Apple Cake and Pumpkin Challah Are Festive Fall Holiday Dishes

Oct. 9, 2020 

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN 

Shabbat Shalom, Chag Samayach, and Happy Thanksgiving. Welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. This weekend we celebrate Sukkot, Simchat Torah as well as Thanksgiving.

I always associate apples with Simchat Torah. The holiday evokes childhood memories of me marching in the synagogue social hall waving an Israeli flag topped with an apple.

In memory of those Simchat Torah celebrations, I have chosen a recipe for a healthy apple dessert. Apple-Licious Cake, from the late Norene Gilletz’s last book, The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory.

Thanksgiving conjures images of sweet potatoes and pumpkins. I found a delicious sweet potato recipe in Simple, a popular cookbook by Israeli celebrity chef Yotam Ottolenghi. His Sweet Potato Mash with Lime Salsa is very festive, as is Pumpkin Challah. Both dishes would be good choices for Sukkot, Simchat Torah, and Thanksgiving.

The pumpkin challah is adapted from a Maple Kabo-Challah recipe I acquired from Building the Jewish& Cookbook, a monthly virtual cooking program offered through the Miles Nadal JCC.

Lauren’s Pumpkin Kabo Challah

APPLE-LICIOUS CAKE Norene Gilletz

6 large apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (Cortland, Spartan, or Honeycrisp
Sweetener equivalent to ¼ cup (60 ml) brown sugar, lightly packed
2 tsp (10 ml) ground cinnamon.

Batter:

½ cup (125 ml) whole blanched almonds, or 1½ cup (125 ml) almond meal.
2 large eggs
2/3 cup (160 ml) sugar
1tsp (5 ml) pure vanilla extract 
¼ cup (60 ml) canola oil
½ cup (125 ml) unsweetened applesauce
1¼ cups (310 ml) whole wheat flour
2 tsp (10 ml) baking powder 
½ tsp (2 ml) ground cinnamon 
Pinch of salt

Preheat oven to 350°F (175°C). Spray a 7 × 11-inch (18 × 28-cm) glass baking dish with nonstick cooking spray.

Filling: In a large bowl, combine the apples with sweetener and cinnamon; mix well and set aside.

Batter: In a food processor fitted with a steel blade, process almonds until finely ground, about 25–30 seconds. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.

Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla extract, oil, and applesauce to the food processor. Process for 2 minutes, or until smooth and creamy. Don’t insert the pusher into the feed tube while processing. 

Add the ground almonds along with flour, baking powder, cinnamon, and salt; process just until combined.

Using a rubber spatula, spread about half the batter in the prepared pan. Spread the apple filling evenly over the batter. Top with the remaining batter and spread evenly. Some of the apples will peek through. 

Bake for 50–60 minutes, until golden brown.

Norene’s Notes:

Berry good variation: Replace half the apples with your favourite berries, for a total of 4–5 cups (1–1.25 L) fruit.

Nut allergies? Replace the almonds with either ½ cup (125 ml) wheat germ or whole wheat pastry flour.

SWEET POTATO MASH WITH LIME SALSA Yotam Ottolenghi

2 lb 2 oz. (1 K) sweet potatoes, unpeeled and cut in half lengthwise
¼ cup/ (60 ml) olive oil, divided
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped
¼ cup (60 ml) fresh basil leaves, finely chopped

Preheat the oven to 425°F (220°C)

Rub the potatoes with 1 tbsp of oil and season with ¼ tsp (2 ml) salt. Place the potatoes on a parchment-lined, baking sheet, cut side down, and roast for 30–35 minutes, until very soft.

Prepare the salsa: While the potatoes are roasting make the salsa. Put the remaining oil in a bowl. Add the basil, cilantro, garlic, lime zest, lime juice and a good pinch of salt. Stir to combine. 

Once the potatoes are cool enough to handle, remove the skins or scoop the flesh out with a spoon. Mash the flesh together with 1/8 tsp salt and plenty of black pepper until smooth.

Transfer the mashed potato to a platter. Create divots in the surface and spoon the salsa evenly over it. Serve hot as a side dish.

COMMUNITY SPOTLIGHT

The Miles Nadal JCC is offering virtual cooking classes. Lauren Schreiber-Sasaki, a Jewish life programmer at MNJCC, runs Jewish&, programs geared to multi-faith, multi-cultural and multi-ethnic members of the Jewish community. “Jewish& celebrates Jewish diversity,” she said.

COVID restricted in-person programming, so Schreiber-Sasaki said she came up with “Building The Jewish& Cookbook,” a monthly online cooking program that brings the Jewish& group together along with other interested participants.

“Building The Jewish& Cookbook” focuses on recipes that blend various traditions and cultures. I signed up for the Maple Kabo-Challah class led by Carmel Tanaka, a community engagement professional based in Vancouver.

This unusual Japanese-style challah incorporates kabocha, a Japanese pumpkin (canned pumpkin purée can be substituted). Her recipe reflects her Jewish and Japanese heritage. Her mother is Israeli and her father is Canadian of Japanese heritage.

Tanaka calls herself Jewpanese and has even started a monthly virtual event with others of similar heritage. She is also the founder of JQT Vancouver, a Jewish-queer-trans nonprofit.

Tanaka said she learned to make challah when she worked at Hillel. She was taught the basic recipe by the late Robbie McConnell of the Montreal Gazette. His recipe is the foundation for her maple kabo-challah.

The next episode of “Building The Jewish& Cookbook” will be held on Nov. 8 and will feature Montrealer Kat Romanow. She is known for her Wandering-Chew food tours of Montreal’s old Jewish neighbourhoods. 

To register: https://www.amilia.com/store/en/miles-nadal-jcc/shop/activities/2864377

MAPLE KABO-CHALLAH Carmel Tanaka

Braided Kabo Challah

1 cup (250 ml) lukewarm water, divided
1 tbsp (15 ml) sugar 
1 tbsp (15 ml) instant yeast (2 packages) 
¼ cup (60 ml) honey or maple syrup
¼ cup (60 ml) neutral-flavoured oil (i.e. corn, grape seed, etc.)
1 cup (250 ml) kabocha* (prepared in advance)
4 eggs, divided
1 tbsp (15 ml) kosher salt
4–4.5 cups (1 L) unbleached all-purpose flour
Additional flour if necessary.
1 egg yolk mixed with water for egg wash.
Poppy seeds, black or white sesame seeds, preferably toasted
Maldon sea salt flakes (optional)
*NB substitute pumpkin purée for kabocha 

Prepare the kabocha:

Oil for brushing 

Cut the kabocha in half. Scoop out the seeds. Brush the kabocha with oil.

Bake at 350°F (180°C) until the kabocha is soft so you can poke your fork through easily and the edges begin to caramelize. Mash and let cool. This step can be done ahead.

Prepare the Pumpkin Purée:

Place a cheesecloth over a container (an elastic band can secure the cheesecloth). Place a scoop of canned pumpkin purée on the cheese cloth and let the liquid drain into the container. Continue until you have 1 cup of drained pumpkin purée. Discard the liquid. This step can be done ahead

To Make the Challah:

In a small bowl combine the kabocha or the pumpkin purée with 1 lightly beaten egg and set aside.

In a large bowl of a stand mixer dissolve the sugar in ½ cup (125 ml) warm water. Sprinkle the yeast in the water and let stand 8–10 minutes until foamy. 

Once the yeast is activated add the remaining water, oil, honey or maple syrup, salt and mix well.

Roughly beat the eggs in a small bowl and add to the mixing bowl. Incorporate all the ingredients well. Add the kabocha or pumpkin purée and mix well.

Add the flour by cupfuls to the egg and pumpkin mixture and incorporate. Mix until the dough is shaggy and still a little moist, adding small amounts of flour or water if necessary. A dough hook can be used.

Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface. Knead for 2 minutes by hand until the dough is smooth and elastic. It should not be sticky. Place the dough in a large greased bowl, turn to make sure all the surfaces are greased. Cover with plastic wrap or a clean damp towel and let rise in a warm place. After 1 hour, punch down the dough to remove the air pockets. Let the dough rise for another hour. 

Punch the dough in the bowl to remove any additional air pockets. Turn the dough out onto to a floured surface or a sheet of parchment paper. Knead for 2 minutes before shaping.

To shape: 

Traditional braided challah: Divide the dough in half. Divide each half into 3 equal pieces. Roll the pieces into 3 long strands. Braid them loosely tucking the ends under. Repeat with the remaining dough to form a second loaf. 

Pumpkin-shaped challah: Divide the dough in 4 equal balls. Using a long thread or butcher twine tie each ball in a way that the ball is divided into 6–8 parts.

Do not tie the balls too tightly as they will continue to rise during the second proofing and baking.

Preheat the oven to 350°F (160°C) Cover the loaves with a damp cloth and leave them to rise for 30 minutes.

Transfer the bread to two parchment-lined baking sheets. When the bread has risen, mix a few drops of water to the reserved egg yolk and brush the wash onto the entire surface of the loaves or balls.

Sprinkle on the poppy or sesame seeds and the Maldon sea salt flakes if using. Then slide the bread into the preheated oven. Bake for 25–40 minutes. Halfway through the baking, rotate the trays to get even baking on all sides.

JCC Uses Zoom to Engage Youth

Aug. 13, 2020 – By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

It’s been more than five months since Ben Pillersdorf has reported to work at the Cineplex movie theatre in Toronto’s Fairview Mall.

His job, directing moviegoers to the right theatre, was put on hold with the onset of the COVID pandemic. To date, this Cineplex has not reopened.

Pillersdorf, 26, says he misses work, but he is staying busy. On week-day afternoons, he participates in Summer Fun Intensive!, a two-hour, online program for youth with developmental disabilities run through the Miles Nadal JCC.

Ben Pillersdorf
Ben Pillersdorf

“We do different drama games, we do arts, we listen to music while we dance, and we do yoga,” he said.

Before the pandemic, Pillersdorf attended Every Day Friends Social Network at the MNJCC, a social and cultural program geared to young adults with intellectual and physical disabilities.

Many of the Every-Day-Friends participants have joined Summer Fun Intensive and have remained connected through online programming, said Liviya Mendelsohn, director of inclusion at the MNJCC.

“We have had a robust social network for people 18 to 35,” said Mendelsohn. “The MNJCC has for many years been a hub for inclusive programming that has been welcoming and encouraging to people of all abilities to be together based around their interests.”

Mendelsohn said that in March, COVID put all programming at the JCC on hold, so it was important to make sure that the participants in Every Day Friends could connect online.

Through funding from the Azrieli Foundation, there were training opportunities for them to learn to use Zoom. “People were given individual coaching by the IT department and everyone was online within a week.”

Mendelsohn said Summer Fun Intensive covers eight weeks of online programming – 10 hours a week for 25 participants. “It’s full every week.”

The program was made possible through support from the Green-Wagner Family Trust and the Azrieli Foundation.

In addition to Summer Fun Intensive, the MNJCC has received government funding for two online courses: filmmaking and photography, programs that have been running since mid-June. The filmmakers work with 25 youth who use camera phones to document their experiences during COVID.

“They want to make the wider community more aware of what people with disabilities have been through,” Mendelsohn said. “It’s really been hard.”

She pointed out that many of them had part-time or volunteer jobs, and/or community supports that have been temporarily suspended during the pandemic.

The online programs have given participants some structure to their day. “We have become the anchor to people who had [previously] had routines and jobs.”

Cathy Mallove, the mother of a participant in Summer Fun Intensive, described the online programming as “welcoming and vibrant.

“It’s an extension of the way the MNJCC operates. They’re giving people the socialization and community.”

Her daughter, Rebecca Geffen, 25, said she enjoys the online programs, particularly Civics, Improv Games with Becky, and Yoga with Karmit.

Rebecca Geffen

“Before COVID, I did Every Day Friends at the JCC,” Geffen said. “Now I do the program on Zoom every day. I love Zoom.”

“The JCC has done a lot for these kids,” said Mallove, noting that once people with disabilities reach the age of 21, there are fewer programs for them. “The JCC is a wonderful place. They think about this community and they keep this community engaged.”