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The Levy Pandemic Story

July 2020
By Cindy Levy
Brookfield, WI

I am not much of a journaler, but I thought that this might be an interesting story to add to the archives of what people did during the pandemic. I have been told by many that they now want to be my neighbor.

Sharon (my daughter) and I have been baking since the pandemic started. We come up with a recipe (usually a pretty complicated one) and spend much of the day baking once a week. We have made babka from scratch, brioche and lots of cookies…

The baking started with us wanting to make bread. The first issue was finding yeast. I called 3-4 stores and no one had yeast. We weren’t the only ones wanting to make bread. When I talked to the grocery store managers, they told me that any ingredients having to do with baking were flying off the shelves. So, my husband, Mark, decided to order a pound of yeast off of the internet. So now we were committed to baking bread (and sharing the yeast). Sharon’s friend Jessica Plotkin quickly volunteered to take some yeast off of our hands. Jessica came to get the yeast in a socially distancing way and it was a very quick visit (which rarely happens).

Our first set of endeavors entailed what every Jewish family bakes – challah. Of course, we had to add some chocolate chips into at least one challah. We used a recipe supplied by Jessica which she had made many times for her friends at college and as part of a film documentary that Sharon had put together for her undergraduate degree in film called, “That Smells Good – What is it?”. We then continued with the making of garlic knots, brioche and graduated to babka! Here are the results:

The week before Memorial Day, Sharon came up with a plan to make 3 different types of chocolate cookies to determine how ingredients change the texture and taste of the cookie. Knowing this was going to make too many for just the three of us to eat, I solicited our neighbors and trivia team to see who was interested in participating in the tasting. We delivered cookies in plastic bags, using safe social distancing, to all the neighbors and the trivia team, and received their feedback on which one they liked the best and if they could identify which ingredient changed the taste or texture of the cookie. So many cookies!

Everyone enjoyed it so much that Sharon and I have kept up the tradition. Each week or so we bake something different and deliver cookies on-foot and by car, carefully social distancing, but visiting with our neighbors. We have made multiple types of chocolate cookies – one recipe from a famous bakery in NYC, brownies, monster oatmeal bars, and more. The week the Black Lives Matter protests started as a result of the death of George Floyd at the hands of a police officer we decided to make the World Peace cookie.

For the 4th of July, we social distanced with our neighbors and, besides cookies, we baked 4th of July red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese icing and topped with blueberries and strawberries. It was a team effort to get them decorated. I piped the icing and Sharon decorated them with fruit.

Our expectation is that our baking will continue. Here are some of the recipes we have made to date to share.

Jessica’s Challah Recipe

Jessica’s handwritten recipe has been well used, and can be modified with the addition of honey, chocolate chips or whatever else you would like to add. Click the image to see them enlarged.

Babka Inspired by Seinfeld

Sharon has found a food YouTuber which she loves to follow. In addition to his YouTube videos, he has published a number of cook books and that is where we originally found the recipe. This recipe takes multiple days to make because the dough needs to rest several times, but the results are worth the effort. We only made the chocolate version, because we don’t know why you should make any other type of babka! One hint is do not work the butter into the dough by hand. Here is the link to the recipe:

No Flour Monster Cookie Bars

This cookie bar recipe is one of Sharon’s favorite and it is even easy to make. Not only that, but it also makes a lot of bars (we made a double batch to feed the neighbors). The fun part is you can add whatever mix-ins that you like. Chocolate and peanut butter are always good together. Here is the link to the recipe:

There are so many more recipes I could share, but I think I will end with the World Peace Cookie recipe. It seems like this is what we could really use in these troubling times where there is unrest on so many levels.

World Peace Cookies

As part of getting through the pandemic, Sharon and I have taken to watching food videos from Bon Appetit. One of the chefs, Claire, is a pastry chef who takes well-known food products and tries to reproduce them in the Bon Appetit Test Kitchen. It is crazy to watch some of the lengths Claire needs to go to in order to reproduce products such as pop rocks, pop tarts, pringles, and more. The base cookie that Claire used to replicate Oreos is the World Peace Cookie. We did not use the extra dark cocoa that Claire used to replicate the color of an Oreo, but simply Dutch-processed cocoa. With all the extra chocolate bar bits added to these cookies, it is a chocoholic’s dream. Here is a link to the recipe:

Our goal for this project has been to give ourselves a little happiness, by baking; and put a smile onto our neighbor’s face and their stomachs. I hope this pandemic story puts a smile on your face, too!