Baking Day

I was anticipating a lazy Sunday morning but when I woke up and made my way into the kitchen I found Norm busy baking. Other than an excercise class that I took, we have spent half the day in the kitchen. I couldn’t resist sharing some photos of the fruits of our labor. Hope you enjoy them!


Letting the baguettes rise


Boule bread baking in pot

Great job Norm!

Crusty Rolls

New batch of blueberry buns

Blueberry Turnover


This is the first Father’s Day since my father, Harry Graf, passed away.  It feels strange despite the fact that in recent years he was not well enough to really enjoy the celebrations.  He never knew his father and I often wondered what it must have been like for him to grow up without one.  I never asked.  What was most remarkable about my father was his resilience.  He survived his service in the Polish army and he survived the Holocaust. After the war, he and my mother moved to France where they faced a new language and culture.  Five years later, with my sister in tow, they moved to the United States and settled in New York where I was born.  My father had to learn yet another language and adapt to a new country once again.  Determined to have a better life, he studied English and eventually become a stock broker.  Anyone who ever met my father knows that he would shake your hand and then would tell you to “squeeze.”  That word had so much meaning for him.  It stood for strength, determination and a belief that one must live life to the fullest, to squeeze out every drop that you can.  On July 2, 2010 we will have his unveiling and  “squeeze” will be inscribed on his gravestone. May he rest in peace.

One thing that my husband and father had  in common was that they both had Sunday rituals that revolved around the family. When I was growing up my father always made steak and fries on Sundays.  It was his day to cook and it was a treat.  Norm, my husband, has always made Sunday breakfast for our family.  When the children were young, he prepared eggs, hash browns, french toast or pancakes. Now that our children are grown and out of the house, Norm has developed a new Sunday ritual.  He bakes.  He has taken a class with famed artisanal baker Peter Reinhardt and is very serious about his new hobby.  We no longer have big hearty breakfasts but we have bialys, bagels, challahs, artisanal breads, and hazelnut flutes. Both of these men nurtured their families by cooking for them. What a wonderful legacy.

So Happy Father’s Day to all of you and especially to the men who take the time to cook for their family and friends.

Adapted from Peter Reinhardt’s Lean Dough Recipe.


2  1/4 cups warm water
2 tsp instant  yeast
3 1/4 teaspoons kosher salt
5 1/3 cups bread flour
Flour for dusting
Oil for greasing bowl

1 whole onion, minced
2 teaspoons poppy seeds (optional)
1 Tbsp bread crumbs
1 pinch salt

Place minced onion in a bowl and leave on counter for about 30 minutes.  Combine with remaining topping ingredients and set aside.

Combine flour, yeast and salt in a large bowl.  Add warm water and mix thoroughly until dough is formed and comes away from the sides of the bowl.  Allow to rest for five minutes.  Place dough on a floured surface and knead gently for about four minutes. Dough will be sticky.

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large oiled bowl and turn to coat.  Cover and refrigerate overnight or up to four days.

Take dough out of refrigerator and divide into 16 equal portions, and roll into balls. Gently flatten each ball  into a 3  1/2 inch circle, spacing evenly on a cookie sheet with oiled parchment paper.  Cover with tea towels and allow to rise until puffy, about one hour.

With wet hands, make an indentation in the center of each bialy, leaving a 1″  edge. Then flatten center of bialy with a moistened shot glass by pressing in a circular motion.  Place about 1 tsp of the topping into the hole and press down slightly.

Cover with cloths and allow to rise for another half hour.  Preheat oven to 450°F and bake bialys for 15 to 20 minutes, rotating cookie sheets after 10 minutes.  Bialys are golden on top and crusty on bottom when finished.

Makes 16 Bialys.

Norm’s inspiration to try Bialys came from Mimi Sheraton’s book “The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World”



Blueberry Buns

Blueberries are my favorite summer fruit.  I love the color, texture, the little crown at the top of the berry, and the memories that I associate with this small delicate fruit that was plentiful on the East Coast.  As a child I picked berries in Lakewood, New Jersey and watched my Tante Marisha and mother prepare blueberry buns that we would eat straight from the oven, the warm berries oozing out with the first bite.  At The Rendezvous, a corner store in The Bronx, I always ordered fresh blueberry ice cream in the summer.  It had a particular fragrance that I had completely forgotten until this past year when a facial cream brought back this incredibly familiar smell, it was the smell of fresh blueberry ice cream.

Other memories include reading Blueberries for Sal to my children, a family favorite, and listening to Blueberry Pie by Bette Midler.

Life is peachy, let’s go bananas,
no one will care!
Blueberry Pie, let’s have fun,
’cause when all is said and done
I love you, yes I do,
’cause, Blueberry, you’re true blue.

There was a trip to Maine when the kids were little and we picked berries on Cadillac Mountain in Acadia National Park.  Summer trips to Toronto where blueberry buns were a local specialty of European Jewish bakeries.  I remember my cousin Rose serving a delicious blueberry cake and I have a favorite peach and blueberry cobbler recipe that I make each summer.  Blueberry buns, or  yagda bilkelach, which is what they are called in Yiddish, are from an era when you could go out and pick your berries, bring them home and spend the day making something special for your family to eat.  Summer days should be like that.  Try them.

Make your favorite challah recipe or use the one I give on an older post.


Blueberry Buns ( The photo is of my husband’s Toronto version, folded on the side but I prefer them pinched on the top)


2 cups blueberries

1/2 cup sugar

Mix blueberries and sugar and let stand for about 5 minutes.

Divide dough into 8 equal portions.  Roll dough on floured board into circles 1/8 inch in thickness.  Place one tablespoon of filling in center and bring sides of dough to the top and pinch closed.  Brush with egg beaten with 1 tablespoon of water.  Sprinkle with sugar.

Bake at 375 degrees for about 15 minutes.

Makes 8 buns.



Fern’s Whole Wheat Bread

One of the wonderful things about this blog is that I am getting e-mails from family and friends who want to share their recipes.  Recipes that they are clearly proud of.  This recipe for whole wheat bread was sent to me by my sister-in-law Fern, who lives in Bet Shemesh, Israel.  Recently retired from her professional career as an attorney, Fern is traveling, swimming and baking.  My husband, the other baker among the siblings, tried this out last night.  I arrived in Los Angeles from my NYC flight (where I served my cholent) after midnight and I came home to this freshly made, chewy and dense bread.  It is delicious and perfect for a sandwich.  Thanks Fern!!  The recipe makes two nice sized loaves.

Fern’s Whole Wheat Bread

2 cups whole wheat flour
1 cup whole rye flour (can be replaced by whole wheat)
1 cup mixed grains (any combination of wheat germ, wheat bran, rolled oats, oat bran, millet, ground flax,  quinoa, bulgur)
2 cups white bread flour
1 tbsp light brown sugar or honey
2 tbsp dry yeast or 50 gm (2 oz) fresh yeast
2 tsp salt
1 tbsp olive oil and some for oiling the bowl
3 cups water at room temp.
1/4 cup crushed raw walnuts and/or unsalted sunflower seeds (optional)

In a large bowl, mix together flours and grains.  Make a well and add sugar or honey.  Add yeast and then 2 cups of  the water.  Mix well, using a wooden spoon.  Add salt and oil and continue mixing.  Add more water as necessary until dough forms a sticky mass.  Knead on floured surface, adding more bread flour as necessary, until dough becomes pliable and elastic, five to ten minutes.  Dough will be slightly dense.  Form into a ball, oil and place in bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and let rise in warm place until dough doubles in size, about 11/2 hours.  Remove dough from bowl, punch down and cut in two. Use bread flour if necessary on working surface.  Roll each piece into a round about the size of a dinner plate, about a quarter of an inch thick.  Crushed walnuts and/or sunflower seeds may be sprinkled on the surface of the rounds.  Roll up each round, forming a loaf.  Place on baking sheet covered with parchment paper.  Cover with a clean kitchen towel and let rise for about 45 minutes.  Bake at 360 F for 50 minutes until golden and sounds hollow when tapped.  Cool on rack.  Bread will freeze well either sliced or whole.


The scent of dough rising in the kitchen can create so many associations.  It can bring us back to the bakeries we frequented as children, holding on to our mothers’ hands, and eating the sprinkle cookie given to us by the woman behind the counter.  It can remind us of a flour covered apron worn by a grandmother making Challah.  My own mother would make blueberry buns from blueberries that I was sent out to collect with my sister near my aunt’s house in Lakewood, New Jersey.  There is something special about working with yeast, it has that distinctive lifelike quality and scent, always recognizable, like an old friend in the kitchen.  My husband has recently started making home-made bagels, hazelnut flutes and artisanal French breads.  They are wonderful, wheaty, warm and yeasty.
January, even in California, is a perfect time to bake.  A warm kitchen is so inviting so go ahead and create a memory that your children will cherish. The scent of yeast.

Here is my tried and true recipe for challah.  Be creative and add some dried cranberries, some chocolate chips, some dried figs or dates and most of all, have fun.

½ cup oil
3 tsp salt
¾ cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
½ cup cold water
2 pkgs dried yeast
1/3 cup warm water
3 eggs
7-8 cups all purpose flour

Put oil, salt and sugar in large bowl, add 1 cup boiling water and stir till sugar is dissolved.  Then add ½ cup cold water and stir.  Dissolve yeast in 1/3 cup warm water along with a pinch of sugar and proof for several minutes till bubbly.  In a small bowl beat 3 eggs and add to cooled oil mixture. Then add yeast and stir.  Add 7 cups of flour, one at a time, and stir after each cup.  Put dough on floured board and knead for about 10 – 15 minutes.
Put in oiled bowl and let rise until double, about two hours.  Punch down and knead gently for several minutes.  Divide and make 2 large challahs or four medium sized.  Let stand 45 minutes.

Bake in 375 degree oven for 30 minutes or until brown.