Cholla Twist: The Rise of New Traditions

Over 119 years and 40 editions, the recipes found within the pages of The Settlement Cookbook have been tweaked to adapt to changing technology and the availability of ingredients. The notes in the margins and lingering fingerprints on page corners are a reminder that the cookbook had a life before it settled into the collection.

The Settlement Cookbook was published in 1901 as a textbook to be used in a cooking class for new Eastern European Jewish immigrants arriving in Milwaukee, WI. Written by an earlier, Americanized generation of German-Jewish immigrants, the book contains classic Jewish cuisine like Goose Griebens – fried goose skin – and all manner of matzo desserts, noodles, and dumplings; stylish (and often non-kosher) recipes like Chicken Chop Suey and Lobster in Shells; and common Midwestern recipes like Hungarian Goulash – beef and veal cooked with tomatoes and onions – and pierogis.

After coming across an edition of this cookbook from the late 1930s in the American Jewish Historical Society’s culinary holdings, I revisited my grandmother’s copy of the same book that had been passed down to me. My Grandma Mary received this book as a gift at her bridal shower in March 1947, a month before her wedding. In charge of setting up her own home and providing my grandfather with tasty recipes, Grandma’s friend “Thelma” dedicated the book “3-4-47 – With all my Love and Best Wishes in your new cooking ventures.”

Family classics were born out of this cookbook: my mom remembers that whenever they decided to make peanut butter cookies, it was the Criss-Cross Peanut Butter cookies from The Settlement Cookbook, a crispy, melt-in-your mouth recipe made with vegetable shortening instead of butter. And every Easter, my mom remembers the laborious event of processing a whole coconut for a coconut cake. The “White Cake” was flavored with almond extract and orange zest, with my grandmother’s writing insisting orange should be used instead of the recipe’s suggested lemon zest, and covered with “Seven-Minute Icing,” then sprinkled with fresh coconut.

But I wondered what my Catholic grandmother would have thought of the Jewish recipes for kasha and kipfel. Because The Settlement Cookbook was a comprehensive compendium of Midwestern cooking from many households and ethnic backgrounds, this book transcended its settlement house roots. There are currently 40 editions and over 2 million copies have been sold. It’s likely you may have your own grandmother’s or mother’s copy in your home.

Flipping through my grandmother’s cookbook, searching for her “Good” written in pencil indicating the best recipes, I found an intriguing recipe she probably would have passed over: “Sabbath Twists (Cholla).” 

 

 

 

 

This is a recipe for the traditional Friday night egg bread. Inspired by the Instagram onslaught of bread photos as everyone in quarantine taps into 19th-century domestic skills that were apparently lying dormant, I decided to give this loaf a try. It turned out to be a workhouse basic white bread, good any day of the week, that came out perfect the first time I tried the recipe. Although I did have to consult a 1965 edition of The Settlement Cookbook, provided by Melanie Meyers, Director of Collections and Engagement at the AJHS. My 1947 copy left out some important instructions, like the need for a second rise.

The braiding to make this challah is simple but looks gorgeous: a small tri-braid loaf sits atop a larger loaf. And as I didn’t have poppy seeds, a sprinkle of flax seeds made an acceptable replacement.

SABBATH TWISTS (CHOLLA)
Adapted from The Settlement Cookbook, 1947 and 1965 editions
Makes one loaf.

 

¼ oz. compressed yeast OR 1 teaspoon active dry yeast OR ½ cup sourdough mother (if using sourdough mother, reduce flour by ¼ cup)
1/8 cup lukewarm water
1 cup hot water
1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1½ teaspoons salt
1½ teaspoon sugar
1 large egg, plus one egg yolk
4 cups flour
Poppy, sesame, or flax seeds

  1. In a small bowl, sprinkle yeast over lukewarm water.

  2. Pour the 1 cup hot water over the salt, sugar, and oil in a mixing bowl. Wait about 15 minutes until lukewarm, then add yeast mixture.

  3. Add egg and egg yolk, then flour. Gently mix with your hands into a shaggy dough. Turn out onto a lightly floured surface. While the dough rests, wash the mixing bowl and grease with a dab of vegetable oil.

  4. Knead dough until smooth and elastic, about eight minutes, dusting more flour on the work surface as needed to stop the dough from sticking.

  5. Place dough in greased bowl. Cover with a kitchen towel and leave in a warm place until the dough has doubled in bulk, about two hours.

  6. Lightly grease and flour a 9x5 loaf pan. 

  7. Turn dough out onto a lightly-floured surface. Cut into four equal parts, roll each into a rope 1½ inches thick. Plait three into a braid; fasten ends well by firmly pressing dough together and tucking it under the loaf and place intoloafpan. Cut the remaining rope into three equal pieces, roll each piece ½ inch thick, braid and lay on top of bread in pan. Allow to rise until doubled in bulk, about one hour.

  8. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Brush top of loaf with egg yolk and sprinkle with seeds.

  9. Bake for 15 minutes, then reduce heat to 350 and bake 40 minutes more, until the crust is golden.

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In support of New York City's efforts to contain the spread of the coronavirus, the American Jewish Historical Society will be temporarily closed. The health and safety of The American Jewish Historical Society’s staff and visitors is our top priority, and we are continuing to closely monitor the evolving COVID-19 Situation.  During this time all in person events will be cancelled or postponed, and the library and other facilities of the five partner organizations will be closed to the public. 

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