Cook | To bring mazel to a new home, start with bread

According to the talmudic sages, moving to a new location brings a change of mazel (luck or fortune). Historically, we Jews have had to move around a lot. Forced out, forced in, resettled — were the sages simply trying to reassure us in the face of the great unknown? Maybe.

My family isn’t quite facing the great unknown, but next week we are moving from San Francisco to Oakland and heading into a slew of new. Luckily, we have Jewish rituals to help us settle in.

We’ve lived in four cities and six homes in the past 12 years, and everywhere I go, I am given mezuzahs. Choosing and hanging our new mezuzah will be the first step in acclimating to our new home.

After that, and according to custom, we will embrace bread, salt and wine. Bread piled with salt is a Russian folk custom and a sign of hospitality. For newlyweds, salt and bread symbolized the wish their pantry would always be full. I’m not sure where the wine tradition came from, but after a long day of moving, we’ll be glad it’s there.


Wine and Cheese Skillet Bread

Serves 4

3 Tbs. melted butter

¾ of a baguette, cut into 1-inch cubes

â…“ cup chopped green onion

â…“ cup pitted green olives, coarsely chopped

½ cup dry white wine

½ tsp. salt

½ tsp. black pepper

1½ cups grated Gruyère

Heat oven to 400 degrees. In a 10-inch oven-proof skillet, toss baguette squares with the melted butter. Scatter green onion and olives over the top. Pour in the wine and sprinkle with salt, pepper and Gruyère. Bake until the cheese has melted and begun to brown at the edges, 15-20 minutes, and serve.


Pickled Jalapeño Cheese Bread

Makes 1 loaf

1 tsp. active dry yeast

1 Tbs. plus 1¾ cups warm water (105-115 degrees)

½ tsp. sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour plus more for kneading

1¾ tsp. salt

¼ cup plus 1 Tbs. olive oil

¼ cup chopped pickled jalapeño, drained

1¾ cup grated sharp cheddar, divided

½ cup grated Parmigiano- Reggiano

Combine yeast, 1 Tbs. warm water and sugar in a small bowl; let mixture stand 5 minutes or until yeast expands and forms a puffy head.

Mix together flour, salt, ¼ cup oil, yeast mixture and remaining 1¾ cups warm water in an electric mixer with a dough hook if you have one, or in a regular bowl. Mix at low speed or with a wooden spoon until a soft dough forms. Increase speed to medium and beat for 3 more minutes, or knead dough by hand, keeping it in the bowl and adding a little flour as necessary to keep it from sticking. Add chopped pickled jalapeño, 1½ cups cheddar cheese and Parmigiano-Reggiano, and knead or mix until thoroughly incorporated.

Cover bowl with plastic wrap greased with oil or with a clean kitchen towel. Let dough rise in a warmish room-temperature location until doubled, about 2 hours. You can also leave it in the fridge overnight.

Turn dough out onto a well-floured surface and gently knead for 2 minutes. Shape into an 8-inch oval and place on a greased baking sheet. Slash top. Cover with kitchen towel and let rise 1 hour. Paint with remaining 1 Tbs. oil, then sprinkle with remaining ¼ cup cheddar cheese.

Heat oven to 400 degrees. Bake until bread is golden and sounds hollow when tapped on bottom, 45-50 minutes. Cool. Slice and serve.

Josie A.G. Shapiro, who won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff, is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.” Her columns alternate with those of Faith Kramer. Her website is


Josie A.G. Shapiro

Josie A.G. Shapiro won the 2013 Man-O-Manischewitz Cookoff and is the co-author of “The Lazy Gourmet.”