Jewish culture is rich with wonderful food traditions. Most originated because of laws around religious dietary requirements (the Kashrut), and then evolved to suit the new homelands, climates and ingredients that came with the necessity to migrate.
Many people are familiar with Ashkenazic Jewish cuisine, for example, which spread from Germany to Russia and Poland, and has become the American-style of classic Jewish food – think bagels and borscht.
Not as well known to most of us is the Sephardic cuisine that covers the foods eaten by Jewish people in North Africa, the Mediterranean, the Middle East, Red Sea region and India, much of which is influenced by Islam. And then there is the Israeli-influenced version of Jewish cuisine.
The long slow baking causes the butter between the layers of dough to caramelise.
My experience of Jewish baking began with a small and humble savoury bun of Polish and Ashkenazic beginnings. The bialy is made from a yeasted dough with a small depression in the top that is filled with a chopped onion, garlic and poppy seed or breadcrumb filling before baking. It’s best eaten warm, spread with a little cream cheese or butter.
Next on my list is a dairy-free flourless chocolate cake that can be served as dessert at Passover after a meat dish (dairy cannot be eaten with meat). I am happy to eat it any day of the year.
Sweet and spicy honey cake is baked for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, when honey is one of the important symbolic foods served to celebrate the occasion.
And, finally, the golden and extremely flavoursome slow-baked kubaneh, which is a Yemeni pull-apart yeast bread served on the Sabbath (Shabbat) with boiled eggs, tomato salsa and a hot green chilli sauce. It tastes as good as it sounds.
I am a sucker for food that tastes amazing and is packed with meaning, and Jewish baking delivers on both in a very tasty and meaningful way.
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Traditionally baked in the residual heat of the hearth overnight on Friday and served for breakfast or brunch on Shabbat with boiled eggs, tomato salsa and a hot green chilli sauce called zhug sahawiq or skhug, this bread is rich with both flavour and history. The Yemen Jews brought it to Israel and it has become an integral part of Israeli cuisine. The long slow baking causes the butter between the layers of dough to caramelise, giving the bread an even deep golden colour and distinct, but mellow, flavour right to the core. The eggs are often cooked overnight with the bread and are called chaminados when prepared this way.
Traditionally baked by Ashkenazi Jews for Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year), honey cake symbolizes the hope of a ‘sweet’ and prosperous new year. This one is best kept for at least 3-4 days before serving as it becomes more moist and flavoursome with time.
Originating in the city of Białystok in north-eastern Poland these deliciously chewy flat round rolls topped with salted onion and poppy seeds are completely addictive. They are best eaten the day they are baked (even better war) and spread with cream cheese or butter.
The flourless chocolate cake doesn’t hail back to the Exodus in Egypt but has been widely adapted as the Passover dessert of choice. Rich and decadent, this cake, with the absence of dairy, is also appropriate to serve following a meat-based main course.
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Anneka's mission is to connect home cooks with the magic of baking, and through this, with those they love. For hands-on baking classes and baking tips, visit her at BakeClub. Don't miss what's coming out of her oven via Facebook,Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest.