When Bread Recipes (and Cultures) Intertwine: Alain Cohen's Pretzel Challah
What do pretzels and challah have in common? Not much. At least until the two met at Got Kosher? Provisions, a take-out shop on Pico Boulevard just west of Robertson. Chef-owner Alain Cohen introduced a pretzel challah in January, and has watched sales zoom. He's had to double oven capacity and add a night shift so that customers can have all the pretzel challah they want (there's traditional challah too).
Photo credit: Barbara Hansen Alain Cohen and his pretzel challah
The pretzel version isn't ordinary challah twisted into a pretzel. It's a lighter dough braided like classic challah, then immersed in a baking soda solution and sent to the oven, emerging with a glistening, deep mahogany crust and pretzel flavor. "I've always loved the pretzel," says Cohen, so that became the first in his line of gourmet challahs.
A skilled chef, Cohen worked in his father's restaurant growing up in Paris, where his parents settled after emigrating from Tunisia. In Los Angeles since 1981, he began cooking kosher meals for friends, then started wholesaling pre-packaged kosher foods to companies that wanted kosher options in their food service outlets.
A year ago, Cohen opened the retail shop, where all the food is dairy-free. It's a cafĂ© too, with a few tables on the sidewalk, grab-and-go prepared foods and a long menu of kosher dishes that require advance order. In addition to plain pretzel challah, Cohen now offers pretzel challah with Belgian chocolate chunks, a whole wheat version, one sprinkled with sea salt and another with onions inside and out.
At first the breads were available only on Friday, baked for that night's Shabbat dinner. Now, some form of pretzel challah is available daily, emerging from the ovens around 3 p.m.
Got Kosher? Provisions: 8914 W. Pico Blvd., Los Angeles, (310) 858-1920.
Barbara Hansen also writes at TableConversation.