June 3, 2014

Two months ago, when this (still) as-of-yet-unnamed blog launched, I promised to share not only the great successes but also the colossal failures that are part and parcel of running a business.

Yesterday was just one of those days.

The day started off, well, off. I was on the tail-end of a week long migraine episode that finally tapered into a bearable headache. In practical terms, I was about 90% pain free, but had a serious case of post-headache stupid. In bakery terms, I probably spent five minutes staring at an egg trying to figure out what I needed to do to get the insides out, and must have made 10 return trips each to the equipment rack and the walk-in fridge because I kept forgetting things. It was a miracle that the cookie dough actually came together properly.

I also narrowly restrained myself from throwing a cheftastic tantrum because the flour bin hadn’t been refilled and nothing on the drying rack had been put away on the equipment rack. Again. Deep breaths.

Then it all went downhill.


Any guesses as to what this was?

I made three of them.

The outsides burnt.

The insides were raw.

They were DOA. Much like Oberyn Martell. (Too soon? If he had just watched The Incredibles, he would have known not to start monologuing!)

(Incidentally, that was supposed to be a cheesecake.)

Next came 90 minutes during which I was supposed to be working on Phase III, but became a cheesecake redo. I almost cried at one point. At another point, I managed to misplace my bowl scraper. I thought I had completely lost my mind (picture me spinning in circles looking for that thing that was just in my hand) only to find that I had left it in the bowl and turned the mixer on. Nothing as dire as a surgeon leaving his watch inside the patient, but it didn’t help.

And when the cheesecakes were in the oven, a scary oven alarm went off and the red screen of death started flashing indicating that a breaker had flipped and there was some sort of internal oven error. That’s never good. We fixed it, but you NEVER want to see the red screen of death. That’s why we have two ovens.

Phase III: 320 Hand-Rolled Rugelach

You read correctly. 320. Hand Rolled.

The dough was all supposed to have been rolled out last week — before I was sidelined by the aforementioned migraine…and a surprise visit from our Kashrut inspector. The roll-out was rescheduled to yesterday. Then I burned the cheesecakes and I lost the aforementioned 90 minutes to the cheesecake redo.

160 of the rugelach were done and all of a sudden, it was 4:00 – time to race home to relieve my daycare. I handed the bowls of chocolate and cinnamon sugar to my hero (my husband) and ran out the door.

When he got home, he found me asleep under a pile of children – and sent me to my own bed where sleep resumed, uninterrupted, until morning.

At the end of the day, the cheesecakes were unbelievable, the two different types of rugelach were amazing, and all was well with the world. But we all have bad days. And sometimes cheesecakes burn.


May 23, 2014

This week marks 16 years since the untimely passing of my father, Jean-Paul Joseph, at the way too-young age of 47.  The victim of a sudden heart attack, he left behind a grieving wife and three young daughters, aged 19, 16, and 12.

For me, this week always involves a measure of “just keep swimming”…if I stop moving for too long, if I give myself too much time to think, I pretty much break down. It is amazing how raw it still is, even 16 years and seemingly countless lifetimes later. I hear echoes of his voice during kiddush on Shabbat, I see him when my son turns his head just so, in little occurrences that happen every day, in my dreams.

My mother, sisters, and I are extremely close. When tragedy struck, we realized that all we had in the world was each other, and we became each other’s life rafts. In the years since my father’s passing, our family has grown and morphed into a very different organism. There have been marriages and babies, a remarriage, and a future marriage. Each marriage has brought with it entire satellite families. Inviting the “immediate family” involves tremendous amounts of food and many pillaged folding chairs. If anything, my mother, sisters and I have become even closer.

I like to think he can see the women we have become, the family we have become, and is smiling.

ucm_317390For the last several years, my family has been running in the American Heart Association Wall Street 5K, and raising money for the cause in my father’s memory. To date, our team has raised $55,000 for the AHA, and in 2013 we were named the #1 Community Team. This year, Salt of the Earth Bakery will also be the official sponsors of the team.

We will be running in this year’s race on Wednesday, June 18 and would love your support. Whether you are able to donate, run, or cheer us on, your support is appreciated and helps keep our father’s memory strong and vibrant.


May 19, 2014

A “Mouse” Ate the Challah

I don’t go in to the bakery on Fridays. By no means does this mean that I sit around on the couch eating bonbons and watching all of the TV that has built up on my DVR. (I wish.) Instead, I start the day praying for clear weather; sneak in a shower (maybe); inhale at least two cups of coffee (non-negotiable); get the two older kids out the door to school; do a blitzkrieg clean up of the apartment with an emphasis on bed-making, laundry-collecting, bedroom-neatening, and kitchen-clearing (all futile); after which I scoop #3 into the stroller, and head out the door. The mission: get an entire week’s worth of household errands done by 1:00. At which point I pick #1 and #2 up from school, they storm the apartment, and all of the bed-making, laundry-collecting, and bedroom-neatening is promptly undone. Once the groceries are unpacked and I start dinner, the destruction is complete.

A very important part of my Friday ritual is the baking of the weekly loaves of challah, the traditional braided bread served on the Jewish Sabbath. My kids have all been involved in the weekly bake-off since before they were school-aged, and whoever happens to be home on Friday morning eagerly drags a chair to the kitchen counter ready to get dirty and lend a “helping” hand. By mid-afternoon, the challah is out of the oven and is cooling on the dining room table.

This week, however, there was a little twist to the story. When my husband came home and surveyed the usual hairline balance between pre-Sabbath order and chaos, he noticed one detail that I had overlooked. “Love, what happened to the other side of the challah?!”



It turns out that a certain three-year-old “helper” couldn’t wait until dinner.


Over the years, I have gone through many recipes, methods, and ingredients, tweaking and adjusting, substituting and swapping, until finally, by general consensus, I hit the jackpot. In our family, we finish our challah with sesame seeds, but feel free to use the garnish of your choice. (I have a good friend who takes out the chocolate chips, cinnamon-sugar, and sprinkles and tells the kids to go crazy!)

To make raisin challah, add 100-200 grams (⅔-1⅓ cups) raisins to the mixer after the flour is well incorporated.



  • 1 envelope (7 grams /2¼ tsp) Active Dry Yeast
  • 500 grams (3¾ cup) Bread Flour, Divided, plus additional as needed
  • ¾  cup warm water, ~110° F
  • 1 tsp honey
  • 2 extra large eggs, plus 1 for glazing
  • ½ cup (4 oz) vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp (10 grams) sea salt
  • 55 grams (¼ cup) granulated sugar
  • Poppy seeds, sesame seeds etc. for garnish (optional)


  1. For the sponge: Whisk yeast, 100 grams  (¾ cup) flour, warm water , and honey together in the bowl of a standing mixer. Let stand 15 minutes until it begins to puff up and bubbles begin to appear on the surface.
  2. Add the Wet Ingredients: Add 2 eggs, oil, salt and sugar into the sponge and whisk together until well incorporated.
  3. Knead the Dough: Attach the dough hook to the mixer and add the remaining 400 grams of flour to the bowl. Run the mixer on low speed until all the flour is incorporated, adding more flour as needed until the dough neatly comes away from the sides of the bowl.* Allow the mixer to run for several minutes to work the dough. Turn the dough out onto a floured surface and knead several times by hand until the dough is nice and elastic and forms a ball.
  4. Ferment the Dough: Place the dough in a clean, well-oiled bowl, and turn the dough several times to coat. Cover the bowl tightly with plastic wrap and place in a warm spot. Allow the dough to rise, undisturbed, until it has at least doubled in volume, about 3 hours.
  5. Shape and Proof the dough: Gently deflate the dough with your fingertips and turn out onto a clean surface. Divide into two halves. Divide each half into three pieces, roll into ropes and braid. ** Place braided challahs on parchment lined baking sheets, cover with clean towels,  and allow to rise until tripled in size, about 1½-2 hours.
  6. Prepping the Loaves: Preheat oven to 350° F. Beat the remaining egg with a little bit of water to create an egg wash. brush the loaves with the  glaze, and sprinkle with the garnish of your choice.
  7. Baking the loaves: Bake 30-35 minutes.

*    If desired, add raisins here

* *        At this point, braided dough can be well-wrapped in plastic and frozen for future use. Take out in the morning, unwrap, place on parchment-lined baking sheet, cover with a clean towel, and alllow to defrost/rise for 6 hours. Bake as above.

May 12, 2014

Ah, springtime. The trees are blooming, the birds are chirping, the Uggs have been relegated to the back of the closet…and fights are breaking out at the local farmers market over the daily delivery of ramps. They are only in season for a few short weeks every spring – essentially for the month of May – and it is a race to the farmstand in the wee hours of the morning to get at the daily supply. It’s chef vs. foodie in in the culinary Thunderdome. Two men enter, one man leaves. And he gets the ramps.

Thanks to my friends over at Good Eggs, the amazing online farmer’s market headquartered down the hall, I was able to get my hands on a huge amount of the luscious allium without having to bust out my gladiatorial skills at the crack of dawn.  On the subway ride home, I did have this irrational fear that I would be mugged by ninja chefs out to steal my bag of ramps, but that turned out to be pure paranoia. (Or was it?)

Ramps, otherwise known as wild leeks, are a wild onion that can be used like a scallion, but with a wilder taste that resembles garlic. Aside from the root the entire plant, from the bulb to the leaf, is edible.

In honor of the remarkably short ramp season, I am going to stray from the conventional one-post-one-recipe formula to which I (and most bloggers) generally adhere. Below are three delicious ramp recipes that give you plenty of reason to join the ramp-race. May the best chef win.


IMG_3893Cooked ramps at their purest. The bulbs soften and sweeten and the leaves get crispy and crunchy. Don’t skimp on the Sel gris – it really makes the flavors of the roasted ramps pop. A delicious accompaniment to roasted chicken.


  • ¼ lbs ramps
  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • Sel Gris de Guerande
  • Freshly ground black pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 425°F. Line a baking sheet with foil and spray with non-stick spray.
  2. Cut the roots off the ramps and rub off the outer thin layer from the bulb. Run the prepped ramps under running water to clean off any remaining dirt and pat dry.
  3. Toss ramps in a bowl with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Sprinkle with salt and pepper to taste. Arrange in a single layer on the prepped baking sheet.
  4. Roast for 10 minutes until leaves start to turn crispy around the edges.


IMG_3907The creaminess of the goat cheese balances the garlickiness of the ramps. The whole wheat crust adds a nutty undertone. My new favorite spring pizza.


For the Pizza Dough:

  • ¾ cup warm water (~110°F)
  • ½ packet (⅛oz/4g) active dry yeast
  • ½ tsp honey
  • 1 cup (4¼ oz/135g) bread flour
  • 1 cup (4¼ oz/135g) whole wheat flour
  • 1 ½ tsp (¼ oz/10g) sea salt
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil

For the Ramps

  • ¼ lb ramps, cleaned and trimmed, coarsely chopped.
  • 1 Tbsp olive oil
  • sea salt
  • freshly ground pepper

For Assembly

  • 2 Tbsp olive oil
  • ½ cup of your favorite tomato sauce
  • 2 oz (½ log) herbed goat cheese


  1. Combine warm water, yeast, and honey in a measuring cup and set aside for 5 minutes to proof. (If the mixture does not become foamy, it means your yeast was no good. Discard and try again with a fresh packet of yeast.)
  2. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a dough hook, combine bread flour, whole wheat flour, and sea salt. Turn mixer on for a few spins to combine the dry ingredients.
  3. Add olive oil to yeast mixture. With the mixer on low speed, slowly pour yeast mixture into flour mixture until fully combined. Allow mixer to “knead” dough for 7-10 minutes.
  4. Form dough into a ball and put unto a clean, oiled bowl. Roll the dougb around in the oil several times to coat. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and set aside for two hours.
  5. Preheat the oven to 500°F. Move the oven rack to the very bottom of the oven.
  6. Gently punch down the pizza dough. Stretch into your pizza pan. Brush with 2 Tbsp olive oil. Evenly spread with tomato sauce, leaving a one-inch un-sauced border.
  7. Bake for 10 minutes.
  8. Meanwhile, heat 1 Tbsp oil in a saute pan over medium heat. Add the ramps, sea salt, and pepper and saute until bulbs are softened and leaves have wilted, 5-6 minutes. Remove from heat.
  9. Remove pizza from oven, dot with ramp mixture and blobs of goat cheese and return to the oven for an additional 5 minutes.
  10. 10. Cut and enjoy!


IMG_3902A super-savory twist on an American classic. This is not your typical southern biscuit. Off-season, try substituting scallions for a similar effect.


  • 2½ cups (12½ oz) all purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp pepper
  • 2 Tbsp (1 oz) all natural vegetable shortening, cut into ½” chunks
  • 8 Tbsp (4 oz) unsalted butter, chilled, cut into 16 slices
  • 1 cup buttermilk, chilled
  • ¼ lb (4 oz) ramps, roots removed, bulbs, stems, and leaves finely chopped
  • 2 Tbsp (1 oz)  unsalted butter, melted and cooled
  • Sel gris de Guerande
  • Freshly ground pepper


  1. Preheat the oven to 450°, and set the rack in the center of the oven. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In a large bowl, whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and pepper.
  3. Add the shortening to the bowl, and use your fingertips to incorporate it into the flour mixture.
  4. Add the butter slices a few at a time, and use your fingertips to incorporate them. Work quickly and resist the urge to use the rest of your hands, so as not to warm up the butter too much.
  5. Add the cold buttermilk and the ramps and stir mixture just enough to incorporate the liquid. The dough will be very sticky.
  6. Turn the dough out onto a very generously floured surface, flip a few times to coat in the flour, and roll into a cohesive ball.
  7. Use your hands to pat the ball into a ¼” thick rectangle. Fold the rectangle in on itself like an envelope, rotate 90° and repeat. Repeat the process 4 times.
  8. Pat the dough into a ½” thick square and cut into 9 3-inch rounds using a biscuit cutter or a drinking glass. Assemble the scraps, press into a ½” thick rectangle, and cut 3 more pieces.
  9. Arrange the 12 biscuits on a baking sheet. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle with a scatter of salt and pepper.
  10. Bake 15-18 minutes (without opening oven door) until biscuits are golden. Allow to rest on the baking sheet 5-10 minutes before eating.

May 6, 2014

Tarte aux Pommes à l’ Alsacienne – Alsatian Apple Tart


Recreating a Childhood Recipe

My father was not a very prolific cook. Aside from his brilliant Thanksgiving turkey carving skills (usually carried out while wearing a tuxedo), his activity in the kitchen was limited to exactly four dishes:

  • Passover jelly rolls – of which he made about 10,000 every Passover, in various flavors, and ate every morning for breakfast. And tried to feed us.
  • Brioches – which no one remembers but my mother
  • Lemon Chicken – which no one remembers but me
  • Tarte aux Pommes a l’Alsacienne – the Alsatian Apple Tart.

He was very proud of the apple tart. It was the proverbial jewel in his culinary crown.  When I close my eyes, I can see him standing at the counter in the kitchen of my childhood apartment, carefully rolling out the dough, pressing the dough into each of the crevices of the fluted tart pan, methodically arranging the apples in perfect concentric circles (did I mention he had a Type A personality?) and, finally, pouring the custard over the whole assembly.

For years, I have wanted to recreate the apple tart. Finally, I had an excuse. My Grandmaman (my father’s mother) was turning 91. What better birthday surprise than a taste of her Alsatian childhood?

As it turns out, my mother still has the cookbook containing the original recipe, complete with my father’s annotations. However, there were three problems, presented here in order of difficulty:


  • Problem #1: The recipe was in French – Easily overcome. My French is passable and my mother is fluent, so we sailed over that speedbump.
  • Problem #2: My father’s handwriting is all but illegible. A longstanding problem. My mother and I muddled through that one.
  • Problem #3: The recipe was rather vague – specifying neither oven temp nor bake time. I was forced to rely on my father’s notes (see problem #2) and ended up referring to my pastry textbook for the pate brisée recipe instructions.

In the end, it was brilliant. The tart tasted like my childhood. Even better, it tasted like my Grandmaman’s childhood. Which was the whole point, right?

Tarte aux Pommes à l’ Alsacienne – Alsatian Apple Tart


    For the Pate Brisée

  •                         2 cups (8.75 oz/250g) all purpose flour
  •                         2 Tbsp (7/8 oz/25g) sugar
  •                         1 tsp sea salt
  •                         1 stick (4 oz/125g) unsalted butter, slightly softened
  •                         1 egg yolk
  •                         3 Tbsp ice water

   For the Fruit

  •                         1 kg (approx. 3) golden delicious apples, peeled and cut in sixteenths.
  •                         2 Tbsp (7/8 oz/25g) sugar

    For the Custard

  •                         1/3 cup (2.5 oz/75g) sugar
  •                         1/3 cup milk
  •                         1/3 cup cream
  •                         2 whole eggs
  •                         1 Tbsp vanilla extract
  •                         ¼ tsp sea salt


  1. In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, combine flour, sugar and sea salt until blended. Add butter and blend at low speed until just combined, scraping bowl as necessary.
  2. Add egg yolk and blend. Drizzle in water, one tablespoon at a time, just until dough comes together. DO NOT OVERMIX.
  3. Form dough into disc, wrap in plastic wrap, and refrigerate at least 30 minutes.
  4. Preheat oven to 375°
  5. Roll out dough to 1/8” thick and line 10” fluted tart pan with removable bottom, pressing the dough into the indentations. Prick the bottom with a fork, line with a double layer of aluminum foil, and fill with pie weights or dried beans.
  6. Bake for 12 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven and carefully lift the foil with the pie weights from the crust.
  7. Toss the prepared apple slices with the sugar.
  8. Arrange the apple slices in concentric circles, starting from the outside and working your way in.
  9. Return to the oven and bake for 15 minutes.
  10. While the apples are baking, whisk together sugar, milk, cream, eggs, vanilla, and sea salt.
  11. Pour over the apples and return to the oven for an additional 35 minutes. Cool completely.

Notes:  I encourage you to weigh the ingredients using a kitchen scale

April 10, 2014


“Mark of a chef: Messy apron, clean sleeves.” – Collette, Ratatouille

Today’s blog post was supposed to be all about the bakery build-out, from empty shell to fully functional space. With photos.

Instead, I’m going to put that post on hold and tell you a story. The reasons will become clear shortly.

My husband and I were married in August of 2004. As September approached, and thus our first Jewish High Holidays as a married couple, I took it upon myself to provide desserts for all of the Rosh HaShanah meals as my contribution to the holiday – a role I still play almost 10 years later. On the menu, rum laced chocolate mousse. But why would I leave well enough alone? I set another precedent that year, and decided to get over-ambitious and way ahead of myself and thought it would be lovely to present the mousse in hand made chocolate cups, achieved by dipping lightly oiled balloons in melted chocolate, letting them set in the refrigerator, deflating the balloon, and gently removing them from the set chocolate shell. What could go wrong?

Meanwhile, in the bedroom, my husband was innocently and obliviously immersed in his Secure Transactions casebook (did I mention that he was in his third year of law school?) when he heard a shriek from the kitchen. He dropped what he was doing and ran to the kitchen to find his new bride, and half of the kitchen, covered in chocolate. A balloon had popped. For months, we were still finding overlooked flecks of chocolate on the cabinets.

Why this walk down memory lane?

One of the cardinal rules of baking is to turn the mixer to low when you add the dry ingredients, lest you have a flour explosion. We’ve all made that mistake. Now, imagine what would happen if you added 20-plus pounds of flour to an industrial mixer and forgot to turn the speed to low.

My sleeves, somehow, remained clean.

April 2, 2014
Salt of the Earth Bakery has a new home!  It feels really great to say that. I’ve been waiting to say that for a long, long, time. And I have had to keep it quiet up until today for fear of  jeopardizing our operations. But the fear is over, the doors are open, and we are now up and running in our shiny new home.

Three years ago, we started a family business selling baked goods that I design. Since the start, we have been baking in a third-party facility, but the time came that our growth both allowed us to and necessitated that we get our own place. It has been scary, pressure-filled, exhilarating, educational, hair-greying,…And now we’re done and I can scream from the mountaintop (or my MacBook) that WE HAVE A NEW HOME!

The entire journey, from the first time I baked any of the goodies that would ultimately make it to store shelves to walking into our newly opened facility this morning, has taken place with my husband (aka the cause of the grey hair). We raise three kids together in Manhattan commute to work together most days, and usually end our day together finishing up work on the sofa (or, realistically, drinking a glass of wine and falling asleep while watching TV). So much goes into starting and running a business and there’s no way you can anticipate everything that you’re going to have to accomplish and overcome. I have loved baking ever since learning at my grandmother’s apron strings as a little girl. It’s a dream come true that it is now my job. But doing all of this as a family business makes it possible and makes it matter so much more for me.

So with that, I sign off on the inaugural post of this yet-to-be-named blog. Stay tuned for musings on the experience of starting and running a business, looks back on the process of building our amazing new home, insight on what it is like to work with one’s husband and brother-in-law, great successes, colossal failures, chocolate explosions, unavoidable peeks into my home life, and of course, recipes.