Friday, March 26, 2010

Ethnic Flavor: Passover Recipes

So, Passover is coming, which is why we have not posted in a while.  I haven't made our desserts yet, but I will post them as I make them.

We will be making:
Mixed Berry Crisp from Couldn't Be Parve (her version is strawberry rhubarb, but there is no rhubarb around here yet, so mixed berry it is).  

Success Cake from My Most Favorite Dessert Cookbook (recipe coming soon)

Ebony and Ivory Mousse Cake from Kosher By Design (recipe coming soon) -- This is not for the seder, but for Shabbat dinner, where we will be having fish, since I assume we will be sick of meat.

If you are in need of some good Passover recipes, you can also try:
The Passover Section of Couldn't Be Parve, where she has tons of great stuff

Chag Sameach (Happy Holiday).  We will update you as we bake.

Monday, March 22, 2010

But I Would Be Proud to Partake of Your Pecan Pie

Now, I am not a fan of pecan pie.  As has been well documented on this blog, we are not fans of nuts.  However, for Hanukkah, a member of my synagogue gave me a big bag of pecans in their shells.  First, we had to look them up on the internet because we were not sure what they were.  Have you even seen pecans in a shell?  You can see them here.  My husband and I made a deal -- I would make the pie if he would shell the nuts.  Given how easy pecan pie is to make, I clearly got the better end of the deal.

Those nuts sat around for many months and finally we decided that, with Passover coming, we would make the pie.  It helped that we had guests who could also help with the eating so my husband did not have to eat an entire pie.  Also, we had a pie crust in the freezer, which eliminated one very labor intensive step.  I am afraid of pie crust, but more on that some other time.  

The nuts were really annoying to shell, so if you are going to make this, I would recommend getting pecans already out of their shells.  This pie is super easy to make and delicious (if you like pecan pie) -- I ended up having a tiny taste.  The reports were that it was not too sweet and had good flavor.

You can find the recipe here.  We did not use espresso or chocolate (husband does not like chocolate -- the crazy man), but we did use cinnamon.   

Non-baking question -- where is the quote from the title of this post from?  Bonus points if you know!

Thursday, March 18, 2010

Guest Post: The Baking Sisters' Dad

For those of you who regularly read this blog, you might notice that we never reference our mom's homemade baked goods.  That's because she doesn't bake.  However, our dad does.  He is a great baker and cook and we get most of our skills from him.  If you don't believe us, here is the proof.

Let me start by thanking the Baking Sisters for inviting their dad to guest blog.  I must admit that, with three such wonderful bakers in the family, I’ve gotten out of the baking habit.  When I had occasion to make cakes two weeks in a row, it seemed right to blog about them. 

In my baking heyday, Maida Heatter was the high priestess of baking.  Her recipes were not only wonderful, but also so detailed and clear that they were foolproof as long as you mastered the techniques.  For this reason, I thought of her as the Julia Child of baking.  Flash forward to the 21st century, and I’m very pleased to add Dorie Greenspan to the cookbook shelf.  She is, of course, one of the Baking Sisters’ major inspirations.

But these cakes come from other sources.  Both cakes were prepared for Shabbat dinners, and since they were meat meals, I needed recipes that contained no dairy products.  The first cake was for the birthday of the Baking Sisters’ mom, so it had to be chocolate.  The second cake was to take along to dinner at the home of our friends Richard and Rae Janvey, so Torta Del Re seemed appropriate.  (It’s also almost Passover, and this makes a wonderful dessert for the seder.)  When we served the cake, the conversation turned to baking, and then to the Baking Sisters, and then to Sarah’s seven hour round trip from Providence to New York to attend Dorie Greenspan’s three hour master class for Dalton School alumni.  Low and behold, who did we discover is the Janveys’ next-door neighbor?  None other than Dorie Greenspan!

The chocolate cake comes from Kosher by Design, by Susie Fishbein (the first of several books in the Kosher by Design series).  It’s actually Chocolate Banana Cake, which automatically rules it out for Rebecca (who hates bananas), although I thought the banana gave the cake moisture with little or no banana taste.  To make it parve, I used parve margarine, Tofutti “sour cream” and non-dairy “whipping cream.”  If dairy is OK, you can use the real things.  Here’s the recipe, with my comments in brackets.

Kosher by Design, by Susie Fishbein
Serves 12

1 cup pure vegetable shortening
2 cups sugar
2 large eggs
2 ripe (not brown) bananas, mashed [I pulsed them briefly in a mini-food processor]
1/3 cup sour cream
1 teaspoon vanilla
2-1/2 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking soda
1/3 cup cocoa
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup boiling water

6 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
6 tablespoons heavy whipping cream or non-dairy whipped topping
3 ounces milk semi-sweet chocolate [I used bittersweet instead]
1/4 cup semi-sweet chocolate morsels
1-1/4 cup confectioner’s sugar, sifted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Preheat over to 350 degrees.  Grease a 10-inch tube pan or bundt pan; set aside.

In a large mixing bowl, cream the shortening and sugar until fluffy [I used a stand mixer].  Add the eggs, one at a time.  Add the bananas, sour cream, and vanilla, and mix until all are incorporated.

In a separate large bowl, combine the flour, baking soda, cocoa, and salt.  Add the dry ingredients to the banana mixture in three parts, alternating with the boiling water.  Mix.  The batter will be runny [it actually wasn’t too runny].  Pour into prepared pan.  Bake for one hour.  [Allow the cake to cool for 15 or 20 minutes before removing it from the pan.  Place it on a cake plate and place strips of waxed paper under all sides of the cake to catch the excess glaze.]

For the glaze, combine butter or margarine, cream, chocolate, morsels, sugar, and vanilla in a heavy saucepan over low heat.  Cook, whisking constantly, until smooth.  Cool slightly.  Pour over the cake, letting it run down the sides and trying not to manipulate the glaze too much.  Let the glaze set.  Cake can be refrigerated, but bring to room temperature before serving.  [It keeps well and stays moist even without being refrigerated.]

I found Torta Del Re (King’s Cake) in volume one of The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews by Edda Servi Machlin.  The author grew up in Pitigliano, a medieval village in the hill country between Rome and Florence that had had a flourishing Jewish community for centuries.  Her story of life – and food – in Pitigliano and how it all came to an end in the aftermath of the Nazi occupation of Italy must be the most beautiful, poignant tale to be found in any cookbook.  The 20 pages that describe life in Pitigliano are worth the price of the book, although it has many terrific recipes, too. 

The Classic Cuisine of the Italian Jews, by Edda Servi Machlin
Serves 12 

2 tablespoons sweet butter or [to make it parve] non-dairy margarine
2 tablespoons fine breadcrumbs or matza meal
5 eggs, separated
1 small pinch of salt
1-1/4 cups granulated sugar
2-1/2 cups (10 ounces) blanched almonds, chopped very fine [in a food processor]
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon almond extract
Grated rind of 1 lemon
Confectioners sugar
Sliced almonds, toasted [spread on a baking sheet and put under the broiler, far from the heat, for a few minutes; stir a couple of times and watch carefully to make sure they don’t burn]

Grease a 10-inch spring form pan and sprinkle with breadcrumbs or matza meal; set aside.  Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Beat the egg whites with salt until stiff and dry.

In a separate bowl, beat the egg yolks until foamy, then gradually add the sugar and continue beating until the mixture is lemon-colored.  Gradually add the chopped almonds, then the two extracts and the lemon rind.  You should have a very hard paste.  [For this reason, I strongly suggest using a stand mixer.]  Mix 1/3 of the beaten egg whites with the almond mixture to make it softer.  Delicately fold in the remaining egg whites and pour into the prepared pan.

Place in the center of the middle rack in the preheated oven and bake for one hour without opening the oven door.  After the hour is over, leave the oven door ajar for 10 to 15 minutes; then remove the pan from the oven and place it upside down on a cooling rack [I’m not sure why it has to be upside down; and no, the cake doesn’t fall out.]  When the cake is thoroughly cool, remove it from the pan and place it upside down over a cake dish.  [Since the bottom will be the top of the cake, you will want the cake to come out cleanly.  Try running a sharp, thin knife between the cake and the bottom of the pan to make sure nothing sticks.]  Top with confectioners sugar, using a sifter, and sprinkle with toasted sliced almonds.

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

An Exercise in Contrasts: Blondie Brownies

Of all of the people in my family (in-laws excluded), I am probably the one least likely to choose the chocolate dessert when there is another option. If it's made with high quality dark chocolate, I am embarrassed to say that I probably won't like it. However, the exception for me is brownies from a box. I know, not especially dignified, but sooo delicious.

That being said, if I'm having company, I feel like I owe them better than that. So this is one of my favorites: a layer of blondies (aka chocolate chip cookie batter in disguise), topped with a layer of brownies. The last time I served them, one of my friends told me to "blog the [expletive] out of them." So there you go. Enjoy!

Blondie Brownie Bars:

1 box of brownie mix (make sure it's the kind that fits a 9 x 13 pan), with all required ingredients

2 1/4 cups all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter, softened
1/4 cup skim milk
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
2 cups (12-oz. pkg.) chocolate chips

Preheat the oven to 350.

Prepare the brownies as instructed by the box. Set aside.

Mix the butter, vanilla, eggs, milk, and both types of sugar until well blended. Add the dry ingredients and mix. Add the chocolate chips and mix the batter until the chips are evenly distributed.

In a 9 x 13 pan, evenly spread the cookie batter through the pan. Pour the brownie batter on top and spread evenly. Bake at 350 for 40-45 minutes, or until the middle is solid and a toothpick comes out clean. Be careful-- these are really thick, so they might need more time than that, depending on your oven.

Allow to cool before cutting and serving.

Monday, March 15, 2010

MSC: Lemon Meringue Cupcakes

This month, for The Martha Stewart Cupcake Club, we made Lemon Meringue Cupcakes on page 142 of Martha Stewart's Cupcakes.  This cupcake was chosen by Megan from My Baking Adventures.  Check out her blog -- she has some beautiful photos.

This was my favorite recipe from the book so far.  The cupcakes were light and fluffy (unlike many of the other ones I have made) and the lemon flavor is amazing!  As a bonus, these were a lot less work than I thought they would be, given that they had three parts.

First, they involved Sarah's favorite baking activity -- zesting a lemon.  It did not involve combining the sugar and the zest, but you can't have everything.  Second, these cupcakes involved buttermilk.  I love the flavor that buttermilk adds to baked goods -- it makes them so moist and it gives them a nice tang, which goes well with the lemon.   

The second component was the lemon curd.  It was very good and very lemony (although Dorie's lemon cream is still my favorite and would be awesome on these cupakes).  I didn't strain it at the end, and although it was a little lumpy, you didn't notice it in the cupcakes and I don't think I would take that extra step of dirtying up my strainer.

The third component was seven minute frosting.  Regular readers of this blog know that I destroyed my seven minute frosting on the coconut cupcakes, but this time it worked (it helped that I didn't add any extra liquid).  I followed the directions and it came out exactly right.  I thought it was perfect with these cupcakes.  I think actual meringue might have been to hard (crunchy) with the texture of the cupcakes.  I don't have a torch, so I didn't brown the frosting and it still tasted great.

Even though Martha said to serve these immediately, I ate one the next day and it was still good and fresh tasting. should make these if you enjoy lemon and lemon meringue.  Great pick Megan!

Sunday, March 14, 2010

A Pi Day Treat: Momofuku's Crack Pie

Want to hear a sad story? They don't have Pi Day in England, and all because of the stupid way they write dates. Instead of today being 3.14, it's 14.3. Since there are only 12 months in the year, that means that they can never experience the true nerdy delicious glory that is Pi Day. Luckily, they've got me!

This pie, called "Crack Pie" because it's so good it's like crack, comes from the restaurant Momofuku in New York. Admittedly, I made it a while ago, but I wanted to save blogging about it for this very special occasion. My friend Phileda picked it out. She is a lot of fun to cook and bake with because both of her parents are chefs, so she is very good at improvising and not freaking out when something goes wrong. And a lot of things went wrong, mostly thanks to my not realizing that there were two pages of recipe and not buying all the necessary ingredients. But thanks to Phileda's cool head and ingenuity, we perservered. And the pie was soooo good! Unbelievably rich (not surprising if you look at the ingredients), so I could only eat a little slice. Still, me, Phileda and our two other friends finished off almost the entire pie that very night. If you are looking for an amazing Pi Day treat and you have a table full of very hungry people (or just four 20-year-old girls who can eat like nobody's business), this is the pie for you!

Momofuku's Crack Pie

From the LA Times Web site

Makes 2 pies (6 to 8 servings each)

Note: Adapted from Momofuku. This pie calls for 2 (10-inch) pie tins. You can substitute 9-inch pie tins, but note that the pies will require additional baking time, about 5 minutes, due to the increased thickness of the filling.

Cookie for crust

2/3 cup plus 1 tablespoon (3 ounces) flour

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking powder

Scant 1/8 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) softened butter

1/3 cup (2 1/2 ounces) light brown sugar

3 tablespoons (1 1/4 ounces) sugar

1 egg

Scant 1 cup (3 1/2 ounces) rolled oats

1. Heat the oven to 375 degrees.

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

3. In the bowl of a stand mixer using the paddle attachment, or in a large bowl using an electric mixer, beat the butter, brown sugar and sugar until light and fluffy.

4. Whisk the egg into the butter mixture until fully incorporated.

5. With the mixer running, beat in the flour mixture, a little at a time, until fully combined. Stir in the oats until incorporated.

6. Spread the mixture onto a 9-inch-by-13-inch baking sheet and bake until golden brown and set, about 20 minutes. Remove from heat and cool to the touch on a rack. Crumble the cooled cookie to use in the crust.


Crumbled cookie for crust

1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter

1 1/2 tablespoons (3/4 ounce) brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon salt

Combine the crumbled cookie, butter, brown sugar and salt in a food processor and pulse until evenly combined and blended (a little of the mixture clumped between your fingers should hold together). Divide the crust between 2 (10-inch) pie tins. Press the crust into each shell to form a thin, even layer along the bottom and sides of the tins. Set the prepared crusts aside while you prepare the filling.


1 1/2 cups (10 1/2 ounces) sugar

3/4 cup plus a scant 3 tablespoons (7 ounces) light brown sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

1/3 cup plus 1 teaspoon (3/4 ounce) milk powder

1 cup (2 sticks) butter, melted

8 egg yolks

2 prepared crusts

Powdered sugar, garnish

1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees.

2. In a large bowl, whisk together the sugar, brown sugar, salt and milk powder. Whisk in the melted butter, then whisk in the heavy cream and vanilla.

3. Gently whisk in the egg yolks, being careful not to add too much air.

4. Divide the filling evenly between the 2 prepared pie shells. Blogger's note: Don't be worried if the filling is really liquid-y. It will congeal, but it took us a lot longer than 15 minutes. Although we were using 9-inch pie pans, so that might be it.

5. Bake the pies, one at a time, for 15 minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 degrees and bake until the filling is slightly jiggly and golden brown (similar to a pecan pie), about 10 minutes. Remove the pies and cool on a rack.

6. Refrigerate the cooled pies until well chilled. The pies are meant to be served cold, and the filling will be gooey. Dust with powdered sugar before serving.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

Not For Fans of Instant Gratification: New York Times Chocolate Chip Cookies

If you have an immediate craving for chocolate chip cookies, these cookies are not for you.  You have to rest them for at least 24 hours (preferably 36), so you will need to plan your cookie craving if you want to make these.  Sarah made these cookies a while back, and you can see her thoughts here.  She thought they were too fussy, and while I agree, I think these are SO worth it.  These are the best chocolate chip cookies I have ever baked, hands down.  The only tiny, picky thing I can say about them is that I thought they were a little too thick.  But that is really, really minor and they are so so good, I didn't even notice the thickness issue after a bite or two.

Now, I know I am late to the New York Times cookie party.  I feel like everyone in the blog world has made these cookies already.   However, until now I haven't had all the ingredients and all the patience in one place.  However, a few days ago I just decided to go for it.  I had been collecting the ingredients for a few months (cake flour, chocolate disks for Jacques Torres in New York, French sea salt, among other things) and my husband has been bugging me to get rid of all the non-kosher for Passover food before Passover, so this seemed like the perfect time.

These were very easy to make.  You basically just combine the ingredients in a mixer bowl.  I mixed in the chocolate discs by hand so that I would not break them, but you could probably do that with the mixer too.  Then, you have to let the dough rest in the fridge for 24-36 hours (or up to 72).

The only trouble I had with these cookies was that, after taking the dough out of the fridge, it was really hard to scoop out because it was so cold and hard.  However, I persevered and I am glad I did.  They were delicious.

The recipe says that it made 18 cookies, but I got 27.  I thought I made mine pretty big (six ran together on the baking sheet) but since I don't have a scale, I don't know how much each ball of dough weighed.  I don't think I would want to make them any bigger.  I ate one, with a cold glass of milk, and I was stuffed, but in a good way.  I am going to freeze the rest of them and will probably zap them in the microwave before eating them.  But I don't think I will be able to eat all 30 before Passover in a little over two weeks.  Now I have to think of a way to distribute all these cookies before Passover.  Any takers?

Here is the recipe from the New York Times:

Chocolate Chip Cookies

Adapted from Jacques Torres

Time: 45 minutes (for 1 6-cookie batch), plus at least 24 hours’ chilling
2 cups minus 2 tablespoons
(8 1/2 ounces) cake flour
1 2/3 cups (8 1/2 ounces) bread flour
1 1/4 teaspoons baking soda
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 teaspoons coarse salt
2 1/2 sticks (1 1/4 cups) unsalted butter
1 1/4 cups (10 ounces) light brown sugar
1 cup plus 2 tablespoons (8 ounces) granulated sugar
2 large eggs
2 teaspoons natural vanilla extract
1 1/4 pounds bittersweet chocolate disks or fèves, at least 60 percent cacao content (see note)
Sea salt.

1. Sift flours, baking soda, baking powder and salt into a bowl. Set aside.

2. Using a mixer fitted with paddle attachment, cream butter and sugars together until very light, about 5 minutes. Add eggs, one at a time, mixing well after each addition. Stir in the vanilla. Reduce speed to low, add dry ingredients and mix until just combined, 5 to 10 seconds. Drop chocolate pieces in and incorporate them without breaking them. Press plastic wrap against dough and refrigerate for 24 to 36 hours. Dough may be used in batches, and can be refrigerated for up to 72 hours.

3. When ready to bake, preheat oven to 350 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or a nonstick baking mat. Set aside.

4. Scoop 6 3 1/2-ounce mounds of dough (the size of generous golf balls) onto baking sheet, making sure to turn horizontally any chocolate pieces that are poking up; it will make for a more attractive cookie. Sprinkle lightly with sea salt and bake until golden brown but still soft, 18 to 20 minutes. Transfer sheet to a wire rack for 10 minutes, then slip cookies onto another rack to cool a bit more. Repeat with remaining dough, or reserve dough, refrigerated, for baking remaining batches the next day. Eat warm, with a big napkin.

Yield: 1 1/2 dozen 5-inch cookies.

Note: Disks are sold at Jacques Torres Chocolate; Valrhona fèves, oval-shaped chocolate pieces, are at Whole Foods.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Cute Little Corn Bread

Aren't they cute?  I just love my new mini-muffin pan.  I got it in New York when we were visiting in the winter and have just recently started putting it to use.  It was our turn to send snack for our son's class and we decided to make corn bread/muffins for them (what is the different between corn bread and corn muffins anyway?).  I made 24 regular sized and about 15 mini-muffins and the mini-muffins were my favorite.  For some reason, the regular sized ones got burned around the edges, but the mini ones cooked perfectly.  Mini-muffins are just so cute!

I used the same recipe that Rachel did when she recently made cornbread.  You can find the recipe here. The mini muffins baked for about 12 minutes, and the regular sized cooked for about 22 minutes.  

Hopefully I will make more mini things too, because they are just adorable (and you can eat two without feeling too guilty).

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Operation Baking GALS: Cookies to Soldiers

Before I lived in Texas, I never really had any connection to the military.  I knew that we were fighting a war, and I theoretically knew that the people fighting it were people's parents, children and siblings, but I never really knew anyone who was actually fighting.  However, I now live in a large military town, and many of the people that I interact with on a daily basis, including a few of the children in my child's class, are either military themselves or someone in their family is.  One of my close friends here (who writes this great blog) has had her emotions yanked all over the place, thinking her husband was being deployed and then learning he wasn't but will be at some point in the future.  This has really brought the need to support the troops home for me.  Whether you agree with the war or not, that is someone's parent, child, friend out there fighting, so we can sit at home and we should all do what we can to make them feel comfortable from afar.

All that is why I decided to join the group Operation Baking GALS.  This great group of people bake for soldiers each month.  You join a team and then everyone sends their goodies on the same day, so that the soldier (and his or her unit) is bombarded with love.  Also, it is win-win because I love to bake, but its not great for me to eat everything I bake, so I feel great about being able to send it away.

I chose to make two different kinds of cookies for my group, whose solider is in Iraq.  The first (the cookies on the left) are some of my favorites, because they combine cinnamon and chocolate.  I have made them numerous times and they have never failed.  The recipe makes 2 9x13 pans, but I always half it without any problems.  Bake them for about 20 minutes.

You can find the recipe here, on the blog Dozen Flours.

The second cookie, the one on the right, is Buttery Jam Cookies from our favorite book, Dorie Greenspan's Baking From My Home to Yours.  The recipe calls for apricot jam, but all I had was black raspberry, which accounts for the interesting purple color of the cookies.  These are very soft and not two sweet and I could really taste the jam.  I also used buttermilk (instead of regular milk) because I had exactly 2 tablespoons left and it just seemed too good to be true.

You can find the recipe here, from when it was chosen as  Tuesdays with Dorie recipe.

I hope by solider enjoys them.  Just my way of showing some support for the troops.  I hope you find your own way to support them as well.
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