One year ago Mafrum - Libyan Sabbath stew
It’s been more autumn walks this week, enjoying the last warm days before the rain arrives, as well as more baking - a very good combination! (These pictures taken around Ein Kerem, and also in Wadi Qetalav, further away in the Judean Hills.)
We’re going the Full Yeast, with part II of the recipes of Melbourne grandmother and baking maven Baba Schwartz. She of the to-die-for quote, “In Hungary baking wasn’t a big deal. Nobody was a hero if she could bake.”
Baba bakes the bread, cakes, rolls, crescents, and pockets she learnt growing up in Hungary – and perfected as a wife, mother and then grandmother after migrating to Australia. Fifteen years ago she gathered all her recipes along with no-nonsense advice in a book called The Lost Art of Baking with Yeast.
Last week on this blog, we told Baba’s enthralling life story, including her survival during World War Two, after being held in concentration camps and working as a slave labourer.
That post also included her recipe for a yeast log called kindli, with 2 fillings, ground walnuts, and poppy seeds, laced with lemon and sultanas, spread over apricot jam.
LITTLE PARCELS OF DELIGHT
This week, 2 more of Baba’s recipes: individual rolls, little crescents with the same fillings, poppy seed and walnut, as well sweet cheese pockets. Same principle, different dough and filling. Each delectable in its own right.
The Kipfli are made from a slightly different dough than the strudel-like roll we made last week, giving these fillings a whole new feel.
The cheese pockets are filled with farm cheese, lemon and sultanas, with a little semolina or breadcrumbs to absorb any moisture, and keep the dough dry and crisp and the filling soft. (This is the same basic dough, enriched this time with sour cream.)
Think of yeast as tired. It needs lot of rest. You will probably need to set it aside to rest at least twice while you prepare the dough, so fit other things around your baking and you'll be right.
Yeast also needs warmth. But like Goldilocks, not too hot, not too cold.
Any ingredient which you add, such as flour, juice, milk or sour-cream, is best at room temperature and not straight out of the fridge. Before you use them, take them out of the fridge and let them sit in the sun on a warm day or give them a very quick zap in the microwave. But not too long! Think blood temperature, like milk for a baby. You want it just right, Goldilocks.
Apricot is traditional in these rolls, because it's sour-sweet. Ideally you want it without chunks, so it spreads evenly. I tried strawberry jam with chunks – not great. Too sweet and chunky, as you'd predict. Next, I used plum jam, no chunks, plus warmed with a little lemon juice, which made it easier to spread and deliciously sour-sweet. Almost as good as apricot!
Poppy seeds and walnuts
It’s quickest to buy both pre-ground from delicatessens, best of all if you can find one that will do it on the spot, so you know it’s fresh.
“It is handy to have a stock of these products available at all times in case the urge to bake should arise unexpectedly,” as Baba puts it so perfectly.
If you put the ground nuts and seeds into airtight containers in the freezer, they will keep for quite a while.
Baba is against cooking poppyseeds in milk, believing they lose their shiny black colour and turn a dull grey.
“Cooking in water will preserve their colour," she says.
Baba also advises to freeze squeezed lemons halves, so that you always have them on hand when you need lemon rind.
“Just remove from the freezer 5 minutes before you need to grate and you will have very finely grated rind.”
Way to go Baba! I love how all the Food is Love grandmothers never waste anything.
These nut and poppyseed crescents are from Bratislava, the capital of Slovakia. Baba calls them Poszonyi Kifli, from the Hungarian name for Bratislava.
We've told the story of more than one woman from Bratislava here, including Sydney grandmother Eva Grinston. You can read Eva’s moving life story here. (Eva cooks the recipes from the grandmother’s cookbook, which she found in the basement of her family home when she returned from Auschwitz after World War Two.)
Eva also bakes these of course. Her version is slightly different; each woman has her own recipe for this classic.
The dough for the crescents includes a secret ingredient. I could keep you in suspense, and make you wait till you read down the recipe, but I’ll tell you now so you won’t get the same shock I did - it’s mashed potato. Mashed potato? Yes, you heard right.
Doesn’t sound like it would work. I wasn’t sure about it at all – to the point of being about to leave it out – before knuckling down and doing what Baba said, to find that of course it worked perfectly, giving the dough a soft airy consistency.
Kipfli: Walnut and Poppyseed crescents
- 15 g fresh or 1 heaped teaspoon dry yeast
- pinch of sugar
- 1/4 cup warm water
- 200 g butter/margarine
- 500 g plain flour
- 1/4 cup orange juice or sweet wine
- 1 egg yolk
- 3 medium potatoes, boiled and mashed
- 2 tablespoons sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- apricot jam
- beaten egg yolk for glazing
- egg white for glazing
1. Boil and mash 3 medium potatoes, let cool while making dough.
2. Dissolve the yeast and the pinch of sugar in the warm water and set aside to bubble for 5 minutes. Work the margarine into the flour with your fingers until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
3. Add the risen yeast, juice or wine, egg yolk, mashed potatoes, sugar and salt, mixing them together by hand to form a soft dough. Knead, bringing the dough in from the sides of the bowl and pushing it into the middle with your knuckles. If you find the dough too stiff to knead, add more juice/wine until it is soft enough to work.
4. Continue to knead for 5-6 minutes, then cover and set aside to rest for 30-40 minutes.
While the dough is rising, make the fillings. You will see that these are dairy free, so that cooks who keep kosher can serve this after a meat meal.
- 1 egg white
- 50 g sugar
- juice of 1/2 lemon + rind of 1/2 lemon
- 150 g ground walnuts or almonds
- 1/4 Granny Smith apple, grated
Beat the egg white and sugar together, add the lemon juice and rind, then mix in the ground nuts and grated apple.
Poppy Seed Filling
- 1 cup water
- 3 tablespoons sugar
- 200 g freshly ground poppy seed
- grated rind of 1/2 lemon
- handful of sultanas or raisins
Put the water and sugar into a small saucepan and heat until the sugar dissolves. Add the poppy seed, stirring well, and simmer for a few minutes, till it hangs together and becomes 'gloopy'. Thinks potato puree. Remove from the heat and add the lemon rind. If the mixture is too dense, add a little more water.
This recipe calls for two glazing operations, the first with egg yolk and the second with egg white, to produce the traditional cracked glaze.
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C. Turn the dough out onto a floured work surface and divide it into 5 equal portions. Roll out each portion into a circle 25-30 cm in diameter. Spread a thin layer of jam over the entire surface.
2. Cut the disc into 8 equal segments – like you are cutting a pizza, so you have 8 triangles. Place 1 teaspoon of the filling onto the outer edge of each segment, then roll it up towards the centre ie wide side to narrow. You have just made your first crescent! Repeat until all the dough and fillings have been used.
3. Arrange the rolls on a paper-lined baking sheet and brush them with the beaten egg yolk. Allow to rest for 10 minutes then brush with the unbeaten egg white.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until they are golden brown, rotating the baking sheet after 15 minutes to ensure even browning.
JERUSALEM TEST KITCHEN
The success of my first attempt with the kindli – a great result even with my mistakes along the way - made me feel brave enough to go the next step up and to try my hand at these. And I’m very happy I did.
They were not all perfectly shaped the first time round, and some jam did pop out here and there, but it didn’t make much difference to the result. And the second tray were already much improved.
These could be my all-time favourites taste and texture wise. The slightly softer dough suits the fillings and there’s the pleasure of eating your own personalized little yeast cake. (If you can stop at one!) Plus they look gorgeous and are fun to make
VERDICT: Fun, easy and scrumptious. Must try! Yeast maven strikes again.
Despite many traumatic experiences. Baba is cheerful and lively. It's the first thing you notice when you meet her, now when she’s in her 80s, and she says she's been like this since she was a girl.
One of my favourite stories that Baba tells about herself concerns the difficult period after World War Two when she returned to her home town of Nyirbator in Hungary with her mother and two sisters.
All four had survived the war, which felt like a miracle, given their 9 months in concentration camps, including Auschwitz, and working as slave labourers. (You can read about this in full here in last week’s post.)
But when the four came home, the devastating news was confirmed -- Baba's father Gyula would never return. Nor would dozens of friends and relatives. Baba’s mother Boeske discovered that 17 members of her immediate family had been killed by the Nazis.
Also dead: the majority of Nyribator’s 3,000 Jews. Boeske and her daughters were amongst the 130 – less than 5 per cent - who survived and returned to their town.
PRINCE OF WALES
Return was difficult. It was not only, for them, a ghost town, but most of the family’s possessions had disappeared. One day when visiting a neighbour, they saw their old dining room furniture. They told the woman these were their table and chairs.
The neighbour admitted she’d found them after the Nyirbator Jews were expelled in April 1944, but she was defensive.
“People can say anything belongs to them. What’s your proof?” she asked.
Baba’s mother said that their proof amounted to this. If they turned the chairs over they would see on the bottom of one of them the following sentence: “If I cannot marry the Prince of Wales, I will marry no one.”
They were the words of Wallis Simpson, the American divorcee whom the Prince of Wales wanted to marry. It was the biggest British Royal Scandal of its day. Edward ended up choosing her over his Crown, abdicating in 1936 after having been King for only a matter of months so he could marry her.
But that was after Baba had written the sentence on the bottom of one of the chairs.In Nyribator in 1945, almost a decade later, they upended the chairs, and there it was.
“If I cannot marry the Prince of Wales, I will marry no one.”
The neighbour had to return the tables and chairs to Baba’s family.
This story says a lot about alert, curious, engaged Baba. That even as a girl, she should make her mark – literally! - with something so idiosyncratic, and yes funny, and that her mother should remember it, and that it could lead to the return of her family’s possessions.
And that the Boeske and her 3 daughters, who had survived the War together, had somewhere to cook and to sit to eat again. And to bake these cakes again too, once they could source sugar and other baking ingredients in post-war Hungary.
- 20 g fresh or 1 sachet dry yeast
- 2 tablespoons warm water
- pinch of sugar
- 250 g softened butter – or 125 g butter, 125g margarine
- 700 g plain flour
- 2 egg yolks
- 1/4 cup caster sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon salt
- 1/2-3/4 cup warm milk
- 200 g sour cream, warmed
- beaten egg white for glazing
- vanilla sugar or powdered sugar (optional)
1. Same first step: put the yeast into a small bowl and add the warm water and sugar. Leave to rise in a warm place for 8-10 minutes.
2. Same second step too: work the butter and margarine into the flour with your fingers in a large bowl, until it resembles coarse breadcrumbs.
3. Add the risen yeast, egg yolks, sugar, salt, milk and sour cream, mixing well with your hand or a wooden spoon. (Hands turned out to be easiest.) Knead for 6-8 minutes, bringing the dough in from the edges with your fingers and pushing it down into the centre of the bowl with your knuckles. Rotate the bowl with your free hand as you knead. If the dough is hard to knead, add a little more warm milk until it is firm but elastic.
4. Cover and set aside to rise for 30-40 minutes in a warm-water bath. Or in a warm spot in the sun on a beautiful autumn day.
While the dough is rising, make the cheese filling.
- 500 g farm cheese or cottage cheese, drained
- 1 egg plus 1 egg white
- 1/3 cup brown sugar
- pinch of salt
- 2 tablespoons semolina or white breadcrumbs
- grated rind of 1 lemon
- handful of sultanas
Mix all the ingredients together in a bowl to obtain a smooth mixture.
1. Preheat the oven to 200°C.
2. Turn the risen dough out onto a floured work surface and knead for 2-3 minutes. Cover it with a clean cloth and set aside to rest in a warm place for 20 minutes.
3. Turn out the dough and divide it into two parts. On a floured work surface, roll out the first half of the dough to a thickness of 5 mm. Cut 7 cm strips along the length of the dough and repeat crosswise. This will give you 7 cm squares of dough. Put a heaped teaspoon of the cheese filling in the centre of each square. Gather up the four corners, bringing them into the centre and pinching them tightly. Where before you were making a croissant shape, now you are sealing up a package.
4. Repeat this process with the second half of the dough.
5. Transfer the pockets or turnovers to a baking sheet that has either been oiled or lined with baking paper. Brush them with beaten egg white and set aside to rest for 10-20 minutes.
Bake for 20-25 minutes or until golden brown in colour, rotating the sheet after 15 mins to ensure even browning.
If desired, sprinkle with vanilla sugar while still warm or with powdered sugar before serving.
Note: I reduced the sugar in these, as I do in most recipes, so they were good sprinkled with a little powdered sugar before serving.
jerusalem test kitchen
As you know by now, I am still basically frightened of yeast, and it was such a feeling of triumph to look at these cooling on my table. I couldn't quite believe that I had produced this authentic taste of old Europe in my kitchen!
When I gave them out to neighbours and friends - one of the pleasures of baking is sharing - they were as amazed as I was. Baba says that in Hungary, "no one was a hero if she could bake." But I have to say that I felt like a hero after these 2 fabulous successes baking with yeast :-)
VERDICT: Fabulous. Make these too!