Parshat Bo!

8 years ago Archive 0

This week we read Parshat Bo! In Parshat Bo, the last three of the ten plagues are inflicted upon the Egyptians. Locusts devour the green grass, and crops, and a thick blackness envelops the land. The last plague, and most ominous of all, states that all of the first born sons in Egypt shall be killed at the stroke of midnight, on the 15th of Nissan.

Hashem commands the very first mitzvah to be given to the Jewish people. He instructs them to create a calendar based on the monthly rebirth of the moon As I’m sure you’re aware our secular calendar is operates on the sun, however the Jewish calendar revolves around the moon, just as Hashem asked us to do.

The Israelites were instructed to bring a “Passover offering” to Hashem. This is, a lamb, or kid to be slaughtered, and its blood is to be sprinkled upon the doorsteps of every Jewish home, so that G-d should pass over these houses when he comes to kill all of the first born sons. The roasted meat of this offering is to be eaten that night, with Matzah, and bitter herbs.

Pharaoh is of course a first born son himself, and therefore this plague finally breaks his resistance to allowing the Jewish people to run free, and he literally drives the children of Israel from his land. They are forced to depart so hastily, that they do not possess any time to allow their bread to leaven. Therefore this unleavened bread (what we know today as matzah) is the only provision the Jewish people take with them.

Before the Jewish people leave, they ask their Egyptian neighbors for gold, silver, as well as garments in order to fulfill the promise made to Avraham, that his children would leave Egypt with great wealth.

The Israelites are commanded to consecrate all of the first born, and to observe the anniversary of the Exodus from Egypt. We do this by removing leavened bread from our possession each year for seven days, eating matzah, and telling the story of their redemption to their children. They are also commanded to wear tefillin, on their arms, and on their head as a reminder of their exodus, and their commitment to Hashem.

This week we’re going to travel to Poland, for some delicious babka!

Shabbat Shalom!

Chocolate Babka!

For dough
•3/4 cup warm milk (105–115°F)
•1/2 cup plus 2 teaspoons sugar
•3 teaspoons active dry yeast (from two 1/4-oz packages)
•3 1/4 cups all-purpose flour plus additional for dusting
•2 whole large eggs
•1 large egg yolk
•1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
•3/4 teaspoon salt
•1 1/4 sticks (10 tablespoons) unsalted butter, cut into pieces and softened

For egg wash
•1 large egg yolk
•1 tablespoon heavy cream or whole milk

For chocolate filling
•5 tablespoons unsalted butter, well softened
•2 (3 1/2- to 4-oz) bars fine-quality bittersweet chocolate (no more than 60% cacao if marked), finely chopped
•1/4 cup sugar
Special equipment: a stand mixer fitted with paddle attachment; 2 (8 3/4- by 4 1/2- by 2 3/4-inch) loaf pans; parchment paper


Make dough:
Stir together warm milk and 2 teaspoons sugar in bowl of mixer. Sprinkle yeast over mixture and let stand until foamy, about 5 minutes. (If yeast doesn’t foam, discard and start over with new yeast.)

Add 1/2 cup flour to yeast mixture and beat at medium speed until combined. Add whole eggs, yolk, vanilla, salt, and remaining 1/2 cup sugar and beat until combined. Reduce speed to low, then mix in remaining 2 3/4 cups flour, about 1/2 cup at a time. Increase speed to medium, then beat in butter, a few pieces at a time, and continue to beat until dough is shiny and forms strands from paddle to bowl, about 4 minutes. (Dough will be very soft and sticky.)

Scrape dough into a lightly oiled bowl and cover bowl with plastic wrap. Let dough rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until doubled in bulk, 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Assemble babkas with filling:
Line each loaf pan with 2 pieces of parchment paper (1 lengthwise and 1 crosswise).

Punch down dough with a lightly oiled rubber spatula, then halve dough. Roll out 1 piece of dough on a well-floured surface with a lightly floured rolling pin into an 18- by 10-inch rectangle and arrange with a long side nearest you.

Beat together yolk and cream. Spread 2 1/2 tablespoons softened butter on dough, leaving a 1/2-inch border all around. Brush some of egg wash on long border nearest you.

Sprinkle half of chocolate evenly over buttered dough, then sprinkle with half of sugar (2 tablespoons). Starting with long side farthest from you, roll dough into a snug log, pinching firmly along egg-washed seam to seal. Bring ends of log together to form a ring, pinching to seal. Twist entire ring twice to form a double figure 8 and fit into one of lined loaf pans.

Make another babka with remaining dough, some of egg wash, and remaining butter and chocolate in same manner. Chill remaining egg wash, covered, to use later. Loosely cover pans with buttered plastic wrap (buttered side down) and let babkas rise in a draft-free place at warm room temperature until dough reaches top of pans, 1 to 2 hours. (Alternatively, let dough rise in pans in refrigerator 8 to 12 hours; bring to room temperature, 3 to 4 hours, before baking.)

Put oven rack in middle position and preheat oven to 350°F.

Brush tops of dough with remaining egg wash. Bake until tops are deep golden brown and bottoms sound hollow when tapped (when loaves are removed from pans), about 40 minutes. Transfer loaves to a rack and cool to room temperature.

Cooks’ note:
Babkas keep, wrapped in plastic wrap and then foil, frozen 3 weeks.