Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Some Sweet Ideas for a Sweet New Year

It's hard to believe, but Rosh Hashanah is almost upon us.  Every year I say -- the holidays come up so quickly, but this year it is really true.  Two days after labor day, Jews all around the world will be crowding their synagogues to celebrate the new year.  One of the main traditions of Rosh Hashanah is to eat apples and honey, so that the year ahead will be sweet.  This can translate into many things -- from honey cake to apple pie to any sweet confection.  

A few weeks ago, we were in Santa Fe.  We went to the farmer's market, where it happend to be honey bee awareness week and there was a table with bees and a vendor selling delicious honey (we bought a number of jars and I hope to make something delicious with it, or just eat it on a nice, tart apple).  As you can see, my son was fascinated by the bees and we spent a long time at that table.

I haven't decided what to bake yet this year, but we thought we would leave you with a Rosh Hashanah Round Up, in case you plan further ahead than I do.  Enjoy these recipes and have a Shanah tovah u'metukah (a good and sweet new year).  Feel free to leave a comment with your favorite Rosh Hashanah or fall recipe.  Perhaps I will be inspired to make it!

An obvious and delicious apple treat...Apple Pie!

Moist and delicious Applesauce Spice Bars from Dorie Greenspan.  You can't go wrong with these and, if you are going to someone else's house, they travel pretty well.

If you want to enjoy the end of summer fruits a little longer, this Dimply Plum Cake (also from Dorie) is a perfect Rosh Hashanah treat.

If you want something light and easy, this Applesauce and Green Tea cake from Kosher By Design Lightens Up fits the bill.  It would be a delicious and not at all heavy ending to a holiday meal.

If you want to go for something chocolate, try our go-to parve chocolate cake (since holiday meals are often meat) or, if you are looking for something quick but delicious or something that would be good to have around as a holiday snack, a classic mandelbrot always goes over well.

And let's not forget challah...
Rosh Hashanah challah's are usually round, to symbolize the roundness of the world and the cycle of life.  You can make either of these recipes into round challahs (much easier than braiding!) 

Friday, August 27, 2010

Two Desserts in One: Pudding Chocolate Chip Cookies

Mmm, pudding. Who doesn't like pudding? I love pudding on its own, for its cool and smooth flavor. But I also think pudding is often a great addition to other desserts because it adds a nice layer of moisture and flavor to whatever you're cooking. The White Chocolate Cheesecake I make has pudding, which I think it part of the reason I like it so much. So when I found a chocolate chip cookie recipe with pudding as a main ingredient, I had to try it.

When I went to the store, all they had was sugar free white chocolate pudding mix, which I would not have chosen if I had had another option. I felt like the cookies tasted a little artificial, but my friend who ate them with me said she thought they tasted great. Other than that, these cookies are pretty good. I liked the consistency of the cookies-- they were very moist and didn't get all flat when I baked them. They weren't so so exciting, but if you like chocolate chip cookies, you would probably like these. I think one day I'll try them again, but with chocolate pudding and white chocolate chips.

You can find the recipe after the jump.

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Not Just for Christmas: Sugar Cookies

A few weeks ago, I was supposed to go to a friend's house for lunch, and she asked me to take care of dessert. It was just the two of us, so I wanted to make something that was easily divided, also easily frozen after the fact. As you probably all know by now, I also love cookies. But for some reason, I wasn't in the mood for chocolate chip, or the white chocolate chip ones I usually make. So I decided to look for a sugar cookie recipe to make instead.

I happen to feel that sugar cookies are a highly underrated cookie. I've heard people refer to them as chocolate chip cookies where you forgot to add the chocolate chips. But I actually think that sugar cookies are delicious for their simplicity and their crunchy sugar on top, especially when they're made well.

Sugar cookies are often very crunchy, but the recipe I found was actually very light and fluffy. I followed directions and made sure that the butter was very soft before I used it. As usual, I halved the butter and added a quarter cup of milk instead. It made them almost cake-like, in a good way. I also added some colored sugar on top. Yum!

You can find the recipe here.

Monday, August 23, 2010

Last Days of Summer Fruit Tartelette

Oh those lazy hazy crazy days of summer, those days of soda and pretzels and beer. Except that soda will rot your teeth, beer will rot your liver, and pretzels will dehydrate you, and with the recent heat wave we've had in New York, you can't really afford that. Ah, are none of the simple pleasures of summer to be enjoyed anymore? Even though they will no doubt one day be linked to cancer, I don't think I will ever stop appreciating a blue sky, a big bunch of sunflowers and fresh fruit from the farmers' market. And the stupid heat even tried to take one of those away from me; it was one of those days that was so sweltering that I hopped on whatever subway came into the station just to get into the AC, so it took me five trains to get back from Union Square instead of two, and my hardy sunflowers nearly wilted and died from the heat. Luckily, as soon as I got home I was able to put them in water, pull out the fruit and get to work.

I had long planned a "thanks for paying for my study abroad experience" dinner for my parents but it got postponed because of my grandma's illness, until now. I didn't know what I wanted to make, except that I wanted to use the miniature tart pans I got from Zabar's a long time ago and had never had occasion to use. So tartelette pans + fruit = fruit tartelette, duh. And who better to turn to for a tartelette recipe that Tartelette herself?

The recipe I picked, Fresh Berries Tartelettes, was simple and delicious, helped along, no doubt, by the quality of the fruit. The raspberries were good, but the blackberries were a revelation: big, juicy, plump, the perfect amount of sweet and tart. Probably the best blackberries I ever had, so I was almost reluctant to bake them, but I'm glad I did!

The only qualm I had with this recipe was that the dough, which was easy to make and easy to work with, didn't really taste like anything. Next time I make these I will add sugar to the dough and decrease the amount of sugar in the filling. But served with vanilla ice cream, they were yummy and pretty and summery, and really, what else could you ask for on a hot August day?

Fresh Berries Tartelettes
Gluten-free version can be found on mytartelette.com

For the crust:
5 tablespoons (70gr) unsalted butter, at room temperature (I used half butter and half leaf lard I got at the market this time)
3 egg yolks
pinch salt
1 1/2 cups flour
2 tablespoons to 1/4 cup cold milk

For the filling:
1 pint blackberries
1 pint raspberries
1/2 cup sugar
1 chopped tablespoon lemon thyme (or your favorite herb)

Prepare the crust:
In a mixer, whip the butter on medium speed until light and airy. Add the egg yolks, one at a time and beating well after each addition. Mix until incorporated. Add the salt, and all the different flours, and the xantham gum and mix briefly. Add enough milk to moisten it. Dump the whole mixture onto a lightly floured (use more rice flour) board and gather the dough into a smooth ball. Flatten the dough into a disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate for an hour.
Preheat oven to 350F and position a rack in the center.
When the dough is nice and cold, roll it out on a lightly floured board or in between two sheets of plastic to fit your prefered pie pan. If the dough tears while you roll or/and transfer into the pan, just patch it with your fingertips. Line the dough with a piece of parchment paper, fill with pie weights or dy beans and par bake for 10-15 minutes until almost completely baked. Remove the weights and parchment paper. At this point you can refrigerate the baked crust for up to 3 days before using. Roll some extra dough to form lattice pattern on top if desired. You can also freeze the extra raw dough for up to three months.

For the filling:
Place the berries in a non reactive bowl. Rub the sugar and thyme together and sprinkle over the fruit. Gently mix with a spatula. Let the fruit marinate for about 20 minutes.

Divide the berries among the tart shells, top with lattice if desired and bake 20 minutes. Let the tarts cool completely before eating. Depending on the water content in the fruits, some may release more juice than others so be aware when you eat...it might drip.

Friday, August 20, 2010

Ghetto Baking, Anniversary Style

Greetings from Santa Fe!  This is actually Sarah writing on Rebecca's account. We're here on a family vacation and very excited to be reunited for the first time in many months (unless you count our grandma's funeral, which was, frankly, not that fun).  We are here to celebrate our parents' 35th anniversary and a big birthday for our dad.  Out of respect for his advanced age I won't tell you how old he is, only that it starts with an "s" and ends with an "ixty."  For these special occasions we knew we had to bake something special, something - dare I say - dressy?

However, we also knew that we would be engaging in some ghetto baking, since the house we're staying in doesn't have any equipment (and trust me, everything about it from the convection oven to the enormous copper bathtub in which I want to make meringue just screams "ghetto"), so the cake couldn't be that complex.  We especially wanted to minimize the amount of butter that we had to cream, so a non-butter-based frosting was preferred.  Luckily, Dorie's Dressy Chocolate Loaf Cake fit the bill on every count: simple to put together, beautiful in its presentation, and delicious.

The only thing that makes this cake tricky is the cutting of the layers.  Last time I made it I had issues with the layers breaking apart as I cut them so Rebecca was put in charge of that, but she had the same problem.  So be sure to be very careful about that.  (Rebecca protests that the altitude caused the cake to sink in the middle, but I say there's no shame in having broken layers.  The frosting covers them up pretty well.)

The cake was delicious - always is, no matter how weird it looks - but I would especially recommend using Valrhona chocolate for this recipe.  I found some at Trader Joe's for three dollars a bar and it went really well with this cake, because it's got fruity overtones that match beautifully with the jam.  We used strawberry preserves, which was kind of an accident since I thought they were raspberry, but it was still tasty and we served the cake with tiny sweet strawberries we got at the farmers' market.  A very special cake for a very special day!  

Recipe after the jump.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

MSC August: Triple Citrus Cupcakes

Welcome to the August edition of the Martha Stewart Cupcake Club, featuring Triple Citrus Cupcakes.  Marthe, of Culinary Delights, chose these cupcakes, which seem just the thing for hot weather (not that we are having any in LA these days, but in theory).  They were tart, with a delicious glaze and you really tasted the orange, lemon and lime.

These cupcakes are a snap to make, especially if you have a micro-plane zester.  As we all know, Sarah loves zesting, so these are perfect cupcakes for her, and anyone else who enjoys that activity.  The one change I made to this recipe was to rub together the sugar and the zest before creaming them into the butter (a trick learned from Dorie Greenspan), which I think added to the flavor.

These had a really good citrus flavor.  I found them to be more like muffins than cupcakes, especially without the glaze, so I think you could be justified in eating them for breakfast.  I made the glaze with less sugar than Martha suggests and they were really tart with the glaze on, but in a good way.  I made lime flavored glaze, but you could make lemon or orange and I think it would be delicious.  I would definitely make these again and may try grapefruit too!

Thanks Marthe for the great pick.  You can find the recipe in Martha Stewart Cupcakes or here.

Monday, August 9, 2010

Two Thumbs Up

I am very lucky. In addition to having an adorable nephew, I have two adorable cousins. They are the daughters of my cousin Paul and his wife Stephanie, and every time I see them I'm amazed at how sweet, beautiful and well-behaved they are. They came to visit a couple of weeks ago, and after a fun day at the Children's Museum, we decided to make cookies. I decided on thumbprint cookies from "Baking from My Home to Yours." I substituted almonds for hazelnuts, since that's what we had in the house.

They were a lot of fun to make, although the girls needed some help with the thumbprints and were impatient about waiting for the cookies to cool to add the jam. Still, it allowed them to feel like they were an important part of the cookie-making process, and that was kind of the point. As for the final cookies: Paula, the older girl, really liked them, but Maya found the almonds a little too sophisticated for her palate. I thought they were yummy, though. And they sure liked the dough!

The master bakers at work

THUMBPRINTS FOR US BIG GUYS by Dorie Greenspan from “Baking: From My Home To Yours”

1 3/4 cups finely ground hazelnuts
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2 sticks (8 oz) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract
Confectioner’s sugar, for dusting
About 1 cup raspberry jam (or the jam or marmalade of your choice)

GETTING READY: Position the racks to divide the oven into thirds and preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line two baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats.

Whisk together ground nuts and flour.

Working with a stand mixer, preferably fitted with the paddle attachment, or with a hand mixer in a large bowl, beat the butter and sugar together on medium speed until light and fluffy, 3 to 4 minutes. Add the extracts and beat to blend. Reduce the mixer speed to low and gradually add the nut-flour mixture, mixing only until it is incorporated into the dough.

Working with a teaspoonful of dough at a time, roll the dough between your palms to form small balls and place the balls 2 inches apart on the baking sheets. Steadying each cookie with the thumb and forefinger of one hand, use the pinkie of your other hand (or the end of a wooden spoon) to poke a hole in the center of each cookie. Be careful not to go all the way down to the baking sheet.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes, rotating the sheets from top to bottom and front to back at the midway point. The cookies should be only slightly colored–they may even look underdone, which is fine: they should not be overbaked. When the cookies are baked, remove the baking sheets from the oven and let the cookies rest on the sheets for 2 minutes before transferring them to cooling racks with a wide metal spatula and sifting confectioner’s sugar over them.

Repeat with the remaining dough, remembering to cool the baking sheets before baking the next batch.

Bring jam to a boil in a small saucepan over low heat, or bring to a boil in a microwave oven; remove from the heat. Fill the indentations of all the cookies with enough of the hot jam to come level with the tops. Cool to room temperature.

Monday, August 2, 2010

Delicious Scones (Not Just For Breakfast)

Apologies for the extended hiatus.  Our grandmother passed away last week.  Unlike our mother, who has many wonderful qualities, but cooking is not among them, our grandmother was a terrific cook.  Perhaps cooking skill skips a generation or something, but some of our fondest memories include spending time with our grandmother as she cooked Thanksgiving dinner (while refusing to let anyone else help).  She was also an avid gardener and there were always fruits and veggies in the house that she had picked from her garden.  She will be tremendously missed by her many friends and family.

I tried to think of what I had baked recently that would be an appropriate tribute to our grandmother.  However, I don't really remember her baking too much.  The thing that I do remember is that times at her house were always special and these scones are certainly something that you might serve if you wanted a breakfast to be extra special.  

These scones are super easy to make.  All you need is a bowl, a fork and your fingers and you can make something really delicious.  I often think of scones as dry and not very appealing to eat, but these are flakey and they melt in your mouth.  Dorie's original recipe calls for currants, but I used chocolate chips instead.  These would be really good with any kind of dried fruit or mini chocolate chips or nuts or whatever you can think of.  You can whip up a batch any time you want to, because they are so easy.  You can also freeze the dough and bake them straight from the freezer or freeze the completed scones and warm them in the oven.  See...very versatile.   

Happy Scone-ing!

Recipe is after the jump...

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