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50 Traditional Recipes for Every Occasion

Review by Bobbie Kitto

Included Recipes: Sweet Challah Rolls with Apple Currant Filling & New York-Style Cheesecake Bars

What’s a Bubbe you ask? Why… it is the Jewish word for grandmother.

The reason for Beth A. Lee’s new cookbook, The Essential Jewish Baking Cookbook, was her wish to help people recapture the joyful memories of times when their homes were filled with the aromas of authentic Jewish baked goods produced by their mother and Bubbe (see pg. 26 for Sweet Challah Rolls) .In essence, she has handed us the perfect RECIPE Box (a term used in the Jewish Community for cookbook).

Beth Lee author


Beth gives complete directions on how to make wonderful foods that are a part of so many family memories, without the hassle of trying to find the measurement equivalent of some ingredients we often find when reading our grandmothers’ hand written recipe.  Her book is written to make it easy to find the help you need, whether it is needing a substitute for an ingredient, how to bake Kosher, or a specific bakery item for a special event or holiday.

Beth A. Lee was born on the East coast where she was raised on the traditional Jewish food she is now writing and blogging about in such publications as the New York Times, San Jose Mercury News and Edible Silicon Valley. After moving to Northern California, she attended the University of California Berkeley and received a degree in business.

The author loves blogging. Check out her website . It’s filled with stories  about her family’s many cultural foods. She also co-leads a virtual cooking group, Tasting Jerusalem,  which explores Middle Eastern recipes.

The first Chapter helps to sort out the mystery of baking in a culture that might be different than yours even if you were raised in a Jewish culture. There are several different sects such as Ashkenazi, Sephardic, and Mizrahi. Baked goods for each of these are included in the book. This first chapter also tells you about baking in general, different tools that will be needed and some that would make your baking more enjoyable.  It also explains what is included in each recipe such as substitutions, make-ahead tips, storage tips, variations, and Kosher tips. I always appreciate tips like these.

Chapter two talks about Challah, Babka, Breads,and  Sweet and Savory Pastries. The Cookies and Cakes section features New York-Style cheesecake bars (page 98-99).  These ae great as Beth eliminates the need for a water bath when making cheesecake.

Chapter five rounds out the book with such goodies as Baked or Fried Soufganiyot (Jelly Donuts) and Challah Bread Pudding.

This book was published (August 2021) just in time for the upcoming Jewish High Holidays, but you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy the wonderful tasting recipes in this book. There is a YouTube video on where you are introduced to the author and her recipes.  I received free a copy of this book to review, but in no way did it affect my opinion of this book. I would give it 5 out of 5 stars.


Watch this cooking tutorial video to see how the recipes are made.

New York-Style Cheesecake Bars


Prep Time: 25 minutes / Inactive Time: 6 hours to overnight / Cook Time: 55 minutes

New York-Style cheesecake is known for its high volume of cream cheese and just a hint of lemon. It’s not a light bite, but it has a rich and pleasing mouthfeel. This simple-to-make cheesecake dessert is perfect for Shavuot, when eating dairy products is traditional. My bars are far easier to make than a round cheesecake in a springform pan, which requires a water bath. Enjoy this luscious treat anytime you need an easy, make-ahead dessert option. Makes 16 bars

For the crust

Nonstick cooking spray

10 graham crackers (yield about 1 3/4 cups of crumbs)

6 tablespoons (85 grams) unsalted butter, melted

2 tablespoons brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

For the filling

16 ounces (464 grams) cream cheese, room temperature

1/2 cup (94 grams) granulated sugar

2 large eggs, room temperature

1/2 cup (123 grams) Greek yogurt or sour cream (115 grams), room temperature

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

2 tablespoons freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 tablespoon flour

  1. Prep/Preheat: Preheat the oven to 350°F. Line an 8-by-8-inch pan with aluminum foil, leaving an overhang on two opposite sides. Spray the foil lightly with nonstick cooking spray.
  2. Make the crust: Use a food processor or a rolling pin and a plastic bag to crush the graham crackers to a fine crumb. Transfer the crumbs to a small bowl and stir in the melted butter, brown sugar, and salt. Mix well so the crumbs are coated with butter. Transfer the graham cracker crust to the foil-lined pan and press down firmly with your fingers or the bottom of a glass. The crust should cover the bottom of the pan and extend up the sides of the pan by about 1 inch. Bake for 8 minutes. Remove from the oven to cool slightly before adding the filling.
  3. Make the filling: Lower the oven temperature to 325°F. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream together the cream cheese and granulated sugar on medium speed for about 1 minute, until well combined. Scrape down the sides of the bowl and add the eggs, yogurt, vanilla, lemon juice, lemon zest, salt, and flour. Mix well on medium speed for another 1 minute. Pour the filling into the cooled crust.
  4. Bake: Bake for 40 to 45 minutes, checking at 40 minutes. The cheesecake should be mostly set, with the middle still a bit jiggly. Let cool for 30 minutes and refrigerate for 6 hours or overnight. To serve, use the foil overhang to lift it out of pan onto a cutting board. Slice into squares, wiping the knife clean in between each cut. Enjoy as is, or top with fruit, jam, or whipped cream.

Variation Tip: Use a mini muffin pan and mini muffin liners. Place about 1 tablespoon of crust in each liner, pressing down with the bottom of a shot glass. Bake crusts for 5 minutes at 350°F. Remove and cool. Add a heaping tablespoon of filling and bake for 18 to 20 minutes.

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Sweet Challah Rolls with Apple Currant Filling

Dairy-free, Nut-free, Pareve

Prep Time: 40 minutes/ Inactive Time: 30 minutes/ Cook Time: 27 minutes

Challah rolls filled with apples and currants are the ideal sweet baked good for Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year. I originally developed this recipe for a High Holidays cooking class, but these little gems are perfect all year round. Ready faster than a traditional challah recipe, these rolls are also versatile: Leave the filling out, make one loaf instead of individual rolls, or double the recipe and freeze some for another day. Makes 8 rolls

For the dough

2 ¼ teaspoons (7 grams/1 packet) active dry yeast or instant yeast

3 ½ cups (438 grams) all-purpose flour, plus more for kneading

¼ cup (47 grams) granulated sugar

1 cup (235 grams) warm water (105°F to 115°F)

1 large egg

¼ cup (56 grams) vegetable oil

1 ½ teaspoons kosher salt

For the filling

1 cup (118 grams) chopped and peeled sweet firm apple

1 teaspoon freshly squeezed lemon juice

¼ cup (36 grams) currants or raisins

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 tablespoons granulated sugar

For egg wash

1 large egg

1 teaspoon water

  1. Mix: In the bowl of a stand mixer, whisk together the yeast, flour, and sugar. Add the warm water, egg, oil, and salt.
  2. Knead: Using the stand mixer fitted with the dough hook attachment, knead on medium-low speed for 3 to 4 minutes, making sure the dough is thoroughly combined and scraping down the sides as necessary. Once kneaded, the dough should be smooth and pulling away from the sides of the bowl. If the dough is overly sticky, add flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, as necessary.
  3. First rise: Remove the dough from the bowl, form it into a round, and place it on a sheet of parchment paper. Use your finger to poke a 1-inch hole through the center of the dough. Cover the dough loosely with a kitchen towel and let rest for 30 minutes.
  4. Make filling: While the dough is resting, in a medium bowl, combine the chopped apple, lemon juice, currants, cinnamon, and sugar. Set aside.
  5. Prep: Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  6. Fill and shape: Divide the dough into 8 equal pieces. Flatten a piece into a roughly 6-by-4-inch rectangle and spread a heaping tablespoon of filling down the center. Close the dough up around the filling and gently roll it out with your hands to a roughly 9-inch rope. Loosely coil the rope, tuck the end under, and pinch to seal. Repeat with the remaining pieces of dough to create 8 rolls. Place on the prepared baking sheet.
  7. Second rise: Loosely cover the challah rolls with a kitchen towel, set in a warm location, and let rise for about 30 minutes, or until the dough slowly springs back when poked with your finger.
  8. Preheat: Preheat the oven to 375°
  9. Egg wash: Whisk together the egg and water. Use a pastry brush to coat each roll with the egg wash, getting into all the nooks and crannies.
  10. Bake: Bake the rolls for 5 minutes at 375°F, then lower the heat to 350°F and cook for about 22 minutes longer. Transfer to a wire rack and cool at least 30 minutes before serving.

Variation Tip: Use different fillings to make savory rolls or change up the sweet filling by using a different dried fruit. Alternatively, skip the stuffing and top with sesame or poppy seeds instead. To make one large loaf, braid the filled ropes as a loaf and bake for 5 to 10 additional minutes.

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Note: Roberta (Bobbie) Kitto is a freelance writer based out of Laughlin, NV. Her interests include travel, culinary pursuits and gardening. No fee was paid for this article, but she did receive a copy of the book to review . Her opinions are her own.


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