Sunday, December 18, 2011


Knowing that this recipe will be the last one I make this year as part of THE CHALLENGE, Anna & I both looked forward to learning how to turn six strands into one loaf of bread. This was a far cry from my years of turning a massive mane into pigtails each morning before elementary school. As opposed to other multi-braided loaves, this is not the result of two triple braided loaves stacked on top of each other.

The ingredients included the usual suspects -- wheat flour, eggs, yeast, honey. The dough didn't rise as much as I expected. It might have been the addition of White Whole Wheat flour, but it was easy to mix in the KitchenAid.

After the first rise the dough was weighed into twelve equal balls, enough to make two loaves. Once covered they needed about 45 minutes to rise again and were then rolled into tapered "snakes". Each of us took six strands and smooshed them together at the top. By the way, that's a formal baking term.

Now came the tricky part. With us facing each other, Anna read the instructions one move at a time, from the open book. Basically, each strand has a numbered position 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 or 6. The very clear pictures and instructions from "Inside the Jewish Bakery" directed us to "move #2 over #6", "move #1 over #5", etc. It was a bit like dragon boat racing, we just followed the shouted orders. Pretty quickly we were locked into a rhythm and in a few minutes we were both finished.

So far, so good. We finished braiding at the same time, which meant that both loaves were similar in size and should bake evenly. Next Anna added two coats of egg wash followed by each of us personalizing the seed topping. She opted for sesame and charnushka (small, pungent black angular seeds also known as kolonji). I used poppy seed with a little charnushka for sentimental reasons; historically it was sprinkled on top of rye breads in Russia, home of my parents before they were lucky enough to emigrate.

Because I was using a home convection oven, and the loaves needed separate pans, I had to bake on two shelves. The bottom one was covered with tiles, while the top one wasn't. I reversed the pan direction and shelf positions midway. They were done in about thirty minutes and the room smelled heavenly.

The recipe advises you to wait almost an hour before cutting into the bread. This is generally good advice because you want the moister interior to cool and settle so it doesn't glom together (another baking term)  and compress when you cut it, ideally with a serrated knife. I hadn't anticipated how long it would take to complete from start to finish. I cut my loaf after only 30 minutes because we were all anxious for a taste.

You can notice in this picture where the various strands were braided. It was delicious but a little denser than the all white flour challahs I've had in the past. That could also be because our loaves were long and narrow, causing us to knock the air out of the dough while rolling it pretty thin. We tried it with some of my homemade jams and happy "yum-yums" were heard throughout the room. 

The result -- a beautiful girl holding her beautiful six strand hand braided Honey Whole Wheat Challah.

Saturday night I decided to take what was left of my challah and try a recipe that I haven't made since the 80's, the Brasserie's Orange French Toast. I knew this type of bread would be firm enough to hold its shape yet soft enough to absorb all of the eggs, milk, orange juice, etc overnight in the refrigerator.

Gently fried in butter, it was as good as I remembered. The Brasserie was a unique bistro style restaurant in New York City back in the day, offering exciting French influenced fare for the casual table.

I didn't bother to slice the orange into supremes (the orange segment cut from between each membrane). Instead, I picked a flower from my garden and added homemade Mango Meyer Lemon Jam. It was a great way to start the day. If you'd like to make some for yourself using Challah or French bread, here is the recipe as it appeared in Florence Fabricant's New York Times column back then.
Brasserie Orange French Toast
  • 1/2 cup Milk (or half & half for a richer taste)
  • 1 cup orange juice
  • 1 orange
  • 5 Eggs
  • 6 Tablespoons sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 2 Medium-sized French breads each about 16 inches long
  • Butter
  • Confectioner’s sugar

Beat milk, orange juice, eggs, sugar and vanilla together until well blended. Strain into a large bowl. Grate the zest of an orange (without the white pith) and add to the mixture.

Cut breads to 1 to 1 1/2 inch thick slices on an angle. You should have approximately 18 slices. Do not use the ends. Briefly soak the bread slices in the egg mixture and place them in a single layer on a tray, a large platter or a shallow baking pan. Pour any of the egg mixture not absorbed by the bread over the slices. Cover and refrigerate at least 5 hours or overnight. If possible, turn the slices once during this time.

Peel away all the white pith of the orange and cut the orange into slices to use as a garnish. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use.

Melt butter in 1 or 2 large skillets or a griddle. Fry the bread slices over medium-low heat until nicely browned, turning once to brown both sides. Depending on the type of skillet, you may need a little more butter.

Dust French Toast with confectioners’ sugar, garnish with orange slices and serve.

Yields 6 servings

Florence Fabricant in The New York Times


When I return, after spending the holidays in New York City, Anna & I will continue with the CHALLENGE as we bake POLISH POTATO BREAD on Friday January 6, 2012. It's also the first Village ArtWalk of the new year so I'll have my tent set up in the driveway leading to the TreeHouse at 932 12th Street West, Bradenton. Stop by for a taste Friday night from 6 - 9:30pm or Saturday from 11am-4pm. There can't be an ArtWalk without CHOCOLATE ORGASM COOKIES, so look for them too. Drop me an email if you want to pre-order some ($5 for a package of 4) since we usually sell out quickly on Friday.


and hugs from the kitchen,        Bonni

always available at (941) 746-6647   or

Sunday, December 11, 2011


This is half of a Florentine cookie, because it takes two of these cuties sandwiched between either melted semi-sweet chocolate or white chocolate, to become "a single cookie". I realize now that I forgot to take pictures of the finished ones before they were all gone. They were a delicious melange of almond, chocolate and cinnamon with coconut overtones (even though there was no coconut in them), and disappeared quickly. Here in Florida it's tough to create & maintain crisp cookies (especially if there's honey in it), with our humidity. Still, it was finger-lickin' good.

 The first mistake I made was to use ground almonds. I should have used hazelnuts because I forgot that Anna is allergic to almonds. She was my indespensible other half during the creation of these and she couldn't even taste one. I feel awful!!

This cookie starts by finely grinding nuts in a blender or food processor. I used my trusty Oskar, a small processor similiar to one that Cuisinart makes. Be careful because if you grind nuts too long they ultimately break down into nut butter, not what you want here. This is what the ground almonds looked like.

The liquids are combined and heated on the stove. 

The dry mixture is added and heated to a specific stage.

When it's all cooked to the right temperature it has to cool a bit.

The warm dough is portioned, then baked on a non-stick surface.

After cooling on a rack they are sandwiched between molten chocolate. The amount of time & labor, combined with some pricey ingredients, suggested it wasn't feasible for me to bake & sell any. I hope you were some of the folks that sampled them on Friday. Yum!

This coming Friday Anna & I will be baking HONEY WHOLE WHEAT CHALLAH. I've never created a challah with whole wheat flour before, nor made a 6 strand braided bread. Happily, Norm & Stan's book has very detailed instructions. Warm samples of the bread will be available on Friday from 2-4 if you visit us in the TreeHouse (down the driveway next to the former Bonni Bakes).

Lately I've been making a variety of jams & chutney, utilizing the fabulous Keitt Mango from my tree. At this point the available combos are MANGO STRAWBERRY CARDAMOM; MANGO MEYER LEMON & LIME, and KEITT MANGO CHUTNEY. An 8 oz jar is $4 and comes wrapped for gifting. Try some on the challah...what could be bad?

This week I'll be baking some mega muffins ($1.75 each) -- my CRANBERRY ORANGE, BLUEBERRY LEMON or VEGAN PUMPKIN DATE RAISIN. If you'd like to order any for pick up on Wed. Dec 14th, give me a call by 5pm Monday at 746-6647 or email

Because I'm incredibly lucky, I'm off to spend the holidays with my kids in New York City and family in Maryland. To insure that I can shlep enough Florida-made goodies up North, the kids sent me an early birthday present (see below) that should wrap things safely.

If I don't see you this weekend, have a joyous HOLIDAY, surrounded by people you LOVE and I'll be in touch next year.

Hugs from the kitchen,

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

The first bake is POPPYSEED (MOHN) BARS

This week we kicked off the beginning of the challenge to bake all of the recipes found "Inside The Jewish Bakery". The first recipe was for a dessert that I don't remember eating before...Poppyseed Bars. In Yiddish poppyseeds are known as "mohn", and they crop up often in eastern European recipes. In this case they are used as a moist filling between a shortbread type base and a streusel topping sprinkled with powdered sugar.

The base of the cookie was melt-in-your-mouth tender, and proved to be a good foil for the poppyseed/apricot/honey filling and crunchy topping. Many people who tasted these at Saturday's Village ArtWalk were impressed by the not too sweet taste, typical of much Jewish baking. Others had never experienced poppyseeds as a filling, thinking of them only as a bagel topping. And then there were the New Yorkers who were transported back in time after one taste. In the end, the plate was empty and little Otis Whaley was seen slyly picking up a few crumbs. To me the crust tasted just like a hammentash (triangular holiday filled cookie) and were delicious. They're cut into 1"x2" bars and are the perfect partner alongside a cup of coffee or glass of tea (the way my Grandmother drank it). Do you remember these, if so we'd love to hear about it.

If you're interested in buying some, for delivery this Friday, they're available by prior order only for $12/lb, minimum order 1/4 lb. Call or email me by Thursday at 746-6647 or

On Friday Anna & I will be baking Florentine Cookies, the delicate lacy ones sandwiched together around melted white or bittersweet chocolate. What could be bad? Samples will be available by 3pm on Friday Dec 9th. Let me know if you'd like me to save you one.

Hugs from the kitchen,

Saturday, November 26, 2011

                                     Meat & Cabbage Loaf in Pastry
The last time Anna & I spent the day cooking together we tried to re-create something that she fondly remembered her Czech grandmother making. It was a thin pastry encrusted loaf of mostly ground beef and cabbage. So, based on her memories, my cooking experience and our enthusiasm, we did it and I'm sharing the recipe with you below.

For the pastry crust I used an oil based whole wheat dough that is very easy to put together and a joy to roll out. It doesn't shrink back and can be stretched very thin. The filling is a traditional combination of onions, cabbage, beef and seasonings. You could give it more of a stuffed cabbage flavor by cooking chopped tomato, lemon, brown sugar & raisins to the cabbage. I plan on creating a vegetarian version as well.

When served with mashed potatoes and a green salad, a 3" slice was very filling and delicious. You could also cut individual slices, wrap well and freeze. This recipe made two 15" loaves, enough to serve 10 people.

        Meat & Cabbage Loaf in Pastry         by Anna & Bonni 
Make the pastry first and while it is rising for 1 hour, make & cool the filling.

Whole Wheat Yeasted Olive Oil Pastry
Yeasted crusts are easier to manipulate — they don’t crack and tear. Remember to roll this out thinly so that it doesn’t become too bready.

2 teaspoons active dry yeast
1/2 cup lukewarm water
1/4 teaspoon sugar
1 large egg, at room temperature, beaten
1/4 cup canola oil
1 cup whole wheat flour (I used White Whole Wheat)
1 cup unbleached All Purpose flour (more as needed)
3/4 teaspoon salt

1. Dissolve the yeast in the water, add the sugar, and allow to sit until the mixture is creamy, about five minutes. Beat in the egg and the olive oil. Combine the flours and salt, and stir into the yeast mixture. You can use a bowl and wooden spoon for this, or a mixer — combine the ingredients using the paddle. Work the dough until it comes together in a coherent mass, adding flour as necessary. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, and knead gently for a few minutes, adding flour as necessary, just until the dough is smooth — do not overwork it. Shape into a ball. Place in a lightly oiled bowl, cover the dough tightly with plastic wrap, and allow to rise in a draft-free spot until doubled in size, about one hour.

2. Turn the dough out onto a lightly floured surface, gently knead a couple of times, and cut into two equal pieces.  Shape each piece into a ball without kneading it. Cover the dough loosely with plastic wrap, and let rest for five minutes. Then divide in half when directed in the recipe below.

Yield: Makes enough to encase two 12-inch meat strudel loaves, or
one 10- or 11-inch double-crusted torte or galette, or two 10-inch tarts.

Advance preparation: You can make the dough a day ahead and refrigerate. Once rolled out, the dough will keep for a month in the freezer if it’s well wrapped.

Recipe by Martha Rose Shulman can be reached at

Meat Filling – makes enough for two 15” loaves

2 lbs ground beef
3 large onions, sliced thinly
1 large head of green cabbage, sliced thinly
1/2 cup chopped fresh parsley
1/2 cup dry wine (use white or red, whatever you prefer)
canola oil
2 large eggs
1/4 c breadcrumbs (amt may vary based on moisture level of filling)
Salt, pepper & herbs to taste

Egg wash:  beat a whole egg with 1 tsp of cold water or cream
Sauté onions in a LARGE frying pan on medium heat, stirring often after liquid evaporates.  Lower heat, sprinkle with salt & pepper to taste, and watch carefully until onions are limp and almost totally soft.  Remove onions to a large bowl. 

Don’t clean the frying pan and sauté the cabbage in the same pan at medium heat, covering for a while to help steam/soften them. Remove cover and raise temperature to help moisture evaporate. When there is no liquid left, add parsley, 1/2 cup wine, salt & pepper to taste, and lower temperature & keep mixing until that liquid evaporates. Cook until cabbage is cooked through, then add to onions in the bowl.

Don’t clean the flying pan, add a little drizzle of oil to the hot pan and cook the meat, breaking clumps up with a fork, until it turns brown. Don’t over-fill the frying pan or the meat will steam and turn grey. When no more red is visible, add the drained meat to the bowl with onions & cabbage and mix well. Taste to correct seasoning. You can add herbs and/or ground garlic to taste.  Add two beaten eggs and enough breadcrumbs to bind everything. Don’t make it overly dry. Cool filling.

When the pastry has risen (it won’t be huge), divide pastry into two equal halves. Roll out into a very thin rectangle of dough. It will be easy to roll and not shrink back. Repeat with other piece of dough. Divide filling in half and form a lightly compact loaf down the length of the pastry, leaving enough dough to fold in at the ends.

Fold short ends up over loaf first, then fold over the long sides. Pinch dough to seal. Turn each loaf, smooth side up, onto a cookie sheet covered with oiled parchment or non-stick silicone pad. Paint with egg wash twice. Using a scissor or sharp little knife, make slits in pastry along the top, approximately 3” apart.

Bake in preheated 350-degree oven with two racks placed equally distant in oven. Bake for 18 minutes, then reverse trays back to front, and switch locations on racks top to bottom. Bake another 18 minutes or until crust is fully baked. This crust will not turn very brown so watch carefully.  Remove and cool on a rack.  Slice & serve.

 baking from "Inside the Jewish Bakery" BEGINS

The schedule has been set and the first item in December will be Mohn (Poppy seed) Bars; Lace Cookies (Florentines) the next week, and finally Honey Whole Wheat Challah. Since I'll be in NYC for the holidays, I won't be baking the rest of the Dec. recipes with the group, but will make up those items (Almond Buns and Honey Cake) on my own time, and share it with you. I'm getting hungry already. 

The plan is that Anna & I will bake the recipe initially and I'll share our experience with you via this blog. I'd love to have your comments, questions, memories, etc. The next week we'll bake that recipe to order for anyone who would like to buy some. Details to come.

If you're planning to come to The Village of the Arts for our Dec 2 & 3 ArtWalk, you'll be treated to the annual LIGHTING OF THE VILLAGE Fri night complete with carolers, Santa & unique holiday gifts from the galleries. 

I'll be set up Fri night & Sat in the driveway of my TreeHouse,  932 12th St W, complete with Breadstix, Chocolate Orgasms, Zoo Parade of unique holiday cookies to order and samples of Mohn Bars from the FIRST BAKE. 

I'd love to see you & wish you "Happy Holidays" in person.

Hugs from my TreeHouse kitchen,

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

In search of the bakery items of my childhood

I grew up in Brooklyn, NY in the 50's . From my earliest memories there was always wonderful bread, (rye, pumpernick or corned rye) on the table. I didn't know anything about fluffy Wonder Bread until I started  school. When our third grade class toured the Wonder Bread factory it ended with each of us receiving an adorable mini loaf, complete with mini-wrapper, to take home.

Those were the days when kids went home for lunch in elementary school. I brought my still warm mini-loaf home and marveled as I slathered peanut butter on a slice and it melted. For me, a kid whose mother only used the oven cavity to store pots & pans, it was a miracle. I had never experienced hot bread before and when the peanut butter melted, I was both surprised and fascinated. Who would have dreamt that half a century later I would become a self-taught baker operating a bakery/cafe.

This blog is a throw-back to that kid. The one whose early years were filled with chewy rye bread, crunchy  onion pletsel slathered in butter and fresh bialys embracing cream cheese & lox. When I was lucky, my father brought home a chunk of seven-layer cake. I admired its architecture on par with Frank Lloyd Wright viewing Fallingwater.

With the October 15, 2011 publication of "Inside the Jewish Bakery" by Stan Ginsberg & Norm Berg, I plan to re-create the unique bakery items I fondly remember. I've joined an international  group of amateur bakers who subscribe to, where the book first took root. We are planning to bake our way through the book, one recipe per week, and compare our results. For myself, I want to taste all of the delicious items I always saw on the other side of the bakery counter. I suspect some memories may be triggered along the way too. 

Anna (who has worked with me since she was 13) & I will be baking partners on this journey. By joining us through this blog you'll have an opportunity to learn, comment and share ideas & memories. The actual recipes will not be published; for that you'll have to buy the book, which I highly recommend.

The following week we'll bake our final version of the recipe. If you're local and would like to taste the results of that week's bake, you can pre-order some. Details to follow. Our journey begins at the beginning of December 2011.