My Favorite Shiksa
Nature versus nurture, it’s a crap shoot, really. How much of the person you are today is because of DNA? How much of your personality is due to your upbringing? Case in point: my brother, Skeezix.
Skeezix is three years younger than I am. In spite of my efforts to destroy this interloper into my happy childhood, he’s managed to survive to become one of the defenders of truth, justice and the American way. Skeezix is a submariner in the US navy, stationed in Pearl Harbor. We were both raised in the same home, both smothered in chicken soup, sweet kiddush wine and the paranoia of Holocaust survivor parents. And yet, we have ended up on opposite sides of the Jewish spectrum.
I am what you would call agressively Jewish. I am Torah observant, I keep kosher, my week revolves around the spindle of Shabbat. Judaism for me is not just a religion, it’s a way of life.
Not so for Skeezix. In his early teens he began to buck against my parents and our way of life. Today is he a fervent athiest. He revels in letting me know how delicious pork is, that he has no clue when Yom Kippur is, and it’s really pissing me off that he inherited our mother’s cast iron frying pan and he’s using it to fry up his shark steaks and bacon strips.
One of the things that drove my parents to despair is that Skeezix married Dree, the Shiksa. My father sadly shook his head and oy-yoy-yoyed into his Gemara. My mother threatend to put her head in the oven. Dree is the epitome of Shiksahood. Tattooed, pierced in places you can only begin to imagine, this bacon-eating, Santa-loving transplanted surfer girl was every thing my parents dreaded Skeezix would bring home.
I have to admit, I was also prejudiced, at first. My brother’s description of their wedding included the line, “Dree’s dad got so drunk we had to carry him out to his truck.” No offense, my darling Dree, but those are words never really heard at an Orthodox Jewish wedding.
Skeezix and I planned a joint trip back to New York, me bringing my two youngest from Israel, Skeezix bringing the Shiksa and her daughter (from her first marriage) from Hawaii. I was planning on being gracious, but not overly friendly. I was sure this family reunion was going to set off an Armageddon in the Bronx (as if that didn’t happen all the time).
I planned on being gracious, and yet again, Miriyummy plans and God laughs. What I discovered was that Dree was one cool Shiksa. She’s funny, she’s smart and she refuses to take any crap from the anti-religious Skeezix. She’s the one who pushed my brother to light Chanuka candles in my father’s house. She’s the one who forced him to drink kosher wine at my mother’s Shabbat table. She made sure the chocolate dreidls they brought my kids from Hawaii were kosher. She dragged my brother out of the apartmet to smoke in the stairwell so as not to offend my father on Shabbat. As much as I wanted to not like Dree, I grew to love her. She respected my parents’ way of life, and made my rebellious brother respect them as well.
Dree and Skeezix are unfortunately separated now, though still married. I never thought I would say this, but I hope my stupid brother comes to his senses and realizes what a treasure he has in my favorite shiska. Listen, if your family has to have a token shiksa, let it be one as cool as Dree. Aloha au ia ‘oe kuaana!
This is a Carine Goren recipe. The first time I posted some pictures on Facebook of a chocolate babka I made I got a comment from Dree that she loves that stuff. So here’s a yeast cake that transcends all religions and brings family together, even when they are 12 time zones apart.
For the dough:
1/2 kilo (3 1/2 cups) flour
1 tablespoon yeast
100 grams (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (300 ml) milk
4 eggs (at room temperature)
scant half cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 grams (1/2 cup) very soft butter
1 beaten egg, for brushing on top
To make the dough, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand-mixer. Attach the dough hook. Melt the butter together and then add the cold milk to the melted butter so the liquid is just lukewarm. Add th butter/milk mixture to the flour/yeast mixture, together with the eggs and sugar. Mix at low to medium speed until the dough pulls together, and then add the salt. Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and just a tiny bit sticky. Cover and let rise until doubled.
Because the dough is sticky, it’s perhaps best to let it rise halfway in a warm place in your kitchen and then to let it finish rising in your fridger for another two hours. This way the dough cools down and will be less sticky to work with. You could also prepare the dough a day before, or let it rise in the fridge overnight.
To make the filling, mix together the sugar, cocoa and the cinnamon in a small bowl, and set aside.
Take out the doubled dough and punch it down. Divide it into two separate (yet equal) pieces. Roll each piece out into a rectangle about 1/2 centimeter (a little over an inch) thick. I can never get the perfect rectangles you see on TV, but it really doesn’t matter, because when you roll the whole thing up in the end you can’t tell anyway.
Spread the butter over the two rectangles (polygons, blobs) and then try to sprinkle the filling evenly over the buttered dough. Roll each blob up from the long end, then twist the two rolls together and place in a buttered (or parchment-papered) round cake pan. Brush with the beaten egg. When I first made this recipe, as you can probably see in the photo, I didn’t read all the instructions, because, you know, I’m such a hotshot cook. So I mixed the butter with the sugar, cocoa and cinnamon instead. It was still spreadable, still edible, but not as good as doing it according to Carine’s instructions. Hubris bites.
At this point you should have remembered to preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F). Place the rolled babka into the oven, there’s no need for an additional rise. Bake for about 50 minutes until the babka is all brown and yummy and inviting.
The reason you don’t have one more rise before placing the babka in the oven is because that’s the way most of our grandmothers did it. If you really, really feel you need to let it rise just a bit one more time, go ahead, the Babka Police aren’t going to arrest you.
Posted on 27 September 2010, in Breakfast, Carine Goren, Chocolate, Dessert, Family Life, Jewish cooking and tagged Breakfast, Chocolate, cooking, dessert, Jewish Cooking, kosher, man plans God laughs, recipe. Bookmark the permalink. 15 Comments.