Thursday, November 24, 2016

Turkey Challahs

Happy Thanksgiving! Today’s turkey challah tutorial is a guest post by my cousin Ita. Besides for being a baker in her community, Ita teaches girls and women to play Jewish music on piano using her easy and fun method. You can find free tutorials and sheet music on her blog at
Whether you’ve never played a note in your life or you’ve been playing for years, learning to play Jewish music on piano should be fun!

Turkey Challahs!

These turkey-shaped challahs are all the rage around this time of the year! They are absolutely adorable, with their feathers, wattle and all! (Yeah, I never heard of a wattle either before I had to look it up to write this post! Did you know there is a part of a turkey called a snood?!?!)

My aunt (Rechy’s mother) is the inspiration for these challahs. She sent me a picture of her turkey challahs a couple years ago, and I just knew this was something I would have to try for myself! The first ones came out kind of pitiful looking, but two Thanksgivings and many turkey challahs later, I finally have a method that produces reliably good results.

Notice, by the way, that I did not promise “perfect” results. Just good. The turkey challahs will be adorable and delicious (gobble-gobble) even if they aren’t perfect. So relax, and just have some fun with this!

How to form a turkey shaped challah

  1. Prepare a 9" round pan. I use a real baking pan with some parchment paper to line it. You can also buy 9" round disposable aluminum pans.
  2. I used 28 oz of challah dough (for challah dough recipe- click here). This is about one and a half times the amount I normally use for a large challah (You can use any size you like, but this amount will nicely fill up a 9" round pan.)
  3. Pull off about 1/3 of the dough and shape into a half circle or wide oval. This will become the body of the turkey. Place the body, centered, at the bottom of the pan.
  4. Use about 1/8 of the remaining dough to form the head. Roll the “head” into a ball shape with the palms of your hands, and place above the body of the turkey.
  5. Take two tiny little pieces of dough and roll into little eyes.
    Do not be tempted to take big pieces of dough. This is a yeast dough, and those little eyes will grow bigger than they are right now!
    Attach the eyes to the head.
  6. Using another tiny little piece of dough, form the beak by first rollling between your hands a bit, then gently pinching one end between your thumb and index finger.
    Flatten the other end using a finger from your other hand. Attach the beak on its flat end.
    I could definitely have used a little less dough for the beak :)
  7. Create three wattles (remember up above? I think that is what these things are!) using three more little pieces of dough. Roll and pinch like you did for the beak, but this time you want the other end rounded, not flat. The wattle should be the shape of a teardrop.
    Attach each wattle at the center top of the body, with the point side at the top. 
  8. Divide the remaining dough into 12 equal parts. From 5 of these little balls of dough, remove a little bit.
    You want the 5 balls that form the bottom row of feathers to be a little smaller than the balls that will form the top row of feathers.
    Roll each ball in the palms of your hands and place around the head of the turkey.
  9. Combine the little bits of dough that you removed in the last step.
    If this new ball is not approximately the same size as the other 7 balls, borrow a little dough from the other 7 until it looks about the same.
    Roll each of the 8 balls in the palms of your hands and place above the bottom row of feathers (the 5 balls of dough from the preceding step).
  10. Let the formed turkey rise for about 20 minutes.
  11. Beat one egg with about 1 tsp salt. (I never actually measure, just pour what I think is about a tsp into my palm!)
    Brush entire turkey challah with the egg.
  12. Sprinkle sesame seeds over just the feathers (those two rows of balls above the turkey’s head).
  13. Bake 25 minutes at 350F or until medium brown in color (or however long you would normally bake a challah this size).
    If you used a disposable pan, you will probably need to bake it a few minutes longer. If you used a very dark pan, you might need to reduce the baking time.
    I have an electric oven which does not bake evenly. I switch from the bottom rack to the top rack halfway through the baking time. This prevents burning on the top or bottom of the challah, and helps to make sure it gets baked all the way through.
  14. Enjoy your turkey challah!

Monday, November 21, 2016

Eggplant Salad

This is deeeeelicious! My husband raves about this salad.

In Israel, it's all about the salads. Not like lettuce salads, though. They are more like small bowls of random salads and dips, like cooked beets and peppers and tomatoes. My neighbor's main dish Friday night is her eggplant dips. She spends hours making different dips made from eggplants/chatzilim, and the punch line is that she doesn't even like eggplant! She makes them for her husband and boys, bless her.

In any case, whenever she makes a bit too much, she'll send one of her boys down with a small bowl of dip for us. She's very thoughtful in that way. Usually it's shalosh seudos time when shabbos is about done but the dips are not. One Friday night they brought down this salad and we devoured it. It was that good. Then a few weeks later we ate at another Israeli family home and they served the exact same salad. At that point we had to have it too!

I searched the grocery stores and could not find a dip resembling the one we had been served, so I called my neighbor and got the recipe. It's not the healthiest and it does take time, but for shabbos both those things are permissible in my book!

Eggplant Salad:
Preparation time: 5 minutes
Cook time: 25 minutes
Total time: 30 minutes
Yields: Enough for a crowd

1 small/medium sized eggplant (depending on much you want to make), cut into thin circles
1/2 yellow/red/or orange pepper cut into small little pieces (see photo)
2 cloves garlic, cut into thin circles
1 teaspoon Vinegar
salt and pepper

1. Heat about 2 inches of oil in large frying pan
2. Once oil is sizzling, place eggplant circles in the pan. They should not overlap or be on top of each other. You will need to do several shifts, depending on the size of your frying pan, until you finish frying all your circles.
3. Eggplant circles should be slightly browned before you flip it to the other side. Once the other side is browned you could remove the circle onto a plate with a paper towel, to absorb excess oil. Repeat with remaining eggplant.
4. Once you are finished frying all your eggplant circles, place them in a container. Sprinkle with salt and paper, vinegar, pepper pieces, and garlic circles
5. To be served with plenty of challah!

Sunday, November 6, 2016

Shepherd's Pie

**I wrote this post at the end of last winter and I am only posting it now! I wanted to write a post so badly about the pivotal role of rain in this country and how exciting the first rain fall is and I had such a difficult time doing it! And then I remembered this post and how I had already wrote about the rain! So here is my thoughts on rain and Shepard's pie from the end-of-the-winter perspective. 

The difficult thing about living in Israel is needing to listen to everyone from the US bemoan their terrible, freezing weather, while you are sitting outside in the strong, beautiful, Ramat Beit Shemsh sun watching your children play on their riding toys and color with chalk. It’s really an exercise of patience, but I’m slowly getting used to it.