Reshas are light, crunchy crackers that are twisted into a pretzel shape. Noted Ladino scholar and beloved friend of Neil and the entire Rhodesli community Moshe Lazar explains that the name resha derives from rejas, the Spanish word for ironwork, since the pretzel shapes of the crackers look like the fancy ironwork that adorned many Spanish courtyards.By
Whether it was the Arboretum in Arcadia, the Huntington Library in Pasadena or SeaWorld in San Diego, Neil’s mother and her friends would always find a bench with the best view and settle in for “Sephardic Snack Time.” I can just see young Neil with his pudgy cheeks munching on his favorite treat—reshas with kashkaval or kasseri cheese. He might be second generation American, but he still grew up eating the foods of the old, old country: Spain (by way of the exiled community of Rhodes).
Reshas are light, crunchy crackers that are twisted into a pretzel shape. Noted Ladino scholar and beloved friend of Neil and the entire Rhodesli community Moshe Lazar explains that the name resha derives from rejas, the Spanish word for ironwork, since the pretzel shapes of the crackers look like the fancy ironwork that adorned many Spanish courtyards.
Some Sephardic bakers use a reshas recipe that includes sugar and orange juice and those are delicious. I prefer to keep them savory. This is a simple yeast and flour recipe that my mother-in-law Becky Sheff gave me many years ago. The dough rises for an hour, then is punched down and allowed to rise for another half hour. Twisting the dough into a pretzel shape requires a bit of practice and a little patience, so feel free to roll the dough into simple sticks or small circles. After shaping, the reshas are coated in an egg wash and generously sprinkled with toasted sesame seeds. To prevent the sesame seeds from flying all over the place, I prepare a bowl of seeds and a bowl of water, then I dip my wet finger into the sesame seeds and press them into the resha.
The trick to a really good, extra crispy resha is the step called “bizcochare,” where you double bake the cracker. You bake once to achieve a golden color and then rebake at a low temperature.
This recipe yields a large quantity of crackers. You can halve the recipe, but just know that reshas keep for weeks in an airtight container and they are so good that they will be consumed pretty quickly.
My family loves reshas with our Shabbat Desayuno (breakfast) of burekas, huevos haminados (brown eggs), olives and cheeses. My father enjoys them with his afternoon coffee.
(Makes approx. four dozen reshas)
4 tablespoons dry yeast
1 teaspoon sugar
3 ½ cups warm water
10 cups flour
¾ cup oil
2 teaspoons kosher salt
2 eggs for egg wash
Preheat oven to 350°F
In a glass bowl, combine the yeast, sugar and water, then set aside and allow to proof for 10 minutes.
In a stand mixer, use the dough hook to combine the yeast mixture, oil, flour and salt. After five minutes of mixing, the dough should be smooth.
Cover the dough with a dish towel and let rise for an hour, Punch the dough down and let rise for another half an hour.
Cut the dough into four balls. Take one ball at a time and separate into small walnut size balls, then roll each ball into a strip of dough and tie into a pretzel shape.
Place each resha on a parchment lined baking sheet.
Brush the reshas with egg wash and sprinkle with sesame seeds.
Bake the reshas for 15 minutes or until golden in color. Allow them to cool completely. Lower oven to 200°F and bake reshas for one hour.
Store cooled reshas in an airtight container or jar.
Rachel Sheff and Sharon Gomperts have been friends since high school. They love cooking and sharing recipes. They have collaborated on Sephardic Educational Center projects and community cooking classes. Find recipe video clips and recipes on Instagram SEPHARDIC SPICE GIRLS and Facebook SEPHARDIC SPICE SEC FOOD.