Salted Maple Challah
Adapted from Tzimmes in Vermont: A Cookbook
Recipe Roots: Stowe, Vermont
Hunting for stories and recipes in the main branch of the New York Public Library in Bryant Park, we came across Tzimmes in Vermont, a cookbook of “treasured recipes of JCOGS, The Jewish Community of Greater Stowe.” Held together in a small three ring binder, the white and green pages of the cookbook explain how a small group of Jews started to gather for regular potlucks in Stowe in the late 1980’s. Those meals grew into a Jewish organization and hebrew school, which the proceeds from the book helped support.
Of all of the recipes, the one that felt most of its place was a maple challah. The recipe weaves the sweetness of maple into a classic Shabbat challah. Updating it a bit, we added a touch of sea salt to balance that sweetness. While it’s wonderful anytime of the year, it’s slight sweetness makes it perfect for Rosh Hashanah.
We tracked down Barbara Stern, who served on the committee that created the cookbook and heard about how the community came to be, where the recipes came from and more. Read an excerpt from our interview with her below.
Salted Maple Challah
Makes: One 16-inch challah
Time: 1 hour, plus 2½ hours proofing time
2¼ teaspoons (¼ ounce) active dry yeast
1 cup water, heated to 115º
5½ cups all purpose flour, plus more for dusting
¾ cup maple syrup
2 tablespoons canola oil
2 tablespoons maple sugar (found at specialty food stores, or here)
2 teaspoons kosher salt
3 eggs, plus 1 yolk
½ tablespoon white sesame seeds
1. Mix the yeast with the water in a small bowl and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes.
2. Meanwhile, combine the bread flour, maple syrup, canola oil, maple sugar, salt, 2 of the whole eggs and the egg yolk in a large bowl. Add the yeast mixture to the bowl and stir with a wooden spoon until a shaggy dough forms about 2-3 minutes. (Alternatively, use a stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment.)
3. Turn the dough onto a lightly floured surface and knead until smooth and supple, 6 to 8 minutes. The dough can be slightly tacky, but not sticky. If the dough is sticky, lightly sprinkle 1 tablespoon of flour at a time and continue kneading until dough is no longer sticky.
4. Place the dough in a lightly oiled bowl and cover with a towel. Let sit in a warm place until it has doubled in size, approximately 2 hours.
5. Punch the dough down and divide into 4 equal pieces. Roll 3 of the 4 pieces into long ropes, about 2 feet in length, thicker at the center and thinner at both ends. Braid the 3 long ropes and tuck the ends under to seal. The braid should be about 14-inches in length.
6. Take the fourth piece of dough and divide it into 3 equal pieces. Roll these out in the same way to about 16-inches in length and braid. This smaller braid should be about 12-inches in length.
7. Place the smaller braid on top of the larger braid and gently press together to seal.
8. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Beat the remaining egg and brush the challah liberally with the egg wash. Sprinkle with the sesame seeds and let rise again until it has doubled in volume, about 30 minutes.
9. Bake, rotating halfway, until the challah is golden brown, about 30 minutes. Remove from the oven and let cool completely before slicing. Serve the same day.
A Bissel More...
Jewish Food Society: Where did the name for this book come from?
Barbara: The title came from a fantastic man, Marvin Gamaroff, who gave the land for our congregation. In Vermont until 1963 a Jew had a hard time finding a place to sleep. My husband would drive from Montreal to ski and then drive home. In 1963, you no longer had to put down your religion when applying for a hotel room. I think the maple challah recipe is actually his. When he was denied a room at a hotel he bought the hotel.
What about the book itself? Where did the recipes come from?
Sometime in the 1990’s a number of us who like to cook very much wanted to raise money for our Jewish community. A cookbook was a logical way to do that. There were maybe 10 or 13 people, we got together once a week and there was a call out to submit recipes and each of us would take a few. The recipes were tested and some of them were tried at different meetings, a number of them didn’t work out.
Are all of the recipes from members of the Jewish community?
Actually, lots of the recipes are from people not in our community but who are very supportive. There’s an interest in being part of the broader community and the broader community being part of us.