Challah maven to show her skills
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Challah maven to show her skills


Tamar Ansh loves to fill her Jerusalem home with the aroma of freshly baked breads and cakes.

"My passion for baking and cooking stems from my desire to provide for my family and friends," explained Ansh, the daughter-in-law of longtime Jewish Center of Teaneck members Jay and Gloria Ansh.

On June 5, she will introduce her forthcoming book, "A Taste of Challah" (Feldheim Publishers) at the JCT at 7:30 p.m. "I want to tell the human side of it; how the book was born," said Ansh in a recent phone interview. (The book is subtitled "A Comprehensive Guide to Challah and Bread Baking.")

"I was not a pro at baking before I got married," she said. "I have been baking challah for about 16 years and I was terrible at it at the beginning. That’s why I could write a book about it, because I know all the mistakes you can make."

The book of nearly 40 recipes — including original creations, Middle Eastern specialties, and yeast-based cakes and doughnuts — grew out of a four-page spread on the traditional Sabbath bread that Ansh produced for the Israeli magazine Mishpacha.

"That issue sold out, so I knew people enjoyed it, and I just expanded on it," she explained. The first half of the book is based on one challah recipe, providing full-color photographs showing how to work with the dough and shape it "at least 19 different ways." There also are recipes for whole-wheat, half-whole-wheat, and spelt challah and other breads.

"When you read it you’ll feel like you’re standing in my kitchen with me," said Ansh, who lives with her husband Adam (Reuven) and three young children in the neighborhood of Har Nof.

"I have to tell you a secret," she continued with a laugh. "My children really don’t like bread much. But they love making challah. If I shape the dough without them they get upset. My 7-year-old daughter doesn’t even like ‘her’ challah to be cut. If she could, she would put it under her pillow and let it petrify!"

Ansh is the author of three other books: "Splitting the Sea," "A Taste of Tradition," and a children’s book, "Let’s Say Amen!" Over the past 15 years, she has been a pre-kindergarten teacher, a private tutor for beginners in Judaism, and an event organizer. In addition, she is a monthly food columnist for Hamodia, an Orthodox daily newspaper in Israel.

Here is a recipe from the book, which Ansh said she devised last year when her in-laws were visiting.

"I created this recipe from scratch after overbuying on ground flax and ground whole sesame seeds," she said. "It is rich in dietary fiber, has the flax for Omega-3 fatty acids, and the whole sesame, which is a good source of calcium. All combined, this bread is tasty and nutritious, and became an instant hit with my family and guests."

Rye and Flaxseed Buns

‘ oz. fresh yeast granules

3/4 cup light brown sugar

5 cups water

1 cup plus ‘ tbsp. canola oil

1 cup soy milk

7 1/’ cups finely ground whole-wheat flour

5 cups rye flour

1 cup wheat germ

1 cup ground whole sesame seeds

1/’ to 1 cup ground flax seeds

1 egg

1 tbsp. salt

1 egg white

In the mixer bowl, pour the yeast granules, 1/4 cup of the light brown sugar, and 1 cup of the warm water. Cover the bowl and let it activate for 5 minutes.

Add the oil, soy milk, and ‘ more cups of warm water. Add in the whole-wheat flour, wheat germ, ground sesame seeds, and ground flaxseed.

Start to knead this with your mixer until it turns into a thick mixture. Add the rest of the water and the rye flour in one-cup increments, until you have a workable dough. If the dough is not pliable, add more drops of water and oil, alternating between the two, until you have a good dough that does not stick to the sides of your mixing bowl. Turn off the mixer. Separate challah without a blessing.

Grease a large bowl and turn out the dough into this bowl. Turn the dough over one more time so it is greased on all sides. Cover loosely with plastic wrap and then with towels and allow it to rise for an hour. This will grow at least twice its size.

Punch down. There are many ways that this dough can be shaped. To make this into simple hot dog shaped buns, simply roll out thick logs as usual but just allow them to rise directly on your lined baking trays. To make small muffin shaped rolls, grease a muffin tin well with cooking spray and make medium-sized "knots" out of the logs, then allow them to rise inside the muffin holders. To make simple rolls, just shape them into small rounds with your hands and let them rise directly on the baking trays or in the muffin tins.

Preheat the oven to 350? degrees for ‘0 minutes prior to baking. Brush the rolls with the egg white. If desired, sprinkle sesame seeds on top of the rolls, or cornmeal.

Bake for ‘0 minutes, until the rolls are golden brown on top and bottom.

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