In the most recent episode of “Zoë Bakes,” famous cookbook author and pastry chef, Zoë François brings us her most Jewish episode yet. “Family Recipes,” which aired on the Magnolia Network, is the seventh episode in the second season and is filled with Jewish recipes, stories and family memories.
François grew up in a Jewish family in a commune in Vermont, where her parents told her that carob and raisins were dessert. All of that was dispelled when François tried her first Twinkie in school; that Twinkie has since led to a decades-long career around the country and has now landed her a role on the Magnolia Network.
In the recent episode of “Zoë Bakes,” François is visited by her mother, Lorraine Berkowitz Neal, and they take a trip down memory lane. François tells us a bit more about her Jewish background. Together, the duo make golden brown, raspberry jelly-filled doughnuts and two different flavors of rugelach; one filled with halvah and hazelnut spread and another with apricot jelly and walnuts, that Neal’s mother and grandmother used to make.
Neal reminisces often in the episode about her own mother, Zelda Weinstein, who made food for 500 people at a time in what she called “saloons;” then she would come home and make food for another 500 people in a tiny kitchen the size of François’s table.
“This brings me back to my childhood, it’s so awesome,” teary-eyed Neal tells François. “I’m so glad that you have carried on the legacy of our family tradition.”
François and Neal also make a steamy batch of chicken soup that François requests her mom make every time she’s in town. Instead of adding matzah balls, though, her family prefers to dip freshly baked loaves of challah into the soup.
In an interview with Hadassah Magazine, François tells of her delicious memories celebrating Jewish holidays with her mother and aunts in Brooklyn’s Brighton Beach. “My understanding of all the Jewish holidays is based on what foods were served at my aunts’ houses,” she tells the magazine. She happily recalls apple and honey cakes for Rosh Hashanah and flourless baked goods for Passover.
Once you’ve given her mouth-watering halvah and hazelnut spread-filled rugelach from the episode a try, you can also experiment with one of her classic rugelach recipes from the past—one filled with raspberry, nuts and chocolate.
Caleb Guedes-Reed is a contributing writer to Nosher and Jlife Magazine.