Some recipes simply remind you of home. One bite of my mother’s challah, kugel, or cake and I am instantly back in Brooklyn, sitting in my mom’s kitchen watching her prep for Shabbat. Growing up, my mother brought all eleven of us to the dinner table each night with her home cooked meals, however, her Friday night Shabbat meals were the most special. That is where my inspiration for cooking and hosting comes from. Our home always has an open door for guests. The traditional recipes she used throughout our lives brought comfort and love to both our family and strangers alike. I wish to share some of these recipes with you, in the hopes that they will bring warmth and connection to your family’s dinner table.
This classic challah recipe is slightly sweet with a soft, cake like texture. It is my Bubbe’s recipe and is a constant on my Shabbat table.
Servings: 4 large challah loaves
3 (1/4-ounce) packets active dry yeast
3½ cups warm water (about 100°F), divided
2 teaspoons sugar
1 cup canola oil
1¾ cups sugar
1 tablespoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
6 eggs, divided
12 cups all-purpose flour
1 tablespoon water
- Preheat the oven to 300°F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
- In a medium bowl, combine the yeast with a cup of warm water and the sugar and let it sit until it begins to bubble, 5-10 minutes.
- Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine the remaining 3 cups of warm water, oil, sugar, salt, vanilla, and 4 eggs, and mix well. Then add the yeast mixture and mix well. Add the flour and stir to combine, mixing until it’s all incorporated.
- Cover the bowl with a clean kitchen towel and let the dough rise for 3-4 hours, until it has puffed up and about doubled in volume.
- Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. If the dough is sticky, dust your surface with flour. Divide each piece of dough into three sections, roll the sections into long ropes, and braid them, pinching the ends to seal. Place the braided loaves on the prepared baking sheet. Cover and allow to rise a second time, for about 40 minutes.
- In a small bowl, whisk the remaining 2 eggs with 1 tablespoon of water. Brush the braided loaves with the egg wash.
- Bake the loaves for 20 minutes, then increase the oven temperature to 350°F and bake for another 20 minutes or until the tops are golden brown.
After brushing the tops of your loaves with egg yolk, you can top them with sesame seeds, everything-bagel spice, sugar-cinnamon mix, or other favorite spices.
To make a stuffed challah, separate the prepared dough into small pieces as you shape it, then roll out each piece into long strands. Flatten the strands and place your filling along each. (Try s’mores challah with a schmear of chocolate spread down the center, plus mini marshmallows and chocolate chips.)
Then seal each strand by rolling it over and pressing down the side before braiding.
Brush braided challah with egg yolk mixture and add toppings (in this case, crushed graham crackers and additional chocolate chips and mini marshmallows).
For a savory stuffing, stuff with chopped pastrami and barbecue sauce and top the braided challah with crispy onions before baking.
My mom’s potato kugel is perfection. With a creamy center, crispy edges, and a golden crust, it’s the ultimate Jewish comfort food. I have memories of hanging around the kitchen on Thursday nights watching as my mother would prepare food for Shabbat, waiting for that first bite of kugel hot from the oven. Just thinking about it brings me back home. This recipe is kosher year round, including Pesach.
Makes: One 9×13 potato kugel
6 medium Russet potatoes, peeled and cut into large chunks
1 onion, peeled and quartered
¾ cup Canola oil
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
- Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line a 9×13-inch baking dish with parchment paper.
- In a food processor, shred the potatoes and onion.
- In a large mixing bowl, combine the shredded potatoes and onion with the eggs, oil, salt, and pepper. Scrape the mixture into the prepared baking dish.
- Bake for 30-45 minutes, until the top is golden and the edges are crispy.
Classic Yellow Cake with Frosting
My mother is the Queen of cakes, danish, cookies and all things sweet. This is her yellow cake recipe. It’s a classic and staple for birthday parties, Shabbat dessert and those rainy afternoons you want to make cupcakes just because. You can bake it as a cake in a 9×13 pan, make a layered cake using two small round pans or serve them as cupcakes. Top them with the rich buttercream frosting for an even tastier treat!
Makes: One 9×13 cake
2 cups of flour
1⅓ cup of sugar
3 teaspoon baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
½ cup of oil
1 cup of orange juice
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Combine ingredients in a large mixing bowl. Bake on 350° in 9×13 pan for 45-50 minutes or until top is firm.
Ingredients for Frosting:
1 box of confectioners powdered sugar
¼ cup of soy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 stick of butter, softened to room temperature
Directions for Frosting:
Cream together and blend until smooth.