Make Fruits And Vegetables the Foundation Of Winter Meals

Dec. 18, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of the CJR. Hanukkah ends this evening, three days before the Dec. 21 solstice that marks the official start of winter.

Last winter, I baked up a storm and by the spring, I could barely fit into my sweatpants. This year, I’m looking at healthier options – more vegetables and fruit. Two of this week’s recipes – Braised Cabbage and Roasted Cauliflower with Green Tahini Sauce – fit the healthy-eating bill.

I have made some changes to the cabbage recipe, which is from Bon Appétit Magazine. (https://www.bonappetit.com/recipe/roasted-cabbage-apples-italian-sausage.) I’ve omitted the sausages. I added caraway seeds, as well as an optional garnish of sour cream and fresh herbs.

The Cauliflower-and-Green-Tahini recipe is adapted from Simple by Yotam Ottolenghi. The Caramel Apple Galette recipe was created by Anna-Olson’ s recipe, the Food Network’ s baking maven (https://www.foodnetwork.ca/recipe/caramel-apple-galette/6754/) The galette is actually a brioche dough, a popular French breakfast bread. I added extra sugar to the galette recipe.

Community Spotlight

DANI is a Community Source For Kosher Dairy Meals And Treats

Hanukkah has been a very busy time for DANI, a charity dedicated to enhancing the skills and knowledge of individuals with physical and cognitive challenges.

DANI, an acronym for Developing and Nurturing Independence, offers its clients a variety of services – vocational, educational, life skills, recreational and social programs – in a community setting.

An important source of funding for these programs is the kosher catering business operated by DANI (905-889-3284), under COR supervision, according to Anita Miller, manager of catering and business.

During Hannukah, demand for latkes and sufganiot in the community was very high. “We sold 2,000 latkes and 2,000 sufganiot,” she noted. “The money raised from the sales is funnelled back into the organization to support our programs.”

Now in its 14th year, DANI is a social enterprise, “a business with a social twist,” Miller said. The catering and food sales offer vocational opportunities for clients and revenue for the various social and educational activities, she said. “The only reason we have catering is to fund our programming.”

DANI provides services to 30 adults. Miller stressed the importance of keeping them engaged. “We have never missed a day due to COVID,” she said. For short periods, when circumstances have necessitated, DANI has resorted to virtual programming.

DANI’ s Clark campus, adjacent to the Garnet A. Williams Community Centre (501 Clarke Ave. W.) in Thornhill, is the programming and catering hub. A satellite location at 401 Magnetic Dr. opened earlier this year.

Some clients have learned food-prep skills at the Clark campus, where daily meals that are prepared with some assistance from DANI’s clients. However, this food training program has been suspended during COVID, Miller said. “There is a now strict separation between programming and food prep.”

A number of DANI clients participate in pop-up lunches, a program – now temporarily suspended – that gives them the opportunity to interact with the community while developing, social, financial, and organizational skills.

The DANI crew would visit a corporate and/or community location where they would set up a temporary or “pop-up” kiosk to sell kosher lunch items like soups, chili, quiches, and muffins.

The organization also runs the DANI Café, a kosher dairy restaurant/ café at the Clark campus The space, which doubles as the DANI Event Centre, can accommodate up to 150 people for business meetings, parties and life-cycle celebrations, Miller said, pointing out that DANI caters off-site events as well, including business luncheons, weddings and bar mitzvahs, and provides shivah platters and corporate meals, while pastry and cookie platters are also in high demand. “We sold more than 500 gift baskets at Rosh Hashanah.” 

BRAISED CABBAGE (Bon Appétit)

½ head red cabbage, thinly sliced
1 medium onion, thinly sliced
1 medium apple, sliced
2 sprigs thyme
1 tbsp (15 ml) red wine vinegar
2 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil, divided
Kosher salt
Freshly ground pepper
2 tbsp (30 ml) maple syrup. 
½ medium apple, sliced
1 tsp (5 ml) caraway seeds
optional: sour cream for garnish
optional: ¼ cup (60 ml) chopped fresh dill or parsley for garnish

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Toss cabbage, onion, apple, thyme sprigs, vinegar, 1 tbsp (15 ml) oil, and ¼ cup (60 ml) water in a 13-x 9-inch (23-x 33-cm) baking dish; season with salt and pepper and roast, covered, until cabbage is wilted and softened, 45 minutes.

ROASTED CAULIFLOWER WITH GREEN TAHINI SAUCE Yotam Ottolenghi

1 large cauliflower
2–3 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
1 tsp (5 ml) salt (or to taste)

To Roast the Cauliflower

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Line a large, rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper.

Wash cauliflower well and cut into large florets. Spread in a single layer on the prepared baking sheet. Drizzle with oil and sprinkle with salt; toss to combine. 

Roast the cauliflower uncovered, for 40–45 minutes, until golden and crispy. Half way through cooking, stir the florets. When done, some of them will be blackened around the edge, which is okay.

Remove the cauliflower from the oven and transfer to a serving dish. Pour the Green Tahini Sauce (recipe below) over the cauliflower. Serve immediately or at room temperature.

Green Tahini Sauce

¼ cup (60 ml) Tahini
¾ cup (375 ml) parsley, roughly chopped
1 small garlic clove crushed
1/3 cup (90 ml) water 
3 tbsp (45 ml) lemon juice
Flaked sea salt

Pour the tahini into the small bowl of a food processor. Add the parsley and garlic. Pulse for 1 minute, until the tahini is green. Pour in the water and lemon juice and season with ¼ tsp salt. Pulse until you have a smooth green sauce with the consistency of heavy cream. Add a touch of tahini if it’ s too thin or a splash of water if it is too thick.

CARAMEL APPLE GALETTE Anna Olson 

Crust

3 tbsp (45 ml) tepid 2% milk
1¼ tsp (6 ml) instant dry active yeast
**6 tbsp (75 ml) sugar, divided
1¾ cups (435 ml) all purpose flour
¾ tsp (4 ml) salt
2 large eggs
1 large egg yolk
½ cup (125 ml) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1 egg mixed with 2 tbsp (30 ml) water for egg wash
**original recipe only called for 3 tbsp (45 ml) sugar

Apples

56 large Granny Smith, Braeburn or Honeycrisp, peeled and sliced
1 tbsp (15 ml) lemon juice
¼ cup (60 ml) unsalted butter
¼ cup (60 ml)sugar
2 tbsp (30 ml) brandy (optional)
½ tsp (2 ml) cinnamon

Crust: Stir together milk, yeast and 3 tbsp (45 ml) sugar. In a large mixing bowl, combine flour, salt and remaining sugar. Pour in milk mixture and add eggs. With electric beaters fitted with the dough attachments or in a stand-up mixer fitted with dough hook attachment, mix on low speed until blended. Add the butter in pieces to dough and beat for 3 minutes until it becomes an even, silky consistency. Place the dough in a large bowl, cover with plastic wrap and chill overnight.

For the fruit: Toss the apples in lemon juice. Heat the butter and sugar over high heat in a sauté pan and once bubbling, add the apples. Sauté the apples until nicely browned, about 10 minutes, and stir in brandy, if using, and cinnamon.

Preheat oven to 350°F (180°C).

Place ring of 10-inch (25 cm) springform pan on baking sheet lined with parchment.

On a lightly floured surface, roll out dough into a 14-inch (35 cm) circle and place in springform pan, overlapping 2 inches (5 cm) on the outside of the pan. Spoon in the apples and fold the crust edge back over the apples. 

Brush the dough with egg wash. Bake for 25 minutes, until the edges of the tart are richly browned. Let cool for one hour before unmoulding and slicing. Makes 10 portions. The galette can be rewarmed before serving.

Ottolenghi’s New Recipes Are Packed With ‘Flavor’

Nov. 13, 2020

By BARBARA SILVERSTEIN

Shabbat Shalom and welcome to “Kitchen Talk,” the weekly food blog of The CJR.

One of the world’s most celebrated chefs has a new cookbook. Israeli restaurateur and author Yotam Ottolenghi’s latest book, Flavor, is quite the culinary sensation.

He teamed up with Ixta Belfrage, the co-author of Flavor, to create a truly original collection of plant-based recipes.

Ottolenghi writes in the book’s introduction that his goal was to find new ways to “ramp up” the flavour of fresh vegetables. “It’s about creating flavour bombs, especially designed for vegetables.”

He says the recipes are about appreciating the character of a particular vegetable and understanding how to prepare and pair it with other ingredients to create layers of flavour and complexity.

The recipes are a departure from Ottolenghi’s Middle Eastern dishes. He incorporates quick pickling and a host of Asian spices and herbs. Each recipe looks more delicious than the next and the photographs are terrific.

Of the 100 recipes in the book, 45 are vegan, while another 17 can easily be “veganized,” as Ottolenghi puts it, explaining that he gives many vegan alternatives to various ingredients that are animal products.

Ottolenghi says Belfrage, his co-author, is able to put “together an unusual set of components, effortlessly creating a totally new masterpiece.”

The recipes I’ve chosen look interesting and are very flavourful. While they do involve several steps, you can also make parts of the recipes. 

For instance, Roasted And Pickled Celery Root with Sweet Chili Dressing has three components, You roast the celery root, and roast it again with a sweet chili dressing. The dish is then topped with pickled celery root. You can prepare and enjoy the roasted celery root without the additional sauce and/or pickled topping.

The other recipe, Stuffed Eggplant with Curry and Coconut Dal, is East-Asian inspired. The Dal recipe can be used alone or with other vegetables, says Ottolenghi.

WHOLE ROASTED CELERY ROOT

1 large (2 lb or 900 g) celery root, scrubbed clean with hairy roots discarded; no need to peel
¼ cup (60 ml) olive oil
1½ tsp flaked sea salt
Extra oil for brushing

Preheat the oven 375°F (170°C). Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Pierce the celery root all over, about 40 times with a fork and place it on the prepared baking sheet. Mix the oil and salt in a bowl and rub it generously over the celery root. 

Roast for a minimum of 2¼ – 2¾ hours, depending on the size of the celery root, basting with oil every 20 minutes or so, until the celery root is deeply brown and soft all the way through and oozes “a celery- root caramel” or juice.

Let the celery root rest for 15 minutes or so, then cut it into wedges, brushing each side with oil and the “caramel” left on the baking sheet.

ROASTED AND PICKLED CELERY ROOT WITH SWEET CHILI DRESSING

Pickled Celery Root

1 medium celery root, trimmed, peeled, and cut into thin 2½-inch (6cm) long batons, about 4 cups (1 L)
3 celery stalks, cut into thin 2½-inch-(6cm) long batons, about 1 cup (250 ml)
2 garlic cloves, skin on, crushed with the side of a knife
3 limes: finely shave the peel to get 6 strips, then juice to get ¼ cup (60ml) 
½ cup plus 3 tbsp (150 ml) rice vinegar
1½ tsp (8 ml) flaked sea salt

Sweet Chili Dressing

½ cup (120 ml) sunflower oil 
5 garlic cloves, very finely sliced
3 red chilis, finely sliced into rounds, about 1/3 cup (80 ml)
2 whole star anise
4½ tsp (23 ml) white or black sesame seeds, or a mixture of both, well toasted
7½ tsp (40 ml) maple syrup
1 tbsp (15 ml) rice vinegar
¼ cup (60ml) soy sauce
2 tbsp (30 ml) finely chopped chives

Prepared Roasted Celery Root

1 whole roasted celery root (see recipe above) cut into 8 wedges 
Flaked sea salt
2 green onions, finely sliced at an angle
¼ cup (60 ml) Thai basil leaves
Additional olive oil for brushing 
Additional maple syrup or honey for brushing 

Pickled Celery Root: In a large bowl, combine the celery root batons, celery, garlic, lime peel, lime juice, vinegar, and salt. Set aside for 2 hours, stirring now and then. (The recipe can be divided in half and the other half of the celery root can be roasted.) The pickled celery keeps for three days in the fridge. 

Dressing: Heat the sunflower oil in a small saucepan on medium-high heat. Once very hot, add the garlic, chilis, and star anise and fry for 2–2½ minutes, stirring to separate the garlic slices, until the garlic is crisp and pale golden (it will continue to colour after you take it out of the oil, so don’t take it too far). 

Strain the sauce through a sieve set on top of a small heatproof bowl to collect the oil. Set the fried chili and garlic aside. Remove 1/3 cup (80ml) of the aromatic oil and reserve for another recipe. Combine 7½ tsp (40 ml) of the remaining aromatic oil with the sesame seeds, maple syrup, vinegar, soy sauce, and chives. Stir to mix.

Baking the Roasted Celery Root in the Chili Sauce 

Preheat the oven to 425°F/200°C. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.

Place the roasted celery root wedges on the prepared baking sheet, cut-side up. Make sure they’ve been brushed with their cooking oil and caramel (if not, brush with some olive oil and a little maple syrup or honey. 

Roast for 20 minutes, or until golden brown. Arrange the wedges on a large platter and sprinkle with a little salt. Add the reserved fried chili and garlic to the dressing and spoon over and around the celery root. Top with 11/3 cups (350 ml) of the pickled celery root mixture (avoiding the pickling liquid). Garnish with the green onions and Thai basil. Serve immediately. Makes 2–4 servings.

STUFFED EGGPLANT IN CURRY AND COCONUT DAL

3 large eggplants, stems removed, each eggplant cut lengthwise into 6 ¼-inch (½ cm) thick slices,
3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil 
Table salt and black pepper to taste

Coconut Dal

3 tbsp (45 ml) olive oil
5 shallots, peeled and finely chopped, about 1¾ cups (450 ml)
1½ oz (45g) fresh ginger, peeled and finely chopped
2 red chilis, finely chopped
30 fresh curry leaves (optional)
1 tsp (5 ml) black mustard seeds (optional) 
1 tsp (5 ml) ground cumin
1 tsp (5 ml) ground coriander
½ tsp (3 ml) ground turmeric
2 tsp (10 ml) medium curry powder 
2 tsp (10 ml) tomato paste
½ cup (125 ml) dried red lentils
1 13½-oz (400 ml) can full-fat coconut milk 
2½ cups (625 ml) water
¾ tsp (4 ml) table salt
8 oz (220g) paneer (East-Asian, fresh white cheese) or extra-firm tofu, roughly grated
2 limes: finely zested to get 1 tsp (5 ml), then juice to get 2 tbsp (30 ml) 
1½ oz (45g) hot mango pickle, roughly chopped (optional) 
¼ cup (60 ml) cilantro, roughly chopped, plus more to serve 
Table salt
3½ oz (100 g) large (not baby) spinach leaves, stems removed, about 2 cups
(500 ml)
1 tbsp (30 ml) olive oil
½ cup (125 ml) fresh cilantro 

Roast the eggplant: Preheat the oven to 425°F (200°C). Line two baking sheets with parchment.

In a large bowl, toss the eggplant slices with the olive oil, ¾ tsp (4 ml) salt, and a good grind of pepper. Spread the slices out on the prepared baking sheets and bake for 25 minutes, flipping halfway through, until the eggplant is softened and lightly browned. Set aside to cool.

For the dal: Put the olive oil into a large sauté pan on medium-high heat. Once hot, add the shallots and fry for 8 minutes, until golden. Add the ginger, half the chili, and half the curry leaves (if using) and cook for 2 minutes, then add all the spices, tomato paste, and lentils. 

Stir for 1 minute, then add the coconut milk, water, and salt. Bring to a boil, then decrease the heat to medium and let simmer for 20 minutes, stirring once in a while, until the lentils are soft and the sauce is thick. Pour the dal into a 7-x 1-inch (28- x 18-cm) baking dish and set aside. 

Prepare the paneer or tofu: In a small bowl, toss together the paneer or tofu, lime zest, 1 tbsp of the lime juice, the mango pickle, if using, cilantro, and 1/3 tsp (1 ml) salt 

To assemble and bake: Place one spinach leaf on top of each slice of eggplant. Put 1 heaping tsp (5 ml) of the paneer or tofu mixture in the middle, then roll up the eggplant, from the thinner end at the top down to the thicker bottom end, so the filling is encased. Put the eggplant roll seam-side down in the lentil-dal sauce and repeat with the remaining eggplant slices, spinach, and paneer. You should end up with about 18 rolls, all sitting snugly in the sauce. 

Press the rolls gently into the sauce, but not so far that they are submerged. Bake for 15–20 minutes, until the eggplant is golden brown on top and the sauce is bubbling. Remove from the oven and let rest for 5 minutes.

Heat the 1 tbsp (15 ml) olive oil in a small pan on medium-high heat. Add the remaining chili and curry leaves ( if using) and fry for 1 minute, until the curry leaves are crisp and fragrant. Spoon over the eggplant rolls, drizzle with the remaining 1 tbsp (15 ml) lime juice, and serve with cilantro sprinkled on top. Makes 4 servings.

CULINARY CALENDAR

Nov. 18, 11 a.m.: Make Pumpkin Cinnamon Buns in a virtual cooking workshop with Jen MacDonald, presented by the Bernard Betel Centre. To register:

https://us02web.zoom.us/meeting/register/tZYocuyupjgtHdH4SkYK9XS69aolga5nsjd_

Nov. 18, 1 p.m.: Fermenting & Foraging: in the Historical and Contemporary Ashkenazi Kitchen. A Panel Discussion with NYC chefs Jeremy Umansky and Ari Miller. Presented by YIVO Institute for Jewish Research. To Register: ihttps://yivo.org/Fermenting-and-Foraging

Dec. 3, 5 p.m.: Cook Global Cuisine with Carolyn Tanner-Cohen, sponsored by Grandmothers Partnering with Africa, Stephen Lewis Foundation. Email:GPWafrica@gmail.com

Dec. 8, 7:30 p.m.: Latkes and Vodka Workshop with National food columnist and author, Bonnie Stern, and Rabbi Elyse Goldstein. Virtual cooking demo for Latkes, cocktails and dessert. To register: https://www.cityshul.com/form/latkes-vodkas.html

Let’s Do Brunch! Crohn’s and Colitis Canada’s tastiest fall fundraiser, now in its 21 year. This initiative brings awareness to Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis. https://crohnsandcolitiscanada.akaraisin.com/ui/Letsdobrunch20

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.