About two dozen members of the Conservative Synagogue of the Hamptons in Sag Harbor celebrated their new cookbook recently with a “Munch ’n’ Brunch” at the home of Marcy and Emil Braun in Bridgehampton. In attendance were many of the women and men who provided the recipes, who brought tastes of dishes including flourless gateau de mousse chocolate, mushroom quiche, Aunti Gertie’s apple pie Canarsie, and Egyptian charoset.
While some guests mingled and tasted on the poolside patio, Ms. Braun offered a challah-baking demonstration in her kitchen. As she braided and twisted the dough, she offered tips: Begin in the middle, where it’s widest, then tapers down. “Yeast is everything,” she advised. “Don’t stand around all day waiting for bread to rise.”
Acceding to popular demand, Ms. Braun made pumpkin challah, which, she explained, requires the cook to cut the water in the recipe in half, and decrease the amount of oil. Crucial to successful challah, she warned, is the exact measurement of salt. “Count and count again,” she said.
Challah is commonly baked in the Jewish tradition. It is not specific to any holiday, but works particularly well for kosher cooks, who must prepare food before sundown on Friday to last through Saturday, when kitchen work is traditionally prohibited.
Titled “Ekhol B’Simha,” which means “Eat in Joy,” the cookbook is named after a traditional Shabbat song usually sung around the table. Rabbi Jan Uhrbach, who was in attendance, explained that blessings are recited before and after eating, to focus attention on the nourishment gained from the meal and in anticipation of “the pleasure of the meal,” thus the title of the book, for which she wrote the introduction. She wrote that food, among other things, is a catalyst for intimacy with others, a way of expressing care and concern for others, and a setting around which words of the Torah are discussed.
The cookbook is dedicated to Marion Gotbetter, the daughter of longtime congregation members, who was known as a master personal chef and baker. Ms. Gotbetter’s mother was brought to tears at the sight of a sign, upon the table where cookbooks and aprons were displayed, with a picture of her daughter. “That’s just the way she was,” she said, “always with a smile.”
Near the cookbook display were long tables filled with dishes from the book. Stacy Menzer, president of the congregation, presented salmon in the dishwasher. The fish, she said, is wrapped in double foil with spices, then run through a full cycle on the top rack of a dishwasher (with no detergent!). The cookbook explains that this is an easy way to have a dish ready for Seudah Shelishit on Friday, without taking away oven space for Shabbat dinner.
A piece of the challah dough was removed before Ms. Braun baked it, and it was wrapped in foil and burned. Rabbi Uhrbach said this was part of the tradition of “giving of the first of everything to God . . . and dedicating it.”
As the challah was ready to be baked until golden, glazed, and topped, voices of song emerged from the living room, where Cantor Marcos Askenazi and Rabbi Uhrbach led a group in secular melodies, as well as a Hebrew/English version of the Beatles’ “Let It Be,” and Billy Joel’s “Piano Man.”
More than 125 recipes fill the book, in seven categories: challah and other breads, soups and salads, vegetarian and dairy, fish, chicken and meat, desserts, and Passover favorites. Dishes range from rich delicacies such as Brooklyn Heights brownies to tri-color gefilte fish loaf, as well as such basics as vegetarian chili and matzoh balls.
The $20 cookbook also includes tips and hints, a measurement equivalency chart, suggestions for quick fixes, calorie counts, and even napkin-folding. Proceeds will benefit the general fund of the synagogue.