for a friend’s son’s  Bar Mitzvah.  As a token of appreciation for hosting these teenage boys, my friend sent over some delicious baked goods and the most delicious challah ever. This challah was everything that one can imagine a challah to be.  It was beautiful.  It was moist.  It was just perfect.
zahtz challah
I asked her for the recipe and she gave it to me.  It may just become my new simply the best challah recipe!


Ciabatta Challah: a Simple No-Knead Solution

In case you haven’t noticed, our family table accommodates many different personalities and food choices.  Among us, we have meat lovers and vegetarians, those with simpler palates and those with more adventurous palates.  Of course, our taste in challah varies, as well.

We have some who love the sweet refined taste of a traditional challah and those who opt for a more rustic ciabatta type of challah.  The hallmark of this delicious ciabatta bread is the crusty exterior with large air pocket holes on the inside.  This recipe will truly wow you for its simplicity and deliciousness.  The most important and valued ingredient in this recipe is time as it requires slow overnight rising of at least 12 hours.

ciabatta cut in slices


DIY Everything Mix Topping: Perfect for Breadsticks and Challah

Now that Pesach (Passover) is behind us and chometz (leavened food items) are back on the menu, I would like to highlight a week of challah and bread-related recipes.  Over the next few days we will count down to our first Shabbos after  Pesach with challah.

Many people who don’t ordinarily prepare home-baked challah choose to bake  Schlissel (key) Challah for the first Shabbos after Pesach in merit for a financially successful year. They either bake the challah in the shape of a key or insert a foil-wrapped house key into the center of one challah.

I posted my own go-to challah recipe Simply the Best Challah Recipe…ever! several months ago.  Yesterday, I posted the special blessings to say when preparing the challah: Divine Challah: Blessings to Nourish the Soul.  Today, I will help you prepare a simple everything topping for your favorite bread or challah recipe.

As you can imagine, we are not a plain vanilla type of family.  We like our food  with loads of flavor and personality.  When we order bagels, of course, we tend to order the everything bagels, the ones with all the toppings.  We love that everything topping sprinkled on all types of baked items, like challah, breadsticks and even savory puffed pastry items like deli roll.

In a comment from Simply the Best Challah Recipe…ever!, my aunt posted her everything topping recipe.  Tante Sari explained that she prepares this topping in batches and stores it in a spice jar with a shaker top.  That way, when she bakes her challah, it is readily available.

everything topping in salt cellar

Of course, you can purchase an everything mix topping in many specialty stores.  The advantage of making this one yourself is that it is more cost-effective and you can tailor the proportions yourself.

Here is Tante Sari’s everything topping: (more…)

Simply the Best Challah Recipe…ever!


I bake Challah for Shabbos.  It is a real treat for our Shabbos table and it makes the house smell heavenly as it bakes.

The mitzvah (commandment) of Challah is especially designed for women and is a privilege and opportunity for special prayer.

I use my Kitchen Aid mixer for kneading the dough.  Since it cannot accommodate the full five pounds  of flour, I use two bowls, each with half of the ingredients of the final dough. Once kneaded, I combine the dough for rising.  After the dough has finished rising, a small piece of the challah is separated.  If the dough has been fashioned from at least five pounds of flour, a brocha (blessing) is recited before separating the challah piece.  A personal prayer may be inserted at this point.

Baking challah nourishes the body and the soul.


challah pull-apart baked

(I use two bowls for a total of  five pounds of flour)

1 pkg  or 2 tablespoons yeast
2 cups warm water
1/2 cup oil
2/3 cup sugar + 2 tablespoons for yeast
2 eggs
pinch of salt
2 1/2 pounds (6 cups) of bread or high-gluten flour
optional egg wash (a bit of egg mixed with a few drops of warm water)
sesame and  poppy seeds (optional)