Brioche Challah (dairy)

Makes two medium loaves

Brioche is a buttery French bread that tastes like a pastry. It is typically eaten for breakfast in France, and makes the perfect dairy challah for Shavuot. When I learned how to make brioche in pastry school in Paris, we were instructed how to prepare it by hand. The process of mixing and kneading the dough and then kneading in the butter took 30 minutes. During two separate pastry courses I had made brioche by hand, so when I had to make it a third time, I asked my teacher if I could make it by machine. I explained that we could compare both methods and see which was superior. He only agreed because at the time I was visibly pregnant with Sam. The chef was sure that the hand-kneaded one would be better, but, alas, he had to admit that the taste and texture of my machine-made brioche was perfect. In the interest of time, I am not even suggesting that you ever make this dough by hand.

Ingredients

  • ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water
  • 4 tablespoons (50g) plus 1 teaspoon sugar, divided
  • 1/2 ounce (2 envelopes, 14g) dry yeast
  • 2 1/2 cups (315g) bread flour, plus extra for dusting
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 4 large eggs, beaten slightly, plus 1 egg for glazing
  • ¾ cup (1 ½ sticks, 170g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, at room temperature, plus 1 tablespoon for greasing bowl
  • 2 teaspoons water for glaze

In a measuring cup, measure ¼ cup (60 ml) warm water, add the teaspoon sugar and yeast and stir. Let the mixture sit five minutes, or until thick. In the bowl of a stand mixer, place the flour, salt and four tablespoons (50g) sugar and mix. Add the four eggs and proofed yeast mixture and mix with the dough hook on low speed for two minutes, scraping down the bowl and hook two to three times. Turn the speed up to medium and knead for eight minutes, stopping to scrape down the hook and sides of the bowl 3 to 4 times. Turn the speed to low and add the 1½ sticks (170g) soft butter, two tablespoons at a time, making sure each addition is fully mixed in before adding more butter. When all the butter has been added, turn the speed to medium and mix for three minutes, stopping to scrape down the bowl once or twice.

Place the dough into a medium bowl greased with the tablespoon butter. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise for one hour. Remove the dough from the bowl, punch down by folding over a few times, then gather the dough back into a ball and return it to the bowl. Cover the dough with the plastic and let rise for 30 minutes. Once again, remove the dough from the bowl, punch it down, return to the bowl, and cover it. Place in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Lightly flour your hands and kitchen counter. Divide the dough in half and braid each half into a challah, adding a little more flour to your hands if the dough feels a little sticky. Place the challahs on a parchment-covered baking sheet. Beat remaining egg with two teaspoons water. Brush the challahs all over with the mixture. Let them rise for one hour.

Preheat oven to 375°F. Brush challahs again with the egg wash. Bake for 30 minutes or until golden. Store wrapped in foil at room temperature for up to five days or freeze for up to three months.

Kale Caesar Salad

Serves 8

Kale became trendy in the United States back in 2004 and is now popular both at home and in restaurants. My family started eating kale when my husband, Andy, who is always on a diet because of my work, met with a nutritionist who suggested that he add more leafy greens to his diet.

Prep time 15 minutes

Advance prep: Dressing may be made 2 days in advance; salad may be made 1 day in advance

Equipment

Measuring cups and spoons ,garlic press, cheese grater , small bowl or 2-cup liquid measuring cup , whisk, cutting board, knives and tongs

Ingredients

  • 2/3 cup (165ml) mayonnaise
  • 2 cloves garlic, crushed
  • Juice of 1/2 lemon
  • 1/2 teaspoon Passover teriyaki or "soy" sauce (optional)
  • 2 tablespoons water
  • Salt and black pepper
  • 1/2 cup (50g) freshly grated Parmesan cheese, divided
  • 1 bunch kale (8 ounces/225g), tough ribs removed

To prepare the dressing

IN A BOWL or 2-cup measuring cup, whisk together the mayonnaise, garlic, lemon juice, and teriyaki sauce, if using. Whisk in the water. Add salt and pepper to taste and half the Parmesan cheese and mix. May be made 1 day in advance; cover and store in the fridge.

To assemble the salad

STACK bunches of the kale leaves and slice them into 1/4- to 1/2-inch-thick (6- to 12-mm) ribbons. Place into a large bowl. Add the dressing, a little at a time, tossing until all the leaves are coated with the dressing. Add the remaining cheese and more pepper to taste and toss.

Pasta Siciliana (dairy)

Serves 6 to 8

This is a dish that my husband, Andy, and I absolutely loved eating while living in Geneva, Switzerland-fried eggplant slices stirred into penne pasta with a garlicky tomato sauce and then covered in cheese and baked. Here is my healthier version using baked eggplant and whole-wheat pasta. You can use this method of baking eggplant in any recipe that calls for fried eggplant.

Prep Time: 15 minutes Cook Time: 1 hour 20 minutes

Advance Prep: May be made 2 days in advance and frozen

Equipment

Measuring cups and spoons, cutting board, knife, can opener, 2 jelly roll pans, offset spatula, medium saucepan, silicone spatula, wooden spoon, fork, large saucepan, colander, 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33-cm) baking dish, aluminum foil

Ingredients

  • 4 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
  • 2 large eggplants, stem and bottom trimmed, and cut into ½- to ¾-inch (12-mm to 2-cm) circles and then into ½- to ¾-inch (12-mm to 2-cm) long strips.
  • 1 medium onion, chopped into ½-inch (12-mm) pieces
  • 10 cloves garlic, roughly chopped
  • ½ teaspoon dried oregano
  • ½ teaspoon dried basil
  • ¼ teaspoon black pepper
  • Pinch sugar
  • ¼ to ½ teaspoon red pepper flakes, to taste
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • 28-ounce (795-g) can crushed tomatoes
  • 1 pound (450g) whole-wheat penne pasta
  • 8 ounces (225g) shredded mozzarella cheese

Preheat oven to 450°F (230°C). Place 1 tablespoon of oil on each of 2 jelly roll pans. Use an offset spatula or your hands to entirely coat each of the pans.

Divide the eggplant slices between the 2 pans, leaving a little space between the slices. Bake the eggplant for 25 minutes. After 15 minutes, switch the pans on the racks, to ensure even browning.

To make the sauce, place the remaining 2 tablespoons of oil into a medium saucepan and heat it over medium heat. Add the onions and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. If the onion starts to color, turn down the heat. Add the garlic and cook for 5 minutes, stirring occasionally. Add the oregano, basil, pepper, sugar, red pepper flakes, and salt, and stir. Add the crushed tomatoes and bring the mixture to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low. Cover the pan and simmer the sauce for 25 minutes.

After 25 minutes of roasting, turn over the eggplant strips and roast them for another 5 to 10 minutes, until they are fork-tender and browned. Cook the pasta al dente, according to the directions on the package, and then drain it; do not overcook the pasta.

Preheat the oven to 400°F (200°C). Place the pasta in a 9 x 13-inch (23 x 33-cm) baking dish. Add the baked eggplant slices and sauce and mix well. Cover the pan with foil and bake the eggplant for 40 minutes. Uncover the pan and sprinkle the cheese on top. Bake uncovered for another 5 minutes.

Dry Rubbed Roasted Salmon (gluten free)

Serves 6

This recipe started out as one thing and then turned into something else. My plan was to coat fresh salmon with the spices that are used to cure pastrami. I rubbed my spice mix on the fish and even then I noticed that it was not very black and pastrami-like. After letting the rub sit on the salmon for a while, I simply baked it in the oven. It was only when it was done, and I'd taken it out of the oven, that I realized I'd never added any oil to the fish or the pan! I served it anyway and it was flavorful and moist, without any fat, other than what was naturally in the fish. Feel free to add more black peppercorns to the spice mix if you want more kick.

Prep Time: 5 minutes to make spice mix; marinate for 30 minutes

Cook Time: 20 to 22 minutes

Advance Prep: Spice mix may be made 1 week in advance; fish may be cooked 1 day in advance

Equipment Measuring spoons, cutting board, knife, jelly roll pan, coffee grinder or food processor (or mortar and pestle, or quart resealable plastic bag and rolling pin), small bowl, spoon large plate

Ingredients

  • 3-pound (1.5-kg) salmon fillet, whole or cut into 6 8-ounce (250-g) servings
  • 1 tablespoon coriander seeds
  • 1 tablespoon whole black peppercorns, or more to taste
  • 1 tablespoon black or yellow mustard seeds
  • 2 teaspoons juniper berries
  • 1 teaspoon fennel seeds
  • 2 teaspoons light brown sugar
  • 2 teaspoons garlic powder
  • 1 teaspoon onion powder
  • ½ teaspoon smoked or regular paprika
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cloves
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt

Place the coriander seeds, black peppercorns, mustard seeds, juniper berries, and fennel seeds into a coffee grinder or food processor and grind them into small pieces (making sure none are left whole), but not completely into a powder. If you use a food processor and some of the spices are still too big after processing, crush them using a mortar and pestle, or put them in a quart resealable plastic bag and then smash it with a rolling pin. Transfer the ground seeds, peppercorns, and the rest of the mixture into a small bowl. Add the brown sugar, garlic powder, onion powder, paprika, cloves, and salt, and mix well.

Spread the spice mix on a plate and press each slice of salmon into the mix to cover it completely. Use all the spice mix. Place the fish on a roasting pan, leaving space between the pieces. Let the fish sit at room temperature for 30 minutes, covered with plastic wrap, or refrigerate it if you will be cooking it later.

Preheat oven to 400°F (200°C). Bake the salmon for 20 to 22 minutes, 20 minutes if you like it a little pink inside, longer if you want it fully cooked. Serve the fish hot or at room temperature.

White Chocolate Mousse Cake

Makes one 8-inch cake, 12 servings

Meringue

  • 4 large egg whites, at room temperature one hour
  • 2/3 cup sugar
  • 2/3 cup confectioners' sugar

Mousse

  • 8 ounces white chocolate broken into 1-inch pieces
  • 5 large egg yolks
  • 1 ½ cups whipping cream

Raspberry Sauce

  • 6 ounces fresh raspberries
  • 2 -3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar, to taste
  • 2 tablespoons hot water
  • 2-4 ounces white chocolate to decorate, if desired

Instructions

Preheat oven to 230°F. Cover two cookie sheets with parchment paper trimmed to fit perfectly on the pan bottom. Take an 8 x 2 1/2 -inch high dessert or flan ring (no bottom) and trace three circles on the parchments. Turn the papers over and place on your cookie sheets. Set aside.

To make the meringue: In the bowl of an electric mixer, beat the egg whites on medium-high speed until you have soft peaks. Turn the mixer to low and add the granulated sugar, a tablespoon at a time, waiting until each addition is mixed in before the next addition. Turn the speed up to high and beat another minute. Sift the confectioners' sugar into the egg whites. Turn the machine to low and mix briefly to combine.

Fit a pastry bag with a 1/4-inch round tip. Fill with the meringue batter. Starting from the center of the drawn circles, squeeze out spirals until your circle is about 1/2 an inch smaller than the drawn circle. If you do not have a pastry bag, use a silicone spatula to shape three circles of meringue batter.

Squeeze out any leftover batter into small circles, about an inch wide, and then lift up, like Hershey's kisses, to decorate the cake later, if desired. Place in the oven, turn down the temperature to 220°F and bake for two hours. Turn off the oven and let the meringues remain in the oven another two hours to dry out. May be made two days in advance and stored uncovered at room temperature.

To make the sauce, place the raspberries into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade and purée, scraping down the sides of the bowl until all the fruit pieces are puréed. Add the water and sugar and mix. Taste and add more sugar if the mixture is too tart. Use a sieve to strain out the seeds and discard. May be made two days in advance and stored covered in the fridge.

To make the mousse: Melt the white chocolate either in a double boiler or in the microwave oven for 45 seconds, stir, 30 seconds, stir, and 15, seconds, stir, until melted and smooth. Add the egg yolks one at a time and whisk well. In a large bowl, with an electric mixer on high speed, beat the whipping cream until stiff. Fold the whipped cream into the white chocolate mixture and mix until well blended.

To assemble the cake, you will need an 8-inch cardboard circle. If the circle is larger than your ring, trace your ring and then cut out the circle. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper, place the ring on top, and place the cardboard circle into the ring. Place a tablespoon of the mousse on the cardboard to glue the meringue circle in place. Place one of the meringue circles in the ring. Pour a third of the mouse into the ring to cover the meringue. Make sure you get some mousse on the sides between the meringue and the ring. Add the second meringue circle and another 1/3 of the mousse. Repeat with the last meringue circle and more mousse and then use a metal flat blade spatula to smooth the top, reserving any extra mousse in a small bowl in the refrigerator to decorate the top, if desired. Place into the freezer for four hours or overnight.

Remove from the freezer. To remove the ring, place the cake (with the cardboard bottom) on top of a large can of tomatoes or vegetables. Place boiling water in a small bowl. Take a towel or paper towel, dip it into the hot water, and then rub around the outside of the ring; this will help release the ring from the mousse. Go around the entire ring with the hot towel. Take your hands and gently slide the ring down off the cake. Place the cake on the parchment-lined cookie sheet.

To decorate the cake, use a vegetable peeler to scrape white chocolate curls on top of the cake or use any leftover mousse in a pastry bag with a decorative tip. Store cake in the freezer and then remove five minutes before serving to cut perfect slices. To serve, spoon some raspberry sauce on your serving plate and place the cake slice on top. Store in the freezer for up to three months.

Mini Cheesecakes Muffins with Oat and Brown Sugar Crust with Strawberry Puree

Dairy & gluten-free with gluten-free oats

Serves 12

I truly love cheesecake, especially New York style, made only with cream cheese. These minis are lower in sugar than most cheesecakes, and they are gluten-free if you use gluten-free oat flour for the crust. Ricotta cheese pumps up the calcium content. I tried to make this recipe with lower fat cream cheese and ricotta, but the results were not satisfactory. The idea behind the mini cheesecakes was portion control, but I found myself grabbing them all day long, so I had to take extreme measures and freeze most of them to get them out of easy reach. I particularly like the buttery oat crust, which you could also use as a pie crust.

Prep Time: 8 minutes; 4 hours to chill, 3 minutes for strawberry sauce

Bake Time: 10 minutes to bake crust, 25 minutes for cheesecake

Advance Prep: May be made 3 days in advance or frozen (crust not as crunchy after freezing)

Equipment

Measuring cups and spoons, microplane zester, cutting board, knife, 12-cup (2.8L) muffin pan and paper liners, medium microwave-safe bowl, silicone spatula, large bowl, electric mixer, food processor

Cheesecake

  • 1 8-ounce (225-g) package cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup (65g) sugar
  • 1 tablespoon gluten-free oat flour or other flour
  • 2 teaspoons lemon zest (from 1 lemon)
  • 1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • 1 cup (245g) whole milk ricotta cheese
  • Fresh strawberries, or other berries for garnish (optional)

Crust

  • 4 tablespoons (56g) unsalted butter
  • 3 tablespoons (40g) light brown sugar
  • 1 cup gluten-free oats (90g) (not quick-cooking kind)
  • 2 tablespoons (12g) gluten-free oat flour or other flour
  • ¼ teaspoon salt

Strawberry Puree

  • 2 cups (290g) trimmed fresh strawberries
  • 1 tablespoon confectioners' sugar

Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). To make the crust, place paper liners in a 12-cup (2.8L) muffin pan. Place the butter in a medium microwave-safe bowl and microwave for 1 minute, or until the butter melts. Add the brown sugar and mix well. Add the oats, oat flour, and salt and mix well. Place a heaping tablespoon of the mixture into each of the liners in the muffin pan and press it down. Use all of the oat mixture. Bake the crusts for 10 minutes, or until the edges start to color.

Meanwhile, to make the filling, place the cream cheese in a large bowl. Beat it with an electric mixer on high speed until it is very smooth, scraping down the bowl a few times. Add the eggs into the cream cheese,1 at a time, and beat them in. Scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the sugar, oat flour, lemon zest, and vanilla to the bowl and mix for 1 minute. Add the ricotta and mix it in gently on low speed. Scoop about ⅓ cup (68g) of the mixture into each muffin cup.

Bake the cheesecakes for 25 minutes, or until they've set. Let them cool in the pan and then refrigerate the cheesecakes for at least 4 hours.

To make the strawberry purée, place the strawberries and confectioners' sugar in the bowl of a food processor and process until puréed. (Add water, a teaspoon at a time, if the strawberries are not very ripe and the mixture seems too dry.)

Serve the mini cheesecakes with a spoonful of Strawberry Purée on top or on the side. Garnish with sliced fresh strawberries, or other berries, if desired.

Shavuot as a spring holiday is a great time to start eating lighter and more natural food. These recipes are easy yet flavorful and will ensure you still have room for cheesecake.

For more great recipes visit thekosherbaker.com