Shlissel Challah – The key to key challah

“And the Lord said onto Moses. Hearken, O Moses for ye shall take for yourself bread which hath been leavened, and a key shall be placed upon it…”

– Levitironomy 12:43

“R’ Akiva said in the name of the Rabbis, When the verse states “a key shall be placed upon it” the verse means the challah should be in the shape of a key. R’ Meir said: in Pumpadeesah I once saw a man place a key inside of a regular bread, and said that he was placing a key upon it, therefore what the verse means, is to just place a key inside of the bread”

– Tractate Bava Gedola 12b

“On the Shabbos following Pesach, one must make a challah either in the shape of a key, or with a key placed inside. Men of faith will follow both opinions, and make a challah in the shape of a key with a key on the inside.

– Machmanodies Sefer Hamitzvos

Ok, as you can clearly see the meforshim talk about shlissel challah, and actually there’s a Shita M’Fursemmes that discusses the Machmanodies, and compares it to mezuza (how going l’fi two da’os is actually going like neither), but we don’t have time for that.

Annnnyway, enough leytzanus (and apologies to whoever is still reading and has no idea what just happened)…let’s talk about challah.


As I’m sure you no doubt remember, we’ve covered challah before, but I’m here to tell you, I’ve uncovered the key to making challah, want to hear what it is?? Get a scale.

Maybe you’ve heard this diatribe a few million times whilst here in this weblog, the whole scale thing, and I’m fairly certain I’ve convinced a grand total of -4 people to buy a scale (yes, that means 4 people returned theirs…probably out of spite…you spiteful bunch), but seriously, what if I could give you a master formula that can be scaled up and down as needed to make challah? Well guess what fellow internerds, I’ve got you covered. So get a freakin scale already, like f’realzies.

Ok so here’s the master ratio for Challah, taken once again by Peter Reinhart’s book Crust and Crumb:

flour 100%
water 38%
eggs 21%
oil 6.25
sugar 12.5
salt 1.6
yeast 1.4

So we’ve spoken about baker’s percentages before, but to reiterate, here’s the general gist: all amounts are in proportion to the flour present, so the amount of flour is always denoted as 100%, and then all of the other percentages are the percent of that specific thing, in relation to the flour. So if you had 100 grams of flour, then you would need 38 grams of water, 21g of eggs, 6.25g of oil, and so on. I think you can see here why a scale makes this so much easier. All you need is one constant, so say you have 4 eggs, and want to make challah with that, well 4 eggs usually is in the 200 grams range (@ 50g per large egg), well from there we know, you would need 952 grams of flour, 361 grams of water, 60g of oil, and so on.

my worksheet…this is how we do baking in the fogel house


Now these numbers are fairly constant, but say you wanted to add more yolks (say you wanted a yellower challah, or wanted to boost the shelf life by increasing amount of fat and emulsification, etc…)  well keep the 21% but adjust it to include yolks. Want to do some coconut oil with the oil (you know, because coconut oil is a saturated fat, which will lend more structure, and more flavor), same idea…keep the % the same, but adjust as needed. Want to make your challah with beer instead of water??? Well that probably means you have a problem , but hey I’d join you in that most wonderful problem! [and no, the alcohol, doesn’t get “fully cooked off”…and yes, it might affect the gluten formation because of the alcohol, but don’t you bust my bubble!] The options are limitless.

look at that beautiful dough

Oh and one last thing, pretty much whenever I make bread, and I have the time, I like to “ferment” my dough. Now terminology aside, what I mean by that is, basically allowing the dough to rise verrrry slowly, so the yeast, flour, and enzymes have time to develop stuff (basically flavors, but also it affects the quality of the dough, brings out certain sugars, enhances browning, enhances gluten formation…that sorta stuff), the way we do that is to have the dough rise in the fridge. Now you can do that one of a few ways, the easiest way to do that is combine all your ingredients, and after kneading, place in the fridge to rise for up to 4 days (punching down and redistributing the gases every once in a while). Another way to do this is by making a poolish or a biga. Those are both pretty similar things, and what you do essentially is combine some flour and water (You want more water than flour, so in the order of 100-120% water [actually the difference between a biga and a poolish are the amounts of water, but I digress]) mix until combined, and let it sit in the fridge for up to 4 days (again, mixing every once in a while). Once you have your poolish/biga thingamabob, you then add it together with the rest of your dough, and complete the challah making process (obviously accounting for the amounts of water/flour in the biga).

Biga/Poolish pardon the horrendous quality of the picture
pardon the horrendous quality of the picture

Now we didn’t even discuss kneading, and forming dough, but we’ll leave that for the next time I decide to write about dough.

So there you have it! As a God fearing individual, I assume you will take it upon yourself to be m’kayim this mitzvas asey shel z’man grama of shlissel challah (oh and by the way, there are some shitas that say you can’t be yotzey if your wife makes it because she’s patur from this mitzva)

French Toast


How is is possible that I’ve never written a post on french toast?? We’ve done waffles, we’ve done pancakes, but I’ve neglected my true breakfast love. French toast, if you can hear this, please accept this humblest of apologies.

Anyway, so french toast, why aren’t we making this more often? And even better question, why would you ever buy the pre-made frozen crap? I don’t get it. Listen, as much as I don’t agree, I can understand you saying making waffles and pancakes from scratch is a hassle, but there’s no excuse for french toast. The point of what i’m saying is to make you feel bad about yourself, and  for you to reflect on how poor your decisions are…that’s all…I joke! You’re the best, and that’s why you deserve some french toast, so let’s get some stale bread shall we?

It’s actually a pretty amazing thing.. french toast that is…(are you not following??) I mean you take some old bread which has gone stale (more on that in a second), you add some eggs and milk, and fry. If you really delve into it, there are two things going on, first is the bread staling, which the actual technical term is retrogradation, and the other thing that’s happening is we’re cooking a custard.


Let’s start with retrogradation. Bread is made up of starch, which is a long molecule made up of smaller glucose molecules, and how those glucose molecules are stacked makes the starch either amylose or amylopectin, which are the two main starches found in bread. When starch and water meet, they gelatinize, which basically means the starch absorbs water, and once that happens the starch starts to undergo retrogradation, which means the starch starts to gel, and slowly start to expel moisture. Once a bread is done baking the staling process starts, and given enough time, it will expel enough water to make it feel dry. This is essential for french toast, because what we then do, is replace that lost moisture with the custard (ie – the milk and eggs). Now we’re not really going to get into the custard part, because frankly it’s not that important here, and we’ve done it before.

So just to recap – we need to expel the moisture from the starch network, and then replace it with awesomeness. One way to do that is allow the bread to stale by drying it out on the counter, which will allow the moisture to leave naturally. However, America’s Test Kitchen did a study and found that if you allow the bread to dry out in the oven, it actually will release a lot more moisture, because the process of retrogradation isn’t really that great, so we end up with a lot of moisture actually trapped inside. Basically, the best way to dry out bread is in a very low oven. That being said, this batch of french toast I made by allowing to dry out on the counter over night. By the way, if you’re wondering, don’t use the bread you buy in the supermarkets that mysteriously take weeks to go stale. There are so many preservatives that it won’t stale properly.


Once the bread is good and dried, it’s a matter of allowing it to soak up the eggs and milk, and then frying in some butter. So allow the bread to sit in the egg mixture for a minute or two, to make sure it’s sopped up enough liquid, and then fry, over medium heat.


That’s it. Easy as pie.


By the way, after I wrote all this I realized that I kind of did cover this, in my stuffing post. Bread pudding, which stuffing is a form of, is like french toast’s step brother. Also while we’re on the topic, can I air out one grievance? You know that dish that people make called: “french toast souffle?” That drives me crazy. First of all a souffle is a specific type of dish (you’re still reading, and want to know what defines a souffle??? Well since some people want to go back to their real lives, I’ll leave it for the comments, just ask away…as usual, I don’t bite)…and it’s a freaking bread pudding, so let’s call it that! Whodathunk I’m such a stickler.


Anyway, you’re free to go back to real life.

Good Shabbos, Y’all.

Flatbread with Kalamata olive oil, and Dukka

Yeah, so the name kind of says it all…I guess I’m not here to tell you how to make something, but more here to give you an idea for supper? Truthfully, I’m not really sure why I’m here, maybe I just need someone to talk to, ya know?

Anyway, can I speak freely here for a second? This whole “dip” craze has gotten a little out of hand. Sure I get the idea that sometimes you want to eat something with your challah on Shabbos, because the likelihood is there’s probably not going to be enough food coming out later, so let’s eat a few loaves of bread with some mayonnaise. I get it. Here’s my gripe…the dips that I’ve had, are anywhere from okay to absolutely terrible. If you’re going to stuff your gullet, at least do it right….I mean, have you tried the so called tomato dip? and dill dip? They taste nothing like their respective predecessors. The dill dip really pisses me off, because the few that I’ve tasted, taste like someone had leftover mayo lying around, and just added dried dill to it. It legitimately upset me.


Long story short, I made challah the other week, and it was pretty bad; It was pretty flavorless (unless you count “yeasty” as a flavor), and all in all, it was pretty bland. I had a lot leftover raw dough, and I froze it, and then let it sit in the fridge for a while to thaw/ferment. This slow fermentation process, allows the dough to change in flavor, and texture. So even though the dough was pretty boring when I made the challah, I knew that it had a chance, if I let it slow ferment, to possibly taste better.

I decided to shape the dough like a flat bread. Flat breads can be viewed as a sub-category of dough in it’s own right, and can encompass many different types of breads (naan, pita, matzoh, to name a few), but generally flat breads, are high water content doughs (ie – a flour:water ration in the realm of 70%, [whereas most “bready” doughs are in the area of 60-65ish…these estimates are pretty much all made up, but that’s my take]…and this flat bread is not baked in some sort of container, it can be yeasted, it can have added fat…and on and on….now besides this sentence being possibly the longest run on sentence within parentheses (I’m going for the world record…[I’m also going for the record of most parentheses] {these brackets make 10!}) I also don’t know what else to say parenthetically about flatbreads, so let’s get back to the dish at hand). The type of flat bread I had envisioned, I’m not quite sure of the name, and I think it would just be called a …”flatbread” was more like a wet-ish dough that would be spread out on a baking sheet, dimpled with my fingers (to create texture, and pop some rogue yeast bubbles), spread some spices (that wouldn’t burn with the long cooking time), and bake in a preheated 400 degree oven.

For this particular dish, I decided to spread the dough on a baking sheet, spread some coarse salt, ground mustard, and black pepper, nothing too crazy, whatever, I keeps it real. I decided to bake the dough in the baking sheet on the floor of the oven for the first 10-15 minutes to get a nice crust, and then finished it through, at about 350.

After the bread was done, I allowed it to cool on the counter, I cut it up in pieces, and then preceded to dunk the bread in kalamata olive oil (more on that in a second), and dip in some Dukkah, and it was just so dern tasty, that I thought to myself, I should really spread the word, so here I am.
Now about the olive oil. Oil in cooking, can generally can be viewed in three different ways, 1) great for high heat cooking, but pretty flavorless, 2) so-so for high heat cooking, with so-so flavor or 3) absolutely a terrible idea for high heat cooking, with (most likely) a lot of flavor. In general the more an oil has a flavor to it the less stable it is, and the more likely it is a terrible idea for high heat cooking (for one, you’re more likely to burn the oil, and two even if you aren’t burning the oil, you’re more than likely cooking out the flavor associated with that oil). So vegetable and canola oil are great for high heat cooking (and are pretty flavorless), whereas toasted sesame oil is a terrible idea, but is very tasty. Olive oil comes in a few different varieties, and you’re regular run of the mill supermarket brand “extra virgin olive oil” really probably isn’t a terrible idea [mainly because it’s not really extra virgin olive oil…but that’s for another post] but it’s also not a great idea. Meaning, you’re probably not going to burn the oil, but you will cook out the nuances. So normally, if I’m cooking something over high heat (roasting, frying…) my first choice wouldn’t be olive oil, and if you have non extra-virgin olive oil, that would be a better choice. Now if you have a good extra virgin olive oil, that you paid good money for, and has a very distinct flavor to it…for sure don’t cook with it. Instead use it fresh, so you can taste it. This kalamata olive oil (that I picked up in some random place I can’t remember…but I did see available with a hechsher in Trader Joe’s) is a good example of olive oil that has a distinct flavor to it, and shouldn’t be cooked.

Instead, dip your bread in some, and eat it. If you happen to be weird and are against the idea of dipping bread in oil, but would dip bread in mayonnaise, I think you’re fundamentally lacking an understanding of what mayonnaise is, and it would be my honor to explain…actually, maybe I’ll have a post on that in a bit…hang tight. But if you pulled your head out of the sand for a second, and tried it, you’ll see what I’m talking about.

Now since I’m not one to leave well enough alone, I decided to heed the advice on the side of the dukkah container, and then proceeded to  dunk the oil laden bread into the spice blend, and boy was that a great idea. It was like a flavor attack from flavor ninjas that were simultaneously flying flavor rocketships in my mouth. It was awesome, and I’m trying to spread the dukkah gospel now.

By the way, dukkah is this Ethopian spice blend that is readily available in Trader Joe’s also with a hechser. I saw it for the first time on the kosher blog – This American Bite, but Yosef Silver, when he made Dukkah crusted Salmon, and knew I needed to try it. When I brought it home, the spice blend said to try it like we did, bread dipped in olive oil, and then dipped in the spice blend, and it didn’t disappoint.

Anyway, that’s all for now. I hope next time you’re planning on buying dips for your shabbos table, try this instead.


Blueberry Muffins

Here’s a slight perspective on exactly how big of a slacker I am. I made these blueberry muffins in September, and I’m just getting to posting them. September…that’s like 8 months ago. Whatever, somehow it’s all your fault, so you have yourselves to blame.

Anyway, if you couldn’t tell by now, I’m a really big fan of America’s Test Kitchen, and this recipe is from them. Not only that, when I made them, I had posted a picture of it on twitter (I’m sure you remember, because I’m sure you’re following my awesomeness), and they actually posted it on their website…I’m like famous or something.

The reason why I like America’s Test Kitchen is because they actually do research into their recipes, and find out why things work, and what the best way to make something is. Being the nerd I am, I kinda like that sort of stuff. So I bring to you today the best blueberry muffin recipe.

With any cake like food, there are pretty much three different ways to bring the batter together. There’s the creaming method, the biscuit method, and the muffin method. Creaming, which is beating room temperature butter with sugar to aerate it, is more for airy stuff like cakes; the biscuit method, combining really cold butter with flour to form little specks of butter within the flour, is more for like biscuits and pie dough. The muffin method, which are for…wait for it…keep on waiting…you never know, I might say something different than muffin…keep on waiting…I’m stalling, I know…hey did I mention that I finished dental school, and I’m graduating in two week? I know crazy right?..where was I…oh right…wait for it…just a little more…ok this joke just got real stupid, real quick…muffins! Whoah…so yeah, the muffin method is for muffins, and the way that whole shebang works, is you combine dry ingredients in one bowl, and wet in another bowl, and combine the two, until they just come together (you know the shpiel, the whole over mixing the batter, leads to more gluten produced, and more gluten, means a tougher end product…). Can you use the creaming method for muffins? Yeah sure you can, but then you’d have something more like a cupcake, than a muffin.

Ok, now that we know the whole muffin thing, it’s time to talk blueberries. Blueberries are great, but they can be a little finicky. We want maximum flavor, but the more blueberries we add, the more likely it is that they’ll sink to the bottom. So the way around that is, by adding half of the blueberries fresh, and the other half we added as a jam. That way, each muffin is chock full of blueberry goodness, and I think if I say blueberry one more time, I just might go crazy…It’s just one of those words that has a limit to how many times it can be said in one sitting, you know what I mean? Like smidgen, or powdered sugar…I dunno call me crazy…but when you do, don’t say it to my face, because that’s just not nice.

All right, let’s get cooking.

First let’s start with making the blueberry jam.

Combine 1 cup of blueberries with 1 teaspoon of sugar, and cook over medium heat, until it starts to simmer. Start mashing the blueberries with a potato masher, or a wooden spoon, and continue to mash and cook, until it’s homogeneous, and thickened, and about 1/4 of a cup (it should take about 5-7 minutes), and set it aside.

Next, we’ll make the topping. Combine the lemon zest and sugar, and rub it together slightly, to allow the essential oils of the lemon to come (oh, “essential oils” is another one of those words), and set it aside.

To make the muffins, combine the dry ingredients – whisk together the flour, baking powder, and salt in one bowl, and in another bowl combine the wet ingredients. Start by putting the sugar and eggs in the bowl, and whisk until it’s foamy, and lighter in color. (Now, I know what you’re thinking, Nossi, I know you’re a dentist and all [oh hey, did I mention I finished dental school?? No?…Oh, I finished dental school…], but sugar is more dry than it is wet…and you’re totally right, and here’s where it gets tricky. Remember before how we mentioned the “creaming method” which was aerating the fat with sugar? Well that’s what we’re doing here, were combining the eggs with sugar, which aerates it, and those bubbles (ie the air) will incorporate into the batter, and make it airy, and fluffy..So how is this different than the creaming method? Well to be honest with you, I’m not 100% sure, maybe when you mix the sugar into the fat it produces an airy-er crumb…I’m not sure…and this might technically be called “creaming”..I’m not sure). Then slowly mix in the melted butter and vegetable oil, and then mix in the buttermilk. I decided to make this parve, so instead of using butter I used margarine, and instead of 1 cup of buttermilk, I used a cup of soy milk combined with a tablespoon of vinegar, and let that sit for 10 mins. (Just as a side – most “buttermilk” sold in the supermarket, is really milk with a culture added to it, and not the by product of butter [the real way to make buttermilk is take cream, churn it to make butter, and the liquid that’s leftover is buttermilk], so this soy milk plus vinegar is not so far off from the fake buttermilk you’d get in the supermarket anyway).


Once team wet and dry are ready to go, add the wet to the dry, and fold the mixture until it just comes together. Then pour in the remaining blueberries, and fold it in. There might be streaks of flour, and that’s fine, the alternative is over mixing, and that’s not fine.

Put the batter into the muffin tin; I like to use an ice cream scooper, but whatever works for you. Then spoon in the blueberry jam, and using a skewer or chopstick, swirl the jam around. Then top with the lemon-sugar mix.



Bake in a pre-heated 425 degree oven until they’re nice and ready, about 15 minutes or so, allow them to rest, and then eat every single one of them.

Sorry for the crappy quality pictures. I’m not the best photographer, and I was using my camera phone, probably because my actual slightly-less-crappier-camera was broken, because there was flour or something stuck in there…either way, enjoy.

Blueberry Muffins

adapted from America’s Test Kitchen


  • 1/3 cup sugar (2 1/3 ounces)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated zest from 1 lemon
  • 2 cups fresh blueberries(about 10 ounces)
  • 1 1/8 cups sugar(8 ounces) plus 1 teaspoon
  • 2 1/2 cups unbleached all-purpose flour(12 1/2 ounces)
  • 2 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon table salt
  • 2 large eggs
  • 4 tablespoons (1/2 stick) unsalted margarine/butter, melted and cooled slightly
  • 1/4 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 cup milk substitute, plus 1 tablespoon vinegar (or you can use “real” buttermilk)
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract


  1. Bring 1 cup blueberries and 1 teaspoon sugar to simmer in small saucepan over medium heat. Cook, mashing berries with potato masher or a spoon several times and stirring frequently, until berries have broken down and mixture is thickened and reduced to about a ¼ cup, about 6 minutes. And set aside to cool
  2. Then make the topping – Stir together sugar and lemon zest in small bowl until combined, and try to rub the two together slightly, and set aside.
  3. Whisk flour, baking powder, and salt together in large bowl, and whisk remaining 1 1/8 cups sugar and eggs together in medium bowl until thick and homogeneous, and lighter in color. Slowly whisk in margarine and oil until combined, and then whisk in your “buttermilk” (whatever you decide to use) and vanilla until combined. Using a rubber spatula, fold the wet into the dry until just combined, and then fold in the remaining blueberries (If the batter is lumpy with a few spots of dry flour that’s fine, don’t over mix it)
  4.  Portion out the batter into the muffin tins, and spoon about a teaspoon of jam into the center of each mound of batter. Using chopstick or skewer, gently swirl berry filling into the batter.
  5. Sprinkle the lemon sugar mixture evenly over muffins.
  6. Bake until muffin tops are golden and just firm, 17 to 19 minutes.
  7. Cool muffins for at least 5 minutes before chowing down.