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.

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Pavé the Way Forward

This may be a hot take, but I think it’s perfectly fine to skip the Thanksgiving roast, as long as there are potatoes on the table. Mashed, roasted, sauteed, or fried; it’s simply not a harvest feast without some form of spuds. In fact, go ahead and invite more than one to the party. There’s always room for another starchy side.

What Is Potato Pavé?

Some call them “thousand layer potatoes” or “15 hour potatoes” thanks to TikTok, but their roots go much deeper than that. Similar to hasselback, accordion, and tornado potatoes with their endless crispy layers, potato pavé have been around for centuries. These golden bricks of pressed, creamy potato, take their name from the French word for cobblestone. Historically reserved for the tables of fine dining establishments, their time-consuming preparation is too demanding for any old weeknight dinner, but well within reach for a special occasion.

How It’s Made

To create this masterpiece, you’ll layer these paper-thin potato slices in a meticulous mosaic, infusing each crevice with rich coconut milk and sriracha-spiked bee-free honey. The whole assembly is baked, then weighted down to compress and bind the strata into compact tiers, still delicate but stable enough to slice. Traditionally, it’s then fried or seared in hot oil, but I prefer the ease of the air fryer, browning the edges to a crispy, grease-free finish.

If all goes according to plan, you get the best of all worlds: A buttery interior with sheets of silky-smooth potato puree, and crunchy sides that could put breakfast hash browns to shame. Mixed within that textural symphony, the sweet-heat flavor contrast hits all the high notes.

FAQ

This is definitely a more advanced recipe, best prepared ahead of time and practiced before the big event, if possible. It all comes down to technique, with a pinch of food science.

Can I use sweet potatoes or purple potatoes instead?

  • No, I’m afraid not. They’ll become completely smooth in the center, which is also lovely, but not the same experience as you’d get from a multitude of distinct layers.

Can I make potato pavé without a mandolin?

  • You can, in the sense that it’s physically possible and I can’t stop you, but I absolutely do NOT recommend it. Unless you’re a master chef or sword-fighting ninja, there’s no way to ensure completely consistent, wafer-thin slices across three pounds of potatoes. This is absolutely critical for success. To be honest, I should have cut mine even thinner than what’s pictured too.

What do you do with the scraps?

  • If you’re not satisfied by simply eating them as snacks while you work, the excess trimmings can be added to soups or stews, mixed into stuffing, or even sprinkled on top of salads.

Serving Suggestions

Naturally, potato pave would be right at home with the other side dishes, but they could also be served as a starter before the main meal. Include a garlicky aioli for dipping and think of them as bundles of crispy French fries! For a more elegant serving, use them as a separate first course, surrounded by a pool of chestnut puree, gravy, or herbed vegan butter.

If there’s one dish you invest concerted time and effort on this Thanksgiving, make it the potatoes.

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Phono Input

As a rule, I try not to play favorites. Whether we’re talking about animals, flowers, or food, it’s impossible to crown a winner across the board. Different moods and situations call for different preferences. No one thing is ever perfect either. Some might excel at one thing but fall short in another. I say this specifically with restaurants and bars in mind, as I’m frequently asked to weigh in. That’s why I can’t say that Phonobar is my all-time favorite… It’s just that the competition would be tough with that near the top of my list.

Established in the heart of the Civic Center, it’s a true oasis in the city. Rarely can you walk into a sleek, polished bar and feel right at home, as if your glittery high heels had transformed into fuzzy slippers upon entry, though I can’t find any other way to describe the experience. Intimate and comfortable, romantic and seductive, fun and casual; any of these descriptors could fit the vibe. If you want to dance the night away, there’s a sweet lounge area with open space to groove, especially when a DJ or band comes to play. If you just want a chill happy hour, sidle up to the bar or park yourself in the covered outdoor booths on a balmy San Francisco evening.

If you know me, you know my focus is quickly diverted to the menu. This is where the party really starts. Om Sabor is in the kitchen, crafting their distinctive globally inspired fusion fair, leaning strongly into Mexican and Californian cuisine. There’s not a single dish that would disappoint, but I’d highly suggest going for the Enchiladas, stuffed with black beans, to get a taste of their masterful handle on spices, layered harmoniously into every bite.

Soups are ever-changing with the seasons, but if you’re fortunate enough to get French Onion Soup as an option, don’t even think twice: Place your order before you even take a seat. Deeply savory, buttery, and with a hint of natural sweetness, meltingly tender ribbons of caramelized onions swim under the cover of soft bread and gooey cheese, all slowly melting together into one comforting spoonful.

Teriyaki Skewers are one of the top sellers, which chef Luis easily sold me on after facing decision paralysis given the breadth of choices. Thank goodness he tipped the scale in favor of these delicately strung strata of chicken-like protein and vegetables. Deftly grilled to ensure crisp, gently seared edges, it’s a true feat to have everything, from mushrooms to peppers, zucchini to meat, cooked perfectly together, glistening under the greenhouse window panels lining the far wall.

Of course, you can’t leave without indulging in a cocktail or two, or three if you’ve got a ride home lined up. Of course, for nondrinkers, zero proof cocktails (AKA mocktails) are far from an afterthought; these drinks are just as carefully blended, infused, and shaken, so you’ll never end up with another glorified lemonade. You’d barely wait a minute even during the busiest of times; they have the process down to an art and a science.

My favorite cocktail of all time, the Paper Plane, isn’t in the printed menu, but all it took was a tentative request for the perfect blend of spirits to arrive at my table. Balance is the word I keep coming back to, describing how well each ingredient compliments one another, never speaking out of turn or stealing the show. That isn’t easy, especially in the more complex, original cocktails developed and only found here.

The seasonal Walking In The Rain is a must for warm summer nights. It’s genuinely refreshing, light and restorative, gently sweetened with vegan honey, and offset with herbaceous cucumber-infused bitters. Should the weather turn cold, when the fog rolls in and blankets the streets, a Hot Toddy will warm you from the inside out, soothing like a hug from a good friend. There’s something for everyone, to take the edge off a bad day or celebrate a good one.

The fact that it’s all plant-based honestly feels like an afterthought because it’s such a natural fit. No one is going out of their way to force it into a box or cater to a specific crowd. It’s just unassailable food and drinks, in a thoughtfully curated space, that happens to be entirely inclusive on all levels. If you don’t go to Phonobar every chance you get, you have no right complaining about a bad trip. It’s a must stop for me every time I’m in town now, and the kind of place I miss when I’m gone.

So, while I don’t want to call it my favorite… I can’t think of another place that even comes close.

Phonobar
370 Grove St.
San Francisco, CA 94102

Galette It Be

Halloween decorations may still be gently swaying in the breeze, playfully teasing the onset of fall, but every serious cook and baker knows the truth: It’s game time.

Thanksgiving Menu Planning Starts Now

November marks the official start of The Holiday Season, replete with Thanksgiving feasts, Christmas cookies, and all the festive snacks in between. Now is your chance to map out a plan to maximize your meals with minimal effort. As such, the grand meatless entree is always a key consideration, prone to sending experienced hosts into fits of anxiety. There’s nothing wrong with grabbing a frozen roast at the grocery store, but given the opportunity to prep this far in advance, I’d implore you to consider a more thoughtful, homemade main dish.

Meet Your New Holiday Centerpiece

Rich with the heady umami flavor of Sugimoto shiitake mushrooms, this free-form pie folds silky caramelized onions into roasted garlic and sliced mushroom caps, celebrating the interplay between sweet and savory. Time, not skill, is the most essential ingredient in making this Caramelized Onion & Shiitake Galette, which is why I wanted to put it on your radar, post-haste. As an edible ode to the season, each slice embodies an ideal tapestry of autumn’s earthy, naturally comforting tastes and textures.

Why Pie?

Close your eyes and imagine the sound of flaxen leaves crunching beneath your feet. That’s the essence of this pastry foundation; crispy, golden, and somehow instantly nostalgic. As your fork glides through its layers, there’s a satisfying resistance, followed by a buttery surrender that melts into a crescendo of intense flavor from the filling.

Enhancing Inherent Sweetness

Garlic and onions are both remarkably sweet ingredients when treated with care. Cooked low and slow, the natural sugars come to the fore, caramelizing and intensifying like straight-up vegetable candy. What really sets this filling apart are the shiitake mushrooms, already known flavor enhancers, that are soaked in woodsy apple cider rather than plain water. Sugimoto koshin shiitake have broad, flat caps, perfect for slicing into meaty ribbons that mimic the shape of the onion strings. Their edges crisp gently in the oven, amplifying the whole experience. Subtly tart, with a splash of balsamic vinegar thrown in for good measure, crafting the perfect bite is all about balance.

But What About The Protein?

If you’re worried about fending off pointed questions from “concerned” family members about your protein intake, fear not. You can easily pack in the plant-based protein in a number of ways:

Make-Ahead and Storage Tips

No one wants to spend the holiday in the kitchen while the rest of the family gets to relax around a crackling fire. Lay out your agenda days or weeks ahead of time to simplify the whole process, and make sure you get to enjoy the occasion too.

  1. Make the pie crust first since it needs to chill. You can prep it up to 6 months in advance and store it in the freezer. Simply thaw at room temperature before rolling.
  2. Prep the filling up to 5 days in advance. Simply transfer to an airtight container and store in the fridge.
  3. Once assembled, the unbaked galette can be loosely covered with plastic wrap and frozen on the sheet pan for up to 1 month. You can bake it directly from frozen; just increase the bake time by about 10 minutes.
  4. Leftovers, if you have any, can be stored in a covered container for up to 3 days. To reheat, pop individual slices into the toaster oven at 350 degrees for 8 – 12 minutes, until hot and crispy.

Fall For This Autumnal Comfort Food

As you stand on the threshold of the holiday season, looking ahead at all the festive meals to make and share, remember that the best meals unfold slowly, with care and creativity. As such, a holiday entree like this caramelized onion and shiitake galette isn’t just sustenance; it’s a celebration of textures and flavors that captures the essence of autumn. May its rustic beauty, with a golden, flaky crust and rich, earthy filling, be the beginning of a joyous Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, or any festive occasion.

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