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Archive for the ‘sweets’ Category

Earlier this month, I started writing:

“As the thunder thunders and the lightening lightens the red sky, I’m sitting inside with a glass of red on my coffee table next to my propped-up feet, my keyboard perched on my lap.”

And that’s about as far as I got during the tornado that touched down about an hour outside of Boston earlier this month. I was glad to be inside and baking. It feels strange talking about cookies on a night that was so devastating to families nearby. But at the very least, I wanted to share this recipe.

Dark chocolate chip and orange cookies

Makes 4+ dozen cookies

This recipe is a close cousin of these chocolate chip cookies, adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything, but with a decidedly more adult palate. Dark chocolate (70%). Orange zest and orange blossom water. Almond flour (if you have it). As I mentioned the last time I made them, these cookies bake up soft and round, so if you like them flatter and crispier, add 1-2T water with the wet ingredients. The picture above is the almond flour variation with an extra 2T of water.

- 1/2 C softened butter or margarine

- 3/4 C white sugar

- 3/4 C brown sugar

- 2 eggs

- 2 t orange blossom water

- zest of 1 orange (~1T)

- 2C flour or 1 C flour + 1C almond flour

- 1/2 t baking soda

- 1/2 t salt

- 1.5C  bittersweet (70%) chocolate chunks (Whole Food sells them, or you can chop up a block of bittersweet chocolate — my favorite is Callebaut)

- 1-2 T water (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs, orange blossom water, and orange zest, and beat until well blended. Add 1-2 T water if desired to make cookies crisper. Mix flour with baking soda and salt, then add it to the liquid ingredients and mix by hand. Fold in chocolate chunks.

Bake. Drop cookies by level tablespoonful onto a silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet.  I use a 1T cookie scoop. Bake 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes before removing from silpat/parchment and transfer to a rack.

I keep my cookies in the freezer and think they are best eaten cold.

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by the truckload

My last lemon dessert was a bit of a cheat.

This time, I’m coming clean. No short cuts. Just pure lemons.

Well, not just any lemons. Meyer lemons plucked from a backyard tree by an adorable little boy who says “um” when he means “yes.”  This is farm-to-table cooking. The first batch of lemons, carted inside in a mini dump truck, became lemonade with a quick squeeze and a whir of the blender and a little help from Joanne. The next batch was supposed to be transformed into dessert. Cookbooks were scoured, but by the time we decided on lemon bars, the salmon and steaks were ready to come off the grill and we lacked the incentive to blind bake a crust and make a lemon curd. The half pound of butter called for did not endear the bars to us either. So, we skipped dessert and I had to pick up some chocolate on the way back to the airport.

But I did dump that truckload of lemons into my computer bag and cart them onto the plane as a carry-on.

Back home, the lemons sat in my fridge for a few days, beckoning me every morning as I peered inside to grab milk for my coffee and yogurt for my bowl. They beckoned me every evening as I foraged for dinner. And finally one evening, I beckoned them. I lifted them from their shelf, enjoyed their heft in my hands. I piled them onto my counter and returned for more, my palms lightly perfumed with the oil from their skins.

Five minutes to press the cornmeal crust into a pan while the oven heated. Twenty minutes to bake while I whipped together the lemon topping. Lower the heat, pour on the topping, another 20 minutes. Voilà – lemon fabulousness. If Joanne and I had known how easy it was, I might not have taken home my souvenir.

Lemon Bars

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chocolate and the Art of Low-fat Dessert. The bars are made in two parts – you first make the crust and then pour the topping over the top. You need 1C of sugar, 1C of flour, 3 eggs, and 3-4 lemons. You also need to reduce the oven temperature from 350ºF to 300ºF when you bake the topping. Make sure to place the pan on a cookie sheet so that the bottom of the crust does not burn. The recipe takes about an hour from start to finish.

For the crust:

- 3/4 C sifted flour

- 1/4 C yellow cornmeal

-  pinch salt

- 1/8 t baking soda

- 2 T unsalted butter or margarine (room temperature)

- 1/3 C sugar

- 1 egg yolk

- 1 T light mayonnaise or yogurt

- 1/4 t vanilla extract

For topping:

- 1 egg white

- 2 eggs

- 2/3 C sugar

- 1/2 C strained meyer lemon juice (about 3-4 lemons)

- zest from 1 lemon

- 1/4 C flour

- powdered sugar (optional)

Prepare. Preheat oven to 350ºF and put rack in lower 1/3 of the oven. Grease 8X8 square pan with vegetable oil.

Make crust. Stir together the flour (3/4 C), cornmeal, salt, and baking soda. Beat margarine/butter until creamy. Add the 1/3 C sugar and beat for about a minute. Beat in egg yolk, mayonnaise/yogurt, and vanilla. Add in the dry ingredients and beat on low until just combined. It will be crumbly. Scrape bowl and knead briefly with hands. Press into the pan and prick all over with a fork. Bake on top of a cookie sheet so the bottom doesn’t burn. Bake for 20-25 minutes until the top gets light brown.

Make the topping. While the crust is baking, whip eggs and egg white with 2/3 C sugar until combined. Whisk in lemon juice and zest. And finally, whisk in1/4 C flour. Pour the topping on the hot crust right when you take it out of the oven. Turn oven down to 300º. Bake for 15-20 minutes until the topping just barely jiggles. Cool on rack and then chill in the fridge. Cut into squares or bars when cold. Sprinkle with powdered sugar if you’d like.


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After Tokyo, I headed off to Paris for 4 days. Life’s tough, right?

But I won’t share with you any pictures of Paris. Because I don’t have any of this culinary city. Crazy, no? Unfortunately I was swamped with work and by the time my meetings were over, I was too bone tired to really enjoy the city. A pity, but at least I know that I’ll be back again soon.

Before I left for my around-the-world-in-two-weeks adventure, a publisher sent me a new cookbook to review. To me! The cookbook is Paula Shoyer’s The Kosher Baker and it contains over 150 parve dessert recipes. It was dog-eared and covered in yellow stickies well  before I stepped on the airplane, and when I came home, I was inspired to try two recipes in as many weeks.

Not surprisingly, I prioritized a few of the more French recipes. First was a batch of madeleines. (The last batch I made was tainted by the silicone pan that I made them in, so a few months ago I bought a new pan.) Next up, almond tuiles. Before we get to the recipes and pictures, I want to share with you a little about the book and its author.

I spoke with Paula 2 weeks ago to learn about her inspiration for the book. Getting her on the phone took a fair bit of effort on both our parts, with her busy book signing and demonstration tour and my own crazy travel and work schedule. We finally caught up on a Thursday night as she was recovering from a cold and I was in a taxi en route to a 9 pm dinner after a long day in my New York office.

Paula lives just a few miles from where I grew up in Maryland and she has quite an affinity for French foods and pastries. While living in Geneva with her husband, she decided to go to culinary school in Paris on a lark and built up a reputation for her desserts in Switzerland and eventually the US. She opened a pastry school and has been teaching French (and other) pastries and desserts ever since.  She spent about 5 years creating and adapting from dairy the parve recipes in her own cookbook. She likens recipe development to science experiments and feels that  baking requires close attention to the details of recipes.

I asked Paula which recipe she turns to most often – and she referred me to “Everyone’s Favorite Chocolate Cake.” We bonded over the merits of an excellent chocolate cake that is so good it doesn’t require frosting. She also said that the scones often frequent her kitchen and table.

The book itself is conversational – it feels like Paula is cooking alongside you, with comments such as “if you use an electric mixer, be careful, the batter might splatter.” I liked the organization of book into three distinct sections based on preparation time (quick and elegant desserts, two-step desserts, and multiple-step desserts and breads) and a fourth section on Passover and low-sugar recipes. The index is complete with the added touch of some specialty ingredients, such as almond flour and orange blossom, being highlighted with recipes that feature them. The pictures are beautiful, but I could do with a few more. And scattered throughout the text are some black and white process pictures (my favorite is the one used to  demonstrate how to make  sablé galettes – essentially French shortbread). Again, I wish there were more.

On whole, I like the cookbook and have already found it a good resource.

So below are the recipes that I made the week I came home from Paris.

And I’m already bookmarking more recipes to try. I’ll soon be making sablé galettes and that chocolate cake.

Madeleines

Makes about 2+ dozen

Adapted from Paula Shoyer’s The Kosher Baker. I followed the recipe, except I missed one step (in the “mix one more time” section).  and used lemon extract instead of zest because I didn’t have any lemons around – and on day 2, the mads seemed a bit too dense. But straight out of the oven, they were fabulous (and that’s how I prefer to eat them anyway). Surprisingly, this recipe did not include a refrigeration step which is normally suggested to help get that little hump on the cakes. Finally and just so you’re prepared, this recipe does need a few bowls – so cleanup is a bit of a pain. But, hey, I really hate doing dishes.

- Spray oil and flour for dusting
- 4 large eggs, room temperature
- 1/2 C (1 stick) parve margarine (though butter would be better if you were making them dairy), melted
- 1 C flour
- 2/3 C sugar
- 2 t vanilla extract
- 1 1/2 t lemon zest from 1 lemon or 1/2 t lemon extract
- 1 T confectioners’ sugar

Prepare. Preheat oven to 375°F. Grease and flour the madeleine molds

Mix. Beat the eggs with a mixer on low for 1 minute. Add sugar slowly, in four batches, while continuing to beat on low. Add vanilla and lemon zest (er, extract) and now beat on high for 5 minutes. The batter becomes thick, creamy, and a light yellow.

Mix  again. In a different bowl, mix flour and melted margarine with a wooden spoon until it becomes a dry paste.

Mix one final time. Add  half the beaten egg/sugar mix to the flour/margarine mix and whisk. Put half this mixture back into the eggs and mix with a spatula. Add the other half of the mixture to the eggs and mix.

Bake. Fill each mold with a spoonful of batter and refrigerate the remainder. Bake for 12 minutes until a toothpick comes out clean.

Cool. Immediately remove the madeleines from the pan to cool on a wire rack.

Start all over again. Make sure to clean the molds out and then regrease/flour, fill, and bake the next batch.

*****

Almond Tuiles.

Makes about 2+ dozen.

Adapted from Paula Shoyer’s The Parve Baker. These delicate cookies taste great. I had a bit of difficulty shaping them over my rolling pin, so next time I’ll use something with a smaller diameter.

- 2 large egg whites (I froze the yolks for another time)
- 1/2 C sugar
- 2 1/2 T flour
- 2 T parve margarine (or, butter if you want to make dairy), melted
- 1 t orange zest from one orange
- 2/3 C slices almonds

Mix. Whisk together egg whites, sugar and flour. Add the melted margarine and continue to whisk. Add zest and keep whisking. Add almonds and mix gently with a spatula, taking care not to break the nuts.

Wait. Cover and refrigerate for 2 hours or ideally overnight.

Bake. Preheat oven to 400°F. Cover a cookie sheet with Silpat or parchment. Drop teaspoons of batter on the sheet, about 4 inches apart. Use a fork dipped in water to spread batter and separate the nut slices. You want the circles to be about 3 inches in diameter. Thinner is better. (Cookies, that is.) Bake for 7-8 minutes or until the edges are brown and the center is golden .

Shape and cool. Remove from oven and let cookies cool for about 15 seconds (if you try to take them off too soon, they fall apart). Use a spatula to scape up each cookie and quickly place on a curved mold – I used a rolling pin – so cookies bend on the underside (i.e., bottoms are on the rolling pin) and the almonds are on the outside. Let cool.



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tastes like home

In high school, I spent a summer as an exchange student in France living with a family in the Loire Valley. Mireille, her husband, and their two children welcomed me into their home and lives and even took me on vacation with them. Even though I flooded the upstairs bathroom on my first evening when I couldn’t figure out how to use the hand-held shower. Even though I asked that they not add butter to my chicken because I kept kosher (no butter? a heresy!). Even though I was shocked at being invited to drink wine with dinner. Even though I was shy with my French and spent the first few days virtually in silence. (Yes, me, silent.)

Quickly I grew to love the rhythms, smells, and tastes of small town life. First in Mont près Chambord visiting châteaux most weeks and the corner bakery to pick up a baguette or a pain de campagne every morning.  Then on vacation in Sables-d’Olonne in the Vendée at the  grandparents’ rustic house where we picked our meals largely from the robust garden.

Every other day or so, we went to the outdoor marché to buy only the freshest produce from vendors who has raised the fruits and vegetables themselves. The tomatoes were redder, the haricots verts greener and skinnier than anything I saw in our supermarket back home. And the cheese.

The cheese. It deserves its own paragraph. The stinkier, the better. The fattier, the better. As a girl who had been dancing for years and subject to scrutiny in front of the mirror, this was mind altering. I tried creamy cheeses. Nutty cheeses. Blue cheeses (still not a fan). Rind cheeses. Goat cheeses. I discovered I loved Bucheron, Gruyère and its French cousin Comté, Saint Marcellin, and of course Camembert. We kept le fromage out of le frigo at room temperature in a special cheese cupboard. I could could keep going. But this post isn’t about the cheese.

I had packed in my luggage a bag of chocolate chips and a recipe so I could bake for my French family an American classic that I often made with my mom. Gathering the rest of the ingredients and converting the recipe without measuring cups was a bit of a challenge. We got held up looking for baking soda in the grocery store. Until a bit of creative sleuthing (a halting conversation between me and the  baguette baker) led me to the pharmacy for bicarbonate de soude.

My French famille loved the cookies. So much, in fact, that we made several more batches even after the chocolate chips were gone, and not being able to find pépites de chocolat, bought big blocks of chocolate and chopped them into coupeaux de chocolat. And the grand-mère took to calling them “crokies.” The name stuck.

Chocolate Chip “Crokies”

Makes more than 5 dozen small cookies

I have lost the recipe that I brought with me to France, but this one is pretty close, adapted from Mark Bittman’s How to Cook Everything. The rice krispies are an homage to my mom who always threw them in our cookies and I love the crunch they add. These cookies are on the softer side, so if you like them flatter and crispier, add 1-2T water with the wet ingredients.

- 1/2 C softened butter or margarine

- 3/4 C white sugar

- 3/4 C brown sugar

- 2 eggs

- 2C flour

- 1/2 t baking soda

- 1/2 t salt

- 1 t vanilla

- 1 C chocolate chips

- 2 C rice krispies

- 1-2 T water (optional)

Preheat oven to 375°F.

Mix. Cream butter and sugars. Add eggs and vanilla, and beat until well blended. Add 1-2 T water if desired. Mix flour with baking soda and salt, then add it to the liquid ingredients and mix by hand. Fold in chocolate chips and rice krispies.

Bake. Drop cookies by scant tablespoonfuls onto a silpat- or parchment-lined baking sheet.  Bake 10 minutes until lightly browned. Cool for a few minutes before removing from silpat/parchment and transfer to a rack.

I keep my cookies in the freezer and think they are best eaten cold.

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this is America

Last year, I spent the Fourth in Panama (yes, yes, I know that I owe you more chronicles…they are in the works, I promise).

This year, I was back on US soil and my friend Rachela and I drove out to Berkshires for the long weekend. It was a colorful weekend on so many levels, so please bear with me as I test out my new camera to capture it all. Our adventure started with berries plucked straight from the bushes. It ended with the most non-PC gentleman you could even imagine pointing us towards the nearest gas station. In between: farm animals, a swimming hole (yes, a swimming hole), the local Independence Day parade complete with the Chesterfield Chicken and the town mime, dance, fireworks and a long line of traffic, art, a lake, and the largest popovers I have ever seen.

And just when I thought I was a little out of my comfort zone, the Israeli photographer we shared breakfast with reminded me that “this is America.”

Remember those black raspberries? Did I tell you they were picked from the bushes behind our B&B? Or that when we met the proprietor his hands were stained from his collection? Or that they starred in the muffins that made up part of our multi-course breakfast? Or that I snagged the recipe to share with you? Yes, I may be slowing down on the recipe front, but this one is well worth the wait.

Black Raspberry Muffins

Generously shared by Denise at Seven Hearths. Makes 12 muffins. You will eat them all.

- 2 C flour

- 1 T baking powder

- 1/2 t salt

- 2/3 C sugar

- 1 egg, beaten

- 1/3 C sweet butter, melted

- 1/2 C milk, warm

- 1/2 C sour cream

- 1 1/2+ C black raspberries

Pre-heat oven to 400.

Mix. Mix all dry ingredients. Add remaining ingredients except fruit and stir until just blended. DO NOT OVERSTIR. Fold fruit in lightly.

Bake. Scoop batter in lined or greased muffin tins. Bake approximately 20 minutes until toothpick comes out clean. Cool in pan on wire rack for 7-10 minutes and then remove.

Variation: you can substitute 1 1/2 C other fruit, but adjust the sugar (and other ingredients) accordingly:

Blackberry: 1 C sugar
Raspberry: 2/3 C sugar
Blueberry: 1/2 C sugar, 2 t lemon juice, 1 t grated lemon rind
Bing Cherry:  2/3 C sugar, 2 t grated lemon peel
Nectarine: 1/2 C sugar
Peach: 1/2 C sugar, 1 t vanilla

And it’s been a while since I shared some dance videos with you, so here are excerpts from the performance we saw.

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Shavuot just ended. Last year, in the spirit of the dairy tradition of this holiday, I made a cheese tart. In addition, I taught a dance/movement class for a tikkun leyl Shavout – an all-night learning session to commemorate the giving and receiving the torah. A dance class as part of Jewish learning?, you might ask. Well, it’s just one of my things and the cooking class I had planned didn’t work out.

Having a pantry filled with almonds — natural, sliced, slivered, roasted and salted, and crushed into meal — and a serious craving for all things amandine, I flipped through my cookbooks and found Dorie Greenspan‘s Swedish Visiting Cake. I’ve heard it described as tasting like a large almond macaroon. Yes, I meant to say macaroon rather than macaron — the consistency is somewhere between a cookie and a cake (at least the way I made it), similar to a chewy macaroon (and not the coconut kind). Anyway, it seemed worth a shot and the name alone made it sound like a good gift to offer friends.

I didn’t stay up learning all night, so I managed to bake the cake in the morning. The cake itself barely rose at all – not surprising as the only leavening agent was eggs. As I set it to cool, I decided to read a little bit in bed, and, you guessed it — fell asleep. Lucky that I waited to take the cake out of the oven before cozying up under my duvet as the rain pelted outside. 2 hours later and I had missed lunch. Despite having my cake, I just couldn’t bear to be that fashionably late.

So, I did what any of you would do – I cut a slice and ate it myself. Not bad, but it would have been nicer to share.

Swedish Visiting Cake (variation)

adapted from Dorie Greenspan.

The batter for this cake is very thick. I lost some of the almond flavor when I realized that I didn’t have almond extract and substituted orange blossom water which complements almonds. I think next time I might replace some of the flour with almond meal. Even though I neglected to share this with my barbecuing friends, I did treat a visiting friend to a slice with some red wine.

- 1/2 C butter or margarine

- 1 C sugar

- zest of 1 lemon

- 2 eggs

- 1/4 t salt

- 1 t orange blossom water

- 1 C flour

- 1/4 C sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 350°.

Melt butter/margarine.

Make batter. Mix sugar and zest until sugar is fragrant and moistened by the oils in the zest. Beat in eggs one at a time along with orange blossom water. Then, use a spatula to fold in the flour. Finally, add the melted butter/margarine and incorporate into the batter.

Bake cake. Grease and sugar a springform pan and pour the batter in. Since it is so thick, you’ll need to smooth it out so it spreads evenly. Sprinkle sliced almonds and a little extra sugar on top. Place pan on a cookie sheet (the original recipe calls for baking the cake in a skillet, so the sheet adds a bit of extra thickness). Bake 25-30 minutes (I would err on the side of less time).

Cool and serve.

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When I was in high school (yes, that all-girls’ school with the honor code), one of my teachers told us never to raise a hand and start a question or a comment with an apology. But I’m going to break that rule just this once, and apologize for having neglected you quite a bit of late. Here’s the scoop. I started a new job. I get home and flop on my sofa. I eat a whole head of roasted broccoli for dinner. Or a bowl of cereal. Or maybe a salad. Then fall asleep and wake up only to start all over again.

About a month ago, I went to a 2 1/2 hour dance class (!) on a Sunday morning and ended up in the ER with a torn meniscus. Not that I knew that at the time. All I knew at that point was that I wasn’t going to make it to the Idan Raichel concert that evening. Fast forward past weeks on end taking taxis to work every day (that is, when I was able to get to work rather than working from home), limping and limping and limping some more, trying out knee brace after knee brace (the one the ER gave me kept falling off) to Good Friday when I was in the OR for arthroscopic knee repaired.

Lucky for me, some friends took me in for the next few days — practically the entire Chol Ha’moed (the intermediate days of Passover), making sure I was well-fed (recipes to follow, don’t you worry) and -rested and didn’t need to worry about anything other than sitting in the sun that graced us over the weekend.

Now that Passover is behind us, every time I eat bread, I feel a little jolt of happiness that I can eat whatever I want. And each day as I can walk a little farther and straighten and bend my knee just a little bit more, I remember how good it feels to be healthy. It’s one of those things that I rarely think about until a little bit is taken away from me.

So, with this in mind, and now that I can stand long enough to be in kitchen, I figured I’d bake you an apology cake.

Almond Yogurt Cake

Adapted from Chocolate and Zucchini’s Gateau au Yaourt and Raspberry Yogurt Cake. I upped the almond content using both ground almonds and almond oil. This cake is not too sweet and the taste of the orange flower water (which I love with almonds) is present without being overpowering.

- 1 C lowfat plain yogurt

- 1 C sugar

- 2 eggs

- 1/3 C vegetable oil (or 1/2 vegetable oil, 1/2 almond oil for a really almond-y flavor)

- 1 t orange flower water

- 1 2/3 C sifted flour

- 1/3 C finely ground almonds

- 1 1/2 t baking powder

- 1/2 t baking soda

Preheat oven to 350°

Mix. Mix together the yogurt, sugar, eggs, oil(s), and orange flower water. Add flour, ground almonds, baking powder, and baking soda.

Bake. Slip greased pan (I used an 8X12 glass rectangle) into oven and bake for ~45 minutes.

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Wow, the month of March has snuck up on me. Between starting a new job and the less-than-ideal weather, time has flown and it’s hard to believe that spring is (theoretically) almost upon us. Like last year, I want to share with you some of the recent recipes on my blog that are Passover friendly. Here goes…

Main Courses:

- Moroccan brisket with olives and preserved lemons (just make it without couscous)- Anna Sortun’s Spoon Lamb

- Tomato and Onion Braised Brisket- Pomegranate Chicken

Soups:

- Onion soup – make it without the bread (try matzah instead), with or without cheese

Sides and Salads:

- Asparagus avocado salad

- Mediterranean quinoa salad

- Eggplant spread with tomatoes (it looks gross, but tastes great)

- Marinated zucchini

- Spinach salad with beets and grapefruit

- Kibbutz herb salad

- Vic’s salad- Feta watermelon salad

- Yellow (or green) beans with hazelnuts – just use whatever oil you have if you can’t find hazelnut

- Quinoa with persimmon, pomegranate, and walnuts – use the dressing and try other available fruits

Desserts:

- Grapefruit mint sorbet

- Sangria sorbet

- Amaretti (almond) cookies; Gianduia (chocolate hazelnut) cookies

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to my sister-mother

chocolate almond biscotti

A comfort when you are ill, no matter what ails you.

A friendly voice on the phone.

A ready invitation for dinner.

A hug and a smile just when you need it.

Judy is all of this and more. And she asks for nothing in return.

But, she doesn’t turn down offers of dessert. Judy and I share an affinity for not-too-sweet after-dinner treats. And she is always ready to try any dish that emerges from my kitchen. When she and her husband Bruce lived just a few short stairs from me, I was always bringing down tastes of my creations — a white bean dip, chatzilim (eggplant), and quinoa – for an honest opinion. The sweet ones we often shared around a cup of tea or coffee. They critiqued some of my less successful experiments – a challah that fermented and two attempts at apple cake before I came up with this one that still does not meet Judy’s discerning palate.

Judy’s recent favorites are a nearly flourless chocolate cake and chocolate almond biscotti. I made these biscotti last week and brought over a tin for dessert after she and Bruce shared a pot of chicken soup to keep out the cold. A few days later, Judy returned the empty tin and requested a refill.

in the sun

Chocolate Almond Biscotti

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s Chocolate and the Art of Low-Fat Desserts. These biscotti are very crispy without being hard. The recipe suggests that they are best at least 2 days after baking, but I find them pretty good immediately after baking and I did not find an appreciable change in their texture. The use of chocolate crumbs made from chocolate chip gives them a double chocolate flavor with small bursts of chocolate.

Makes over 3 dozen cookies.

- 3/4 C sliced blanched almonds

- 1 3/4 C all-purpose flour (divided)

- 1/2 C chocolate chips

- 1/2 C unsweetened cocoa

- 1 t baking soda

- 1/4 t salt

- 3 eggs

- 1 C sugar

- 1 t vanilla extract

Position racks in lower and upper third of oven and preheat to 350°F.

Toast nuts. Toast almonds on baking sheet until golden – start checking after 8 minutes to avoid burning. When you can smell the nuts, they are generally ready.

Reduce oven to 300°F.

Make chocolate crumbs. In a food processor or blender, chop chocolate chips with up to 1/2 C flour to make chocolate crumbs. The addition of flour prevents the chocolate from becoming a big chocolate blob.

Mix dough. Beat the eggs with the sugar and vanilla until well combined. Sift in the remaining flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir in this flour mixture, and then stir in the chocolate crumbs and toasted almonds. The dough will be very thick and sticky.

First baking. Using a spatula and floured hands, shape dough into long skinny loaves – either 3 12-inch loaves or 2 16- to 18-inch loaves onto a parchment- or Silpat-lined baking sheet. Make sure to leave 2.5 inches between loaves. Bake for 45 minutes on the lower rack. Remove from oven and cool on the pan.

Slice loaves. Carefully peel loaves from parchment or Silpat, and slice on a diagonal (45° angle) into 1/2 inch slices.

Second baking. Bake again at 300°F for another 20-25 minutes. The easiest way to bake is to place sliced biscotti directly on the oven rack. Alternatively, you can place biscotti on two baking sheets. After 5-6 minutes, rotate the pans from top to bottom and front to back. After another 5-6 minutes, flip all the biscotti over. Then, after another 5-6 minutes, rotate pans again. As you might guess, I prefer the direct on rack method.

Storage. Cool biscotti completely on racks. Biscotti may be stored in an airtight tin for several weeks at room temperature.

in the tin

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easy does it

If there is a complicated way to do something and an easy way, I will inevitably choose the former.

But I was recently reminded of the beauty in keeping things simple. This time of year, the week between Rosh Hashana and Yom Kippur, is a time of self-reflection — not a bad time to review this lesson that holds both in the kitchen and out.

Having only cooked for Rosh Hashana once before, I received a lot of help from my family in  preparing to share the 2 days of holidays with over a dozen guests: we divided and conquered. I planned the overambitious menus (only parts of which ever came to fruition). My parents brought a case of wine up from Maryland. My dad and sister did most of the food shopping. My mom helped with much of the food prep, acting as sous chef in my kitchen.

Even with all those helping hands, I was nonetheless overjoyed to discover a cake that nearly bakes itself.

Not Derby Pie touts the base recipe as “The Easiest Cake Ever” and Rivka pictured it with ripe, juicy pears. I planned to add in some apples to the pears in honor of Rosh Hashana and to make it reminiscent of a gâteau pomme poire that I have been trying to recreate since I did a high school student exchange in the Loire valley followed by the Vendée in the northwest of France. However, given that my sister did the grocery shopping and doesn’t like pears, I ended up with just an apple cake. Not that this is just any apple cake.

The high egg content causes the cake to rise up as the heavier fruit sinks slightly. A light sprinkling of raw demerara sugar creates a crackly crunchy crust that caramelizes slightly at the edges and where the fruit juices pool.

corner close-up

Easy Apple Cake

Adapted from Not Derby Pie’s “Easiest Cake Ever” which is recommended for ripe, juicy fruits such as pears, stone fruits, or berries. Given that I was using apples that were not particularly juicy, I decided to first saute them in some margarine and sugar, giving them a slight juicy caramelization as I would for a tarte tatin.

Serves 8-10 and there will be no leftovers. This is probably great with ice cream, but this cake needs no accoutrement.

For apples:

4 apples – I used a variety (1 each of Gala, Fuji, Granny Smith, and Crispin)

lemon juice to prevent apples from browning as you cut

2 T margarine (or butter if you are making dairy)

1-2 T sugar (or to taste)

For cake batter:

1 C flour

3/4 C sugar

2 eggs

1/2 C canola oil

1 t baking powder

1 t vanilla

2-3 T demerara sugar (optional)

Preheat oven to 350º F. Grease and flour a 9-inch cake pan, springform or square pan. (If you want to plate this, use a springform; otherwise, just serve it out of the pan.)

Peel and core the apples, then cut into ~12 slices. Sprinkle with lemon juice (you don’t need much – maybe a tablespoon or so for 4 apples) while the others are being sliced to prevent browning.

Heat margarine in pan over low heat and add apples and 1-2 T white sugar. Stir for ~10-15 minutes until apples soften. Some of the liquid will soak into the apples, but if too much of it starts to evaporate, then turn the heat down.

sauteed apples

While the apples are on the stove top, mix together the remaining ingredients (except for the demerara sugar) — flour, sugar (the 3/4 C), eggs, oil, baking powder, and vanilla. No mixer is required – you can just mix everything by hand even though the batter is quite thick.

Add half the warm apples (juices and all) to the batter and mix. Then pour into the prepared pan and spread the batter evenly with a spatula. Arrange the remaining apple slices on the top of the batter as decoratively as possible (though even a mishmash will look nice).

artful (?) arranging

for the record - I only used tongs because we were having guests that I had never met ... normally I'd just use my fingers!

Sprinkle the cake with demerara sugar if you’d like and bake for 1 hour.

sugar...

Let cool before attempting to remove from the pan. It can be a bit difficult to plate due to the stickiness of the fruit (I did a bit of clever patching that you can see close-up below).

a crack in the armor

I was a bit overzealous in the number of apples that I asked my mom to peel, and we had so many left over that in 5 minutes flat, I whipped up a second batch of batter and made another cake.

second apple cake

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