Mark' s post regarding the faux pas in including milk products in a Jewish
style bread has prompted me to write.
Jewish baking (and cooking) provides special circumstances including not
mixing dairy with meat (in any form). Matzoh, the Jewish unleaven bread,
must be completed within 18 minutes to be acceptable for Passover use.
These are a few mandates of Jewish dietary law. Not all Jews are "kosher"
or observant of these religious rules, but to those who are, the addition
of dairy to a baked good may pose a problem. Many Jewish style cakes and
cookies call for vegetable oil as an ingredient for this reason. * Cookies
made with oil will be flatter (and I think crisper). Unlike butter and
margarine, oil has no water to steam and cause puffing. Solid fats also
have an ability to hold onto air bubbles and oil does not. Jewish style
coffee cakes are incredibly tender and moist (yum) as oil quickly coats the
flour proteins interfering with the absorption of moisture and the
formation of toughening gluten strands. You do sacrifice the buttery
flavor, however, when using oil..
In 1997, I attended SFBI's "Advanced Artisan Baking" class, an intensive 40
hour course. Our instructor was French and was a well respected and
accomplished baker in his own right. We made challah one day. As I recall,
our teacher pronounced that challah was merely "Jewish brioche", and that
when he had baked in New York City, the "Head" Rabbi was a great fan of his
challah and had declared it, "THE BEST!". You guessed it. The challah did
contain butter, and as the only Jew, I knew it was a no-no. As the only
woman and one of only two non-professional bakers in the class, I felt that
opening my mouth would have been seen as confrontational. I kept mum, but I
did say a silent prayer that the Rabbi's challah was either butterless or
he was aware of the butter as to pair it with other foods appropriately.
Ellen aka Gormay
PS In "A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking", Marcy Goldman, in offering her
recipe for "Buttery Egg Bread", says "Buttery challah seems almost to be a
contradiction in terms- as challah is specifically a nondairy bread making
it appropriate for serving with a meat based Sabbath meal". She suggests
that this challah-like, Jewish-style brioche would be a good accompaniment
to a meatless salad.
*The information on the properties of oil in baking came from "CookWise" by
Shirley O. Corriher