For more tasty bakes, see my collection of family specialties:

You Can’t Have Dry Coffee: Papa’s Excuse to Have a Nosh And Nana’s Perfect Pastries

Bialys were once the life-bread of Bialystok, Poland. They resemble a bagel, although the hole does not go all the way through—the depression is usually filled with minced onions and poppy seeds. Also, bialys, unlike bagels, are not boiled prior to baking. A terrific read about the history of this special bread is The Bialy Eaters: The Story of a Bread and a Lost World, where the author, Mimi Sheraton, sets out to find an authentic bialy in Bialystok, only to find that nearly all of the original bakers are gone.

This also makes an exceptionally good pizza dough. After the first 2-hour rise, punch down, let rest for 10 minutes, then shape into pizza doughs.


For the dough:

  • 2 c. warm water
  • 2 tsp. sugar
  • 2¼ tsp. yeast (1 package)
  • 1 Tbs. salt
  • 5 c. flour

For the filling:

  • 1 small onion, minced
  • 2 Tbs. olive oil
  • 1 Tbs. poppy seeds
  • ½ tsp. salt (preferably coarse kosher salt)


  1. In a large bowl or mixer, mix together the water, sugar and yeast. Let rest about 10 minutes until bubbly.
  2. Stir in the salt and flour. Knead for 10 minutes. Cover and let rise for 2–3 hours.
  3. Punch down the dough, divide in half and roll into two 8″- long cylinders. Cut each into 8 pieces. Let the dough rest for a few minutes on a lightly floured board, while you prepare the filling.
  4. For the filling, mix together the onion, olive oil, poppy seeds and salt. Set aside.
  5. Form each piece of dough into a ball, and place onto a parchment-covered baking sheet, and cover with a towel or plastic wrap. Let rise until doubled in size, 1–1½ hours.
  6. Using a small glass or jar that is 2″–3″ in diameter, press a deep indentation into each dough-ball. The glass will probably stick to the dough, so you can grease it (just dip it lightly into your filling mixture) and flour it before pressing into the dough. Or use your hands to form the shape.
  7. Spoon ½ teaspoon of filling into the indentation.
  8. Preheat oven to 475°.
  9. Bake for about 10 minutes until just lightly browned. Do not let them get dark brown, since bialys are meant to be sliced and toasted before eating.

The flattened rounds of dough at the end of their rise.

Grease and flour a 2″ glass, then press into the risen dough.

These are filled and ready for the oven.

Sliced and toasted. Bialys are good with butter, cream cheese, lox, jam, or…?


If you’re a crispy, these are for you: Mandel Bread

For more tasty bakes, see my collection of family specialties:

You Can’t Have Dry Coffee: Papa’s Excuse to Have a Nosh And Nana’s Perfect Pastries

Mandel bread is another of those Jewish staples, something that you’ll often see at an oneg Shabbat (a social gathering after temple services) or for the high holidays. They are crisp, light, butter cookies, which are twice-baked; something like biscotti but much more delicate. The name comes from mandelbrot which means almond bread. While some bakers put almonds in their mandel bread, my mother was partial to pecans. This is her recipe. If you compare what follows to her recipe card, you’ll notice that I’ve increased the salt a bit, since Ruth used salted butter and I prefer unsalted for baking.


  • ½ lb butter
  • 2 Tbs. Crisco (optional)*
  • 1 c. sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • 3 c. flour
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • ¼ tsp. baking soda
  • pinch salt
  • ½ c. chopped pecans
  • 1 c. mini chocolate chips

*makes for a bit flakier cookie


  1. Cream butter, Crisco and sugar.
  2. Add eggs and vanilla, and then the dry ingredients.
  3. Stir in the nuts and/or chips.
  4. Refrigerate dough for about 2 hours (or spread the dough thin along the edges of a metal bowl and freeze for 20 minutes).  Next: Shape, bake, slice, and bake some more
  5. Hand roll into eight 1″ rolls, place onto greased cookie sheets, spaced about 4 inches apart and flatten using the palm of your hand.
  6. Bake at 350° for 20–25 mins, or until very slightly browned.
  7. Remove from oven and cut into ¾” diagonal slices, turn each cookie 90° onto a cut edge and return to oven to bake for another 8–10 mins.
  8. Remove from oven and flip each cookie over onto the other cut edge, return to oven for another 8–10 mins.

What to do with concord grapes: Conserve and Grape Pie

Our first house, a log home in Ft. Collins, Colorado, had grapes growing out back by the car port. They were concord grapes, which are intensely flavorful—most known for grape juice—but not terrific as table grapes. My grandfather favored a grape pie, and I’m sharing the recipe here. The pie has an extremely intense flavor. Doug and I turned our harvest into grape conserve, which was my first try at production scale canning. Our friend Joyce was visiting and we put her to work, helping to cook the grapes, run them through the food mill, slice the fruit and can the conserve. The resulting conserve is wonderfully tart and complex, and really terrific on a biscuit.

Concord Grape Conserve (makes about 3 half-pint jars)

  • 2 lbs. concord grapes (to make 1-3/4 c. pulp)
  • 1-3/4 c. sugar
  • 1 medium lemon, cut off the ends, slice very thin, cut into quarters
  • 1 small orange, cut off the ends, slice very thin, cut into quarters
  • 1/4 c. raisins (optional)

Wash the grapes (wash them very well if they are not organic), and remove the stems. Place the grapes in a saucepan and add 2 tablespoons of water. Cook over a medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the seeds come free from the grapes. Run the grapes through a food mill to remove the skins and seeds, leaving you with the pulp. Clean out your saucepan. Measure the pulp, return to the pan, and add an equivalent amount of sugar.  Add the lemon and orange slices, and raisins if you like. Cook into the mixture becomes slightly thick and dark, and sheets off the spoon. Place into hot, sterilized jars, water process for 10 minutes.

Papa’s Favorite Grape Pie

  • 1 quart concord grapes
  • 3/4 c. sugar
  • 1-1/2 Tbs. lemon juice
  • 1 Tbs. grated orange rind
  • 2 Tbs. tapioca
  • graham cracker crust

Wash and stem the grapes, cook over medium heat until the seeds come loose. Run through a food mill, discarding stems and peels. Combine grape pulp with remaining ingredients and pour into a prepared graham cracker crust, then chill until set. Serve with whipped cream.


These are best when served right from the pan, and plopped into a bowl of chicken soup.

My mom would make kreplach every Yom Kippur. I don’t think I’d tasted one in over 20 years, but in my mind I could TASTE them, and finally I broke down and made some. With thanks to Cousin Betty and sister Maralee for helping to jog my memory, since all I had was a scrawled note of my mother’s with the recipe for the dough.

Every culture has their dumplings: pierogi, gyoza, wonton. The Jews have their kreplach. The triangular kreplach from my mother’s kitchen are made with a dough that is part mashed potato and part noodle. For the frugal-minded cook, a little piece of a leftover roast is the basis for the filling. They are first boiled, then fried— there is nothing better!

Fry these until they are nicely browned and crisp.

Gently boil for 5 minutes before frying.




For the filling

  • 1 c. cooked beef, loosely measured, then ground
  • 1/3 c. grated raw onion
  • 1–2 Tbs. oil, if your meat is very dry or lean
  • 1 egg
  • ¾ tsp. seasoned salt
  • For the dough
  • 1 egg
  • 2/3 c. flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • 1 medium potato, boiled



Put a large pot of salted water on to boil.

Prepare the filling

Mix together the ground beef, onion, oil, egg, and salt.

Make the dough

Using a fork, beat the egg, mix in the flour and salt, then mash in the boiled potato. On a lightly floured board, knead the dough for about a minute, adding only a little more flour as necessary.


Divide the dough into two halves. On the floured board, roll into a rectangle, about 8˝ x 10˝, then cut into 2˝ squares. Place about a teaspoon of filling in the corner of each square. Put a little water into a small dish, dip your finger, and wet two adjacent edges of the dough square. Fold one half of the dough over to meet the wet edges, forming a triangle, then press to seal well. Continue filling and sealing all of the kreplach.


When the water has boiled, drop the kreplach, in batches, into the boiling water, lowering the temperature so that they cook at a low, easy boil. Boil for 5 minutes, then remove, using a slotted spoon, to a cookie sheet.


In a deep pan, pour in about 1/8˝ of oil. When very hot, add the kreplach, cooking in small batches. When browned, turn over to cook on the other side. Remove to drain onto a paper towel. Serve while very hot and crisp, with a bowl of homemade chicken soup.