Category Archives: Family Recipe Friday

Family Recipe Friday – Matzah Brei

Passover is now over, but not before I made my favorite holiday breakfast, Matzah Brei (rhymes with “hi”). Almost every year, I make sure to buy some matzah, sometimes after the holiday, just for this recipe.

Broken and Coated Matzah

I couldn’t find my own recipe written down anywhere, so I looked online to see how many eggs to use. The first four recipes I found made it scrambled. My grandmother did that, but not my mom. I winged it on the egg count and it came out great.

First, break up the matzah into small pieces. Then add the eggs and milk and stir until the matzah is coated or glazed in liquid. Add some sugar and salt. Fry. Flip. All done. I said it was easy.

This year, I used chocolate milk because it’s what I had. I also added cinnamon. Treat this like a pancake, which it is if you make it my way. You can add fruit to the mix, or add fruit as the topping. I like it warm with sugar. As it cools, to room temperature or chilled, it is also great plain.

When flipping, my mom has a designated matzah brei plate that she always used. I find it easier to just flip it in the air, like I learned to do with an omelette years ago.


My pan is 9.5″ but you can use smaller or bigger. You can also add more matzah for a bigger pan or use less for a smaller. The more full the pan, the neater your edges will probably turn out, as you tuck them into the sides of the pan. Mine were a little messy this year.

Matzah Brei

3 or 4 matzahs
2 eggs
1/2 – 1 cup milk
dash of sugar
pinch of salt
optional cinnamon or other flavorings

  1. Break matzah into small pieces in a bowl.
  2. Add eggs and milk and stir until matzah pieces are coated or glazed in liquid.
  3. Sprinkle in sugar and salt. Add other flavorings if wanted, like cinnamon.
  4. Pour mixture into non-stick frying pan. Use cooking spray to help. Let it cook for a few minutes, until the pancake slides around in the pan freely.
  5. Flip over and cook other side, until it slides freely.
  6. Serve and enjoy, or chill and enjoy later.
Matzah Brei

Food Friday – Hamantashen

Hamantashen are a traditional Purim dessert; a triangular shaped  cookie usually filled with fruit. I thought I’d make these in a timely fashion, searching for a recipe and being kind of prepared before Purim, but I didn’t buy the ingredients until after the holiday.

This was an interesting adventure. There were a lot of recipe variations online. I finally settled on one that didn’t require chilling the dough and claimed to make a crispy cookie rather than a cakey cookie. Stef got the recipe from her mother who had found in a cookbook, and I found it on her web site,

Many of the recipes online did not include recipes for the filling but usually stated “use your favorite filling”. This one did also, but gave a quick recipe for a prune filling. Traditional fillings are poppy seed, apricot, and apparently prune. When I bought my ingredients, my grocery store was in heavy construction mode. I was almost scared to go to the isle for the butter, so I didn’t want to search for poppy seeds. I picked up some apricot preserves, strawberry preserves, chocolate chips, and peanut butter chips.

Crummy dough needed to be kneaded before rolling.

While making these, I realized that I have no experience baking cookies from scratch, at least not in my adulthood. The batter was very crummy and difficult to mix. I had to break out the electric mixer to feel like I’d mixed it. It was still crummy, but I pressed on.

Moving to the cutting board to roll it out, after kneading for a moment to make it doughy, it was very sticky. I used a glass to cut out the circles and it was the perfect size. My first round were rolled too thick to fold, so I pinched. Several comments on the blog said you could pinch the corners if you chilled the dough, pinched really hard, or used egg whites to hold them together. I guess I didn’t pinch hard enough.

Pinched. These looked perfect before baking.

Continuing after looking up the rolling pin sticky dough trick online — rolling between sheets of wax paper — I rolled the rest out a bit thinner and was able to fold them. I did end up pinching the third side often, and that was the one that sometimes came apart.

Unlike what the blog said, these were kind of cakey instead of  crispy, but I think the later batches may have been a bit crispier. They needed to bake for a little longer. After all, I was doing small batches in my toaster oven. The chips didn’t even bake enough to melt down much.

Filling and folding.

I sampled as I was going and ended up making more apricot than any other flavor. The strawberry preserves were much thinner and leaked easily and I wasn’t so fond of the chocolate or chocolate and peanut butter flavors. Imagine that, preferring apricot to chocolate.

Plate full of hamantashen.

The last batch had a small dough ball of the leftover, in case you’re wondering what that is in the picture. The hamantashen that fell apart were at the bottom, so most of what can be seen in my final picture are nice triangular cookies. The one at the very top is strawberry, so you can see how liquidy those preserves were compared to the apricot.

They smell great. They taste good. Next time I’ll bake them a little longer or bake them all at once in the regular oven.

After chilling in the fridge overnight, the chocolate ones tasted better than when they were still warm.

Recipe for Hamantashen

3 cups flour
3 tsp baking powder
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cups butter, room temperature
3 eggs
filling (jam, jelly, preserves, chocolate chips, nuts)

  1. Sift together flour, baking powder, sugar, and salt.
  2. Mix in butter and eggs.
  3. Roll out dough and form hamantashen: Use cookie cutter or glass to make about 3 1/2″ diameter circles. Spoon in bit of filling. Fold sides; pinching tends to fall apart while baking.
  4. Bake on a well-greased cookie sheet or parchment paper for 12-15 minutes at 400 F.

Family Recipe Friday – Knishes

For Family Recipe Friday, I made knishes. I’ve had this recipe sitting around for a while since a friend posted it to Facebook. It wasn’t a family recipe, but that topic sounds so much better than Food Friday…

I started by peeling seven potatoes, because two were pretty small. I got to use my big pot to boil them, which almost never gets used in my house, so that was fun by itself. While the potatoes boiled, I chopped the onion. I know how to chop an onion, but I haven’t done enough to master it yet, so I knew I wouldn’t be able to do it quickly in the middle of the recipe.

I just followed along the instructions and it went well. The recipe didn’t say how many knishes it made, and I thought it would be a lot judging by how much food I was working with, but when it said to divide the dough into four parts, I made four really big knishes.

They cooked up well and tasted just how I remember them. The dough especially had just the right flavor and consistency.

Lessons Learned

I believe 1/25 inch is much thinner than what I did. The potatoes need to be mashed much better just to roll them out thinner. Maybe I’ll try my food processor next time.

Why the recipe says to split the dough into four parts is beyond me. These things were huge and could have made more than four monster sized knishes. Next time I’ll try to make eight. The picture of two of them is on my big dinner plates and not the little dessert ones I usually use.

Six and a half potatoes was too much. I put 2 cups into the filling, even though the recipe said 1 1/2 cups, and I still had at least 1/2 cup left. And next time, more potato, less onion in the filling. And the onions need to be diced, or food processored, to make them smaller bits.

The first one was cut round but I ended up folding it square. I figured out how to fold round for the rest. On the inside they looked about right too, except the filling was a little chunky and I think the crust was a bit thick. Can someone who’s had knishes more recently verify the crust thickness for me? It’s been a while.

I didn’t try any of the adjustments that Ben suggested when he shared the recipe, but I’ve listed them and will probably try them the next time.

Potato Knishes

6 potatoes
1/4 cup oil
1 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/4 cup butter
1 onion
1/2 cup cold water
1 egg

  1. Peel potatoes and cut into large chunks. Cook in boiling water 15-20 minutes until soft. Drain into a colander.
  2. Put potatoes back into pot and mash them. measure out 1 cup for the dough. Place in a separate bowl and add oil and salt.
  3. In a separate bowl, add baking powder to flour and whisk. Add about 1/3 the flour mixture to the dough potatoes and mix. Add rest of flour.
  4. Make a well in the center of the bowl and pour in cold water. Knead the dough by hand for a few minutes. Place a wet cloth or towel on top of the dough and let it sit for 30 minutes.
  5. Dice the onion. Heat the over to 425 degrees.
  6. Melt butter in a pan at medium high heat. Add onion and saute until they are soft but not brown.
  7. Pour onions into a mixing bowl for filling. Add 1 1/2 cups of mashed potatoes, salt, and pepper.
  8. On a flat surface, place dough and divide into four parts. Roll each part until 1/25 inches thick.
  9. Cut into square or use a bowl to make round. Put filling in center and fold around using water to seal edges.
  10. Place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush tops with the egg. Cook for 20-25 minutes.

Adjustments suggested: add 1/2 tsp pepper to dough, add 1/2 tsp garlic powder to mashed potatoes, use chicken broth instead of water.

Food Friday – Latkes

This was the first year I had ever tried to make latkes. I found a couple recipes in my possession. I think the first one I made was found online. The second was Mom’s recipe, which I’ve included below.

For the uninitiated, latkes is potato pancakes, a traditional Hanukkah food.

In true Jewish cooking style, I didn’t measure the majority of my ingredients. One video online said 5 parts potato to 2 parts onion. The recipe said 2 cups of grated potato and 2 tablespoons of grated onion. How much is 2 cups grated? I have no idea. I chopped an onion in half and peeled three potatoes, though one was giant sized. (Peeling was not mentioned in the recipe, but they were peeled in the video, so I added that part.) I then grated about one quarter of the onion and the potatoes. I added the rest of the ingredients and mixed it with my hands.

Pouring a probably inadequate amount of oil into the largest pan I had, I heated it, slopped in some pancake batter, and cooked them. The oil wasn’t hot enough to begin with, since the first ones took far too long. But I turned up the heat and finished off the pile of grated mush, placing them on paper towels to soak up some of the oil before eating.

They looked and tasted great. I think the middles were a little less cooked than they probably should have been. I think the oil needed to be hotter. Even when I was tweeting about it and went back to find them a bit overcooked, they still weren’t cooked through quite enough.

There was just one hitch. I didn’t have applesauce. By the time I bought some, I had finished the latkes. So I had to make another batch, at which time I found my Mom’s recipe. (I thought the first one was hers, but apparently not.)

I used an ultra-condensed version of what she sent to me while I was cooking, but I’ve included the full recipe in this posting. The one alteration I made: instead of grating the potatoes first and putting them separate, I grated the onions first. (And I flipped the 1/2 and 1/4 measurements when I transcribed it, but it still worked.)

For the second batch, I used most of the remaining 1/2 of onion, I did not peel the potatoes, I used more oil in the pan, and made the oil hotter, which made it splatter. However, they cooked more thoroughly through the middles. I had no matzo meal, so I used bread crumbs instead. And this time I ate them with applesauce. Yum.

Potato Latkes

2-3 potatoes, grated (about 2 cups)
1/2 inch thick slice grated (sweet) onion
2 eggs
1/4 cup matzo meal
pinch of salt

1. Grate potatoes and place in a 4 cup measuring cup.
2. Grate the onion, add to measuring bowl.
3. Mix all ingredients together.
4. In a frying pan, heat up oil to almost cover the bottom.
5. Place heaping tablespoons of the mixture and flatten them down a bit.
6. When the edges are golden brown, carefully turn them over using a fork and spatula.
7. Remove to a plate with paper towel to absorb oil.
8. Makes about 14 latkes.
9. Serve with applesauce.

Food Friday – New York Egg Cream

For some reason, I thought an authentic New York egg cream was going to be trickier. Growing up, we made egg creams with chocolate milk and soda — root beer was best but cola or any other brown soda worked. The trick was to make a bit of chocolate milk then pour the soda into the glass, letting it cascade over a spoon. Imagine my surprise when I looked for a recipe for a NY egg cream and found that we had it almost right back then.

Egg CreamI found several recipe variations, but usually it was milk (whole milk for the best foam action), Fox’s U-Bet chocolate syrup (mentioned by brand in every recipe), and seltzer. I couldn’t find U-bet in Utah, so I settled for the store brand because that’s what I had in my house. I tried a few variations for making the egg cream over the course of a week.

The first had too much milk, but it foamed great.

The second didn’t get the foam action. I think the seltzer was already going flat. It was supposed to be highly carbonated.

The third was the best (pictured). I didn’t even mix the chocolate before taking the picture; I wanted to get a picture of that great head of foam in case it disappeared too quickly.

The fourth, I tried the cascading over the spoon trick, which was a total bust, and I didn’t have enough seltzer to fill the glass.

They all tasted good, but none were quite right, probably because of using the wrong chocolate syrup. I think I’ll stick with using root beer because I know that it will be good no matter what chocolate syrup I have, and I can drink the root beer plain if I want; I just can’t stand plain seltzer.

Food Friday – Sweet Camp Ramah Challah

I’ve been holding onto this recipe since 1983 when we made it at Camp Ramah in Massachusetts. About a month ago, my cousin Fay was asking for a challah recipe on Facebook. I sent this to her and realized I ought to make it myself. So I finally bought the ingredients I needed and soon started baking.

My whole house smelled like challah after the ingredients were mixed, the baking just spread the smell further.

I forgot to adjust for high altitude until I was setting the oven, so the only change I made was to raise the baking temperature 25 degrees. Altering the ingredients, shortening the rising time, and rising then punching down one extra time were other suggestions.

I haven’t had challah in a long time, but I think I’ve had enough in my lifetime to remember. The texture of the bread inside is perfect, but the outside is a little bit off from the challahs I used to know. I don’t know how to describe the difference, but it’s really good. “Store bought” challahs sometimes had an even harder shell that I didn’t like, whereas this recipe produced just enough hardness to hold it all together. The cinnamon in the mixture brushed on at the end left a bit of a speckled look to it also, but that’s not a problem.

The only alteration that I made was using sucralose instead of sugar. (Usually sold as Splenda, but I bought the store brand.) Hey, cut back on the calories wherever you can, right? (Does anyone have a recommendation for a lower calorie flour?)

I had some trouble with the braiding in that after the dough had risen, it didn’t want to roll well or “merge” at the ends. Was I supposed to knead it again after letting it rise to make it doughy again for rolling? You can see in the picture taken right before they went into the oven that the ends already weren’t holding together.

Challah, Before Baking

The end on the left completely broke apart while baking. Also, they were a bit close and had baked together slightly in the middle.

The finished product looked like this for about a minute:

Challah, After Baking

Then I ate some. And it tasted wonderful.

Sweet Camp Ramah Challah

1/2 cup oil
2 tsp salt
3 cup sugar
1 cup boiling water
1/2 cup cold water
4 eggs
2 packages dry yeast
7 cups flour

1 egg
1 Tbsp sugar

1. Combine first six ingredients in order.
2. Add yeast in quickly and let it dissolve.
3. Add flour one cup at a time, mixing them very well.
4. When the dough is ready (not sticky), knead it well.
5. Let the dough rise for about two hours, punch it down, and let it rise for an hour.
6. Roll the dough and braid it.
7. Beat one egg, a Tbsp sugar, and some cinnamon; coat top of challah with egg mixture.
8. Bake at 325 degrees for 45 minutes.