Doug Weinstein: Diamond Bakery, Challah & Rugelach

Taste Buds with Deb - Episode 20
August 30, 2023
Doug Weinstein

Recipes and a love of baking get passed on through the generations.

“L’dor v’dough, I call it,” Doug Weinstein, who considers himself the steward of Diamond Bakery in Los Angeles, told the Journal.

“I’m technically the owner, but I don’t really own Diamond Bakery,” he said. “It’s really the 76 years of family traditions that really make up the character of Diamond Bakery, and I’m just the one that’s perpetuating that for the time being.”

Jack and Betty Segal opened the Fairfax-area bakery in 1946. In 1969 it was sold to two couples, the Lottmans and Rubensteins; three of whom were Holocaust survivors.

In 2019, the bakery became employee-run. According to Weinstein, the son of one of the couples decided to close, and the employees wouldn’t let it happen. Then Covid hit.

“I came in in February of 2021 to get a cheese pocket and a corn rye and found out they were going to close in a couple of months,” Weinstein said. “The word shonda (yiddish for shame) is what comes to mind; it couldn’t happen.”

Weinstein told the story to a few people, raised some money and took over.

Diamond features old-school Jewish-style baking, with Eastern European, German, Russian, Ukrainian, Polish and Hungarian roots. Weisntein says they have maintained the quality of the product throughout the years.

“It’s just really good,” he said. “The babkas, the racetrack, the Russian coffee cake, the rugelach, the black and white cookies. the mandelbrot.”

Weinstein’s rugelach recipe is below.

He continues, “There’s somebody every day that says, ‘I drove 70 miles to get three pounds of mandelbrot,’ or ‘I flew in from Detroit, [and] took a two-hour layover, to come and get the corn rye.’”

An avid eater, Weinstein is a classically trained bakery- pastry- culinary veteran with 35-years of experience. He started cooking at a young age with his mother, grandmother and aunts.

Weinstein’s first job was sweeping floors and cleaning up for a shop around the corner in exchange for a pastrami sandwich. One day, the owner asked if he wanted to learn how to make pizza dough.

“I was 13,” he said. “I was spinning pizzas, the old fashioned way, and I just got the bug; I loved it.”

Out of high school, Weinstein did his apprenticeship as a pastry chef at the Century Plaza Hotel.

“That’s when I found out about Diamond Bakery,” he said. “It was one of the benchmark places that I would go to make sure I was learning everything I needed to learn. And so I’ve been coming here since 1980.”

As a pastry chef, he says making the “fancy stuff” – chocolate and sweets – was fun but very involved. Weinstein’s favorite thing to make is challah. His recipe is below.

“Bread, it’s so simple,” Weinstein said. “It’s got 4 or 5 ingredients in it, depending on what you’re making, and … I get lost in the process: mixing the dough and feeling it and scaling it, shaping it, nurturing it to rise. Then when it comes out and it comes out well, it’s just beautiful and delicious.”

Weinstein said it’s gratifying that people come and get his challah for their Shabbat dinners.

“It’s meaningful,” he said. “I get to be part of their tradition.”

Diamond Bakery is located at 335 N. Fairfax in Los Angeles. Learn more about Diamond Bakery.

For the full conversation and even tips on baking challah and making rugelach, listen to the podcast:

Watch the interview:

Chef Doug Weinstein’s Challah Recipe

8 cups all-purpose flour (if you use bread flour start with 7 ½ cups)

3 teaspoons salt

4 tsp dry yeast (2 packages)

5 eggs (4 for dough, 1 for brushing before baking)

½ cup vegetable oil

½ cup sugar

2 tablespoons honey

1 3/4 cup warm water

Mix flour and salt in a large bowl.

Combine water, eggs, oil and honey in a bowl, sprinkle the yeast on top and let the mixture sit for 5 minutes.

Add liquid to flour and mix into dough. Knead until smooth. It may feel sticky at first; allow time for the flour to fully absorb the water.  Once the dough comes together you can “rest” it in a lightly oiled bowl covered with plastic or a towel for 15 minutes then continue kneading.

Let the dough sit covered for 1 hour or until it has doubled in size.

Remove the dough from the bowl, de-gas (push out the air) and divide into 3, 4, or 6 equal parts, depending on what you know how to braid. Shape the parts into loose balls and let them sit for 15 – 20  minutes.

De-gas the dough again and shape it into strands. Braid into shape.

Brush the dough with an egg wash and let sit in an off oven until it has doubled in size again.

Remove from the oven and apply another egg wash. Turn on the oven to 375°F. When the oven is hot, put the shaped challah into the oven and bake until the internal temperature reaches 200°F when inserting a thermometer or until the challah is hazelnut brown.

Let cool and enjoy!

* * *

Chef Doug Weinstein’s Rugelach

Alexandra Grablewski/Getty Images

Yield:  48 cookies

4 cups all purpose Flour

1 teaspoon salt

2 cups sweet butter (room temp)

14 oz. cream cheese (room temp)

½ cup sour cream (cold)

Food processor procedure:

Mix dry ingredients in the machine, pulse to combine. Add the butter, cream cheese and sour cream; pulse until 40 to 50 seconds or until a course-crumble develops. Do not over mix.

Turn out onto a lightly floured surface, fold onto itself and press until the dough comes together. Form a log and divide into 6 equal portions. Place on plastic wrap and loosely wrap, flatten the dough into a disc. Rest for 2 hours in the fridge or freeze for up to 3 months.

Remove one portion at a time from the fridge; remove the plastic (sad, but I have to say it), place on a lightly floured surface and roll into a circle about 10” in diameter and ¼ inch thick.

For chocolate rugelach:

Once you have the  circle of dough, put 3 to 4 tablespoons of Hershey’s chocolate syrup  on the disc, spread evenly over the dough, leaving an 1/8 of an inch space around the dough. Sprinkle with chocolate chips, sprinkle with Oreo cookie crumbs and add a pinch of cinnamon sprinkled over top.

Using a pizza wheel, cut the disc into 8 equal wedges. Take one and roll it up from the wide side. Do not stretch the dough. Place on a sheet pan with the tip of the dough under the rest of the piece.

For Cinnamon Walnut:

Combine 1 cup walnuts, 2 tablespoons of brown sugar and a ¼ teaspoon of ground cinnamon in the food processor bowl. Then pulse with the blade until a course-crumble appears. Spread 2 tablespoons of sour cream over the circle and sprinkle with the cinnamon sugar, roll up like chocolate ones.  Place on a sheet pan. egg wash the cookies and sprinkle with coarse sugar.

Bake at 350 F for 30 minutes. Eat.

Debra Eckerling is a writer for the Jewish Journal and the host of “Taste Buds with Deb.Subscribe on YouTube or your favorite podcast platform. Email Debra: tastebuds@jewishjournal.com.

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