Jewish Penicillin For Your COVID Blues

Posted by Samantha Heligman on

My favorite memories as a kid were of shabbat dinners, mostly because I would get to hollow out the inside of a Publix challah ( if you grew up in Florida you know what I’m talking about). I would then proceed to dip the challah into the most delicious chicken soup that had the Jewish equivalent of dumplings, Matzo balls.

Life was good, who needed crust. Fast forward to the present day where I am a grown 30 something that loves to cook. What to make when you feel like you want a taste of the old days, but you want to add some adult sophistication, and you want to nail that 5 strand braid you saw on Instagram 3 days ago. Goals.

I knew I had a good chicken stock base. I have been making my own bone broth for years. All it required was a bit of seasoning to evoke that feeling of Shabbat, a bit of clove, a lot of black peppercorns, and a good handful of dill. Why not take it a step further and put those flavors right into the Matzo balls? I had never heard of anyone doing that so I went for it! I ground up a bunch of pepper and chopped a good amount of dill and dove in.

Next was tackling the Challah. Good challah, I mean really Good Challah is hard to find; let alone make. I was spoiled as a kid. Publix got it right. Eggy and sweet while savory. All of it in one. I wasn’t going to settle for anything less. It just so happened that I found the perfect recipe.

The end result would bring a dead man back to life. Jewish penicillin through and through. When you feel low, down and out, sickly or sad, this meal will pull you out of it, and if you're a sriracha addict like me it’ll slap you in the face too!

Special equipment needed: Pepper grinder, kitchen scale, Stand mixer if you have it.



Black Pepper Dill Matzo Ball Soup

  • 2 quarts chicken bone broth or home made stock
  • 5 carrots, chopped
  • 5 celery stalks, chopped, leaves reserved
  • Bunch of dill
  • 5 black peppercorns
  • 6 cloves
  • 2 tbsp schmaltz ( chicken fat ), or veggie oil
  • 2 eggs, beaten lightly
  • 1/2 cup matzo meal
  • 2 tbsp broth
  • 1 Tsp salt
  • 1 Tsp dill, chopped
  • 1 Tsp fresh ground black pepper



1. Season Broth with a bunch of dill, black peppercorns and cloves. Simmer for 30 mins and season with salt to taste.

2. For Matzo Balls, Combine Schmaltz, beaten eggs, matzo meal, salt, dill, and black pepper. Add broth and gently mix with a fork till incorporated. Chill mix in the fridge for at least an hour.

3. Using a spoon roll matzo ball mix into 8 uniform balls. Place into simmering seasoned broth and allow to simmer for 40 minutes with a lid on to make sure the tops steam.

4. Meanwhile sauté the carrots and celery in some olive oil with salt and pepper to taste.

5. Strain the simmering broth over the carrots and celery. Add the matzo balls and finish with the celery leaves and a sprinkle of chopped dill.


Eggy Challah


  • Sponge
  • 100g water
  • 0.1g fresh yeast
  • 100g white spelt flour

  • Main Dough
  • Sponge
  • 70g water, cold
  • 8g fresh yeast
  • 60g canola oil
  • 2 eggs + 1 egg yolk
  • 35g honey
  • 400g bread flour
  • 10g fine salt


The day before making the dough: mix together the water and the fresh yeast (yeast must be very fresh!), then add the flour. Stir well and cover with plastic wrap. Let the mixture sit at room temperature overnight. Sponge must be bubbly and at least doubled in size.

Main Dough

Mix all ingredients on low speed for 12–15 minutes until the dough becomes soft and smooth. Don't be tempted to add additional flour - dough is meant to be rather sticky and a bit gummy in the beginning. Desired dough temperature after kneading: 70-75 degrees. Cover the bowl with a plastic wrap and let it rest at 70-75 degrees for 1 hour. Dough must be airy but not double in size!


Dividing the dough, preshaping and shaping the strands are crucial steps in making a fluffy Challah. There are many videos for braiding. I recommend this one.

Eggwash/Final Proofer

Apply the egg wash and let the Challah rise uncovered 45 minutes at 70-75 degrees.


Apply another eggwash and bake the Challah in the well-preheated oven (if possible on a baking stone) at 375 degrees for about 40 minutes (core temperature: 200 degrees). Let the challah cool on a cooling rack until just barely warm. Enjoy!

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