Gluten-Free Jewish Holiday Hits
The Jewish New Year, called Rosh Hashannah, starts this Friday evening, September 18. It’s traditional to eat apples and honey in order to set the mood for a sweet new year, but every family seems to have their own food traditions beyond these.
This year, I’m making a special effort to produce delicious gluten-free holiday goodies. As it turns out, my darling stepsister seems to have gone and acquired herself a gluten intolerance (no, it’s not contagious), and this will be her first year experiencing the holidays wheat-free. I’m quite determined for it to be a happy experience for her, gastrointestinally speaking.
If you’re getting ready for a sweet, fabulous and gluten-free 5770 of your own, check out the reference list below for links to some of the best eats of the season:
Apples: I’m having Honeycrisps. Lots of them.
Honey: My favorite for apple-dipping is Tupelo Honey from the Savannah Bee Company; it’s got a buttery texture and unique flavor that’s best enjoyed right from the bottle, rather than wasted in tea or baking recipes. To find a store near you that carries it, check out Savannah Bee’s online shop locator or order it online…and tell Ted the beekeeper that Tamara sent you.
Gluten-free “Matzoh Balls”: I’m making my original recipe for Quatzoh Balls, made with naturally gluten-free (and nutritious) Quinoa Flakes. We road tested it at Passover time this past year, and it was a bobbing, spherical success. Look for Quinoa flakes in the hot cereal section of your supermarket.
Flourless Honey Cake: This year, I tried out a recipe for a flourless honey-almond cake published in Eating Well magazine’s March/April 2009 issue. (I clipped it 6 months ago for precisely this occasion!) Save time and effort by substituting the freshly-ground almonds with 1 3/4 cups of almond meal (sold in the baking section or Bob’s Red Mill section of your local grocery store). As if the recipe isn’t decadent enough (it actually is: 234 calories for 1/10th of the cake, half of which come from unsaturated fat), you can top it off with a warm apple-cinnamon compote to take the apples-and-honey theme from appetizer all the way through to dessert.
Gluten-free Challah: After reviewing all of the available GF Challah recipes online, I chose this GF Challah recipe from “Gluten Free in the Greens” for its relatively short ingredient list which uses two whole grain flours (sorghum and brown rice) in addition to the usual litany of starches. I did, however, make a few small tweaks (see below). It’s very easy to make, so don’t be intimidated. To make it dairy-free, use the almond meal instead of the powdered milk. If you’re stumped by what “potato flakes” are, just look for instant mashed potatoes at your supermarket and be sure to buy a product whose only ingredient is “dehydrated potatoes” (some of the national brands will be filled with all sorts of nonsense, including wheat starch).
The recipe’s developer cleverly uses a braided loaf pan to avoid the sticky mess that an attempt at actual braiding would produce; Lacking one of my own, I wound up using a small-ish loaf pan (4.5″ x 8.5″ x 2.75″) instead. My first attempt, which was made in an 8″
round cake pan, came out as a slightly sweet-tasting, delicious focaccia rather than a slightly eggy-tasting, delicious challah loaf. After discussing the play-by-play with a very knowledgeable Williams-Sonoma sales associate, we decided that the fault lay in the cake pan (too much surface area), the rising strategy (inadequate rising time) and the skipping of the traditional step of ‘activating’ the dry yeast in warm water prior to adding it to the dry ingredients. Plus, I felt the challah needed just a pinch of salt to bring out the bready taste. Therefore, I made the following modifications to perfect upon a pretty great recipe:
- Add a pinch (or, 1/8 tsp) of salt to the dry ingredients to temper the honey sweetness of the bread
- Before adding the yeast to the dry ingredients as the recipe specifies, mix it with 1/2 cup of warm (not hot) water and let the mixture sit for a good 15-20 minutes until it starts developing filmy/bubbly patches (this is called ‘proofing’). Then, add the activated yeast mixture to the dry ingredients along with the wet ingredients as the recipe specifies.
- Cut down the amount of water you use to dissolve the potato flakes to just 1/2 cup (to compensate for the 1/2 cup you already used to proof the yeast)
- Rather than pre-heating the oven to 200 degrees, shutting it off and using the warmed oven to expedite the dough rising as the recipe instructs, simply leave the dough out, uncovered, for longer in a room temperature environment to give the yeast time to do its thing. I let it rise for a good 90-120 minutes before sprinkling it with sesame seeds and putting it the 350-degree oven to bake. As a reward for your patience, the extra rising time buys you a more developed bread-y (versus a sweeter, cakier flavor). By the time I put my loaf it in the oven, the dough had risen to about double its original height, and it even gained a little bit more volume in the oven.
- Keep an eye on the baking time; mine needed closer to 40-45 minutes than the 50 minutes specified. This will vary by oven and pan size, of course.
Of course, whether or not you’re Jewish, this recipe makes the perfect leftovers for a Sunday morning Gluten-Free Challah French Toast. I plan on slicing up any leftovers and freezing them for this very purpose.
Kasha Varnishkes: Using your favorite gluten-free short pasta (most brands are pretty good) and naturally gluten-free buckwheat groats is a great way to enjoy this traditional Eastern-European side dish. Serve it warm for dinner and enjoy the leftovers cold the next day. Get my stepfather Bill’s famous recipe for it by clicking here.
Happy New Year!
Did you like this? If so, please bookmark it, RSS feed.