These delicate buttery rolls are soft and sweet. They are basically a type of brioche, or sort of a Czech kolach. They are wonderful on their own and even better with sweet butter and strawberry jam. The recipe is interesting enough, and you will want to make these, but what I really want to tell you about regarding Jacob Tofer's yeast cake is the medium of recipe transmission. This recipe, and only this recipe, is inscribed on the tombstone of Jacob and Mina Tofer in Kibbutz Na'an in Israel. Were they parents and grandparents? Did they survive the war in Europe? I understand that they did, but Jacob was famous for his yeast cake and wanted to be remembered for that, and you see; it worked. I never met the Tofers, but I will remember them every time I make their rolls.
Tombstone of Jacob and Mina Toper, Kibbutz Na'an, Israel. Reproduced from the journal Avoteinu
Here is the recipe as it appears on the stone:
Yankele’s Yeast Cake
1 kilo flour, 50 grams yeast, A pinch of salt,3 eggs, 7 spoons sugar, Margarine, 200 grams, A cup and a half milk, and cinnamon to taste.
No directions are provided, possibly because the assumption is that anyone sufficiently motivated to prepare a recipe discovered in a cemetery will already know how to prepare this kind of bread, and of course a tombstone provides limited space.
I have converted the recipe to English measurements and made a few minor changes. I added some water in which to dissolve the yeast, increased the salt significantly and substituted butter for margarine. Even in the interest of historical accuracy, I cannot bring myself to use the M-ingredient (And what is margarine doing in a milkhik recipe anyway? There is already a cup and a half of milk in here, for crying out loud). Let’s see, anything else? Ah yes. Cinnamon to taste, for me, means no cinnamon at all.
In the bowl of a large mixer, combine the milk with 3/4 cup hot water. Dissolve the yeast in the milk-water mixture and allow to proof. Add the salt, eggs, sugar, and butter, and mix well. Add the flour and knead for ten minutes, adding more flour as needed. The dough will be sticky and soft. Turn into an oiled bowl and allow to rise in a turned-off oven one hour or until doubled. Punch down and allow to rise until doubled again. At this point, you may form the rolls, or, if you have time, allow the dough to rest overnight in the refrigerator (I recommend this step). Divide the dough into six sections and divide each section into seven pieces. Roll each dough piece into a ball, forming a tight, smooth surface. Arrange the rolls in rosettes and allow them to proof for about 30 minutes. Brush with egg-wash if desired and bake at 350F for 20 to 25 minutes or until golden. Serve with butter and jam.
Thanks to Jacob and Mina, may their souls be bound up in the eternal bond of life.
The good news is that more and more New Yorkers are discovering the many uses of the delicious and protein-rich ginkgo nuts joyfully leaping off their trees free of charge just around now. Last year I wrote
Every year in late November, the ginkgo trees on my block shed pounds and pounds of edible and healthful nuts.The ginkgo nuts lie trodden underfoot because nobody knows what to do with them.
That was last year. So far this year I have successfully gathered one (1) ginkgo nut.
Clearly the word is out. I am trying to keep in mind that this is good news. Maybe there is still a big ginkgo windfall coming. Yes, that must be it. Fall weather is starting very late this year. If you are lucky enough to get some local nuts, have a look at my recipe for Brussels sprouts with ginkgo nuts, along with instructions for gathering and shelling the nuts is here.
My sorrow has melted away (der tsar iz mir opgegangen)
עס איז מיר אַראָפּ אַ שטײן פֿון האַרצן A stone has been removed from my heart (es iz mir arop a shteyn fun hartsn)
מע װײסט ניט פֿאַר װאָס גאָט צו דאַנקען One doesn’t even know what to thank God for (me veyst nit far vos got tsu danken)
והעיר שניפּישאָק צהלה ושׂמחה And the city of Shnipishok rejoiced and was glad (ve-ho-ir snipishok tsahole vesimkhe).
This is a comical paraphrase of a verse from the Book of Esther “And the city of Shushan rejoiced and was glad” Shnipishok is a small city immediately north of Vilne (Vilna, Vilnius). It is the butt of many jokes because people from Shnipishok are always claiming to be from Vilne, and because it sounds funny. None of this has anything to do with cabbage, except that cabbage makes me happy too.
We are still getting exquisite summer tomatoes here in New York. Last week I got four pounds of wonderful tomatoes and made a double batch of Madhur Jaffrey’s cream of tomato soup, and then I got another four pounds of wonderful tomatoes and made another double batch of tomato soup.This week I got carrots, beets, celeriac, potatoes, leeks, and shallots and made a mixed vegetable soup and I am mad at it for not being tomato soup. I have never been angry at soup before.
I will post my adaptation of the tomato soup recipe shortly, but more urgently, I cannot let the tomato season go by without sharing this perfect movie on the subject of Southern food in general and tomato sandwiches in particular by tomato guru and YouTube goddess Lemonette. There is only one way to make a tomato sandwich, Lemonette will have us know, and I credit her on this as on every subject in the universe. You just have to watch this. Go ahead; I'll wait:
Is that not the living end? Are you going to watch all her movies forever? You know what really sends me? When she imitates the other lady's Southern accent. Otherwise we totally would not have an idea. About Southern accents, I mean. I will be crushed if I learn that Lemonette is in fact the creation of a bunch of artists in Williamsburg, but if she is, they have done an amazing job. I had never heard of adding sugar to rice as a Southern practice, but I do love to combine bananas and rice.