Archive for the ‘sweets’ Category

Sukkot starts tonight and I’m excited to be meeting a few friends for dinner in one of the many temporary buildings that have popped up in parking lots all over the city. I wrote another piece about my time in Sicily for the Forward. I’ve pasted it below along with a recipe for casatelle – ricotta-filled turnovers that I fried up a few weeks ago.

Pavillion in the edible garden

Living in an apartment 20 stories above the streets of Manhattan can make relating to the holiday of Sukkot and its harvest celebration somewhat difficult. But spending time this summer in Sicily, an island with a dramatic and rich agricultural heritage, re-acquainted me with the agrarian setting in which so many of our holidays originated.

During my week at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school, we picked lettuces for our salad, drank wine from the vineyard just up the street and ate ricotta from neighboring sheep. One morning, awakened by cooing birds outside my window, I spent a pre-breakfast hour writing in a small pavilion situated in the edible garden just a few stairs from my room. Surrounded on three sides by blue and white striped canvas walls, I scribbled away. As my stomach signaled time to eat, lazy plops of rain hit the bamboo roof. I took it all in — the temporary shelter, the vegetation, the gentle scent of fertilizer — and felt a sense of being tied to the land and at the mercy of the weather. I left my sukkah and ran to the kitchen for coffee.

Our final cooking lesson included cassatelle, fried turnovers filled with ricotta made by the shepherd we had visited earlier in the week. They reminded me of the Sukkot tradition of cooking stuffed foods to signify the abundance of the harvest. Back in my own kitchen, I prepare for the holiday by rolling out dough and wrapping it around soft blobs of cinnamon-scented cheese, frying up the pastries in sputtering oil and eating them warm with just a dusting of powdered sugar. As I lick my sweet fingers, I’m thankful for the abbondanza of my own life.



Adapted from Fabrizia Lanza’s Coming Home to Sicily. Cassatelle are ricotta-filled turnovers common in the eastern part of Sicily, and Mario, Executive Chef of the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school, attributes their origins to Arab and Spanish flavors and techniques. The dough uses semolina flour and feels like fresh pasta. Wine in the dough provides both flavor (a bit of sweetness) and texture, helping with the formation of bubbles in the pasties as they fry; dry Marsala works well.

The recipe calls for a pasta machine to help knead the dough and roll it out to a uniform thickness. Alternatively separate the dough into five pieces and roll each out into a 9-by-9 square before cutting out circles.

These pastries are best fresh, but you can freeze the filled turnovers and then thaw and fry them up when you’re ready to eat.

Makes about 20 pastries

– ½ C white wine (or dry Marsala)
– ¼ C extra-virgin olive oil
– 2–4 T water
– 2 C semolina flour
– Pinch fine sea salt
– 1½ C whole-milk ricotta, preferably sheep’s milk
– 5 T granulated sugar
– 1 t ground cinnamon, plus more for garnish
– Vegetable oil for frying (several cups, depending on size of pan)
– Powdered sugar, for garnish

Warm. Combine the wine and oil in a small saucepan and heat until just warm (not hot). You can also use a microwave.

Knead. Mound the flour on a work surface or in a very large bowl (the latter is my preference), and make a well in the center. Add the wine-oil mixture and salt to the well, and with a fork, carefully incorporate it into the flour. Knead the dough with your hands, adding drops of water until smooth and elastic, about 8–10 minutes. The dough should slowly spring back when you poke it with your finger.

Rest. Roll the dough into a ball, wrap in plastic and rest for 30 minutes on the counter.

Mix. In a small bowl, stir together the ricotta, granulated sugar and cinnamon. Set aside.

Roll. Set a pasta machine to the widest setting. Run a piece of dough through the machine about 5 times at this setting, folding the dough in half each time before rolling it again. When the dough is very even, move the dial to the next setting and roll it through 2 to 3 times more, folding it each time. Move the dial to the third setting and roll it through 2 or 3 more times.

Cut. Lay out the dough on a floured work surface, and cut out circles with a 4-inch round cookie cutter.

Fill. Place a spoonful of ricotta just off-center, then moisten the edges of the dough with water and fold over. Pinch or use a fork to seal. Repeat with remaining dough and filling.

Fry. Heat 2 inches of oil in a large, heavy skillet or Dutch oven (higher sides will limit splattering). Drop in a scrap of dough — the oil is hot enough when the dough floats and oil rapidly bubbles around it. Add the cassatelle in batches and fry, flipping occasionally, until deep golden, about 3 minutes. With a slotted spoon or skimmer, transfer to paper towels to drain.


Serve. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and cinnamon. Serve warm.

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tehina cookies

tehina cookies

The Rosh Hashanah count down has begun. My mom’s in charge of soups and brisket and I’m covering most of the other bases. In case you’re looking for last minute inspiration, here are our menus, inspired by the simanim, foods to symbolize our best wishes for a new year:

Sunday dinner: chicken souproast chicken with plumspomegranate-roasted carrots, green beans, mashed potatoes, apple cake

Monday lunch: spicy butternut squash soupbrisket, salmon, salad, swiss chard, roasted potatoes, plum cakechocolate biscotti

Monday dinner: bagels and lox, sesame cookies

Tuesday lunch: leftovers

The recipe I have for you today is a simple drop cookie. Sesame seeds are said to represent abundance for Rosh Hashanah, so I found a cookie recipe that is essentially peanut butter cookies with tehina swapped in. Then I coated the dough in seeds before baking. Out of the oven, the cookies are crunchy and a little crumbly, with a texture like French sable cookies. I brought them to Atlanta for the weekend and a few people have been asked for the recipe, so this one is for you, Caroline and the whole Katz family. Shana tova!

tehina cookies

Tehina cookies

Adapted from Martha Stewart. These are essentially peanut butter cookies with tehina instead of the peanut butter. If your tehina has separated, you might want to throw it in the microwave for 10 seconds at a time to soften the paste and facilitate stirring. If you don’t stir the tehina through, your cookie dough may be a bit oily. The baked cookies will taste good even if it’s a little bit more difficult to roll the dough into balls.

Makes about 3 dozen

– 8 T (1 stick) unsalted butter

– 3/4 C tahini, stirred

– 1/2 C granulated sugar

– 1/2 C packed dark-brown sugar

– 1 large egg

– 1/2 t vanilla or orange blossom water

– 1 1/3 C all-purpose flour

– 3/4 t baking soda

– 1/2 t kosher salt

– 1/2 C sesame seeds

Mix. In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, cream butter, tehina, and both sugars together until light and fluffy. Add egg and vanilla, and mix on medium speed until well combined. In a medium mixing bowl, sift flour, baking soda, and salt together. Add to the butter mixture, and beat just to combine.

Chill. Let the dough rest in the fridge for 30 minutes.

Heat. Heat the oven to 350ºF.

Roll. Scoop out 1 – 1 1/2 tablespoons of dough (I use a mini ice cream scooper), and shape into a ball. Roll in sesame seeds and place 3 inches apart on parchment-lined baking sheets.

Bake. Bake one tray at at time until golden brown, 12 to 14 minutes. The cookies should still be a little bit soft in the middle, but will harden as they cool. Transfer baking sheets to a wire rack to cool.

Store. Store in an airtight container at room temperature up to 1 week.

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I’ve promised to write more on my time in Sicily, a week at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school and a few more days at the beach in Cefalu. I’ve found so much inspiration in the course, the school, the landscape of the island that I’m writing a short series of articles for The Forward, tied to several Jewish holidays. Since so many of our holidays are tied to an agricultural calendar, it makes sense that spending time cooking directly from the land would provide a catalyst for recipes to celebrate.

In this first piece (pasted below), I get my first taste of Sicily in the form of figs so ripe that every attempt to photograph them slumped into a puddle of juice. No worries, I drew the best out of grocery store figs to create a sorbet coupled with honeycomb candy, perfect for launching a new year of adventurous travel and delicious experiences.

fig sorbet with honeycomb candy

Until recently, what little I knew about Sicily came from Sophia Petrillo’s stories on “The Golden Girls.” Spending a week at the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school last June, though, gave me a proper introduction to the rich landscape of this large island. I was there for a course on food writing and found myself smitten with Sicilian culinary heritage.

This year I’ll be celebrating the Jewish holidays with an eye toward incorporating into my own traditions the foods I tasted in Sicily.

Early on a Monday morning I flew to the island’s largest city, Palermo, and took a bus into town. There I met up with Susie, another student attending the workshop. We shook hands, awkwardly hugged, dropped our luggage in a storage room at the train station and set off to explore the city. With only a few hours before our connection, sightseeing options were limited, but no matter: Our only goal was gustatory.

Susie navigated us to Mercato del Capo, the souk-like market that’s a testament to Sicily’s long-ago Arab rule. We stopped in front of the largest jar of Nutella I have ever seen, a beckoning hand dipping strawberries and offering them up. Our loyalty was easily bought. At the sight of a 10-euro banknote, the vendor filled a paper cone with berries and another with plums.

I pointed to a pile of green fruits, shaped like Hershey’s kisses, each about the size of my fist. The vendor held one up — “ Fichi !” he said. “Figs,” Susie whispered — and ripped it open, swiping each half in the chocolate spread before handing them over. While we chewed, he piled figs into two more cones. “ Basta, basta !” Susie cried, holding up her hands like a crossing guard stopping cars. Our vendor indicated that he had no change for our bill and emptied a box of cherries into a final cone, making sure we got every last cent’s worth.

After wandering the stalls, Susie and I plopped ourselves down in a shady spot. I fished out a fico and weighed it in my palm, its bottom felt heavy like a water balloon and I saw a few crystallized beads of sugar escaping from a small crack in the skin. I tore it open and lapped up the dripping flesh, feeling the seeds crackle between my teeth, and letting the sweet juice pool in the dust at my feet. Until that point, I had never actually enjoyed eating a fresh (or dried) fig. I found myself mumbling a shehecheyanu and explaining to Susie the Rosh Hashanah tradition of saying a blessing over a new fruit that you hadn’t eaten all year.

We retrieved our luggage at the station and met a few more classmates on the bumpy train. Mario, one of the chefs, picked us up in the small town of Vallelunga and drove us to the school where, after washing off the travel, we launched right in to what would become an evening tradition: aperitivo hour in the courtyard outside the kitchen. Next to a tray of bubbles in stems and several plates of bruschetta, Susie laid out the remains of our market fruit picnic. Over this abbondanza of food and drink and against the setting sun, we introduced ourselves. Against this backdrop, I was ready to begin.

As I prepare for the New Year, I wanted to re-create that first taste of fruit in the heat of the Sicilian sun by making a refreshing sorbet.

fig sorbet

Fig sorbet

This recipe is inspired by the decadent fresh figs I ate in Sicily this summer and is adapted from sorbetto di fichi in Fabrizia Lanza’s Coming Home to Sicily. I used green Calimyrna figs, but black ones will do just fine as well. The step of peeling the figs is important – my first batch I included the peels and the texture was strangely slimy. At the Anna Tasca Lanza cooking school they serve the base sorbet recipe with freshly whipped cream. 

For Rosh Hashanah, I wanted to add in some honey elements. The fig and honey swirl provides some textural contrast, as it is thicker than the sorbet itself, like a ribbon of fudge in a decadent chocolate gelato. You’ll need a scant three pounds of figs total if you’re going to make the sorbet and the swirl. For a nice crunch, crumble the honeycomb candy over top.

Makes about a quart of sorbet

– 2 pounds figs
– ½ C port (or water)
– ¾ C water
– 2 T freshly squeezed lemon juice
– 1 C sugar
– Fig and honey swirl (see below)
– Honeycomb candy (see below)

Peel. Slice the stem off the figs. Peel by sliding the tip of a knife under the top layer of skin and grasping it with your thumb, pulling towards the opposite end in long strips. You’ll be left with a thin layer of white pith around the pink flesh. You’ll end up with 1½ pounds or about 3 cups of peeled figs.

Puree. In a blender, puree the peeled figs, port and/or water, lemon juice and sugar until very smooth.

Chill. Cool in refrigerator for 2–3 hours.

Freeze. Freeze the cold mixture in an ice cream maker. Once the sorbet has finished churning, dribble in the cooled fig and honey swirl and gently stir to distribute it but not so much that it disappears. Transfer to an airtight container and put in the freezer to firm up for a few hours or overnight.

Serve. Scoop into bowls and sprinkle with crumbled honeycomb candy.

fig sorbet


Fig and Honey Swirl

This fig and honey compote is also great over vanilla gelato or mixed into your morning yogurt.

Makes 1 cup

– ¾ pound figs, quartered (1½ cup)
– 2 T honey

Heat. Over a low flame, heat the figs and honey for approximately 10 minutes until the figs break down into a thick syrup. Pulse with an immersion blender until only small pieces of fig remain. Cool in refrigerator for 2–3 hours.


honeycomb candy

Honeycomb Candy

In the restaurant, we crumble honeycomb candy over vanilla gelato drizzled with extra-virgin olive oil in a twist on affogato. This candy is also known as seafoam, hokeypokey, and, when coated in chocolate (I prefer dark), is similar to Australian Violet Crumble. It’s fun to have a jar of it in the kitchen for sweet honey snacking over the Rosh Hashanah holiday.

– 2 t baking soda
– 1 C sugar
– 2 T honey
– 1 T water

Prep. Line a half sheet pan (18” X 13”) with parchment paper. Sift the baking soda into a small bowl. If you don’t sift, you might happen upon a nubbin or two of unpleasant tasting baking soda in the middle of your candy.

Heat. In a large pot (the mixture will expand about four-fold, so make sure your pot is big enough!) over medium heat, mix the sugar, honey and water. Clip a candy thermometer to the pot. Over the span of about 5–7 minutes, the syrup will bubble gently and then darken to a golden brown at around 290° F. Stand over the pot because the last stage goes quickly and you don’t want burnt sugar.

Pour. Once the syrup hits 300° F, pull out the thermometer and pour in the sifted baking soda. Stir 2–3 times with a rubber spatula (not too much or you’ll deflate the mix) and the syrup will lighten, turn opaque and quadruple in size. Carefully tip the bubbling mess onto the lined sheet pan — it will look like a big blobby monster crawling out of the pot. Let it spread out on its own and resist the urge to touch it — it’s hot and can burn and also too much fussing will break the bubbles.

Store. When completely cool, break into pieces and store in an airtight container.

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When I came home from Sicily, zucchini (and its family) season was in full swing. Tender, thin-skinned squash was everywhere. Yellow and green, solid and striped, eight-ball and pattypan.

There were squash blossoms too, and I picked a few myself when I spent the day out in Brooklyn with Edible Schoolyard NYC (check out this photo of my colleagues here), weeding a border along the fence separating the school garden from the street. There is an art to collecting these long yellow flowers, I learned. You only take the male ones (the females, with a bulb of an ovary along the stem, when fertilized form the fruit, er, squash) and you have to give each a good shake to scare any bees out. Otherwise you’ll end up with a bag of buzzing blossoms. Now you know.

This year, I’ve gone sweet with my squash, baking up a zucchini cake with two types of chocolate – cocoa and bittersweet shards. The recipe comes from Chocolate & Zucchini, one of the first blogs I ever read and a huge inspiration for my own. The cake itself is more rich than saccharine, with a deep dark chocolate flavor and a crumb moist with flecks of zucchini. I like to bake it in a loaf pan – which is how I like to bake most of my cakes – but you can fancy it up in a round or bundt if you’d like.

Before we get to the recipe, a little reading. First off, Luisa wrote about the language of food workshop that I attended at Case Vecchie in Sicily last month. And Rachel, our other teacher, has written so convincingly about the importance of a good tomato sauce that I’m considering buying a food mill to make my own smooth silky sugo to coat a bowl of (homemade, hopefully soon) pasta. Finally, women talk about balancing motherhood with the realities of restaurant life.

chocolate and zucchini bread

Chocolate and zucchini cake

Adapted from Chocolate & Zucchini. I use olive oil to make the cake non-dairy. The batter is very thick and you may need to use some strength to smooth out the top once you’ve wrestled it into the pan. 

If you do want to go savory with your zucchini, try it raw, roasted, or tucked into a frittata

– 1/2 C olive oil or room temperature butter, plus more for greasing the pan

– 2 C flour

– 1/2 C unsweetened Dutch cocoa powder

– 1 t baking soda

– 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 t fine sea salt

– 1 C granulated sugar

– 1 t pure vanilla extract

– 2 T strong cooled coffee or 1 t instant coffee granules

– 3 large eggs

– 2 C unpeeled grated zucchini, from about 1 1/2 medium zucchini

– 6 oz good-quality bittersweet chocolate, roughly chopped (about 1 C)

olive oil

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease a 9-inch by 3-inch loaf pan.

Whisk. In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together the flour, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder, and salt.

Mix. In the bowl of a mixer (or by hand in a large mixing bowl), beat the sugar and oil or butter until fluffy. Add the vanilla, coffee, and eggs, mixing well between each addition.

Combine. In a large mixing bowl, combine the zucchini, chocolate chips, and about a third of the flour mixture, making sure the zucchini strands are well coated and not clumping too much. This will help make sure that the zucchini and chocolate don’t just sink to the bottom of the cake.

Fold. Add the rest of the flour mixture into the egg batter. Mix until just combined; the batter will be thick. Fold the zucchini mixture into the batter, and blend with a spatula without overmixing. Pour into the prepared cake pan, and level the surface.

Bake. Bake for 40 to 50 minutes, until a knife inserted in the center comes out clean. Transfer onto a rack to cool for 10 minutes, run a knife around the pan to loosen, and turn on to a cooking rack.

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to will

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Just a few days after I made only a small dent in my coconut stash, I started another baking project. This one was a bit of a potschke, a bit of a fuss, that required several steps over the course of two days. I was reviewing Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love for the Forward and found myself deep in the rugelach chapter. That’s right, people, an entire chapter on rugelach and their similarly-made, differently-shaped Polish cousins, kolatchkes. (Don’t the Kolatchkes sound like a nice family you’d like to have over for dinner? I would definitely invite them.)

In the introduction to her book, Mindy writes “Spring is here only after I’ve made strawberry rhubarb rugelach.” With the weather we were having, I was ready to do anything to will spring on. Anything. Even spend two days making cookies.

So, I picked up a few pounds of strawberries. No, not the ones below – these I snagged this morning at the farmers market (!!!) – but a plastic box of uniformly red, decent enough berries.


I grabbed a couple stalks of rhubarb, also from the grocery store, and heated them up with the berries. Everything mushed together, eventually slumping into a soft pot of preserves, sweet with berries, tart with rhubarb, and just enough sugar to help the grocery store produce along.

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Want a closer look?

strawberry rhubarb preserves

Whoa, that’s close.

I pulsed together an oatmeal streusel crumble.

Mindy Segal's oatmeal streusel

And made a cream cheese dough that I covered with fruit and sprinkled with streusel.

 Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

I sliced the dough into triangles. OK, officially, those are trapezoids.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Then rolled them up.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And covered them with more streusel.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

And popped them in the oven.

Through the glass, I could see the dough puffing and browning and falling. The pink fruit bubbling and leaking from its spiraled home.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Out of the oven, the rugelach cooled, and dribs and drabs of caramelized preserves hardened into edges of brittle.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

The dough was soft and flakey, ribboned with pucker-y berries, and punctuated by nubbins of crispy streusel.

I thought about eating them all. Myself. But I didn’t. I shared.

Mindy Segal's strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

Strawberry rhubarb rugelach with oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. I’ve modified the order of the steps and some of the language to best reflect how I made the rugelach. The recipe is long, so make sure to read through the whole thing through before starting.

There are a lot of components to make here and many ingredients require chilling, so I made these over the course of two days. On the morning of day 1, I macerated the fruit and let it sit in the fridge for a few hours. Later that evening, I cooked down the fruit preserves and then prepared the cream cheese dough, chilling it overnight. On day 2, I made the oatmeal crumble and then assembled and baked off the rugelach. 

Makes 48 rugelach

For the cookies:

– 1 recipe Classic Cream Cheese Dough (see below), divided in half and chilled
– 1 recipe Strawberry Rhubarb Preserves (see below)
– 2 cups Oatmeal Streusel (see below)
– cooking spray
– 1 egg white, lightly beaten
– ¼ cup granulated sugar

Roll out. Put a sheet of parchment paper the same dimensions as a half sheet (13 by 18-inch) pan on the work surface and dust lightly with flour. Remove one dough half from the refrigerator (it should have been chilling for at least 2 hours and should be pretty solid) and place on top. Using a rolling pin and a pastry roller, roll the dough half into a rectangle, leaving a 1-inch border from the edge of the parchment paper. The dough should be just shy of ¼-inch thick. If the edges become uneven, push a bench scraper against the sides to straighten them out. To keep the dough from sticking to the parchment paper, periodically dust the top lightly with flour, cover with another piece of parchment paper, and, sandwiching the dough between both sheets of parchment paper, flip the dough and paper over. Peel off the top layer of parchment paper and continue to roll. Repeat with the second dough half.

Chill. Stack both sheets of dough on top of each other and refrigerate until chilled, approximately 30 minutes.

Heat. Heat the oven to 350°F. Line a few half sheet pans with parchment paper and lightly coat with nonstick cooking spray.

Fill. Invert the sheets of dough onto the work surface and peel off the top sheet
of parchment paper. For each sheet of dough, spread ¾ cup of strawberry rhubarb preserves in a thin, even layer across the surface. Sprinkle approximately ½ cup of streusel per sheet over the preserves. Trim the edges.

Slice. Using a dough cutter or a pizza cutter, divide the sheet in half lengthwise into two long strips. Working with one strip at a time and moving crosswise, cut out triangles with flat tips, with each base approximately 1½ inches wide and each tip approximately ¼-inch wide. Shoot for 12 triangles per strip.

Roll up. Using an offset spatula or dough cutter, separate a triangle away from the rest of the dough. Starting from the base, roll the dough 
up like a crescent roll. Place tip-side down on the prepared sheet pan and repeat with the remaining triangles, spacing them on the pans 1 inch apart. Brush the tops with the egg white and sprinkle with the sugar. Sprinkle the tops generously with the remaining
 1 cup streusel.

Bake. Bake one pan at a time for 15 minutes. Rotate the pan and bake for another 
8 to 10 minutes, or until the streusel is golden brown.

Cool. Let the cookies cool on the sheet pan for 1 to 2 minutes (do not wait too long or the preserves will stick to the parchment paper). Using an offset spatula, transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining dough.

Store. Rugelach can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 5 days. Rolled, unbaked rugelach can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.


Classic cream cheese dough

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. This is the basic cream cheese dough that Mindy uses for rugelach, kolachkes, and even her own version of fig newtons. The dough really needs to stay cold, so I popped it back in the fridge a few times while I was rolling it out if it started to feel too delicate. I saved half of the cream cheese dough and brought it to a friend’s house – her daughters and I rolled out the dough and stuffed it with a combination of peanut butter, chocolate chips, and butterscotch chips. 

Makes 2 (13 by 18-inch) sheets of dough

– 1 C (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
– 1 C (8 oz) cream cheese, at room temperature
– 1/3 C plus 1 T granulated sugar
– 1 t pure vanilla extract
– 2 C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 1 t kosher salt
– 1 teaspoon sea salt flakes

Mix. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, mix the butter on medium speed for 5 to 10 seconds. Add the cream cheese and mix on medium speed to combine, 10 to 15 seconds. Add the sugar and beat on medium speed until aerated, approximately 3 minutes. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together.

Mix some more. On medium speed, add the vanilla, mixing briefly until incorporated. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a rubber spatula to bring the batter together. In a bowl, whisk together the flour and salts. Add the flour mixture all at once and mix on low speed until the dough just comes together but still looks shaggy, approximately 30 seconds. Do not overmix. Remove the bowl from the stand mixer. With a plastic bench scraper, bring the dough completely together by hand.

Chill. Stretch two sheets of plastic wrap on a work surface. Divide the dough in half (each half will weigh around 14½ ounces) and place a half on each piece of plastic. Pat the dough into rectangles, wrap tightly, and refrigerate until chilled throughout, at least 2 hours or up to 1 week.


Strawberry rhubarb preserves

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love. To get one pound of hulled strawberries, you’ll need to start with about 1.5 pounds of unhulled berries. These preserves are definitely puckery – which works nicely for the regulach since the streusel adds another sweet element and baking seems to intensify the fruit’s sweetness – but you might want to add more sugar to taste. Any leftover preserves are great mixed with yogurt or poured over ice cream. 

Makes about 2 cups

– 2 C finely diced rhubarb (approximately 2 large stalks)
– 1 lb washed, hulled, and dried strawberries, finely diced
– ¾ C granulated sugar
– 1 T freshly squeezed orange juice

Macerate. Combine the rhubarb, strawberries, granulated sugar, and orange juice in a bowl and let macerate for at least
 4 hours at room temperature or cover and refrigerate overnight.

Heat. In a high-sided, heavy pot, heat the fruit mixture over medium-high heat until the juices start to boil and foam. Lower the heat to medium-low and cook, stirring occasionally to prevent the bottom from scorching, until most of the liquid has evaporated and the rhubarb has broken down completely, approximately 30 minutes. You will have close to
 2 cups. Transfer to a storage container and refrigerate until completely chilled, at least 2 hours.


Oatmeal streusel

From Mindy Segal’s Cookie Love

Makes 2 cups

– 6 T (3 oz) cold, unsalted butter, cubed
– 6 T firmly packed light brown sugar
– 1¼ C unbleached all-purpose flour
– 6 T old-fashioned oats
– 1/2 t kosher salt

Pulse. In a food processor, pulse together the butter, sugar, flour, oats, and salt until it forms a fine meal, and the butter is evenly incorporated. Do not over-process.

Chill. Transfer to a storage container and chill completely, approximately 1 hour. Or freeze and use within 1 month.

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on its own

Up until recently, I’d never been much of a coconut fan, but a brief glance in my cabinets might convince you otherwise. In a bit of overzealous, absent-minded Passover grocery shopping, I ended up with several pounds of shredded and flaked coconut. I do things like this more often that I’d care to admit. I bet you do too. (Please, tell me you do.) Baking up a half-dozen batches of macaroons over the holiday barely made a dent in my coconut stash. After Passover, I toasted up some for granola and sprinkled a bit more on lentils, and this cake is where I suspect the rest of that coconut will end up.

Coconut tea cake

It’s a simple loaf cake strewn with shredded coconut and laced with coconut milk. I found it in Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours and the time that passed between my reading the head note and pulling out my mixer couldn’t have been more than three minutes. Four, tops. Dorie describes it as a “dry cake” – the kind that her Austrian friend grew up with, the kind without frosting or fuss, without too much going on, the kind you can eat any time of day (or night). Now this is my kind of cake.

If you’ve been reading this blog for a while now, you might have noticed that I don’t really decorate cakes. This stems less from laziness per se (though that definitely factors into the equation) and more from a strongly-held belief that a cake should be good enough to stand on its own with no frosting, glaze, or sprinkle in sight. In fact, if I have to choose between a cupcake and a muffin, I’ll almost always go with a muffin. I think this stems from the fact that the special occasion cake we ate growing up was my mom’s chocolate chip pound cake – with a dense crumb and pockets of chocolate, this bundt cake just as good straight from the freezer as out of the oven. And my mom usually made a double batch, so more often than not, there was a chunk of frozen cake wrapped and re-wrapped in plastic, sometimes hidden in the ice cube maker.

But back to the coconut. I made just a few tweaks to Dorie’s original recipe, adding lime zest as Dorie suggests and substituting vegetable oil for melted butter to make a non-dairy version. Since a can of coconut milk is typically just under two cups, each time I’ve make this cake, I’ve doubled the recipe, making up the remainder of the second cup with water.

As Dorie says, the cake is a little dry and has a thin sugary top crust that shatters under the gentle pressure of a knife. Like biscotti, a slice pairs perfectly with a cup of coffee or tea. Like all good pound cakes, it lasts several days on the counter, tastes even better a few days in, and freezes easily. It’s coconut-y without being too coconut-y, if you know what I mean. And what I mean is that a few self-proclaimed coconut-haters liked the cake. By which I mean that I didn’t tell them there was coconut it in and they happily ate several slices each. If you want, you can bake the cake in two rounds, frost it, and cover it with toasted coconut for the birthday of a special coconut loving friend. But Meira, the birthday girl, and I agreed that the cake is best on its own.

Coconut Tea Cake 

Adapted from Dorie Greenspan‘s Baking: From My Home to Yours. Make sure to use regular unsweetened coconut milk rather than the light stuff which leaves the cake a little rubbery. 

Makes 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans (the original recipe calls for a 9- to 10-inch bundt pan)

– 2 C flour

– 1 t baking powder

– pinch salt

– 2 limes for zest and juice

– 2 C sugar

– 4 large eggs, preferably at room temperature

– 1 t vanilla extract

– 3/4 C shredded unsweetened dried coconut

– 1 C canned unsweetened coconut milk (stir before measuring)

– 1/4 C vegetable oil, plus more for greasing the pans

Prep. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease 2 8- or 9-inch loaf pans.

Sift. Sift the flour, baking powder, and salt together.

Zest. In the bowl of a stand mixer, zest the limes over the sugar. With your fingers, rub the zest into the sugar until it’s aromatic.

Whisk. In a small bowl, whisk together the coconut milk, oil, and lime juice (2-3 tablespoons).

Beat. With the whisk attachment of your stand mixer, beat the eggs and sugar/lime zest at medium-high speed until pale, thick, and almost doubled in volume, about 3 minutes. Beat in the vanilla. Reduce the mixer speed to low and add the dry ingredients, scraping down the sides of the bowl and needed and stopping just when the flour disappears.

Mix. Keeping the mixer on low, add the dried coconut, mixing only until it’s blended, then steadily pour in the hot milk. When the mixture is smooth, stop mixing and give the batter a couple of turns with a rubber spatula, just to make certain that any ingredients that might have fallen to the bottom of the bowl are incorporated.

Bake. Pour the batter into the pans and give them a few back-and-forth shakes to even the batter. Bake for 30-40 minutes, or until the cake is golden brown and a thin knife or cake tester inserted deep in the center comes out clean. Transfer the cake to a rack and cook for 10 minutes before unyielding onto the rack to cool to room temperature.

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It’s a mid-March Friday night in an Irish pub, and three girls are perched on stools padded by their heavy winter coats. They rustle for wallets in their over-filled bags, settle their tab, and drain the last drops from their glasses – two beers and a cider. As they turn on their stools and scramble to gather their coats purses hats gloves, an elderly gentleman enters the bar.

Cap pulled over his eyes, an oversized jacket hanging off his shoulders, a plaid scarf wrapped around his neck, he introduces himself as Nick. “Ladies, where are you going?”

“We’re heading home.”

“Why? You’re going to leave me here all alone?”

“We have to get home…it’s been a long night. We need our beauty rest.”

“What were you doing before you got here?”

“We were at a shabbat dinner.”

“Oh, you’re Jewish? You’re Jewish!”

“Yes, we are.”

“Have you seen Fiddler on the Roof? I love Fiddler on the Roof. Have you seen it?”

“Yes, we have.”

“I love Fiddler on the Roof! Do you know what else?”


“I love matzah. I eat it all year.”

He reaches into his coat pocket and pulls out a few shards of matzah. Then into his shirt pocket for a few more. And his pants pocket for another handful. He hands a piece to each of the girls.

“I always keep matzah in my pockets. I have to have it with me all the time, I just love matzah so much. I love Fiddler on the Roof too.”

The girls smile and take a few steps backwards towards the door, tightening scarves and adjusting hats, all while holding on to their matzah gifts.

“Now girls, don’t leave me here all alone.”

“We have to go. It’s late.”

“Please don’t go.”

They smile again and turn away. He grabs the hand of the closest girl and swoops in with a peck on the cheek.

The girls giggle and walk into the wind, leaving behind the warmth of the bar and Nick with his matzah.

True story.

Happy holiday of matzah. Whether you celebrate this week or all year round or not at all.

Here’s some dessert. No, it’s not remotely related to the story. orange  blossom macaroons OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Orange Blossom Macaroons

Adapted from Alice Medrich’s recipe, new classic coconut macaroons 2.0, in her book “Chewy Gooey Crispy Crunchy Melt-in-Your-Mouth Cookies.” The key is to buy the largest unsweetened coconut flakes (sometimes called coconut chips) instead of shredded coconut. I replaced vanilla with orange blossom water and added orange zest. Medrich suggests a half-dozen variations, including pressing a square of dark chocolate into the still-warm macaroon, adding lime zest and cinnamon, or mixing in pecans, chocolate and dried sour cherries.

I first published this recipe in The Forward‘s Passover 2015 section.

Makes about 30 cookies

– 4 large egg whites

– 3 1/2 C unsweetened dried flaked coconut (also known as coconut chips, not shredded)

– 3/4 C sugar

– 1 t orange zest

– 2 t orange blossom water

– a generous pinch salt

Mix. In a heavy stockpot over very low heat or a large stainless steel bowl set directly in a wide skillet of barely simmering water, combine all of the ingredients. Stir the mixture with a silicone spatula, scraping the bottom to prevent burning and lowering the heat if it starts to brown. Initially the mix will be really sticky, glossy and stringy. Continue to stir for about 5-7 minutes until mixture is very hot to the touch and the egg whites have thickened slightly and become opaque. At that point, there will be no more strings. Be careful because hot sugar can burn.

Wait. Set the batter aside for 30 minutes to let the coconut absorb more of the goop.

Prep. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper. Preheat oven to 350°F. Position racks in the upper and lower thirds of the oven.

Scoop. Drop heaping tablespoons of batter about 2 inches apart on the lined baking sheets. The piles of coconut will look a bit shaggy and may fall apart a little bit. Keep a small dish of water nearby and use wet fingertips to neaten things up.

Bake. Bake for about 5 minutes, just until the coconut tips begin to color, rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time to ensure even baking.

Keep baking. Lower the temperature to 325°F and bake for another 10 to 15 minutes, until the cookies are a beautiful cream and gold with deeper brown edges, again rotating the pans from top to bottom and from front to back halfway through the baking time. If the coconut tips are browning too fast, lower the heat to 300°F. Set the pans or just the liners on racks to cool — the macaroons will still be a bit soft, but will crisp up as they cool. Be careful handling the macaroons at this point because hot sugar can burn. Let cool completely before gently peeling the parchment away from each cookie.

Store. The cookies are best on the day they are baked — the exterior is crisp and chewy and the interior soft and moist. Although the crispy edges will soften, the cookies remain delicious stored in an airtight container for 4 to 5 days.

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early or late

Well, Purim has already come and gone, and while I planned to publish a recipe for hamantashen before the holiday this year, it’s now so late that I think it’s reasonable to say I’m really really early for next year’s celebration.

pistachio rose hamantashen

I’ve never had much luck with hamantashen, but I was inspired by Breads‘ apple and marzipan varieties of the three-cornered treats and decided to have a go at it. My first instinct was to commandeer a recipe for sweet tart dough (pâte sucrée) and wrap it around diced apples and cinnamon, like little triangular apple tarts. But despite my best efforts to fold and seal the edges, the dough wouldn’t hold together and there just wasn’t room for enough apple filling for the pastries to taste like much of anything.

Frustrated, but not defeated, I made a pistachio filling, based on a recipe for frangipane almond cream. I flavored the pistachio with rose water as an ode to my favorite Persian flavor combination; last year, I made pistachio rose biscotti for my mishloach manot.


pistachio rose paste

After a bit of research, I turned to my friend Leah‘s dough recipe and everything quickly came together. (Check out her cookbook that will be released tomorrow – it’s a keeper!) After a few practice runs, I figured out a few tricks for hamantashen success that I’m sharing now so you’ll have more than enough time to practice before next Purim rolls around.

First, make sure to roll out the dough quite thin – Leah suggests 1/8-inch. I initially had a difficult time getting my dough thin enough. It’s not that I measured, but after baking off the first few tashen, I noticed that the cookie to filling ratio was too high and the cookie part was nicely golden on the outside but undercooked in the middle. I found it much easier to roll out no more than a quarter of the batch at a time. Then smoosh the scraps back together and roll it out again, adding a knob of dough, bit by bit, until you finish the batch. As a general rule, I like to roll dough on a sheet of parchment (or between two sheets) so I don’t need to use extra flour.

Now, let’s chat about the fillings. Most importantly, only use a teaspoon of filling for each 3-inch round.  You will want to add more. Don’t or you’ll have a difficult time folding the dough and and the filling will leak out any which way it can. If you use jam that’s liquidy, like my jam was, no matter how good you are at folding, the jam will make a mess.

hamantashen with jam OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

strawberry rhubarb hamantashen

I like the caramelized jam, and was peeling it off the parchment and eating it like candy, but it would have been nice if it had stayed put. So either use a thicker jam, or strain some of the juice out. The pistachio filling that I made was pretty thick, and baked up almost cookie-like, so once I got the folding down, it behaved and even rose a bit as it baked, filling out the hamantashen. I suspect brownie batter would work quite well too. Just saying.

pistachio rose hamantashen

As for closing up the hamantashen, I vote for folding up the sides and weaving the three flaps one over another as if closing a cardboard box without tape. Then pinch the points to seal everything in. Also, while you’re folding up your hamantashen, I highly recommend humming La Kova Sheli Shalosh Pinot / לכובע שלי שלוש פינות (check out this stylized version) or, in English, My Hat It Has Three Corners.

Before we get to the recipe, here’s a little fun reading for your week.

If you give a dude a kale chip.

The New York Times on shooting food porn.

In case you’re *ahem* still trying to organize your kitchen more than a month after moving to a new place. And on a related note, tidying up.

pistachio rose hamantashen

Pistachio rose hamantashen

Makes about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 1 batch hamantashen dough (below)

– 1 batch pistachio frangipane (below)

Prep. Preheat oven to 350ºF. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper.

Roll and cut. Remove a quarter of the dough from the refrigerator, making sure to wrap the remaining dough well. Roll the dough out on a sheet of parchment (or between 2 sheets) to 1/8-inch thickness. Use a 3-inch round cookie cutter – I actually used a 3 1/2-inch glass because that’s what I had – to cut out as many circles as possible and transfer them to the parchment-lined baking sheet. Cover the circles with plastic wrap or a sheet of parchment paper to prevent the dough from drying out. Re-roll the scraps and additional dough from the refrigerator until you fill the baking sheet.

Fold. Spoon 1 teaspoon of pistachio filling into the center of each dough circle. Fold the left side over on an angle, followed by the right side. Fold the bottom flat up, tucking one end under the side flap to make a triangle-shaped pocket. The filling should be visible in the center. Pinch the seams firmly to seal.

Repeat. Repeat the process with the remaining dough and filling.

Bake. Bake until lightly golden and browned at the corners, about 15 to 18 minutes, until the cookies are cooked through. Remove from the oven and let the cookies cool on the baking sheets for 5 minutes, then transfer to a wire rack to cool slightly.

Store. Store in an airtight container for up to 3 days.


Hamantashen dough

From Leah Koenig via Food52. Just one bowl! No stand mixer required! 

Makes enough dough for about 36 hamantashen (depending on size)

– 2 eggs

– 1 T water, plus more if needed

– 1/4 C vegetable oil

– 1/2 C sugar

– 2 1/2 C flour, plus more if needed

– 1 t baking powder

– 1/2 t kosher salt

Whisk. In a large bowl, lightly whisk the eggs. Continue whisking in the water, vegetable oil, and sugar until combined.

Mix. You could mix the flour, baking powder and salt together in a second bowl. But rather than dirty another bowl, just pour about half the flour into the bowl on top of the egg mixture. Sprinkle the baking powder and salt over the flour and use a fork to mix together the dry ingredients without disturbing the wet ingredients  below. Then, with a spatula or large spoon, stir everything together. Add in the remaining flour and mix until the dough begins to come together. Turn the dough out onto a flat surface and knead a few times with your hands until it is smooth, but not sticky. (If the dough appears too dry, knead in more water, 1 teaspoon — and no more! — at a time. If it looks too wet, knead in up to 1/4 cup more flour, 1 tablespoon at a time, until you reach the right consistency.)

Chill. Gather the dough, then divide it in half with a knife and form into two flat disks (to make it easier to roll out later). Wrap each disk tightly in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least 3 hours, or up to overnight.


Pistachio frangipane

Frangipane is an almond pastry cream. Here I replaced the almonds with pistachios and added rose water for a baklava-like flavor. I based the recipe off of my pear frangipane tart and Cannelle et Vanille‘s mini peach and pistachio frangipane tarts. You can make the recipe parve by replacing the melted butter with vegetable oil. 

Makes about 2 cups

1 3/4 C unsalted shelled pistachios

2/3 C sugar

1/2 t salt

2 eggs

2 t rose water

3 T melted butter

1/4 + 2 T C flour

Pulse. In a food processor fitted with a metal blade, pulse the nuts, sugar, and salt until the mix is ground to the consistency of a fine cornmeal. Don’t let the nuts turn into a paste just yet.

Process. Add the eggs and pulse to combine. Then add rose water and melted butter and mix until the consistency of cake batter. Add flour 2 tablespoons at a time and mix until all the flour is integrated and the paste starts clumping up over the blade and rolling around the bowl.

Store. Keep the pistachio paste in the refrigerator. If  you have any left over, you can bake up tablespoonfuls of paste into cookies (350ºF for about 12 minutes).

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as a way to celebrate

One year, for my birthday, I bought myself a suit. It was the first designer anything I had ever purchased and, with its lovely pattern, its boucle texture, its leather trim, it made me feel very special. Every time I wore it, I told people I was wearing my birthday suit.

This year, on my birthday (December 8th, in case you want to mark your calendar for next year) there was no designer suit, but there were cookies. Whole wheat chocolate chunk cookies.

whole wheat chocolate chip cookies

Now, there are two types of cookie people: the chewys and the crispys. (Or is that the chewies and the crispies?) I am squarely on team crispy and that’s where the cookies pictured above fall. If, however, you root for team chewy, stop reading right now and head over to the original recipe. According to Jess, who introduced me to this recipe, the cookies have an interior that is “soft, even borderline flakey.”

The first time I baked them up, I followed the recipe to a T and, well, I didn’t like the cookies very much. They were big – three tablespoons of dough big – and puffy and, if you can imagine this, sort of fluffy in the center. And yet, flawed as their texture was, the nutty-without-nuts taste was intriguing, and I couldn’t stop thinking about them.

One year went by, two years, then three, the cookies almost forgotten, until a big bag of whole wheat flour called to me from the cupboard. I played around with the recipe, making batch after batch and tweaking flours (2:1:1 whole wheat to graham to white makes a nice combo but is too fussy), sugars (less brown sugar equals less chewy), cookies size (I like them small), and baking temperature and time (lower the temp and bake for longer). Finally, finally, five batches in, I nailed the recipe.

I send to few dozen cookies to a few friends, including Meira and Caroline, as a hey-I’m-just-thinking-about-you kind of surprise. Two days before my birthday, their mother Monica emailed me: “Did you send Meira cookies because it was your birthday?” I hadn’t, but I liked that she thought of me as someone who takes care of other people as a way to celebrate.

So I baked another batch of cookies and invited friends over for an impromptu evening of birthday nibbles and bubbles. More on what I cooked in a bit, but for now, the cookies.

Whole wheat chocolate chunk cookies

Adapted from Kim Boyce’s Good to the Grain, as published on Food 52. I made a few changes to keep the cookies crisp, and in case you’re curious, here’s what I did, using using The Food Lab: The Science of the Best Chocolate Chip Cookies article to guide my experimentation.

1) Most importantly, I replaced half of the brown sugar with Demerara sugar. Using a crystalized sugar instead of brown helps the cookies crisp, and Demerara retains some of the molasses and toffee flavor of brown sugar. You could also use white sugar, so 1 1/2 cups white sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar. 

2) I increased the amount of chocolate by 50%. Because, chocolate.

3) Rather than three tablespoons of dough per cookie, I used one tablespoon. After scooping the dough onto the cookie sheet, I smushed them with the palm of my hand so they would bake more evenly, eliminating that chewy center. The consistency ends up on the denser side, almost shortbread-like.

4) I lowered the temperature and increased the baking time to encourage the cookies to spread as much as possible, which isn’t very much.

5) I only bake one sheet of cookies at a time. I don’t like to fuss with rotating trays from top to bottom, front to back. 

6) The original recipe has you cool the cookies on parchment, which I assume encourages them to retain a bit of moisture – not what I want at all. Instead, when the cookies are cool enough to touch, I transfer them straight to a cooling rack.

Makes 7-8 dozen small cookies

– 12 oz bittersweet chocolate

– 1 C (2 sticks) cold butter, cut into 1/2-inch pieces

– 1 C white sugar

– 1/2 C Demerara sugar (or turbinado or sugar in the raw)

– 1/2 C brown sugar

– 2 eggs

– 1 T vanilla extract

– 3 C whole wheat flour

– 1 1/2 t baking powder

– 1 t baking soda

– 2 t kosher salt

Prep. Preheat the oven to 325ºF. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Chop the chocolate into 1/4-inch chunks.

Mix. Add the butter and the sugars to the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment. With the mixer on low speed, mix just until the butter and sugars are blended, about 2 minutes. Use a spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. Add the eggs one at a time, mixing until each is combined. Mix in the vanilla. The batter might look curdled at this point, but don’t worry.

Keep mixing. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Add this mixture to the bowl and blend on low speed until the flour is barely combined, about 30 seconds. You’ll probably find some extra flour lurking at the bottom of the bowl, so scrape down the sides and bottom.

Keep mixing. Add the chocolate all at once to the batter. Mix on low speed until the chocolate is evenly combined. Use a spatula to again scrape down the sides and bottom of the bowl, and use your hands to fully incorporate all the ingredients, kneading lightly.

Scoop. Scoop dough onto the parchment-lined baking sheet, using a 1-tablespoon ice cream scoop, at 2-inch intervals.

Press. With the palm of your hand or a wooden spoon, press the cookie dough until it’s about 1/4-inch thick.

Bake. Bake the cookies for 16 to 20 minutes until the cookies are evenly dark brown and dry to the touch. Allow the cookies to cool on the sheet for about 5 minutes until you can pick them up and transfer them to a cooling rack. Repeat with the remaining dough – you can re-use the parchment.

Store. While for many cookies, I like to scoop out the entire batch and then freeze the scooplets so that I can bake up a half-dozen or so when the mood strikes, it doesn’t work as well for these cookies because of their crumbly dough. So, just bake all of the cookies and store them in an airtight tin or in the freezer. If you’re afraid you’ll eat them all … well, that’s when you give them away as gifts.

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open all hours

I woke up to a white sky this morning and, while it will no doubt further complicate my travel plans above and beyond the usual pre-holiday Manhattan exodus traffic, I just love the first snow of the season. I trekked through the light storm, one that fluctuated between gentle flakes and stinging hail, to Adeena‘s place to pick up peanut butter brownies to support Sharsheret‘s annual Pies for Prevention sale. (Check out this post for a bit more about the pie sale, Adeena’s mom Steffi, and a recipe for pumpkin cranberry bread.)

I felt a little sheepish showing up in Adeena’s apartment where nearly every surface was covered with pumpkin or pecan or chocolate chip pie having just outed myself as a pie hater. But I brought a piece of cake as a peace offering.

The cake is an Italian olive oil cake strewn with shredded pumpkin (or in this case, kabocha squash) and studded with toasted cashews. I recently transferred from Union Square Cafe to Marta — the newest restaurant in our family and inspired by the uber-thin crust Roman pizza — and was editing our menu a few weeks ago when I noticed a new dolci item: torta di zucca. I snagged a slice, downed it a few bites, and started to plot a way to get the (parve!) recipe.

Plotting wasn’t really necessary as all I had to do was ask our head baker, Chef Pat Clark. We chatted for a bit in the prep kitchen while he stirred a huge pot of marmalade over a low flame, and then he emailed me the directions he wrote out for his team.

all manner of pumpkin

I spent a day tweaking the recipe, converting the gram measurements to cups, trying a few different winter squashes, testing different-sized pans, and tracking oven time like a hawk. By evening, I had reproduced the torta in my own kitchen.

The torta bakes up tall and proud. Due to its long time in the oven, the edges are thick and golden brown — a crust that pie wishes it had. The cake interior has a tight crumb punctuated by delicate squash ribbons and cashew nubbins. Its top is slick with a burst of citrus. Day two cake can stand on its own, but throw a slice in the toaster and smear it with a little butter or marmalade for a real breakfast treat. The freezer is kind to this cake, so, please, double the recipe. Or triple it.

Marta's torta di zucca

Now, earlier this month after a particularly bad day, I was speaking to my aunt Leslie, the one who always hosts Thanksgiving. Sessie is a great listener and had some helpful advice and when I thanked her, she said, “call me any time. As Bubbie used to say, ‘open all hours.’”

As I walked home from Adeena’s today, ducking beneath the shelter of scaffolding wherever I could and ticking off a mental packing list, that refrain kept interrupting my thoughts. Open all hours.

So, as we approach Thanksgiving and we get together with people we love, people we like, people we like a little less, people who drive us crazy, people we’re crazy for, I consider myself blessed to have a handful of people in my life who are open all hours for me. They live in my neighborhood and downtown, have moved away or have been far away for years, reside in the US and out. Luckily, they understand when I only bring three-quarters of a cake to dinner.

Marta's torta di zucca

Here are a few more stories of Thanksgivings past

2013: Cornbread apple stuffing

2012: Applesauce (with our without cranberries)

2011: Pumpkin cranberry bread

2010: Chocolate chip pound cake and wild mushroom soup

And now, the recipe.

Marta's torta di zucca

Marta’s Torta di Zucca (Roasted Pumpkin and Cashew Olive Oil Cake)

Adapted from Marta’s Torta di Zucca by Chef Pat Clark.

I tested this cake with kobucha squash and butternut squash, and both worked well. A 1 ½ pound gourd has about 1 pound of usable squash which, shredded, yields 2 ¼ very tightly packed cups. Use what every squash you like, just make sure to watch carefully while it roasts so that it doesn’t burn. You can substitute any nut for the cashews – I think almonds or pecans would work nicely. While Clark’s original recipe called for hand-grating the squash, I used my food processor which yielded slightly thicker pieces of squash.

The bake time for this cake is quite long and will vary depending on your oven and the type of pan that you use. I used a 9-inch round springform pan with high sides and the total bake time was one hour and ten minutes. For the first 30 minutes or so, cover the pan with aluminum foil that you’ve poked holes in – this will allow the cake to bake without letting the top burn. The holes prevent the cake from steaming.

The cake will indeed soak up all of the lemon-orange glaze, just keep at it. 

Serves 8 to 10

For the cake

– 1 ½ lb kobucha squash (or 1 lb pre-peeled and cut butternut squash)

– ¾ C cashews

– 2 ½ C all-purpose flour, plus extra for preparing the pan

– 1 t baking powder

– ½ t baking soda

– 1 ½ t kosher salt

– 3 large eggs

– 1 ¾ C white sugar

– 1 C less 1 T extra-virgin olive oil

– 2 t vanilla extract

For the citrus glaze

– ½ C orange juice

– ¼ C lemon juice

– ¼ C sugar

– ¾ C confectioner’s sugar

Preheat the oven to 425°F.

Grate. Cut the squash into quarters. Remove the stringy bits and seeds. Use a vegetable peeler to remove the outer layer of your squash. Grate the squash using the large holes on a box grater or a food processor.

Dry. Spread the grated squash out on a baking tray and flash in the oven for 8-10 minutes to remove excess moisture from the squash (a little color is okay, but don’t let the squash burn).

Toast. Turn the oven down to 350° F. Toast the cashews for about 5 minutes until just slightly browned. Allow the nuts to cool and then coarsely chop.

Spray and dust. Prepare a 9-inch springform pan with high sides by lightly spraying with oil. Dust the greased pan with flour, covering all surfaces and tapping out the excess flour.

Sift. In a medium bowl, sift together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.

Mix. With a stand mixer on medium to medium-high, paddle together the eggs, sugar, olive oil, and vanilla until light and creamy. Turn off the mixer and scrape down the sides with a rubber spatula.

Mix, more gently this time. Add the dry ingredients all at once. Mix on low until just together. Use a rubber spatula and scrape down the mixing bowl again. Add the squash and toasted nuts all at once, mixing on low until just incorporated. Don’t overmix.

Bake. Poke a few holes in a piece of aluminum foil large enough to cover your cake. Lightly tent the top of the cake, leaving room so it won’t touch the surface of the cake as it rises. Place the pan on the middle rack of the oven. Bake for 30 minutes. Remove foil tent, rotate cake, and bake for 35-45 more minutes. Toothpick test the dead center to make sure your cake is fully baked.

Whisk. While the cake is baking, whisk together the citrus glaze ingredients and leave on top of the stove to fully dissolve sugar. Whisk again prior to use.

Brush. Cool for 15-20 minutes and de-pan onto a cooling rack. Immediately use a pastry brush to coat the top and sides with glaze, making sure to use all the glaze. You will think it’s too much, but it’s not. Allow the cake to completely cool before cutting.

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