Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah

With all of the extra time I have while job hunting you’d think I’d be able to stay on top of things here, but that hasn’t been the case. I’ve had Deb Perelman’s Smitten Kitchen Cookbook checked out from the library for a few weeks now and was all set to make this recipe when I realized I didn’t have any yeast. And then I got busy (or just lazy) and didn’t make it to the grocery store for a while.

The first time I had challah was at a sex positive Shabbat that I attended while I was an undergraduate student. Everything I ate was delicious but I remember really liking the challah. It’s been a few years since I’ve had it; when I lived in Minneapolis during grad school I would occasionally pick up a loaf from the local Kowalski’s market. This is a sweeter, somewhat healthier version (thanks to whole wheat flour) of traditional challah.

Fig, Olive Oil, and Sea Salt Challah




  • 1 packet dry active yeast
  • 1/4 cup plus 1 tsp honey
  • 1/3 cup olive oil, plus some for the bowl
  • 2 large eggs, plus another for the egg wash
  • 2 tsp sea salt, plus more for sprinkling on top (if desired)
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 cups all-purpose flour


  • 1 cup dried figs, stemmed and roughly chopped
  • 1/8 tsp grated orange zest
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1/4 cup orange juice
  • 1/8 tsp sea salt
  • a pinch of freshly ground black pepper


  1. In a large bowl, whisk the yeast and honey together with 2/3 cup warm water. Let sit until the mixture gets foamy. Add the remaining honey, 1/3 cup olive oil, and eggs. Whisk until everything is combined.
  2. Add the flour and salt to the wet ingredients and stir everything together with a wooden spoon until the mixture comes together in a ball.
  3. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface and knead for 5 to 10 minutes, until the dough is smooth and somewhat stretchy. Place in an olive oil-coated bowl and let rise for about an hour.
  4. While you’re waiting for the dough to rise make the fig paste. In a small saucepan combine the figs, orange zest, water, orange juice, salt, and the black pepper. Bring to a simmer and cook until the figs are tender and everything looks a bit gooier, about 10 minutes. Remove from heat and let cool.
  5. Pour the fix mixture into a food processor or blender and blend until it forms a paste. Set aside.
  6. After the dough has risen, turn it out onto a lightly floured surface (again). Cut the dough in half. Roll out half the dough into a rectangular shape, getting it as thin as you can. Spread half of the fig paste on the dough, keeping about an inch between the paste and the edge of the dough. Roll it into a thin log and cut it in half. Seal the ends as best you can so you don’t have fig paste oozing out. Repeat with the other half of the dough.
  7. Twist your dough into a challah shape. I know that’s really vague, but completing this step depends on how elastic your dough is and how thin/long your strands are… here’s a YouTube video demonstration: and here’s an eHow guide: My dough was not super elastic so I just twisted it a few times and tucked in the ends.
  8. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and place the dough on it. In a small bowl, beat the remaining egg and brush the dough with egg wash.
  9. Let the dough rise for another 40 to 45 minutes and then preheat the oven to 375° F. Brush the dough with egg wash again, and sprinkle on that extra sea salt if you want. Place the baking sheet on the middle rack, and bake the challah for 35 to 40 minutes, until it’s nice and golden brown.
  10. Let the challah rest on a wire cooling rack for 5 to 10 minutes before cutting and eating.

As seen in the picture above, my challah strands were pretty thick (and not super elastic) so it doesn’t look as pretty as it could. Still tastes wonderful, though, which is much more important.

Source: Adapted from The Smitten Kitchen Cookbook by Deb Perelman


Potato Knish

My workplace in Saint Paul is less than a block away from Cecil’s Deli. ‘Twas lunchtime one day at work, and  I was looking at their menu when I came upon a term I didn’t recognize – knish. I asked my co-workers about knish and then looked for photos online. I stumbled upon a recipe and just happened to have all of the ingredients, so I put it on my list of things to make and post on my blog.

Potato Knish

Potato knish 1



  • 2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/2 cup vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp white vinegar
  • 1/2 cup water


  • 1 1/2 lbs (about 3 medium) russet potatoes, peeled and quartered
  • 1 small yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • 1 Tbsp non-dairy spread (I used Earth Balance)
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • Freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 large egg yolk and 1 tsp water for finishing egg-wash


Note: This recipe has a lot of steps, and is kind of hard to visualize at times. If you have any trouble following the steps, I recommend clicking the link to the original recipe at the end of this post – it has some helpful pictures.

  1. In a large bowl, stir together the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a smaller bowl, whisk together the egg, oil, vinegar, and water. Pour the mixture into the dry ingredients and stir to combine.
  2. Knead the dough for about a minute until it becomes smoother. Place dough back into the large bowl and cover with plastic wrap. Let sit while you prepare the other ingredients.
  3. Put the potatoes in a large pot and cover with cold water. Bring to a boil over high heat, then reduce the heat to medium and cook until you can pierce the potatoes quite easily with a fork. Drain the potatoes, then transfer them to a large bowl.
  4. Add the olive oil and non-dairy spread to a large skillet over medium heat. Once the mixture has started to bubble, lower the heat to medium-low. My stove-top seems to run hot, so I pulled the heat all the way back to low. Add the onions and cook, stirring pretty frequently, until they’re caramelized. (I ‘m not great at caramelizing onions, but just remember to keep the heat pretty low, keep some grease in the pan, and stir a lot, and they should turn out okay.)
  5. Once the onions are finished, add them to the potatoes with the salt and black pepper and mash.
  6. Preheat the oven to 375°F and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  7. Now the fun part – putting the knish together. Divide the dough in half, and sprinkle some flour on whatever surface you’ll be using to roll out the dough.
  8. Roll the first half of the dough into about a 12 by 12 inch square, and add half the potato filling, placing it into a log shape near one edge of the dough. Carefully roll until the filling has been securely wrapped in dough, then tuck in the edges on the ends.
  9. Twist the dough into three about equal parts, and close off one end of each section – this will be the bottom of the knish.
  10. Squish each knish into a round shape and seal the top, or leave it open – the choice is yours. I left the tops of my knish slightly open.
  11. Repeat steps 8-10 with the second half of the dough, then place all six knishes onto the prepared baking sheet. Mix the egg yolk and water, and brush each knish with the egg wash.
  12. Bake the knishes for about 45 minutes. My egg wash was too thin and the knishes did not brown up well, so I re-made the egg wash, brushed them again, and broiled for a few additional minutes.
  13. Let the knishes cool before handling or eating.

While the caramelized onions were tasty, I think I will add some herbs and/or spices to the potato mixture next time.

Source: Slightly adapted from Smitten Kitchen