Breaking the Fast

Yom Kippur, the Day of Atonement, begins at sundown on Sunday, Oct. 8, during which time a strict fast is observed

Prior to the fast, it is customary to serve a family dinner consisting of simple foods prepared with a minimum of salt and spices.

After the fast, dairy foods are traditionally served, and of course bagels are an important part of the after-fast menu, often accompanied by smoked fish and salads.

If there is one favorite item in the Jewish-American cuisine, it is certainly the bagel. Their popularity has spread to almost every part of the U.S. And many shops specializing only in bagels have popped up everywhere. We can choose from egg or water bagels, whole wheat, oat bran, rye, onion, blueberry, cinnamon-raisin, cheese and even chocolate chip bagels.

There are many opinions as to where the bagel originated. Some say Germany, while others insist it was Austria, Poland or Russia, although scholars claim that the word “bagel” is derived from the German word “bugel,” which means a ring or curved bracelet. No matter where they came from, we know that the bagel is here to stay, and they are not just for breakfast.

Few of us have attempted to bake bagels in our home kitchens.

I love making bagels, but it is true that they do take a lot of time. Bagels are made in a unique manner; they are first boiled, then baked, which gives them their distinctive shiny, chewy crust.

This year, for break-the-fast, bagels will be my theme – a bagel buffet, with enough delicious toppings to satisfy everyone.

Let your family and friends have fun creating their own open-face bagel fantasy from a selection of interesting toppings.

Izzy’s Authentic Bagels

I never knew how to make perfect bagels until I met Izzy Cohen, an elderly retired baker, who made bagels for his friends. He came to my house to demonstrate his technique, bringing his own high-gluten flour. Once you learn the basic process, you’ll love making bagels in many varieties – plain, onion, poppy seed, cinnamon, or your own special creations. You might have to go to a health food store to find the malt for this recipe.

  • 2 cups cold water
  • 2 tablespoons sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1 tablespoon malt
  • 1 tablespoon safflower oil
  • 8 cups high-gluten flour (12 to 13 percent gluten) or 8 cups unbleached all-purpose flour mixed with
  • 1/4 cup powdered gluten, plus more as needed
  • 5 teaspoons active dry yeast
  • 1 tablespoon yellow cornmeal

In the bowl of a heavy-duty electric mixer, blend the water, sugar, salt, malt, and oil on medium speed.In another large bowl, mix 6 cups of the flour with yeast; gradually add flour mixture to water mixture and blend until the dough comes together. Add the remaining 2 cups flour, beating until smooth. (If any dry flour mixture remains in the bottom of the bowl, add several drops of water to moisten it and continue beating 5 minutes.)

Transfer dough to a lightly floured board, cover with a towel and let rest 5 minutes. Divide dough into 15 pieces and cover with a towel while you knead and shape each piece. Knead by folding each piece in half and pushing out any air pockets, then fold in half again and repeat. Shape into a rope about 5 inches long; form into a doughnut shape, overlap ends by about 1 inch, and knead into a smooth perfect circle. Repeat the process with remaining pieces of dough.

Sprinkle cornmeal on the board and place bagels on top. Cover with a towel and let rest 5 minutes.Preheat the oven to 425 F.

Fill a large heavy pot with water and bring to a rolling boil. Working in batches, drop 4 to 6 bagels (do not crowd) into boiling water and boil 10 seconds only. At this time, bagels should rise to the top of the water. Transfer with a slotted spoon to a wire rack and drain. Transfer bagels to a parchment-lined baking sheet 2 inches apart. Bake until golden brown, about 10 minutes. Cool on a wire racks. Makes about 15 bagels.Variations: Mix together chopped onion and poppy seeds or caraway seeds with a little coarse kosher salt. After boiling and draining bagels, press the top of each bagel into seed mixture and bake as directed.

Toasted Garlic Bagels

Instead of garlic toast using French bread, try my version.

  • 1/4 pound unsalted butter or non-dairy margarine
  • 3 to 4 garlic cloves
  • 3 tablespoons minced parsley
  • Salt
  • 8 bagels, sliced in half

In a processor, mix butter and garlic until well blended. Pulse in parsley. Season to taste with salt. With a rubber spatula, transfer mixture to a bowl. Cover with plastic wrap and refrigerate until ready to use. (You can also shape the mixture into a cube, wrap in plastic wrap and foil, then freeze it; defrost until spreadable before use.)

Preheat the broiler. Spread the butter mixture on the bagel halves, place them on a baking sheet, and broil until the butter mixture bubbles and begins to brown. Serve immediately.

Grandma’s Chopped Herring

  • 1 pound schmaltz herring fillets or 1 jar (1 pound) pickled herring fillets in wine sauce
  • 2 slices challah or egg bread
  • 1 medium onion, cut into quarters
  • 1 green apple, peeled, cored, and sliced
  • 2 hard-boiled eggs
  • 4 teaspoons vinegar
  • 2 or 3 tablespoons safflower or vegetable oil

Soak the herring in cold water overnight. Drain well. Bone and skin the herring and cut it into pieces. Soak the challah in cold water for a few minutes and squeeze out the water.

Place the herring, challah, onion, and apple in a food grinder and grind. Chop the hard-boiled egg whites and combine with 3 teaspoons of the vinegar. Mix the whites into the herring mixture. Spread the chopped herring on a platter. Mash the egg yolks with the remaining 1 teaspoon vinegar and spread over the top of the chopped herring.

Cover with plastic wrap and chill. Just before serving, pour 2 or 3 tablespoons of the oil over the top. Serve with toasted bagels.

Broiled Lox and Cream Cheese on a Bagel

  • 8 bagels, sliced and toasted
  • 1 (8-ounce) package cream cheese
  • 1/4 cup sour cream
  • 3 tablespoons thinly sliced green onion
  • 1/2 cup diced smoked salmon
  • 3 tablespoons capers, rinsed
  • Salt and freshly ground black pepper to taste

In a medium-size bowl, mix together the cream cheese, sour cream, onions and smoked salmon. Fold in capers. Season with salt and pepper. Spread evenly on toasted bagels. Broil 3 inches from the heat until lightly browned, about 5 minutes. Serve immediately.

Italian Deli Platter

  • 12 thin slices of tomatoes
  • 12 thin slices of mozzarella cheese
  • 12 anchovy fillets

On a large platter, arrange slices of tomatoes. Top each tomato with a slice of cheese and an anchovy fillet. Serves 12.

Smoked Whitefish Platter

  • Lettuce leaves
  • Smoked whitefish or cod fish
  • Sliced cucumbers
  • Sliced onions

On a large platter, arrange lettuce leaves, white fish, cucumbers and onions.

Pass the Egg

My parents were Elderhostel students this week at the University of Judaism in Los Angeles, and I shared Friday night services with them in the Conservative tradition of my youth.

It was like coming home. The melodies, the longer version of prayers, the responsive readings in English, and the Borscht Belt- suffused jokes all flooded back to me. It was vanilla pudding for the soul.The rabbi’s sermon, related in nasal Billy Crystal cadences, told the one about the poor woman and the chicken. With her last shekel, she bought a golden egg and brought it home. One and all admired the egg.”We’ll save the egg until it hatches,” the mother said, passing it to her older daughter to admire.

“Yes, then we’ll have many chickens,” the daughter said, passing it on.

“And the chickens will lay many golden eggs,” said her younger brother, passing it on again.

“And the golden eggs will be worth a lot of money, and we’ll buy still more chickens,” said the youngest.

He tried to pass it on but the egg dropped and splattered to the floor. Oh my.

At dinner that night, I sat among the Elderhostelers as we critiqued the rabbi’s performance, just as Conservative Jews have done through the ages. What was the sermon again? We struggled to remember the botched punch line. Everyone had heard the story many times before, with many variations, including one where the children clap their hands and the eggshell breaks over them.

I loved it all, but on the way home I wondered: would future generations get the joke? So many of us live firmly within movements now; a child is raised to be a good Orthodox Jew or a good Conservative Jew. There’s a wonderful program in Israel for bright American high schoolers focused on Reform Jewish philosophy. Reconstructionists have even changed the words of some prayers.

Our children may know who they are, and certainly who they’re not. But they may not know who we are, all of us.

The immigrant experience is long behind us.

The Catskills have gone to Vegas and Comedy Central.

The glue of Jewish history and culture, trade unionism, civil rights and even Israel, which forged a unifying political and social ideology in the last century, has lost its potency. It’s enough to make you wonder if we’ll all speak the same language not far down the road.

Yet it’s not too late. In the new spiritual awakening that is influencing all branches, we find our adhesive.I resist movements. I travel around, and not only because it’s my job. It’s fun. I can, by now, sit behind the mechitzah in an Orthodox shul one Shabbat, then join the tambourines and drums of a Renewal service the next. At both, it’s a blast to hear rabbis from varying denominations reading identical classic commentaries from Chassidic masters, whether to draw the same or opposite conclusions. And it’s satisfying. I can move from the traditional Silverman prayer book to the new Reconstructionist gender-inclusive siddur “Kol Haneshamah” and find something in each to move the heart.

I’ve made sure my daughter travels, too. She went to both Reform and Conservative summer camps and was bat mitzvah in the Reconstructionist movement. When she’s away, any place where the Eternal Light hangs is home.

Maybe I’m a one-woman campaign to fight the growing compartmentalization of the Jewish people, but you can join it too. When you travel to exotic countries, I’ll bet you visit ancient temples, even participating in services that might offend you at home. I’ll bet you think it’s exotic and fascinating, how different we Jews are, and how much the same.

Why should the traveling stop when you reach your own address? There’s a ferment in Judaism today, a glorious artistic and spiritual creativity, that you miss when you hear only your same rabbi and your same study group. Stretch yourself.

Each summer, Jews go shul-shopping, trying out new congregations and rabbis for those that feel most like home. This year, do the opposite: Visit synagogues as unlike your background as you can stand. Don’t go to criticize. Learn. If what you experience is not exactly your grandfather’s Judaism, well, isn’t that good?It’s been clear for some time that what Rabbi Harold Schulweis calls “Jewish apartheid” exists among youth. Social isolation was not diminished by the decision by Camp Ramah to exclude those whose mothers are not Jewish.

But I want to go even further. Jewish apartheid begins with adults. There are too many bad jokes which start, “There were three rabbis, an Orthodox, a Conservative and a Reform …” We American Jews have far more in common even now than you’d believe from each movement’s isolationists. Once you sit down together and hear Conservative Jews using a Reform melody for the prayer over bread, you can’t miss the cross-fertilization that is going on.

You are part of a great cultural transmission. Pass the golden egg.

Marlene Adler Marks is senior columnist of The Jewish Journal. Her e-mail address