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Dear Jamie, You Can Make It Anywhere


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Dear Jamie,

Welcome to Israel, and Mazal Tov on your aliyah!!  If your community is anything like ours, it will be a while before you have to cook – between the food deliveries and the overwhelming hospitality, you will hardly have to turn on the oven.  But sooner or later, you will want to cook again. That’s when the reality of what you have just done will come crashing down on you.  Recipes just won’t work the same.  Ingredients, oven, climate – it’s all different.  Nowhere is this realization as stark as in the baking arena.  Even veteran bakers have been reduced to quivering, teary blobs of jello (or jelly, as they call it here!) after disastrous initial attempts to make familiar recipes.  So with your sanity in mind, I am here to offer a few tips to make your transition a little easier.

  1. If you consider margarine a necessary evil in some recipes (as I do), you’ll be tempted to figure out the conversion between American sticks of margarine and their Israeli counterparts, the 200 gram bar.  Don’t! Your handy Nefesh B’Nefesh metric conversion magnet tells you that one ounce is equal to 28.3 grams.  It’s true, but when it comes to margarine, FORGET THE MATH!  Just consider the bar of margarine, 200 grams, the equivalent of one cup or two sticks.  I don’t know why, but it works.
  2. The eggs that are considered “extra-large” by American standards are the same size as Israeli size “large,” so stick with large here.
  3. Baking soda is called soda l’shtiyah here (literally, soda for drinking?!), and it is sold both with the spices in plastic bottles, and with the baking supplies in little envelopes.
  4. Baking powder – this is a tricky one.  Avkat afiyah is sold in little envelopes, which is annoying, but the real problem is that it doesn’t work the same as American baking powder.  There is a scientific explanation (double acting versus single), but bottom line, you have to use less or your cakes will collapse after baking.  It is generally fine for cookies, though.  If you don’t want to refigure all your recipes, make this one of the few things you import.
  5. Powdered sugar also comes in silly little envelopes of 100 grams (roughly 2/9 of a pound or just shy enough of a cup to be a problem – seriously!), unless you find a specialty store with larger bags.  Otherwise, consider all the opening of envelopes exercise you wouldn’t get otherwise – see, the Israeli lifestyle is super-healthy!
  6. Pure vanilla is not readily available in supermarkets, though imitation vanilla is.  You can make your own, or you can buy it in specialty stores for rather high prices, so this might also be an item you import.
  7. Oatmeal is formally called shibolet shual, but you will also find it labeled Kvaker.  Like Quaker, with an accent.  Seriously.  First time my mother-in-law asked me to get some from the makolet, I thought I was being Punk’d.
  8. Flour in a one kilo is actually perfect for the smaller storage space we tend to have here.  You may want to opt for an electric sifter, but for those of us interested in speed, a hand sifter with a matching bowl makes short work of a bag of flour.  You can buy pre-sifted, pre-checked flour; it only costs about 3 ½ times as much.
  9. If you ever need to replace your liquid measuring cup, be aware that it will not list cup measures, just ounces, milliliters, and 20 ounce (as opposed to the US standard 16 ounce) pints. You’ll have to do a little basic math to calculate cups and fractions of cups.
  10. It just takes time – eventually it will all come together and you will not even be able to remember how you did things in the “Old Country”!

So in the interest of making your Rosh Hashana preparation a little easier, here are a couple of recipes that work beautifully here.  The first is a sweet challah recipe featuring the fantastic Israeli granulated fresh yeast, Shimrit, and the second is an apple cookie recipe that will be perfect for your yom tov table.

Wishing you and your family a klita kala (easy absorption)and a happy and healthy New Year in your new home!

For the rest of you, let us know in the comments any questions you have on cooking in Israel, I hope to offer a few more articles with tips and tricks and would love to know how I can help.

Dvoras Simple Sweet Challah

Apple Oatmeal Cookies

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About Dvora Rotter


After making aliyah in 2006, Dvora, a former teacher, reinvented herself as a home baker. A serious obsession with cookie baking blossomed into a reputation for delicious, inventive, and beautiful baked goods. Dvora now runs a successful cake and cookie business and relishes the opportunity to help enhance people's happy occasions. Her husband and four children enjoy the leftovers. To see more of Dvora's desserts, visit the Dvora's Cookie Creations blog.




12 Responses to Dear Jamie, You Can Make It Anywhere

  1. avatar says: eb

    i also recommend making your own cream cheese here,because gvina levana is NOT like american cream cheese and buying the stuff that is somewhat similar can cost A LOT- especially if your kids like cream cheese sandwhiches half as much as mine do….
    heres how to do it:
    for every container of shamenet chamutza (i find it really doesnt matter which size or % fat)(you can also use the pink container of “ashel” which according to my husband tastes even better) add about 1/2 tsp. salt. mix well. i dont have cheesecloth so what i did was buy a white undershirt and cut it in half (that will hold about four 200 gram containers worth) or you can cut it into smaller squares to hold a smaller batch of cheese.
    i hang it from my cabinet handles so it can drip directly into the sink. alternatively you can put it in a small strainer/sifter that is hanging over a bowl.
    let it drip for about 8 hours. you can let it drip even longer in the fridge if you’d like. the longer it drips the harder the cream cheese comes out.
    to make flavored cream cheese add whatever flavoring at the same time as the salt (a sprinkle of garlic powder and dried dill? cinnamon/brown sugar swirl? bite sized pieces of lox? you get the picture)
    you can also use the plain cream cheese to make a good ol classic new york cheesecake….thats what we enjoyed this past shavuos.

    • This is a great idea. I have had success with making cheesecake with 30 or 22% cream cheese (gvinat krem shamenet or just gvinat shamenet), but this sounds cost effective and creative. For schmearing on a bagel, my kids prefer the full fat cream cheese from the cheese counter in the supermarket over the pre-packaged kinds. I will have to try this one of these days!

  2. avatar says: eb

    and as far as the powdered sugar- ive found that the 100 gram bags come out closer to 1 cup (not 2/9 of a cup as stated above)

    • You are right – I meant 2/9 of a pound!! I will edit the article to reflect accordingly. Of course, 100 grams is never enough for a full cup, which is an endless source of frustration…

    • I was surprised to read this about the 100-gram bags of powdered sugar. Even my makolet carries the larger 1-kilo bags, and it’s easy to measure out quantities by the cup from there.

    • In my area, none of the supermarkets and makolets carry the one kilo bags. The specialty baking store is the only place that sells the one kilo bags. I once purchased a 10 kilo bag, but found it difficult to deal with storage.

    • In addition, the one kilo bags sold here are under a hashgacha (Bada”tz Machzikei Hadas) that the most machmir of my customers do not like. For Eidah Chareidis only clients, I tear open a LOT of little bags.

  3. Dvora you are SO SUPER AWESOME thank you for this!! When I was at Chanie’s (my sister in law who lives in Chashmonaim) for Shabbos and she handed me that confectioners’ sugar envelope I was like WHHAAATTT???!!! BIG QUESTION: I use 6 pounds of high gluten flour for my challah — where can I buy it or how can I make it AND what is Canola Oil called in Hebrew? HUGE HUGE THANKS!

    • Jamie, you are so welcome! I hope you will enjoying cooking and baking here with as much success as you did back in the Alte Heim. Maybe we will get to meet next time you are in the neighborhood! Sugat makes a variety of flours, including both kemach lechem (bread flour) and kemach l’challot (challah flour,) which contain higher levels of gluten, though I am not sure what the difference is. There is another brand as well, though the name currently escapes me. I will have to check both those questions out next time I am in the supermarket and let you know. You can also buy gluten itself to add to your flour in some health food stores and specialty baking stores. I personally use all purpose flour for my challah recipe, part preference and part laziness. In any case, unless you have a specialty or bulk store near you, you will need to buy one kilo bags and measure out your 6 pounds.
      Canola oil is called “Shemen Canola” or “Shemen Canola Mezukach” (refined). You just need to be careful because the packaging for canola and soy oils are usually quite similar and in close proximity to one another, if not mixed up together, on the shelves. Good luck! And please let me know if there are any other questions I can help with!

  4. avatar says: sonyaposs

    My dear friend Adina works in Jerusalem and keeps me supplied with this magical “gluten” which she buys at a store in Machane Yehuda called TEVA NET.

    She tells me that the store owner gets it in 200 kilo Packs. He re-packages it into half kilo plastic bags. I put it in a jar and add a bit (about 2 Tbsp per kilo (7 1/8 cups) of flour.

    Walla! I have my bread flour in no time at all :) And it is inexpensive as well.

    I have never seen it available anywhere else here in Israel.

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