Food Chat: Birthday Stollen

By Hannah Lee

My birthday falls on December 26 on the Gregorian calendar and I choose not to celebrate with a double-layered cake with frosting. In recent years, I’ve been experimenting with ceremonial sweets of other cultures (namely, Christmas), so last year I procured the traditional spring form pan used to bake the Italian panettone.  This year, I had a hankering to try my hand at the German stollen, after my sister-in-law introduced the family to her father’s annual treat.

Wikimedia

One of my favorite food bloggers is David Lebovitz and in 2009, he wrote a post on his eponymous webpage about making stollen when the snow kept him indoors in his Paris apartment. His recipe is adapted from the New York Times from a recipe by Melissa Clark and Hans Röckenwagner. I liked it because it called for rye flour, which I had left over from a previous culinary adventure with Boston brown bread. I like fruitcake and this one is leavened by yeast. Unfortunately, I did not read the recipe closely and when I embarked on it in the morning, I realized that it called for five sessions of resting (“proofing”) the dough, resting it for an hour at a time. So, I had to time my activities, from a shiva call to Les Misérables, to tend to the dough.

The ultimate proof is in the tasting, so I took an early taste (before the two-day waiting period, another point I’d overlooked in my initial reading) and the slow rising yielded a tender bread, albeit not a lightweight one.  Caution, this is not for the butter-phobic, because it calls for a half kilo, or almost a pound of butter. In his post, Lebovitz reminisced about the time he was in the kitchen at Spago in Los Angeles, and he remembered Wolfgang Puck telling him how they used to make stollen when he was a kid and worked in a bakery in Austria: “Vee took a lot of butter, melted it in a veery veery beeg pot…” (making a big circular hoop with his arms to show us how big it was) “….and ve vood dunk zee whole loaves in it!”

Stollen

Makes four individual loaves

  • 2/3 cup (110 g) dark raisins
  • 2/3 cup (110 g) golden raisins (sultanas)
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) dried cranberries or cherries
  • 1/3 cup (80 ml) dark rum or orange juice
  • 1 cup (160 g) slivered or sliced almonds, lightly toasted
  • 1/4 cup (60 ml) water
  • 2 1/2 (one envelope, 20 g) teaspoons powdered yeast
  • 1/2 cup (125 ml) milk (whole or low-fat), at room temperature
  • 3 1/2 cups (490 g) all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 cup (80 g) rye flour (or all-purpose flour)
  • 1/2 cup (100 g) plus 3 tablespoons (45 g) sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons ground dried ginger
  • 1 teaspoon sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon ground cardamom
  • 1 teaspoon freshly-grated nutmeg
  • 1 teaspoon grated lemon or orange zest, preferably unsprayed
  • 3/4 teaspoon vanilla bean paste or extract
  • 1 cup (225 g), plus 3/4 cup (170 g) unsalted butter, melted
  • 1 tablespoon honey
  • 1 large egg yolk
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) chopped candied ginger
  • 1/2 cup (50 g) diced candied citrus peel
  • 1/2 cup (70 g) powdered sugar, or more, if necessary
  1. Mix both kinds of raisins with the cranberries or cherries with the dark rum or orange juice, then cover. In another bowl, mix the almonds with the water, and cover. Let both sit at least an hour, or overnight.
  2. Pour the milk in a medium bowl and sprinkle the yeast over it. Stir briefly, then stir in 1 cup (140 g) of the flour until smooth to make a starter. Cover, and let rest one hour.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, with the paddle attachment, or by hand, stir together the remaining 2 1/2 cups (350 g) flour, the rye flour, 3 tablespoons (45 g) sugar, 1/2 teaspoon of the dried ginger, salt, cinnamon, cardamom, nutmeg, citrus zest, and vanilla. Pour in the 1 cup (8 ounces, 225 g) of the melted butter, honey, and the egg yolk, and mix on medium speed until the mixture is moistened uniformly.
  4. While mixing, add the yeasted starter, one-third at a time, mixing until thoroughly incorporated. Once added, continue to beat for about four minutes until almost smooth: it should resemble cookie dough. Add the dried fruits (and any liquid), candied ginger, citrus peel, and almonds, and beat until they’re well-distributed.
  5. Turn the dough out onto a lightly-floured surface and knead a few times, then place back in the mixer bowl, cover, and let rest in a warm place for one hour.
  6. Remove the dough from the bowl, knead the dough again, then return it to the bowl. Let rest for another hour.
  7. Divide the dough into four pieces and shape each one into a oval, and place them evenly-spaced apart on an insulated baking sheet.  (The original recipe says to stack two rimmed baking sheets on top of each other, so you can do that if you don’t have one.)
  8. Cover the loaves with a clean tea towel and let rest in a warm place for one hour.
  9. Preheat the oven to 350F (180C). Remove the tea towel and bake the loaves for 45 minutes, or until they’re deep golden brown. (Note: Recipe advises that when they’re done, the internal temperature should read 190F, 88C if using an instant-read thermometer.)
  10. While they loaves are baking, mix together the remaining 1/2 cup (100 g) sugar and 1 teaspoon dried ginger. When the breads come out of the oven, generously brush the remaining 3/4 cup (6 ounces, 170 g) melted butter over the hot loaves, letting the butter saturate the breads, repeating until all the butter is absorbed. (Lebovitz was a daredevil and lifted the loaves, to saturate the bottoms. Be careful not to break the loaves.)
  11. Rub the gingered sugar mixture over the top and side of each loaf then let rest on the baking sheet until room temperature.
  12. Sift the powdered sugar over, under, and around the breads, rubbing it in with your hands. They wrap the loaves on the baking sheet in a large plastic bag and let them sit for two days. After two days, the loaves are ready to eat, or can be wrapped as gifts. You may wish to sift additional powdered sugar over the top in case they need another dusting.

Storage: Stollen can be stored for at least a week, if well-wrapped, at room temperature. Or frozen for at least one month.

http://blog.pjvoice.com/diary/2891/food-chat-birthday-stollen

Author Chat: Inside the Jewish Bakery

By Hannah Lee

On Tuesday night, I attended a fascinating lecture by Stanley Ginsberg, co-author of Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Memories From the Golden Age of Jewish Baking. Ginsberg has a diverse background, including a Ph.D. in Chinese literature and a career in marketing and financial writing, but he hungered for the Jewish foods of his childhood. An amateur baker, he found his co-author, Norman Berg (who died in May), on a baker’s forum on the Internet and asked for the one item he savored most, onion rolls. Berg, a Bronx native and a retired baker, provided a recipe and it came out great. Next was the Russian coffee cake, with its New World extravagance of butter, cinnamon sugar, nuts, and apricot syrup. The two of them, living on opposite coasts, embarked on a journey of nostalgia and research and culminated in a thick volume packed with tangible sweet and savory memories of our Jewish communities.

What is a Jewish bakery?  Well, you may simply think of it as a bakery using Jewish recipes, serving Jewish customers.  But, it is also a living document of the Jews who lived under the Holy Roman Empire as they moved up the Rhine Valley, then eastward towards the Pale of Settlement, established in 1791 by Empress Catherine (the Great), consisting of western Russia and Poland.  We have linguistic souvenirs of their odyssey, such as bentching which derives from the Latin for benediction, and we have culinary artifacts. Challah, which American Jews think of as our unique Sabbath bread, was also eaten by 14th century German Christians.  (The Sephardim had no special bread for Shabbat, maybe because of the Inquisition and the remaining hidden Jews’ need to hide their ritual observance.) The decorated challah comes from Czechoslavkia, Bohemia, and the Balkans, where they had the custom of decorating their holiday breads with symbols.

Many of the items featured in the book are no longer found in our bakeries, such as kornbroyt (corn rye), poppy horns, and bialys, for which no machine has been devised.  Other recipes are for authentic, labor-intensive methods that commercial bakeries now eschew or substitute with time-saving or cheaper replacements. A poignant example is the sad decline of the mass-produced bagel. In the early 20th century, the International Beigel Bakers Union of Greater New York and New Jersey had a tight monopoly; you couldn’t break into the business unless your father or father-in-law were themselves bagel bakers. Ginsberg writes: “In the 40’s and 50’s, it was said, a Jewish boy could more easily get into medical school than become an apprentice bagel baker.”  And we all know about the exclusion of Jews from medical schools.

The stranglehold was broken by three men: Mickey Thompson and his son Daniel who devised a bagel-making machine in 1962 and Murray Lender who expanded his market by distributing bagels through local grocery stores, thus introducing the bagel to “consumers of all ethnicities.”  The new machine could produce a mind-numbing 300 dozen bagels an hour with one unskilled operator. Lender bought the first six machines manufactured by the Thompsons. However, mass production necessitated changes in the recipe. The original stiff dough clogged the machines, so they increased the water content up to 65%. The resultant dough was now soft and stuck to the machines, so they added oil to soften the crumb.

In contrast to the traditional method of chilling the dough for 24-48 hours for a slow fermentation to develop the flavor nowadays prized by artisanal bakers, Lender sped up the process by adding sugar and dough conditioners. Then, he eliminated the initial step of boiling in malt, which created a shiny, chewy brown crust, favoring steam-injected ovens. The resultant bland bagel necessitated the addition of unorthodox flavoring– such as blueberry, cheddar cheese, jalapeño pepper, sun-dried tomato, and pesto — and it became “a doughnut with the sin removed.”

The Montreal bagel, in contrast, is made in under an hour, and uses oil, sugar, eggs, more yeast, and no salt.  It’s boiled in honeyed water, not malt, and it’s baked in wood-burning ovens, which has areas that heat up to 650 °F and thus blacken parts of the bagel. Partisan as a native would be, Ginsberg touts the New York bagel, which is baked in a gas-fired  or electric oven maintained at an even 460 °F for a “more pronounced oven spring and a harder, darker crust.”

“If challah was the queen of the Shabbes table,” writes Ginsberg, “rye was the poor but honest yeoman who served during the other six days of the week.” This is another example of the decline of quality: rye flour is more costly than wheat flour, so rye bread is now often made with only 10% rye with the addition of caraway seeds.  Pumpernickel is a generic term for dark rye bread, but nowadays it’s colored with coffee or caramel coloring.

Inside the Jewish Bakery offers step-by-step instruction, including the sequential timing of recipes, such as the implementation of the same sweet Vienna dough for the first rising, making onion pockets, then another hour’s proofing, shaping sandwich bread, and, with the final hour’s rising and with the gluten fully developed, making kaiser rolls.

Ginsberg now calls San Diego home, but he was a lay leader of Har Zion while Rabbi Gerald Wolpe was alive. His wife, Sylvia, is a Philadelphia native and they still have family ties here. Ginsberg is a ready story-teller and a walking encyclopedia of food facts. What is the difference between rugelach and schnecken? The former is made from triangles rolled up like croissants while the latter is made from long rolls that are sliced before baking. While mandelbroyt is baked only once and contains almond paste, kamishbroyt is baked twice, like the Italian biscotti.

Inside the Jewish Bakery includes complicated charts listing ratios of ingredients, and not simply volumes (as lay people use) or weights (as professional bakers use).  The book won the 2012 Jane Grigson Award given by the International Association of Culinary Professionals for distinguished scholarship in the quality of its research and presentation.

My copy is from the first printing in May 2011 and it’s full of errors, but the website, www.insidethejewishbakery.com/, has a downloadable list of errata as well as nifty videos on how to shape a four-braid and six-braid loaf of challah. Ginsberg also runs a baker’s supply website, www.nybakers.com, where you can find ingredients not available from your local supermarket, such as medium and dark rye flour, malt syrup, dehydrated chopped onion, and nigella seed.

This lecture, held at the Gershman Y, is part of the “What is Your Food Worth?” series coordinated by Temple University’s Feinstein Center for American Jewish History. Upcoming programs include: “Just a Pinch: An Unofficial History of Jewish Cooking in America” at the National Museum of American Jewish History on the 24th at 6:30 pm and “They Were What They Ate: Immigrant Jews and the Encounter with America,” at Gladfelter Hall, Temple University on the 30th at 3:30 pm.  For a complete calendar and on-going conversations about Jewish foodways, log onto www.whatisyourfoodworth.com or www.temple.edu/feinsteinctr.

A Hyphenated Identity

A running series in the New York Times on racial identity in America highlights the growing comfort that young Americans have in declaring a multiracial background.  According to the Pew Research Center, one in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities.  The latest installment in the series looked at how different institutions tally racial data.  In contrast, I’ll ask the question from the other end: what does it mean when college student Michelle López-Mullins (right) identifies herself as being of “Peruvian, Chinese, Irish, Shawnee, and Cherokee” descent.  How does she honor each of these heritages?

My Rabbi said that Philadelphia’s new National Museum of American Jewish History is very good at depicting how successful Jews have become in America, but it fails at telling how Jews in America are Jewish.  A critic from the New York Times asked at the time of its opening, if this country needed another monument touting the success of Jews (which is better, I say, than another monument about the death of Jews).  So, my friend asked me, are there any U.S. museums that does what my Rabbi thinks the one in Philly should?  Well, the Yeshiva University Museum puts on exhibits that highlight aspects of Jewish history, but it’s an institution that’s not well-known outside of the Orthodox Jewish community.

At least once a year, I love to visit the Museum of the Chinese in America (MoCA) in a tenement building re-designed by Maya Lin, the Chinese-American architect who established her reputation while still at Yale with her design of the Vietnam War Memorial.  It has an extensive permanent display of notable Chinese-Americans, with more details and more personages than in any other setting or book.  There are other informative displays from American history, which are unsettling because of the prejudice the Chinese have faced.  There is also a replica of the historical Chinese store, which once served as a community center for its compatriots.  The current traveling exhibit is on Chinese puzzles-tangrams, linked rings, sliding block puzzles, and Burr puzzles (see www.ChinesePuzzles.org).  The museum succeeds in educating visitors regardless of their background.  The books available for purchase in the gift shop are of particular value to me, as these titles are not promoted in the mainstream media.

The difference between MoCA and the National Museum of American Jewish History — or rather the difference between what the latter museum is and what it could be — may lie in the difference between ethnicity and religion.  The donors and board of trustees of the Jewish Museum chose to depict Jewishness as a cultural trait.  My Rabbi defines Jewishness as Yahadut, a religion.  Ergo, it’s a difficult balance to reach out to a wider audience.  My husband noted that the donor list of MoCA included corporate and government sponsors, who were comfortable with the idea of a cultural museum about the Chinese.  Similarly, it seems the sponsors of the new Jewish museum wanted to tell the cultural story of the Jews in America.

Finally, what is the difference between a Jewish American and an American Jew?  It lies in the value the person places on the relative labels.  Someone who declares herself an American Jew says that being Jewish is more transcendent than being American.  And such as person identifies as a religious Jew.  So, the National Museum of American Jewish History needs to live up to its chosen name.  It needs to also educate the public about the religious history of Jews in America.

A Hyphenated Identity

Schoolchildren of the early 19thcentury were punished for speaking any language other than English. We’ve come a long way in our tolerance of differences. (My mother-in-law says that someone who speaks English with an accent knows at least one other language, a dig at the monolingual Americans.) We’ve changed our perspective in cultural assimilation and the iconic image is no longer of the melting pot, but the salad bowl, in which the ingredients are separate and distinct.

A running series in the New York Times on racial identity in America highlights the growing comfort that young Americans have in declaring a multiracial background. According to the Pew Research Center, one in seven new marriages is between spouses of different races or ethnicities. The latest installment in the series looked at how different institutions tally these racial data. In contrast, I’ll ask the question from the other end: what does it mean to the person when she identifies herself as being of “Peruvian, Chinese, Irish, Shawnee, and Cherokee” descent (a college student in the 2/10/2011 article). How does she honor each of these heritages?

My Rabbi said in passing in class this week that the fancy new Jewish museum in Philadelphia is very good at depicting how successful Jews have become in America, but it fails at telling how Jews in America are Jewish. A critic from the New York Times asked at the time of its opening, if this country needed another monument touting the success of Jews (which is better, I say, than another monument about the death of Jews). So, my friend asked me, are there any U.S. museums that does what my Rabbi thinks the one in Philly should? Well, the Yeshiva University Museum puts on exhibits that highlight aspects of Jewish history, but it’s an institution that’s not well-known outside of the Orthodox Jewish community.

At least once a year, I love to visit the Museum of the Chinese in America (MoCA) in a tenement building re-designed by Maya Lin, the Chinese-American architect who established her reputation while still at Yale with her design of the Vietnam War Memorial. It has an extensive permanent display of notable Chinese-Americans, with more details and more personages than in any other setting or book. There are other informative displays from American history, which are unsettling because of the prejudice the Chinese have faced. There is also a replica of the historical Chinese store, which once served as a community center for its compatriots. The current traveling exhibit is on Chinese puzzles—tangrams, linked rings, sliding block puzzles, and Burr puzzles (see www.ChinesePuzzles.org). The museum succeeds in educating visitors regardless of their background. The books available for purchase in the gift shop are of particular value to me, as these titles are not promoted in the mainstream media.

The difference between MoCA and the National Museum of American Jewish History— or rather the difference between what the latter museum is and what it could be– may lie in the difference between ethnicity and religion. The donors and board of trustees of the Jewish Museum chose to depict Jewishness as a cultural trait. My Rabbi defines Jewishness as Yahadut, a religion. Ergo, it’s a difficult balance to reach out to a wider audience. My husband noted that the donor list of MoCA included corporate and government sponsors, who were comfortable with the idea of a cultural museum about the Chinese. Similarly, it seems the sponsors of the new Jewish museum wanted to tell the cultural story of the Jews in America.

Finally, what is the difference between a Jewish American and an American Jew? It lies in the value the person places on the relative labels. Someone who declares herself an American Jew says that being Jewish is more transcendent than being American. And such as person identifies as a religious Jew. So, the National Museum of American Jewish History needs to live up to its chosen name. It needs to also educate the public about the religious history of Jews in America.