Get Lit This Hanukkah With A Babka Menorah

Thanksgiving may be in sharp focus with less than one week to go, but make no mistake: Hanukkah isn’t far behind.

Darkness descends earlier with every passing day and the nights grow longer, setting the stage for Hanukkah candles to light the way forward. It’s a time to bask in the warm glow of the menorah, flames flickering in the breeze, and indulge in the sweetest of traditions. For a fresh take on the traditional hanukkiah, I’ve got just the thing that’s full of the holiday spirit… And more importantly, chocolate. Enter the Babka Menorah, paying homage to the festival of lights in the most delicious way possible.

Embrace Tradition Through A Modern Lens

To truly appreciate the Babka Menorah, it’s essential to explore the rich tapestry of Jewish baking. The dough itself is a subtle adaptation of my essential challah recipe, slightly enriched with non-dairy milk to make an even more tender, buttery treat. While challah dough is then braided and lacquered with an egg wash, babka is a coiled, twisted masterpiece that weaves a different narrative. Its layers, intertwined with velvety chocolate chips and cocoa-spiked sugar, unfold with every delicate bite, placing it firmly on the dessert menu, rather than the dinner table.

Fashioned after the menorah, an essential centerpiece of Hanukkah, this is more than just a candelabrum. It symbolizes the miracle of the oil that burned for eight days when there was only enough for one. In this spirit, the Menorah Babka merges tradition with a touch of contemporary whimsy. It stands as a celebration of resilience, innovation, and the sweet joy that comes from embracing change.

Look No Further For The Best Vegan Babka Recipe

Babka is a cult hit that’s transcended Jewish delis to become a viral hit at large. The appeal of bread and chocolate is universal, so this mainstream success should come as no surprise. Decadent chocolatey filling is interlaced throughout the whole loaf, melding and fusing with the bread for an end result greater than the sum of its parts. The decadence of chocolate is balanced by the soft, pillowy dough; altogether rich and sweet, yet still not too heavy, even after indulging in untold plates of latkes.

Making it look like a menorah is more than just a fun visual trick. Those long branches transform the dough into an ideal pull-apart bread, perfect for sharing with loved ones, no knives required. Food you can eat with your hands is just more fun, right?

Tips For Success

For those inspired to try their hand at crafting this edible menorah, a few tips can make the process more enjoyable.

  1. Patience is key when coaxing the dough to rise, allowing the flavors to develop and the layers to intertwine.
  2. Embrace the messiness of the process; after all, the best stories are often written in the margins.
  3. Allow space for the full glory of your design, even if that means baking on an upside-down sheet pan to prevent raised edges from boxing you in.

Ideas For Adaptation

As with any good recipe, there’s ample room for personalization. The Menorah Babka, like the original concept, lends itself to a myriad of flavor variations, each as unique as the individuals celebrating Hanukkah. You can always add a pinch of spice or other crunchy mix-ins to the current filling, or go on a new flavor adventure with the following variations:

  • Add 1 tablespoon ground cinnamon for a classic cinnamon-sugar blend, or incorporate ginger, cloves, all-spice, and cardamom for a more nuanced approach
  • Add 1/2 cup finely chopped nuts, such as almonds, pistachios, or pecans
  • Smear 1/2 – 3/4 cup peanut butter, jam, or hazelnut spread over the dough instead of melted vegan butter
  • Use vegan white chocolate chips, a dash of vanilla extract, and rainbow sprinkles to make something reminiscent of cake batter
  • Add crushed graham crackers, mini marshmallows, and chocolate chips for a s’mores-inspired delight

In a world that is constantly changing, the Babka Menorah invites us to enjoy the sweetness of cherished traditions with a twist. It’s not too early to plan for a truly happy Hanukkah, with warm wishes for season’s eatings.

Continue reading “Get Lit This Hanukkah With A Babka Menorah”

Wine Not?

Does the moon have an identity crisis, or does it simply have a more fluid sense of self? Not only does it change names every month, but sometimes it goes by multiple names at the same time. Each full moon is known for different attributes of any given season, based on Native American and Colonial tradition. It all makes good sense; September gives rise to the Harvest Moon, as abundant harvests come to fruition.

That’s not the end of the story, though. This very same moon also answers to Corn Moon, Song Moon, Hungry Ghost Moon, Barley Moon, and Wine Moon, among many others. Given how many unique facets of the autumnal equinox there are to celebrate, especially in the Pagan tradition of Mabon (AKA Witches Thanksgiving), it makes good sense that there would be many layers of meaning to derive from such a rich source of inspiration.

Given the conventional approach to focus on the overall harvest, profuse with squashes, apples, and root vegetables galore, I’d like to shine a light on one of the less common September moons. Let’s raise a glass to the Wine Moon, beyond biodynamic farming methods, in the Celtic tradition.

Although this phase marks the time of year when grapes are plucked from their vines, crushed, then stashed away into casks, modern farming has given us the gift of instant gratification. Thus, we can imbibe, or better yet, churn out a sweet ode to the new moon. It’s certainly not getting much cooler yet, so the Mulled Wine Sorbet from Super Vegan Scoops! is a refreshing way to enjoy the heady aroma of citrus and spice, better than merely served over ice.

Continue reading “Wine Not?”

The Inside Scoop On Umami Ice Cream

Have we reached peak summer yet? Living inside of a proverbial oven, it’s hard to tell where summer ends and all other seasons begin. Temperatures have hit record highs starting in May, carelessly bulldozing right over spring, with no sign of stopping for fall. Most of the US experiences the hottest day of the year in July, but I have a feeling we’ll still be sweating it out for months to come. Want my advice? Dip into a creamy frozen treat to fight fire with ice.

I’m still not done churning after two ice cream cookbooks and scores of bonus recipes. Before you think I’ve run out of ideas and gone back to bland basics, take a closer look. Those aren’t just flecks of vanilla beans you see right below the surface, but tiny particles of finely ground shiitake powder as well.

Mushroom Ice Cream?!

Though typically touted for their uniquely meaty flavor that enhances savory entrees and snacks, there’s so much more shiitake mushrooms are capable of. Using Sugimoto shiitake powder eliminates the more earthy flavors and textures that turn some people off, leaving only pure, natural umami essence at your disposal. When used with a deft hand, it serves to amplify the existing flavors already at play, just like salt or sugar.

Instead of drowning out the delicate floral, buttery, inherent richness of whole vanilla beans, a pinch of shiitake powder brings them to the fore, brighter and bolder than ever. Suddenly, more nuanced notes of marshmallow, whipped cream, light caramel, pound cake, buttercream frosting, and custard can emerge, uplifted by the strength of free glutamate.

Ideas and Adaptations

Like any good vanilla ice cream, you can enjoy every last lick as is, or use it as your jumping-off point for bolder taste sensations. Classic mix-ins include but are not limited to:

  • Cookie dough
  • Toasted or candied nuts
  • Chocolate chips, cacao nibs, or fudge sauce
  • Fruit preserves, jam, or pie filling
  • Sprinkles

Change the whole character of your scoops by adding to the base instead:

  • Cocoa powder
  • Peanut butter
  • Peppermint extract
  • Lemon or orange zest
  • Fresh ginger

Plus, there’s no limit to the possibilities for dressing it up in:

  • Sundaes
  • Floats
  • Sandwiches
  • Cakes
  • Baked Alaska
  • Pies

Umami Flavor Hack

Don’t have time, energy, or equipment to start from scratch? You’re still invited to this ice cream social! Take any store-bought pint and sprinkle a tiny pinch of shiitake powder on top. A little bit goes a long way; you’ll instantly taste the difference.

I’m not making this up! It’s been proven time and again that everything, including desserts, can benefit from the addition of guanylate, the compound responsible for creating umami taste. The drying and rehydrating process of shiitake produces guanylate, so you get a pure, potent source that doesn’t disrupt the overall flavor, preserving the subtle nuances of the vanilla bean.

Don’t just take my word for it. This is an edible experiment that anyone can try with no risks, only sweet rewards.

Continue reading “The Inside Scoop On Umami Ice Cream”

A Complete Guide To Vegan Ice Cream In Austin, Texas

Having written two cookbooks on the subject, my love of ice cream is no secret. No flavors are off limits, no combinations too wild. That’s a large part of the appeal; there’s something for everyone. You can find everything under the summer sun, from classic vanilla that’s a scoop of simple elegance in a cone, to bold chocolate that’s as dark and decadent as pure frozen ganache. After a sizable dinner or for a standalone snack, there’s always room for ice cream.

While ice cream makers have become remarkably more accessible and inexpensive over the years, it’s impossible to compete with the instant gratification of grabbing a scoop whenever cravings strike, while on the road, or as an excuse to meetup with friends. As a deeply entrenched part of any community, it’s no coincidence that ice cream socials were originally created as a way to make political gatherings more palatable. Here in Austin, TX, we certainly have a surfeit of frozen treats to chose from, despite many recent crushing losses.

Focusing in on shops that off genuinely custard-like treats without eggs or dairy uncovered a wealth of new options. While you can certainly find suitable sorbet, Italian ice, snow cones, and popsicles elsewhere, this list is dedicated only to frozen desserts with a creamy non-dairy base.

Continue reading “A Complete Guide To Vegan Ice Cream In Austin, Texas”