Of all Clara’s adopted Jewish holidays, Rosh Hashanah is a favorite for its food (although a recent discovery of South Williamsburg-style gefilte fish, which comes frozen – not canned, thankfully – and is baked with savory vegetables and touch of sugar, has pushed that previously confusing food item quite high on the like-list…) But really, how can any other holiday compete with such festive comfort food as sweet noodles (smelling faintly of December with their raisins and cinnamon) and rich challah dipped in honey? For the Argentine sweet tooth there’s nothing better. As this was our first Rosh Hashanah cooking for ourselves, we spent far too much time trying to decide what to make, and from which recipes. We went with challah, two kugels – one noodle, one sweet potato – and brisket braised in wine with onions and tomatoes. A veritable feast, with some winning dishes, and some we’d like to play with a bit more to truly perfect.
Somehow, we managed to make everything in the span of six hours, no small feat in a very small kitchen with a finicky oven. The challah dough was prepared first, and left to rise in its various stages as first the kugel was cooked for an hour, and then the brisket was braised for another three, followed finally with the challah. Good thing it’s cooled off in NYC. Otherwise, six hours of the oven on would have been a small form of torture.
Adapted from Smitten Kitchen
First, challah. This recipe is delicious and smells divine. Had our apartment smelling of that slightly sweet brioche scent of Paris, and brought back a flood of memories of the bakery Clara would stop in at without fail every Friday of her high school career to grab some tasty rewarding treat for the long ride home from school.
Three tricks for a beautiful loaf: 1. baste with egg wash twice, once before the last rise, and once before baking, to get that lacquer-like crust. 2. Don’t overbake it (we happened to have a thermometer on hand, and were able to confirm an internal temperature of exactly 190F at exactly 30 minutes, but the almost-too-golden crust as the end of 30 minutes would have been enough to know it was ready.) And, 3. if you have the time, slow down the last rise in the fridge, for the deepest of developed flavors. We did this out of necessity – our tiny kitchen had to bake two kugels and brisket first, but we’d plan for it again, just be sure to bring the loaves back to room temperature before baking.
We opted for olive oil this time, but would try a more neutral oil next time. We’d also be curious about how the challah would taste if we substituted honey for the sugar. We’ll do some tests and report back.
Note: this recipe yields two enormous loaves. We froze the second, once completely cooled, in a freezer bag with the air squeezed out. But, we might also just halve the recipe next time. (Or, make french toast. Or invite more people to dinner.)
1 1/2 packages active dry yeast (1 1/2 tablespoons)
1 tablespoon plus 1/2 cup sugar
1/2 cup olive or vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the bowl
5 large eggs
1 tablespoon salt
8 to 8 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1. In a large bowl, dissolve yeast and 1 tablespoon sugar in 1 3/4 cups lukewarm water.
2. Whisk oil into yeast, then beat in 4 eggs, one at a time, with remaining sugar and salt.
3. Gradually add flour. (We kept at it with the whisk for the first five cups of flour, then switched to floured hands.)
4. When dough holds together, it is ready for kneading. Turn dough onto a floured surface and knead until smooth, just a minute or so. Clean out bowl and grease it, then return dough to bowl. Cover with plastic wrap, and let rise in a warm place for 1 hour, until almost doubled in size. Two footnotes here. 1: If necessary, you can leave your dough in an oven that has been warmed to 150 degrees then turned off. However, for better or for worse, most home kitchens are permanently in the mid-70s range, which is a fine temperature for rising. 2. We covered our dough with a moist dish towel, not plastic, as we’ve always been taught to do.
5. After an hour, punch down dough, cover and let rise again (in the same warm place!) for another half-hour.
6. Put the twice-risen dough on a floured surface and shape it into loaves. Here are Deb’s instructions for making a 6-braid dough (we got lost half way through but still managed to make something approximating a braid): Halve your dough. Take the first half and form it into 6 balls. With your hands, roll each ball into a strand about 12 inches long and 1 1/2 inches wide. Place the 6 in a row, parallel to one another. Pinch the tops of the strands together. Move the outside right strand over 2 strands. Then take the second strand from the left and move it to the far right. Take the outside left strand and move it over 2. Move second strand from the right over to the far left. Start over with the outside right strand. Continue this until all strands are braided. For a straight loaf, tuck ends underneath. For a circular loaf, twist into a circle, pinching ends together. Make a second loaf the same way.
7. Place braided loaves on a greased cookie sheet with at least 2 inches in between.
5. Beat remaining egg and brush it on loaves. Let rise another hour (or if you’re letting it rise in the fridge, another two to three hours, depending on how much time you have.)
6. Preheat oven to 375°F and brush loaves again. Sprinkle bread with seeds, if using.
7. Bake in middle of oven for 30 to 40 minutes, or until golden. (If you have an instant read thermometer, you can take it out when it hits an internal temperature of 190 degrees.) Cool loaves on a rack.
This noodle kugel – an Edinberg family classic – is delicious and worth every bite of sugar and butter. We swapped Greek yogurt out for the sour cream, 0% fat at that, and didn’t notice even the slightest difference. It has become one of our favorite holiday dishes – sweet and comforting and the added crunch of the cornflakes the perfect touch.
If you’re tempted to use a smaller baking dish so as to have taller squares, place it on a cookie sheet in the oven. The dish doesn’t rise that much, but you’re apt to have some spillage, which will turn the scent of cinnamon into that of burning.
Adapted from Epicurious via the Edinberg Family
8 ounces wide egg noodles
1 cup dark raisins
5 large eggs
1 cup sour cream (we substituted this with non fat Greek yogurt)
1/2 cup unsalted butter, melted, cooled
1/3 cup sugar
4 cups whole milk
3 cups cornflakes, coarsely crushed
1/4 cup (packed) dark brown sugar
1 tablespoon cinnamon (we were certainly more generous)
1. Preheat oven to 350°F.
2. Butter 13 x 9 x 2-inch glass baking dish.
3. Spread uncooked noodles over bottom of prepared dish and sprinkle with raisins.
4. Whisk eggs, sour cream (or yogurt), butter and sugar in large bowl until smooth. Whisk in milk and pour mixture over noodles. Let stand 5 minutes.
5. Mix cornflakes, brown sugar and cinnamon in bowl; sprinkle evenly over kugel.
6. Bake until set in center, about 1 hour.
7. Cut into squares. Serve warm or at room temperature.
Adapted from Joan Nathan’s Jewish Cooking
And the brisket. We poured over recipe after recipe trying to decide which one to try first. Recipes with apricots. Recipes with ketchup and heinz chili sauce (um, is that really good?!). Recipes with onions and carrots and beef broth. In the end, we went with Joan Nathan’s “favorite”, braised in wine with onions, celery and aromatics. Perhaps it felt the most like other things we’ve made, or perhaps we inherently trusted Ms. Nathan, who’s made her name as the definitive authority of Jewish American cooking…but hers won and it was perfect. The brisket was deeply flavored and no-knife-needed tender, and delicious smothered in its sauce, which had thickened over the long, slow cooking. As Joan (and virtually everyone else) notes, the brisket is even tastier after a few hours, or better yet, a whole day, in the fridge, so make it the day before if you can!
2 teaspoons salt
Freshly ground pepper to taste
1 5-pound brisket
1 garlic clove, peeled
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
3 onions, peeled and diced
1 10-ounce can tomatoes
2 cups red wine
2 stalks celery with the leaves, chopped
1 bay leaf
1 sprig fresh thyme
1 sprig fresh rosemary
1. Preheat the oven to 325°F.
2. Rub the brisket with garlic, and sprinkle the salt and pepper.
3. Sear the brisket in the oil and then place, fat side up, on top of the onions in a large casserole. Cover with the tomatoes, red wine, celery, bay leaf, thyme, and rosemary.
4. Cover tightly with aluminum foil and bake about 3 and a half hours to four hours, basting every 20 minutes or so with pan juices during the first two hours, and then letting it go (tightly covered!) the rest of the time.
5. To test for doneness, stick a fork in the flat (thinner or leaner end of the brisket). When there is a light pull on the fork as it is removed from the meat, it is “fork tender.”
6. Allow the brisket too cool slightly, and then trim the extra fat from the brisket and discard (this is easier to do hot than cold.)
7. When cooled, cover and place in the fridge to rest a few hours or overnight until ready to serve.
8. An hour before serving, preheat your oven to 300°F, and remove the dish from the fridge. Remove all of the fat that has solidified with a slotted spoon for a less oily finish. remove the brisket from the fridge. Carefully remove the meat from its sauce and place on a large cutting board. Cut the brisket into 1/2-inch slices.
9. If you like a smoother sauce (we do) this is a good time to run it through a blender.
10. Carefully place the sliced meat back into the sauce and spoon the sauce over the meat. Replace the lid or cover the dish tightly with foil and reheat in the oven until it is bubbling at the edges — about 30 minutes.