JWRP Sister Spotlight: Paula Shoyer
Paula Shoyer always loved baking but never thought it was a professional possibility. But after working as a lawyer for a few years, Paula relocated to Switzerland with her husband and attended pastry school in France. Today, Paula Shoyer is a wife; mother of four children; kosher pastry chef; author of four cookbooks, including her latest, The Healthy Jewish Kitchen; and JWRP sister who lives in the Washington, DC area. In our conversation, Paula shared the unifying power of baking, as well as a surprisingly healthier — and delicious — latke recipe for Chanukah.
What inspired you to travel to Israel with the JWRP?
I’d traveled to Israel in the past with my parents and to visit relatives, but I’d never participated in an organized trip there. I’d known about MOMentum since it first launched, and in 2015, it finally felt like the right time to go. That year, my best friend passed away from breast cancer. She had many different social groups, whom I spent time with, and she was an anchor in my life. Without her, I felt lost. I knew that MOMentum would give me the opportunity to see a new side of Israel, meet a new group of local women and honor my friend’s memory by doing something she would have loved to do.
How did MOMentum impact you?
The first night of the trip was really magical. Sitting there surrounded by so many women filled me with a sense of possibility. I loved walking into the Old City with my friend, Pam, who had never traveled to Israel before and seeing the beautiful reaction on her face. During the Challah Bake, I had a chance to share my baking tips with my JWRP sisters, including how they could incorporate challah baking into their busy lives.
With four kids and a business, I often feel like life gets away from me and that I don’t have the chance to be deliberate about everything I do. MOMentum gave me the opportunity to think about myself and my relationships. It empowered me to be proactive in my relationships and to become the person whom I wanted to be.
A few days after I returned home, my mother was diagnosed with lung cancer, and 12 weeks later, she died. My JWRP sisters were a great support. I had just met them and yet, we’d forged an incredible connection.
What made you decide to become a kosher baker?
My love of baking started in my grandmother’s kitchen in Brooklyn where she showed me how to make rugelach and yeast cakes. Food brings people together and baking, in particular, is all about sharing. We bake for Shabbat, for a family who just welcomed a baby into their home, and for people who are in mourning. We bake to celebrate and to comfort, and we often bake together.
Today, my goal is to offer people healthier versions of traditional Jewish food and to keep bringing people together at my demo events around the country. I want to help people create wonderful food memories that they can associate with Shabbat and Jewish holidays throughout the year — while choosing healthy ingredients.
Can you share a healthy Hanukkah recipe with us?
Sure, I’ll share my recipe for “Potato and Scallion Latkes with Pickled Applesauce.” While everyone loves potato latkes, you might not love the mess of frying them or the guilt associated with eating them. These latkes are baked in the oven and easily won over my kids. You do need to watch them so they do not burn; they were done at different times in different ovens. The Pickled Applesauce is basically a tangy-spicy applesauce, which we also eat with schnitzel.
Parve, Gluten-free, Vegetarian, Passover • Serves 6
PREP TIME: 10 minutes • COOK TIME: 20 to 24 minutes • ADVANCE PREP: Latkes may be made 2 days in advance and reheated in the oven or frozen; applesauce may be made 4 days in advance • EQUIPMENT: Cutting board, knife, vegetable brush, measuring cups and spoons, citrus juicer, vegetable peeler, 2 jelly roll pans, food processor, medium bowl, box grater, wooden spoon, oven mitts, slotted spatula, small saucepan with lid, immersion blender
2 tablespoons sunflower or safflower oil, or more if needed
½ medium onion, quartered
3 scallions, ends trimmed, cut into thin slices or chopped into small pieces
3 medium potatoes (about 1½ pounds [700g]), scrubbed clean and unpeeled
2 teaspoons (10ml) fresh lemon juice
2 large eggs
½ teaspoon baking powder
2 tablespoons potato starch
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon black pepper
1 teaspoon sunflower or safflower oil
1/3 cup red onions, chopped into ¼-inch (6-mm) pieces
2 tablespoons apple cider vinegar
2 tablespoons light brown sugar
2 apples, peeled and cut into ½-inch (12-mm) cubes
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
¼ teaspoon ground ginger
1 cinnamon stick
¼ teaspoon salt
Pinch black pepper
• To make the latkes, preheat the oven to 450°F (230°C). When the oven is hot, pour 2 tablespoons of oil onto 2 jelly roll pans and turn them in every direction so that the oil coats the pans. Heat the pans in the oven for 5 minutes.
• Place the onions and scallions in the bowl of a food processor and chop them into small pieces. Place them in a medium bowl. Shred the potatoes by hand on the large holes of a box grater or in a food processor with the shredding blade, and place in the bowl. Add the lemon juice, eggs, baking powder, potato starch, salt, and pepper and mix well.
• Very carefully (I mean really carefully; move very slowly) remove one of the pans and use your hands or a spoon to scoop up and drop clumps of the potato mixture, a little less than ¼ cup, onto the pan. I use my hands. Press the mixture down to flatten it a little.
• Place the pan in the oven for 10 to 12 minutes and immediately remove the second oiled pan. Repeat the same process with the remaining potato mixture and bake the second pan of latkes for 10 to 12 minutes. Bake them until the edges are well browned, and then with a slotted spatula turn them over and cook the latkes for another 8 to 10 minutes, or until the bottoms are browned. May be made 2 days in advance and reheated in the oven.
• Meanwhile, to make the applesauce, heat the oil in a small saucepan over medium heat. Add the onions and cook them for 3 minutes, until they soften. Add the vinegar and brown sugar and cook for another 3 minutes. Add the apples, coriander, ginger, cinnamon stick, salt, and pepper, and cook, covered, on low heat for 15 minutes, or until the apples are soft. Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes and then purée it, using an immersion blender or a food processor. May be made 4 days in advance and served warm or cold.