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Archive for the ‘sweets’ Category

Remember my mixer? The one that leapt to its death like a goldfish from its tank?

What? Am I the only one who had lemming-like goldfish growing up?

Well anyway, the old  has been been replaced  by a bigger, shinier model. I have not yet had a chance to make (or share the recipe for) the challah that challenged my mixer to a duel and won. But I have used my new toy twice already and I was very glad for the extra room in the big bowl. I broke it in with ka’ak b’sukar (yes, you do need to be careful when pronounching the name of these Syrian butter cookies). A pear frangipane tart quickly followed. The tart is on its way, but let’s first talk about the cookies.

I first tried sweet ka’ak b’sukar (sukar means sugar) in Israel when staying with my friend Zoe’s Syrian grandmother. Her Jedda (Arabic for grandmother) welcomed us into her home overlooking Jerusalem with a plate of pale twisted cookies and a pot of tea. My first impression was that they were a bit bland. By the fourth taste though, I was reaching for a fifth. I was hooked. Before going to bed, I’d find my hand making its way over to the cookie tin next to the stove. When I couldn’t sleep, I’d gingerly tip-toe across the cold ceramic floor, refreshing in the hot August night, and reach into that tin again. While waiting for the water to boil for coffee in the morning, I’d snag a few more. After three days, Zoe’s grandmother had to make another batch. The evening of my flight home, she gave me everything that was left in the tin.

I was so excited to find this ka’ak recipe that I didn’t look beyond the list of ingredients and the pretty cookies staring at me from the right side of the page. I threw four eggs and a cup and a half of sugar into my (new!) mixer bowl and started to beat. As I gathered the rest of the ingredients and finally read past the first step, I saw that the sugar was supposed to be divided – one cup in the mixer, the remaining half cup for coating the cookies.

The fix was easy — I made a larger batch. And it seemed fitting that my mixer’s six quart bowl easily fit the over seven cups of flour.

Ka’ak b’sukar (braided sugar cookies)

This is the recipe that I used, essentially one and a half times the original. If you have a smaller bowl, multiply all quantities by 2/3. Depending on how large you make you cookies, the full recipe makes about 50-60 cookies. They are meant to remain somewhat soft after baking (they’re not crispy at all).

- 6 eggs

- 1.5 C sugar, plus more for finishing the cookies

- 1 orange (to make 1 T zest)

- 1 T vanilla extract

- 1.5 C vegetable oil

- 7.5 C flour

- 1.5 T baking powder

 Mix. In the bowl of your stand mixer, beat eggs, sugar, zest, vanilla, and oil. Slowly add the flour and baking powder until you get a sticky well-blended dough.

Chill. Refrigerate the dough for 15 minutes.

Preheat. Preheat oven to 350ºF.

Shape. If dough is too sticky to handle when you remove from the fridge, add a small amount of flour and mix everything together with your hands. Keep adding tablespoon by tablespoon of flour and mixing until it  no longer sticks to your fingers. Don’t flour the counter. Take a handful of dough and roll it on the counter into a strand about 1/2 inch thick. Bring the two ends together, folding the strand in half. Holding the folded over side, gently twist the doubled strand several times until it looks like a rope. Cut the rope into pieces that are 2 to 3 inches long. For me, most ropes yielded two cookies.

Roll. Pour some sugar onto a small plate. Lightly roll the twisted cookies in the sugar to coat.

Bake. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment. Place the cookies on the sheet about an inch apart. Bake for 8-10 minutes. The cookies should remain very pale, with only a tiny bit of browning on the bottom where some of the sugar caramelizes.

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grill? yes I will!

In the months before Christmas, I started a class
of chopping and stirring and cooking with gas.

I dragged myself up every Sunday at eight.
Luck’ly they set out strong coffee to wait.

Knife skills and techniques were taught on week one,
but at home were dull knives that weren’t much fun.

Week two was eggs that we poached, whipped, and scrambled.
We made a soufflé even I could have handled.

On week three, we learned that a good stock should jiggle,
but without salt and acid, soup surely will fizzle.

The fourth week was braising, keep temperatures low,
to make cabbage and short ribs and osso bucco.

When week six was sauces, I made béchamel;
I took home a pear so the recipe I could tell.

But wait! You’ve just noticed — where’s the fifth week?
Oh you smart readers, nothing past you can I sneak!

Week five as you know, was on hot hot hot heat.
For my part, I set forth with grilling some meat.

Other types of dry heat, we also did try,
from broiling to roasting to deep deep fat fry.

You may not have realized, but until that day,
I’d never tried frying or grilling, no way!

I faced deep fat frying just earlier this week,
with sufganiyot – fancy doughnuts, so to speak.

But I think grill cooking and taking out trash
are jobs for a man, and I’ll flutter my lash.

Though I’m planning to try – only grilling, of course -
with a grill pan I own, or another resource.

I’ll start this “man’s task” with a feminine flair,
with fruit and with teacake and other sweet fare.

And, in case you are wondering, although I will grill,
the trash taking out will remain my worst skill.

 

Grilled fruit

A lot of different fruits can apparently be grilled. While my cooking partner and I were waiting for our meat to marinate, we scrounged around the kitchen for other things to grill. We found pears and grapefruits and set to work. We cut the fruit into good sized chunks that wouldn’t fall down the grill grates. For the pears, we made 4 cuts around the core. For the grapefruit, we made about 4 slices perpendicular to the fruit segments. We then brushed all surfaces with a little olive oil (I’m sure melted butter would be great too), a nice sprinkle or two of sugar, and a small pinch of salt (if you want). Fire up the grill. Or, if you are like me and only have indoor cookery, put your grill pan on medium heat. When your grill (pan) is hot, place the fruit on the grill. Let it cook for about 5 minutes on each side for harder fruit (apples, pears) or 2-3 mintues per side for citrus. Just like with meat, the fruit is ready when it releases itself from the grill (pan) – if you have to tug at it, leave it be for a minute more.

Grilled cranberry-orange zinfadel bread with orange mascarpone cream

We made these “breads” as tea cakes in mini loaf pans. They would obviously work just as well in 2 large loaf pans. I think the cake is great as is, but excellent with the extra texture and flavor from the grill. When you make the dough – think of it  like pancake batter – you don’t want to over mix. Instead you want the ingredients to just barely come together.

For the cranberry-orange zinfandel bread:

- 1/4 C oil

- 2 eggs, slightly beaten

- 4 C flour

- 1 1/2 C sugar

- 1 t salt

- 1 T baking powder

- 1 t baking soda

- 1 C walnuts or pecans

- 3 C whole raw cranberries

- 2/3 C fresh orange juice

- 1/2 C white zinfancel

- 2 oz melted butter

For the orange mascarpone cream:

- 1 C (8 oz) mascarpone

- 1 t orange zest

- 3 T fresh orange juice

- 1 T orange liqueur (Cointreau, triple sec, Grand Marnier)

- 1 T confectioner’s sugar

Prep. Preheat oven to 350°F. Lightly butter/oil and flour 2 loaf pans, 6 mini loaf pans, or 2 dozen muffin tins. Toast nuts in the heated oven for 10-15 minutes – the second you start smelling the nuts, grab them from the oven. Check them at about 7 minutes. When the cool a bit, chop them up into medium sized chunks.

Mix. In a large bowl, mix oil and eggs well. Then add the dry ingredients – flour, sugar, salt, baking powder, and baking soda. Stir this all together until it just barely combines — the mix will be a bit crumbly. Fold in nuts and cranberries. Then add juice and zinfancel and stir until just blended.

Bake. Pour batter into the greased and floured pans. Bake for approximately 1 hour or until a toothpick comes out dry.

Grill. Turn on  your grill (or get your grill pan ready). When the bread is cool, slice it into 3/4-inch slices. Brush with melted butter and grill slices 3-4 minutes on each side.

Make mascarpone cream. In a bowl, whisk mascarpone until smooth. Add zest, orange juice, orange liqueur, and sugar and whisk until well blended.

Eat. Top a grilled cake slice (or two) with a big blob of mascarpone cream.

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between mouthfuls

Happy Hanukkah everyone!

This year, I started celebrating the night before the first night of the holiday. I didn’t light any candles, but I could have said a shehecheyanu — the blessing traditionally recited on the first night of Hanukkah, other holidays, and special occasions. This was a special occasion alright. Because I fried.

And fried.

And fried.

Yesterday, a friend sent me from Israel a recipe for sufganiyot. Excited to try a batch that very night, I left work a little early to pick up what I needed. A bag of flour. A bag of sugar. A dozen eggs. Yeast. And two gallons of oil.

That’s right. Two gallons.

And then I rushed home to mix and knead the dough so it would have enough time to rise in time for dessert.

An hour later, my friend Ilana came over. She claimed she could smell the sweet rising dough from her apartment a few blocks away.

We checked the dough to see if it had doubled. We looked at each other and shrugged. Neither of us had ever made sufganiyot before. We decided the dough wasn’t quite ready and covered it back up with a damp towel.

I poured wine and heated up soup as we settled in to watch a few recent Top Chef episodes. We’re a few weeks behind, so please don’t ruin the surprise and tell us what happens. If you can restrain yourselves, then I’ll be sure to share with you really really soon the recipe for the mushroom soup that we ate.

One glass of wine and half a Top Chef in, I checked the dough and we were ready to roll. Literally.

I sprinkled flour on the counter, grabbed a rolling pin and set to work. The soft elastic dough gave way, fanning out across the granite. Ilana grabbed a glass from the cabinet and cut circles out of the dough. I gathered the scraps and re-rolled them, and Ilana cut out the rest.

I floured a pair of cookie sheets and we gently lifted the rounds from the counter and slid them on to the sheets to rise again.

An hour later, the flat rounds had become nice and plump, with a slight jiggle when I reached out to touch their smooth skin.

The oil started to bubble in my new cocotte (thanks, mom and dad!) placed over the biggest burner on my stove. Ilana dropped the first dough scrap into the pool. In a flood of bubbles, it browned up fast. Too fast. We lowered the heat. The second and third scraps quickly browned too. We lowered the heat again. And then lowered in another scrap. It floated on the oil, staying pale and wan. We turned up the heat. With the fifth scrap came a flurry of teeny tiny bubbles and slow trickle of larger ones. The triangular scrap puffed up even more, turning golden and then coffee-with-a-touch-of-milk brown.

A quick taste and we knew we were ready for the real deal.

I scooched the first doughnut towards the edge of the cookie sheet, helping it along the way with a spatula, and slid it into the oil. A quick bob in the oil and then a float, it turned golden to brown and was ready to be flipped. A few more minutes and it landed on the paper towel-lined countertop. Several more batches and we had an army of plump beauties lined up at attention.

Armed with a new turkey baster, I pierced the side of one of the sufganiyot, gently nudged the tip into the center and slowly squeezed the bulb, drawing the tip backwards to the edge, leaving a trail of jam behind.

We tore open this first sufganiyah and, between mouthfuls, filled the rest.

The final touch – I showered them with powdered sugar.

As we plucked up the sufganiyot, they left their chubby little outlines behind.

Sufganiyot

These doughnuts are traditionally filled with bright reddish-pink jelly though in Israel they come in all flavors. I used raspberry jam. Next time I’ll try dulce de leche. Using a drinking glass to cut the dough, we were able to make about a dozen doughnuts (but only eight made it to the office with me this morning).

- 2 packets dry yeast (or 2 T)
- 3/4 C warm water (body temperature — I take it from the tap)
- 1 C whole milk (you can use water instead if you’d like to keep the sufganiyot non-dairy)
- 3/4 C sugar
- 6 T shortening or margarine (Crisco works great here)
- 1 t salt
- 2 eggs
- 5 C flour (or more)
- 1 gallon (or more) vegetable oil (vegetable or peanut oil is best; canola oil works ok too)
- confectioner’s sugar

Proof. Mix yeast with warm water and a pinch of sugar. After about 5 minutes, it will foam up.

Heat. Warm milk in a pan over low heat until it reaches body temperature.

Mix. In a large bowl, mix sugar, shortening, and salt until creamy (I used my barely-functional waiting-for-the-new-one-to-arrive mixer on low speed and it hobbled along, so you could probably do just as well the old-fashioned way). Add eggs and mix. Add yeast mixture and milk and continue to mix. Add 2 cups of the flour. Beat in the remaining flour a half-cup at a time until the dough is very elastic and no longer sticks to the bowl. I had to add a total of 6 cups.

Knead. Knead dough for 5-10 minutes. I started kneading in my mixer and then finished up the last few minutes by hand on a floured counter.

Rise. Put dough in a greased bowl. Cover with a damp towel and let rise in a warm place until it doubles in bulk – at least an hour. I heat my oven to the lowest temperature possible (170ºF) and then turn it off and leave the covered bowl inside to rise.

Knead. Once dough has doubled, knead it again briefly.

Roll. Roll the dough out on a floured counter until it is about 1/2 thick.

Cut. Using a drinking glass to cut the dough into rounds. Re-roll the scraps and cut the rest of the rounds. These (the rounds from the re-rolled dough) will need to rise a little bit longer than the others. Keep the remaining scraps to test the oil.

Rise again. Place the rounds on a well-floured cookie sheet (ideally the kind without edges) so the dough is easier to slide right off into the oil. Let rise again until double, at least another hour. The rounds will get nice and round.

Heat. Fill a really wide pot with high sides with oil and heat over low to medium heat. Remember those scraps left over? Gently slide one into the oil. If one side browns in 1-2 minutes, the oil is too hot. If it takes more than 5 minutes, the oil is not hot enough. You’ll probably need to test and adjust the temperature a few times. The oil is perfect when you it forms a lot of teeny tiny rolling bubbles around the dropped dough. I checked the oil temperature with a meat thermometer – it was 310ºF. I’m not sure how accurate using a meat thermometer is; most recipes call for the oil to be 350ºF.

Fry! Once you’ve got the oil at the right temperature, lower the cookie sheet close to the surface of the oil and scootch your first roly-poly round into the oil. Tiny bubbles should surround the doughnut. When the first side puffs up and reaches a nice brown (a bit darker than “golden”), flip it over. It took us about 3-4 minutes per side. And we made about 3-4 per batch.

Drain. Cover your counter or a few plates with several layers with paper towels. Using a slotted spoon, remove the sufganiyot from the oil onto the paper towels and drain off excess oil.

Fill. Load a turkey baster with whatever filling you want to use. Poke it into the side of a doughnut as far as it will go. Slowly and steadily squeeze the filling into the sufganiyah while gently pulling back to the edge of the doughnut.

Dust. Sift confectioner’s sugar over the top of the sufganiyot.

Eat. The sufganiyot are best fresh, but they will last about 24 hours if well wrapped.

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belle of the ball

Today was the sixth and final class of my cooking techniques course.

But wait, you might be asking yourself, isn’t it a six-week course? And then you’ll calculate, haven’t you only posted four classes? Finally you’ll wonder, what happened to class number five?

I can’t put anything past you guys.

Turns out that one of the recipes that we made today in sauces class was just too good to not share immediately.

I hope you don’t mind that I’ve gone out of order. I’m almost done writing up recipes from our fifth class on dry heat – grilling, broiling, roasting, frying. And eventually I’ll share more about the sauces that we made today — the five “mother” (base) sauces and several “small” (derived) sauces). But for now, let’s just get on with it.

But wait, you might be asking yourself as you scroll past all this text, where are the pictures? Why is there only one?

Turns out, I left my camera at home today. Ironically, as I struggled this morning to wake up, snoozing for 4 minutes and 59 seconds at a time, I dreamt  (nightmared?) about driving to class, left hand on the wheel, right rifling through my purse. Two phones. Two sets of keys. One pair of sunglasses. One wallet. One lip balm. One lipstick. One eyeliner. Zero camera.

Seven snoozes later, I jumped in the shower, threw on some semblance of an outfit, and swung my purse onto the passenger seat of my car. Halfway to class, I glanced over at my purse. No rifling necessary, I knew my camera was sitting alone on my desk. Both hands on the wheel, I sighed.

In class, my partner and I worked on a béchamel sauce that served as the base for potato and zucchini noodle-less “lasagna.”

As the class drew to a close, we filled the center of the table a with a parade of platters. Fashionably late to the table came the belle of the ball: red-tinged pears floating on a lake of vanilla-flecked crème anglaise and drizzled with caramel.

I had been watching this dish come together all morning. Peeking under the parchment at the pears. Sliding a spoon into the crème anglaise. Scraping up the last bits of caramel coating the nearly-empty pan. You know how much I love pears with red wine and caramel.

The table finally set, everyone turned to me. This would make a great picture. Can you photograph my dish? Oh, how about catching it at this angle.

Empty-handed, I shrugged. I forgot my camera at home, I said. I shrugged again. But maybe I can take one or two things home to photograph. If there’s anything left.

I counted as one-by-one my classmates moved towards the pears. One, two, three pears onto plates. Another split between a couple. Four into little bowls. Five more onto plates. Three more swimming on the platter.

Does anyone mind if I take the last few pears home? I just want to take a few pictures. Because I left my camera at home.

What a good excuse.

No one minded.

~~~~~

Before I keep you from the recipe any longer, I did want to thank all of you who have voted for Kosher Camembert as the 2011 Best Kosher Food Blog.I was nominated alongside some of my favorite kosher blogs and websites and you should definitely check out the competition. Of course, if you do like my blog, please do vote, share my blog, and spread the word.

~~~~~

Pears poached in red wine with crème anglaise and caramel

This recipe can be as simple or as complex as you want it.  In a healthy mood? Make only the poached pears. Red wine give you a headache? Use white wine or tea or even water instead of the red wine and adding some cinnamon (or your favorite spice) to the poaching liquid for extra flavor. Want to add a little more sweetness? Freeze the poaching liquid and make sorbet. Love vanilla? Make the crème anglaise. Love ice cream? Double the crème anglaise recipe and freeze it. Hosting a fancy dinner? Make the caramel and crème anglaise.

And then invite me to dinner.

A quick note on making all three recipes in parallel. I’d start by preparing the pears and while they’re poaching, start the crème anglaise. While the vanilla is steeping in the milk for the crème anglaise, finish up the pears. I wouldn’t do anything while making the caramel.

For poached pears: These are generally served chilled and can actually be refrigerated for up to 2 days.

- 1 2-inch vanilla bean

- 2 C light red wine

- 1 C sugar

- 1 C water

- 2 strips orange zest

- 1 strip lemon zest

- 4 small Bosc pears (~1 1/4 lbs.)

Simmer. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla beans into a saucepan (large enough to fit all the pears). Add vanilla pod, wine, sugar, water, and zests and  bring to a simmer.

Peel. Peel, halve, and core the pears (or keep them whole). We used a melon baller to core the pears.

Keep simmering. Add the pears to the simmering liquid (they should be mostly submerged in the poaching liquid), cover with parchment paper, and cook over medium-high heat until just tender - this can take anywhere from 15-45 minutes, depending on the type, ripeness, and thickness of the pears. Our Boscs were pretty firm and cut in half, and they took about 30 minutes.

Chill. Chill the pears for up to a day or two in their poaching liquid.

Optional: Freeze. Taste the poaching liquid – you want it to be really sweet, almost too sweet, for sorbet. Add some sugar if you want. Strain out the citrus and vanilla bean, and throw it in an ice cream maker. Or, freeze the liquid on a flat pan and then use an immersion blender to aerate. Or, do the same with crème anglaise and you’ve got vanilla ice cream.

Optional: Reduce. If you want, reduce the liquid down to a syrup and strain out the citrus and vanilla bean.

For caramel sauce: You do have to watch caramel very closely because it can burn. More importantly, it can burn you. When you add the butter and cream, it will bubble up violently and can splatter. So use a long whisk. Very long. Also, you can use different liquids; for example, you can replace the water with red wine or lavender water. To make lavender water, heat water with dried lavender buds and let infuse for a few hours (or longer) and strain before using.

- 1 C sugar

- 1/2 C water

- a few sprinkles of lemon juice

- 6 T butter, cut into chunks

- 1/2 C heavy cream

- salt

Heat and stir. In a large (2-3 quart, with high sides) heavy bottomed saucepan, heat sugar, water and a few drops of lemon juice over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar is dissolved (a “simple syrup“).

Stop stirring. Once sugar mixture comes to a boil, stop stirring.

Boil. Boil mixture, swirling pan as needed until a caramel forms – should be a dark golden brown. Remember, don’t stir.

Be careful.  Immediately add the butter to the pan and whisk until melted. The mix will foam up. Once the butter is melted, take the pan off the heat, pause for a few seconds, and then add cream, whisking until smooth. The mix will foam up now too. Once everything is whisked together, you’re done. Add a few pinches of salt. Keep warm over very low heat until you’re ready to serve.

For crème anglaise: Crème anglaise is a cold sauce that’s the base for ice cream. It’s also called English or stirred custard.

- 1 vanilla bean

- 1 C milk

- 4 egg yolks

- 1/3 C sugar

- pinch of salt

- ice

Scald. Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into a saucepan with milk, and add vanilla bean pod as well. Scald the milk. The milk is scalded when you put your finger in it and it’s hot (not burning).

Steep. Take the milk off the heat and let the vanilla bean steep for 30-60 hours.

Whisk.  Lightly whisk the egg yolks. Gradually add the sugar and a pinch of salt, and keep whisking until you get a pale yellow sauce that forms ribbons when dropped from a spoon.

Pour and stir. Remove vanilla pod from the cooled milk and slowly pour it in a steady stream into the egg yolks and sugar, while stirring.

Heat and stir. Place the mixture over medium  heat and keep stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth and coats the back of the wooden spoon. DO NOT BOIL – temperature should not exceed 180ºF.

Strain. Strain through a fine mesh seive into a bowl set over an ice water bath.

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to her table

My grandmother – the one on my father’s side – was a school teacher. Kindergarten in fact. She had a smile and something nice to say to everyone. She kept cookies in her car to give to toll collectors. She couldn’t sit in a restaurant without engaging the baby at the next table. She kept a list next to her kitchen phone of birthdays and anniversaries. 

Every time Bubbie  took the train down from Philadelphia to visit us, she would collect piles of paper Amtrak conductor hats for us (and her students). One of my favorite memories is her wearing one of those conductor hats and leading all of the grandchildren in a parade around the island in my aunt’s kitchen. Well, she was the caboose, leading from behind, but the conductor nonetheless.

Before she and my grandfather passed away, we had Thanksgiving at their house every year.

I loved that house. When they bought it, Poppie had two requirements – it had to be made out of brick and its street number had to be 212 – the boiling point of water. He was an engineer and was in the Army Air Corps (precursor to the US Airforce) when he met Bubbie (before she was a bubbie).

Whenever we pulled into their driveway, I would run to the front door. I never had to ring the doorbell or knock because the door was always open behind the screen. I could step right into the living room with its rocking chair, fireplace and potbelly stove. The first floor formed a circle around the stairwell. I used follow that circuit like it was a train track and I was the engine. Through the living room into the den past the bathroom into the pink kitchen around the corner to the dining room and back to the front door.

Thanksgiving at Bubbie and Poppie’s was a family affair on par with Pesach. But with bread and no long prelude to dinner. Food and family was the event. And Bubbie reigned over it. You could say she was the train conductor. At least she had the hat for it.

Bubbie directed my dad to add the leaf to the dining room table. Then we added another table. Every once in a while we added a third, the table chugging through the doorway into the living room, past the front door  towards that potbelly stove.

She directed me to set each place with a dinner and salad plate, two forks, two spoons, one knife, two glasses, and a napkin in a napkin ring.  There were always napkin rings. Bubbie had to remind me to put the napkins on the left next to the forks. Because I always forgot and put them on the right. Sometimes I still do.

Bubbie directed my mother to add fresh dill to the chicken soup. My uncle Michael to stud the sweet potatoes with marshmallows. My aunt Leslie, whom I call Sessie, to cut the vegetables. My aunt Linda to entertain me with stories of when I was younger, like the time when I woke  up her and Michael in the den on the sofabed, holding a diaper and asking to be changed.

Bubbie removed from the fridge the applesauce she had made from scratch. It’s my dad’s favorite.

The first to arrive was always Bubbie’s “kid” brother Sidney who walked in with the tell-tale click-clicking of a box of tictacs in his shirt pocket and a still-dripping bucket of pickles and olives plucked from the barrel at his favorite pickler. He always had always a fresh twenty for each of the kids.

And then everyone else arrived with those kids. Everyone seems to remember my chasing my cousin Gary around the meandering table, shouting, “Gawee…Gawee…” I will deny it if you ask me.

Around this time of the evening, Uncle Sidney would just turn the volume down on his hearing aid.

Before the parade of dishes, we would pour the wine, Poppie would make a toast, and Bubbie would say shehecheyanu – a prayer of thanks for bringing the whole family together to her table.

Dinner started with soup. And then turkey filled with stuffing.  Cranberry sauce from a can with mandarin oranges.  Salad. Green beans. Roasted potatoes. And those sweet sweet potatoes.

We’d clear the table and then the adults would retire to the sofa in the living room for a few minutes and the kids would gather on the floor in front of the TV to watch The Wizard of Oz.

It was only recently that I ever saw the end of the movie, because once dessert was on the table, no one cared about those red ruby slippers anymore.

Dessert started with a fruit-filled jello mold. Really, every year, a jello mold. And then pumpkin pie, and my favorite - my mother’s chocolate chip pound cake.

When Bubbie passed away, we transferred her china and silver to Sessie’s nearby house.

Sessie hosted most holiday meals after that, carrying on the tradition of keeping the family together. Sometimes we fit at the dining room table. Sometimes we need three tables lined up in the living room. Sometimes we set out the good china and silver. Sometimes we set out the everyday dishes.

This year, I offered to help plan our Thanksgiving menu. Here’s what we’ve got so far:

Wild mushroom soup

Green salad

Turkey

Cornbread stuffing

Cranberry sauce from a can *sigh* because my mother loves it

Green beans with lemon sauce

Roasted butternut squash with balsamic onions

Bread – probably something with some combination of cranberry-orange-pumpkin-whole wheat

Fruit platter

Pumpkin pie

Chocolate chip pound cake

So far, our count is at 9. I think we’ll still fit around Sessie’s dining room table to say shehecheyanu.

** A slightly modified version of this post, along with my recipe for roasted butternut squash with balsamic onions, first appeared a week ago on KosherEye. **

Chocolate chip pound cake

This is the cake my mom made most often when I was a kid. She got the recipe from her good friend Helen. It’s a dense cake studded with chocolate chips that I think is best eaten with a cup of tea or coffee. It’s not a moist, fluffy cake, but it’s what I grew up with and I like it this way. Also, we always coat the chocolate chips with some flour before adding them to the cake so that they don’t all sink to the bottom. I’m not sure it makes a difference, but, well, that’s what we do.

This recipe makes a huge cake and I often end up freezing half. Actually, I might like the frozen cake even better, snuck out of the freezer in the middle of the night, unwrapped from its plastic, and cut into a sliver or two with the false hope that no one would notice.  Luckily, growing up with a chocoholic dad meant that generally any sweets theft was assumed to be his. Sorry dad!

- 1 C margarine or butter

- 1 C sugar

- 4 eggs

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 C almond milk, non-dairy creamer, or milk (I use almond milk, my mom uses the non-dairy creamer)

- 3 C flour + a little more

- 1 T baking powder

- 1-2 C chocolate chips

Prep. Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease a bundt (or whatever) pan – this is not necessary if you’re using non-stick…which I highly recommend. Put chocolate chips and a few pinches of flour in a ziplock bag and shake to coat the chips.

Mix. Cream margarine/butter and sugar until light yellow. Add eggs one at a time, mixing in between. Add vanilla. Add a little almond milk, then a little sifted flour and baking powder. Keep alternating liquid and flour mixture until they are both added. I usually do this in about 3 rounds. Add the flour-coated chocolate chips and mix by hand.

Bake. Pour batter into a bundt pan (or whatever you have). Bake 55-60 minutes until golden brown on top and a toothpick comes out clean. If you’re dividing the cake between two loaf pans, which my mom often does, bake for 30-40 minutes. Note, if you freeze the entire second loaf, no one can really get away with sneaking slivers undetected.

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the chase

This recipe.

This recipe.

I’ve been chasing it for a long time.

It started with a birthday (Alyson‘s) and a pan that I had bought over Thanksgiving last year. Last year, folks.

It continued with a pâte sucrée that took months to perfect.

There were few false starts. The caramel burned. The pâte fell apart. The caramel burned again. And then.

And then one tarte had the potential for greatness. The wine and sugar caramelized. The pears softened. The pâte rolled out and tucked in beautifully.

But then.   

But then it fell short.

Note to self, peel and cut more pears to fill the center.

And finally, finally last week, perfection. Or pretty damn close.

Or course, when the tarte cooperates, the sun does not.

I actually placed the tarte on a rolling cart and chased the sun around my apartment. I finally got one good shot of the whole tarte in all its glory. Scroll back up to the top if you want to relive this shining moment.

Ilana came over to “taste” this year’s version of the tarte.

There wasn’t very much left over.

Tarte Tatin aux Poires et Vin

Serves 6-8. (Or 1 hungry Ilana.)

This tarte was inspired by a recipe in Food & Wine but unfortunately I found the proportions, use of puff pastry, and cooking time to be off target, resulting in a burnt mess on my first attempt. Instead, I adapted the tarte tatin recipe included with my tarte pan to incorporate red wine into the caramel and replace traditional apples with pears. This is a recipe that is not for the faint of heart. There’s a crust to make from scratch. Caramel to try not to burn. A breath-stopping flip of a juicy tarte. This is a special occasion dessert.

- 2 C red wine (I’ve made it with house red, Bordeaux, and Cabernet)

- 2 cinnamon sticks

- 1/4 C butter (or margarine)

- 1/2 C sugar

- 3-4 Bartlett or d’Anjou pears

- 1 batch pâte brisée or sucrée (see below) or prepared pie crust

Preheat. Preheat oven to 400°F

Reduce. Bring wine and cinnamon sticks to a boil, reducing down to about 1/4 C of syrup. This takes about 10 minutes. The kitchen will start to smell like cinnamon.

Caramelize. In the tarte tatin pan, melt butter/margarine with the sugar and stir frequently over low-medium heat (I use #3 – 4 on my induction stove) until it starts to turn a golden brown. Watch carefully. Really carefully. The second it starts to turn brown, take it off the heat. Turn down the heat and return the pan to the burner and let it get a little more golden. Watch it like a hawk. Add the wine syrup and simmer on low.

Cut. While the wine is boiling and then the sugar is caramelizing, peel and core the pears. I used a mini melon baller to help core them. I have made this with halves and quarters and find that while halves may look prettier, quarters are easier to slice and eat.

Cook. Arrange the halves (cut side up) or quarters (on their sides or belly side up if they’ll balance) in a circle around the pan (still on low heat) with thin ends pointed in. Cook for 15 – 20 minutes over low heat. The caramel will bubble up as the pears soften and pear juices seep out.

Roll. Take cold pâte sucrée out of freezer/fridge and roll between two sheets of wax paper into a circle about 1-2 inches larger than your tatin pan. Remove the top sheet, flip the crust over the fruit, and peel away the wax paper, tucking the dough in around the edges. Cut a few slits into the crust so steam can escape.

Bake. Bake 30 minutes until crust turns a nice brown.

Unveil. After cooling the tarte for a few minutes, place a plate (slightly larger than the tatin pan) over the pan, hold your  breath for a second, and carefully flip the tatin on to the plate. Excellent warm or at room temperature. Try it with vanilla ice cream or gelato.

For  pâte sucrée crust:

- 1 1/4 C flour

- 2 T confectioner’s sugar

- 1/4 t salt

- 6 T butter/margarine, partially frozen

- 1 egg yolk

- 3T cold water

Pulse. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor and mix. Add frozen butter/margarine and pulse ~ 10 times until the consistency of corn meal.

Pulse again.  Add egg yolk and 1T cold water, and pulse ~ 5 times.

Pulse again. Add 1T cold water, and pulse ~5 times.

Get the picture? Add the last 1T cold water, a little at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough starts to come together, but is still a bit crumbly.

Wrap. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten out, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Freeze. Freeze for 20 minutes before using. Or freeze until the next time you want to make a galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin – and then defrost at room temperature for about 15 minutes before using.

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say it out loud

It’s apple picking time!Would you believe that I’ve never been? Yup, it’s true. I am an apple picking novice. But no longer.

With a group of friends, some old, some new, I drove about hour outside the city to the North Shore, passing farm stands along the way. It was actually so beautifully sunny that I got a sunburn. These days, I welcome any sunshine and color I can attract.

At the orchard, we forewent the hay ride and took the 15 minute walk (hike?) up to the orchards. On the way, we got in trouble for picking  bosc pears. After I snacked on one and stuck two in my bag.

Ten pounds of apples in a bag, I rushed home to make strudel.

Correction – apfelstrudel. And you have to call it apfelstrudel with a German accent. Roll the Rs in back of your throat. Ap-fel-shtroooodel. Say it out loud.  A few times. It’s fun.

Apfelstrudel with cinnamon caramel

I asked my German friend, Melanie, how she makes apfelstrudel. She laughed. She said she loves it, but have never made it. Even so, she had some important guidelines, er, taste preferences. Luckily our taste buds match up pretty well. Her main recommendation was not to add raisins. Another friend of mine seconded those instructions and, as a frequent strudel maker, gave me a few more tips. Add a little flour to the apples to help thicken the liquids. Cut the apples into larger chunks so they don’t get mushy when they bake. Make sure to stretch the pastry taut over the apple chunks so you can see their shapes through the dough. And use an egg wash over the top before baking. Try adding some toasted pecans or walnuts to the apples. 

This recipe makes 2 apfelstrudels. It’s a great last-minute Rosh Hashanah dessert, but you might have to double this recipe  (you can always have leftovers for breakfast). I held off on the pecans until the next batch.

- 1 box / 2 sheets puff pastry (I generally use Pepperidge Farm)

- 5 large apples – I often use a mix of firm sweet and tart apples – this time I used Jonagold and Granny Smith

- 3 T lemon juice

- 1 C sugar

- 1 T  flour

- 2 T cinnamon

- 1 egg

- confectioners sugar

Thaw. Thaw the puff pastry - don’t unfold it (I find that the pastry can crack at the 2 folds). Thawing takes about 20 minutes at room temperature.

Preheat. Preheat oven to 425º F.

Peel and chop. Peel the apples. Cut them into ~1/2 – 3/4 inch chunks. Not too small.

Mix. Add the apples to a big bowl and toss with the lemon juice. Sprinkle with flour, sugar, and cinnamon and mix.

Roll. Keep the puff pastry folded and place on a floured sheet of parchment paper (the same size as your cookie sheet.  Roll out the puff pastry pretty thin into a rectangle nearly as long as your cookie sheet.

Stretch. Use a slotted spoon to transfer half the apple mixture to the puff pastry in a line a few inches from the long edge. Spread the apples evenly end to end. Try not to get too much liquid onto the pastry – save this liquid in the bowl for later. Take the edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples. Take the opposite edge of the pastry and stretch it over the apples (this is a little easier than rolling the apples). If you have extra pastry, keep stretching and rolling a until the seam side is down. Tuck the ends under.

Brush. Transfer the parchment with the strudel to a baking sheet. Whisk together the egg and some cold water. Brush the egg wash over the top of the strudel. Using a sharp knife, make a few diagonal slices in the dough. This mostly looks pretty.

Bake. Bake the strudel for about 20-25 minutes until golden brown and shiny. Cool for about 10 minutes before eating.

Boil. In a small saucepan, bring the lemon juice – sugar – cinnamon mixture to a  boil. It will thicken into a loose  caramel.

Serve. Once the strudel has cooled, serve slices dusted with confectioners sugar and a side of cinnamon caramel sauce.

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he grabbed my hand

For the past 3 years, I have walked by my neighbor’s house nearly every day, staring at their carport. No, they don’t have a car that I covet. They have grapes that I covet. Big fat juicy concord grapes. I covet concords.

As I walked by their carport this morning I stared up at the vines normally heavy with grapes, and I saw … stems.

A father-son pair stood beneath those naked vines, hosing down the carport. “Good morning,” I said. “What happened to the grapes?”

“We just harvested them,” replied the father.

“Wanna see?” asked the son.

He grabbed my hand and scampered up the stairs. “We just picked boxes and boxes of them. I’m Noah.”

“I’m Gayle. You must really like grapes.”

Noah nodded.

“Are you gonna eat all of them?”

“No. Grampa makes jelly.”

“Wow, that’s a lot of jelly.”

Noah nodded.

“Do you know what I would do with all these grapes?”

Noah shrugged.

“I would make sorbet – it’s kinda like ice cream.”

Noah licked his lips. “Yum!”

“Would you like me to make some ice cream for you?”

Guess who brought  home a big bag of grapes!

The bunches climbed into a colander and took a few cold showers. The grapes said goodbye to their stems and assorted brethren – the travel weary, the old and wrinkly, the young and green.

The best of the crop took a dunk in the hot tub. A long dunk.

When they started to shed their skins, they knew they were done.

They left their skins and seeds behind, and, without a single glance back, dove right in to join their skinny dipping friends.

They then cozied up to a bar for a few cocktails, picked up some sweeties, and puckered up. (I added to the juice vodka, sugar, and lemon juice.)

Now, now, boys. It’s time to cool off. You’re gonna spend the night in the cooler.

These hooligans clean up nice, don’t they?

There was only one casualty.

I’m not sure there’s gonna be much left for Noah. But don’t feel bad for him. He has jelly.

Concord grape sorbet

I found inspiration for this sorbet in a few places. It seems that Gourmet, New York Magazine, and David Lebovitz all discovered and shared this gorgeous concoction in Autumn 2008 and 2009. I’m two to three years late here, folks. I guess that’s better than four years late. I always add some alcohol to sorbet so it keeps a smooth consistency and doesn’t get icy. I liked the NY Magazine version’s addition of a little lemon juice as well. I suspect you could make this with good pure grape juice (but what’s the fun in that?).

To get a smooth, silky texture that’s not icy, I use alcohol and an immersion blender. The alcohol (vodka here) prevents the sorbet from fully freezing. The immersion blender aerates the sorbet and this incorporated air helps with the texture. I happen to have the canister left over from an old Donvier ice cream maker — I keep it in the freezer to quick chill white wine — so that accelerated the process a bit. If you want the sorbet firmer, use less or no vodka. You can also adjust the suger based on the sweetness of the grape juice – as a general rule, sorbet should be a little bit sweeter than the juice (this is the case of all sorbets).

This recipe made approximately a quart (4 cups) of sorbet.

- 3.5 lbs grapes, straight from the vine, or 2.5 lbs grapes only (rinsed, de-stemmed, and yucky ones removed)

- 1/4 C water

- 1/4 C sugar

- 1/4 C vodka

- 2 T lemon juice

Clean. Rinse grapes in cold water, and then sort through, removing stems and any grapes that are dried, split, or green.

Simmer. In a non-reactive pot (I used hard-anonized), simmer, covered, the cleaned grapes with water until the grapes get soft. By this point, the smell of grape juice will entice you back to the kitchen. Give the grapes a stir a few times to loosen the skins. This whole process took about 20 minutes.

Strain. Pour the grape concoction into a fine-mesh sieve in batches, and push juice out into a bowl beneath, leaving the stems and seeds behind. I used a wooden spoon to press out as much juice as I could. I ended up with about 2.5 cups of pure grape juice.

Mix. Add sugar, vodka, and lemon juice to the grape juice and whir a few times with an immersion blender to dissolve the sugar. You’ll use the immersion blender again later.

Freeze and aerate. Pour the grape mix into a bowl, cake pan, or whatever you want and pop it into the freezer. The flatter the container, the quicker the sorbet will freeze. The more alcohol, the slower the sorbet will freeze. After about 2 hours, check on the sorbet. It should be about half frozen. Use the immersion blender to break up any icy bits. Return the sorbet to the freezer and repeat this every hour or so. If you forget and throw the sorbet in the freezer overnight, no problem – it will just take a few extra whirs with the blender to break up the solid mass the next morning.

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my daily bread

The food at our resort in the Dominican Republic was…

…well, it was there.

To be fair, it was plentiful. And there were some nice mangoes. And I had some lovely crêpe Suzette (the chef let me flambé them myself). But by day 2, and every day thereafter, I found myself stuffing a zip lock bag full of the corn bread served at breakfast to sustain me on the beach until dinner. Because we skipped lunch. Because there just wasn’t anything worth leaving that hammock and sunshine for.

So, let’s talk about that cornbread. Cornbread? Not really. It was more like a buttery pound cake with some corn meal thrown in for good measure. There were chocolate and strawberry versions as well, but I stuck with the original. I could fit 4, sometimes 5 slices into a zip lock bag. Bubbie would be proud!

So, imagine this. I’m wearing a little bikini, lying on a hammock on a tropical island, warmed by the sun … and eating pound cake. Actually, better to not imagine me. But you get the picture.

Cornmeal pound cake

I tried a few poundcake recipe and landed on Chocolate and Zucchini’s yogurt cake (“gateau au yaourt”).  It takes longer to pre-heat the oven than it does to mix together the ingredients.  I replace some of the flour with cornmeal to approximate the breakfast cake I had in the DR. The key here, like with pancakes, is not to overmix the batter. The cake is not nearly as rich and butter-laden as the original — and I like it even better. It’s especially great toasted and buttered.

- 1/3 C melted buter

- 2 eggs

- 1 C nonfat plain yogurt – don’t use Greek yogurt….it’s too thick

- 1 C sugar

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 1/2 C flour

- 1/2 C fine ground corn meal

- 1 1/2 t baking powder

- 1/2 t baking soda

- good pinch of salt

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Grease loaf pan (I used a 9X5) with spray oil (or whatever you like). Melt butter (to minimize dishes, I microwaved it right in my large mixing bowl).

Mix. Gently combine butter, eggs, yogurt, sugar and vanilla until well incorporated.

Fold. Sift into the mixing bowl flour, corn meal, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Fold the ingredients together until just mixed. The batter should be somewhat thick and bubbly.

Bake. Bake cake 30-35 minutes until top is golden brown and toothpick comes out clean.

Cool. Cool in pan for 10 minutes and then transfer to rack. Don’t cut until fully cool.

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First, I invited Alyson over for a very low key shabbat dinner. She just moved into a new apartment and and was waiting for her stovetop to be replaced. She would bring salad.  And she had an extra french roast in her freezer — she gave it to me to braise along with some recipe guidelines.

Then Shoshana invited both of us over – she also has a new apartment. I offered to host because I have a dishwasher. She offered to bake challah.

Then Rachela invited all three of us over for an impromptu shabbat dinner. She was going to make fish. I opted for meat at my place and invited her and her husband Gedalia over as well. They brought 2 side dishes, one green, one carb.

I decided to top everything off with a fruit galette with a few farmers market finds.

No one left hungry.

 French Roast, Middle Eastern style

I used the flavors of Ana Sortun‘s spoon lamb mixed with recommendations for cooking a roast from Alyson and few of my cookbooks. While the lamb recipe and other braising recipes call for first browning the meat, most roast recipes do not. This is one of those recipes where you put everything in a pot and come back in 1.5 hours to find it almost done. Another an hour or two in the fridge, and then 15 minutes on the stove top, and dinner is ready to go.

- 2-3 T canola or grapeseed oil

- 5 lb french roast

- 1T (or more) ground cumin

- 3 cloves garlic, smashed

- 6 carrots, peeled and thickly sliced

- 1 large onion, peeled and quartered

- 2 C dry red wine (I used an Israeli red: Yogev 2007 Cabernet Sauvignon – Shiraz)

- 2 T pomegranate concentrate

- 4T cold unsalted margarine, cut into 2 pieces

- Salt and pepper to taste

- 1 lemon

Preheat. Preheat oven to 325°F.

Braise. Cover bottom of a large (make sure there is enough room for the roast to sit comfortably) dutch/french oven/cocotte with half the oil. Settle roast into the cocotte, rub with remaining oil and cover with garlic and cumin. Surround with the onion and carrots. Pour wine around the roast, adding enough water so liquid comes up 1/2 to 3/4 of the way up the meat. Cover tightly and braise for 1.5 – 2 hours. Use a meat thermometer to check the meat – an internal temperature 130°F for medium, 155°F for well done. Mine came out at ~150°F and was a bit too well done for my taste.

Strain and skim. Remove roast and carrots to a plate. Strain braising liquid through cheesecloth into a bowl. Refrigerate until the fat rises to the surface and can be skimmed off and discarded.

Reduce. In the cocotte, simmer the liquid until reduced by half and thickened (~10 minutes). Remove from heat. Stir in pomegranate concentrate, lemon juice, and margarine. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Reheat. Add the roast and carrots to the sauce and warm over low heat.

Eat. Slice roast against the grain. Serve with all that great sauce.

 

Plum Blueberry Galette

A galette is a free-form tart, similar to a crostada. The crust I use is a pâte sucrée – a regular tart/pie crust (pâte brisée) plus an egg yolk and sugar. Whenever I have extra yolks, I put each one in a small bag in the freezer and then use them to make this pâte. I try to keep an extra crust in the freezer in case galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin inspiration strikes. I used the recipe for a summer fruit galette in Paula Shoyer‘s The Kosher Baker but added yolk and sugar to make a sweeter crust. I also added a sprinkle of almond flour/meal (finely ground almonds) before adding the fruit to keep the crust from getting soggy. It worked really well, but you can skip this step if you want. To keep this recipe parve, I used margarine intead of butter.

For  pâte sucrée crust:

- 1 1/4 C flour

- 2 T confectioner’s sugar

- 1/4 t salt

- 6 T butter/margarine, partially frozen

- 1 egg yolk

- 3T cold water

Pulse. Add flour, sugar, and salt to food processor and mix. Add frozen butter/margarine and pulse ~ 10 times until the consistence of corn meal.

Pulse again.  Add egg yolk and 1T cold water, and pulse ~ 5 times.

Pulse again. Add 1T cold water, and pulse ~5 times.

Get the picture? Add the last 1T cold water, a little at a time, pulsing in between additions, until the dough starts to come together, but is still a bit crumbly.

Wrap. Gather the dough into a ball, flatten out, and wrap in plastic wrap.

Freeze. Freeze for 30 minutes before using. Or freeze until the next time you want to make a galette or pie or tart or tarte tatin – and then defrost for about 30 minutes before using.

  

For galette:

- 1 pâte sucrée crust

- 3C fruit – I used 2 Csmall red and yellow plums and 1 C blueberries

- 1T lemon juice

- 3T sugar

- 2T corn starch

- 1-2 T almond meal/almond flour (optional)

- 1-2T sugar in the raw

Preheat. Preheat oven to 425°F and place place rack on lowest shelf.

Cut and mix. Quarter plums (no reason to peel). Gently mix fruits with lemon juice, sugar, and corn starch until sugar dissolves.

Roll. Remove dough from freezer and sandwich between two large pieces of wax paper. Roll dough out to a 12- to 14-inch round. Trim any rough edges, throw them in the middle, and roll to incorporate. Transfer to a parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Sprinkle. Sprinkle center of crust with almond flour (if using), leaving a 1.5- to 20-inch edge.

Pile on. Pile the fruits onto the crust, leaving at least a 2-inch edge.

Fold. Lift the parchment to help fold edges one at a time towards the center of the galette. Allow edges to overlap, and pinch the overlapping edges together to seal the crust.

Sprinkle again. Brush the crust very lightly with water and sprinkle with sugar in the raw.

Bake. Bake for 25-30 minutes. Transfer galette on parchment to rack to cool for 15 minutes before serving.

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