Apricot and Zattar Challah

Apricot and Zattar– that is a combination I could not have come up with on my own.  But here’s what happened. I belong to a listserv that is for “farmers” in Seattle. I get tons of great information from this list about how to raise my chickens. And on occasion, there is something else valuable on there.  Well, one of those “something elses” happened to be the offer to buy crates of fresh apricots straight from the farmers for a deep discount.  There was a farm in the Yakima Valley with hail damaged apricots.  So we bought a case. And they were delicious.

So that got me thinking that I should make an apricot challah.  Which led me to google. Which led me to this recipe.

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I made the apricot paste, adapting their recipe, using fresh fruit and no jam.  Just a bunch of honey to keep them sweet.

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The outcome was amazing! The spouse suggested I was heavy handed with the zaatar (especially because finding kosher zattar in Seattle isn’t easy, it was EXPENSIVE from Whole Foods). But the combination of the two flavors was divine.

Lemon Cheesecake Challah

Yes, you read that headline right, Lemon Cheesecake Challah.  Seriously.  We could probably just stop there.  But why?  Here’s the story…. This weekend is the holiday of Shavuot.  This holiday, I lovingly refer to as the “stay up all night and eat cheesecake holiday.”  What’s not to love about that.  The holiday commemorates (in part) the receiving of the Torah at Mt. Sinai. We stay up all night in anticipation of receiving the Torah (fun!).  And because G-d gave us the commandment to keep kosher in the Torah, all of our prior meat and dishes were suddenly rendered problematic, and we ate dairy until we could kasher things. This, among many other reasons, is why we eat dairy on Shavuot.  Of course, I don’t eat meat at all, so most of my festive meals feature dairy in some sort.

I found the recipe for lemon cheesecake challah on Smitten Kitchen. I used my regular challah dough because it is proven, but I followed their recipe for the cheesecake filling and the lemon curd.  Lemon curd may become my new favorite thing to make. If I’d known you could make something THAT delicious THAT easily, I would have made it before.

Now, technically, for motzi on shabbat, challah needs to be parve (neither meaty or dairy). So when I make dairy challah, I always make a loaf of “plain” as my second loaf, so that motzi can be over parve challah for the halachically minded among us.

Now, on to the challah…Using my regular dough, I rolled out a large rectangular shape.

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Then cut slits into the sides:

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I layered on the cheesecake filling, then the lemon curd:

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Then “braided” it:

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I brushed it with egg and sprinkled it with some nice, organic, coarse sugar.

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Then baked it.

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This is a beautiful and delicious recipe.  Happy Shavuot everyone!

Pineapple Upside-down Challah

Friday was my Dad’s birthday.  I won’t give up his age, but he was born just days before the bombing of Pearl Harbor. This is my dad– at least how I see him (that’s me in the middle, and my brother on the right).

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He married my mom in 1966 and soon after, she made him a pineapple upside-down cake for his birthday. It was the 60’s after all!!  She’s made one for him every year since. That’s dedication to an idea! So when his birthday fell on Shabbat this year, and we were going to celebrate as a family, it gave me reason to invent the pineapple upside down challah!

If you  haven’t had pineapple upside-down cake, it is a fairly plain butter cake baked with pineapple and cherries in the bottom of the pan, then flipped when served so the fruit is on the top.  It looks something like this:

To make dad’s challah I chopped canned pineapple and maraschino cherries (which are now pretty easy to find kosher).

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I then rolled each fruit into a tube of dough:

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And braided the tubes (I had a pineapple one, a cherry one, and a mixed one). As a little extra surprise on the bottom, I put in an upside-down feature:

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The end result was beautiful!

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And, of course, delicious. Happy Birthday Dad!