Ari’s Pick: More Rockin’ Challah

A great way to start the New Year with a taste of North Africa

In learning all that I have about food over the years, I have had many amazing teachers. One of the best has been Joan Nathan. Her 1979 book, The Jewish Holiday Kitchen, was a great, go-to source for me and Paul when we were doing our original recipe work back in the first few months of 1982. Later, her Jewish Cooking in America was a big help in our work at the Roadhouse. We still make New Mexico-rooted Sephardic Short Ribs, and her Sweet Potato Tsimmes with Chiles regularly! One of the many things Joan has taught us was about Moroccan challah, or as we call it, More Rockin’ Challah. When I first learned of it, we had no way to make it. The bakeries we were buying from weren’t interested. All these years later, the Bakehouse—led by Amy, Frank (before he retired two years ago), and now Jaison—is exactly the kind of place that loves to find these sorts of old foods and bring them back alive in our Ann Arbor context.
a side view of More Rockin' Challah on a wooden cutting board with blue tea towel

The History of Moroccan Challah

Morocco’s Jewish community goes back nearly 2000 years, predating the arrival of Islam in North Africa by about six centuries. The size of the Jewish community increased significantly 1500 years later when Jews were expelled from Spain and Portugal by the Inquisition and sought safety on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. There are long, strong traditions of cooking, music, writing, and art in the Moroccan Jewish community. This Moroccan challah is called pain petri (“kneaded bread”) because the women who made it traditionally spent a lot of time kneading the dough to achieve a smooth, light loaf. They formed the bread at home and then baked it in public ovens, a practice that lived on in Morocco until recent years. (This idea of bringing dough to the local bakery is still happening. Amy told me that we had someone bring some to the Bakehouse the other day!) The seeds make it special. It has a lovely dusting of sesame, poppy, and anise seeds to add spice and sweetness.

The More Rockin’ Challah is a lovely way to grace your New Year’s table, and really just a great thing to eat! It’s terrific if you use it for dipping into a plate of great olive oil and honey. Makes really nice toast brushed with olive oil. Or make a saffron butter and spread some of that on top! As my work with food has taught me countless times now over the years, the Moroccan Challah offers all of us a lovely way to experience another culture and eat well in the process.


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Ari Weinzweig
Co-Founding Partner at Zingerman's | + posts

In 1982, Ari Weinzweig, along with his partner Paul Saginaw, founded Zingerman’s Delicatessen with a $20,000 bank loan, a Russian History degree from the University of Michigan, 4 years of experience washing dishes, cooking and managing in restaurant kitchens and chutzpah from his hometown of Chicago. They opened the doors with 2 employees and a small selection of specialty foods and exceptional sandwiches.

Today, Zingerman’s Delicatessen is a nationally renowned food icon and the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses has grown to 10 businesses with over 750 employees and over $55 million in annual revenue. Aside from the Delicatessen, these businesses include Zingerman’s Bakehouse, Coffee Company, Creamery, Roadhouse, Mail Order, ZingTrain, Candy Manufactory, Cornman Farms and a Korean restaurant that is scheduled to open in 2016. No two businesses in the Zingerman’s Community of Businesses are alike but they all share the same Vision and Guiding Principles and deliver “The Zingerman’s Experience” with passion and commitment.

Besides being the Co-Founding Partner and being actively engaged in some aspect of the day-to-day operations and governance of nearly every business in the Zingerman’s Community, Ari Weinzweig is also a prolific writer. His most recent publications are the first 4 of his 6 book series Zingerman’s Guide to Good Leading Series: A Lapsed Anarchist’s Approach to Building a Great Business (Part 1), Being a Better Leader (Part 2), Managing Ourselves (Part 3) and the newly-released Part 4, The Power of Beliefs in Business. Earlier books include the Zingerman’s Guides to Giving Great Service, Better Bacon, Good Eating, Good Olive Oil, Good Vinegar and Good Parmigiano-Reggiano.

Ari regularly travels across the country (and world) on behalf of ZingTrain, teaching organizations and businesses about Zingerman’s approach to business. He is a sought-after Keynote speaker, having delivered keynotes for Inc. 500, Microsoft Expo Spring Conference, Great Game of Business Gathering of Games, Positive Business Conference at the University of Michigan Ross School of Business, American Society for Quality (ASQ), and the American Cheese Society. Most recently, Ari and Paul Saginaw were invited to address an audience of 50,000 for the University of Michigan 2015 Spring Commencement.

One of Zingerman’s Guiding Principles is being an active part of the community and in 1988, Zingerman’s was instrumental in the founding of Food Gatherers, a food rescue program that delivers over 5 million pounds of food each year to the hungry residents of Washtenaw county. Every year Zingerman’s donates 10% of its previous years profits to local community organizations and non-profits. Ari has served on the board of The Ark, the longest continuously operating folk music venue in America.

Over the decades, the Zingerman’s founding partners have consistently been the recipients of public recognition from a variety of diverse organizations. In April 1995, Ari and Paul were awarded the Jewish Federation of Washtenaw County’s first Humanitarian Award. In 2006, Ari was recognized as one of the “Who’s Who of Food & Beverage in America” by the James Beard Foundation. In 2007, Ari and Paul were presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award from Bon Appetit magazine for their work in the food industry. Ari was awarded the Lifetime Achievement Award by the American Cheese Society in 2014. And Ari’s book, Building a Great Business was on Inc. magazine’s list of Best Books for Business Leaders.

Notwithstanding the awards, being engaged on a daily basis in the work of 10 businesses and 21 partners, writing books on business and in-depth articles on food for the Zingerman’s newsletter, Ari finds time to be a voracious reader. He acquires and reads more books than he can find room for. Ari might soon find himself the owner of the largest collection of Anarchist books in Ann Arbor outside the Labadie collection at the University of Michigan library!

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