Thursday, March 31, 2011

Bread Pudding with White Chocolate

Aside from almost an entire chocolate cake leftover after the weekend, I was also left with a whole, untouched loaf of challah. What to do with it? My first thought was french toast, but we don't exactly have a stove top to fry that in. My roommate suggested I make a french toast casserole, specifically one she enjoyed at a bridal shower we both attended. I got the recipe but decided to just find my own recipe for bread pudding. (It seems to me that I wasnt the only one with bread pudding on the brain, as seen here and here.) I was kind of nervous about making it because this is the type of dessert that I thought the girls would balk at. Soaked bread? Knowing that these girls would eat anything I set before them, I forged ahead (and told them it was challah kugel- made them feel right at home!). Bread pudding is, as I said before, bread that is soaked in custard and then baked. You can add whatever you feel like, chocolate, raisins, fruit, etc. This recipe is adapted from Marcy Goldman's in which she adds white chocolate. I didn't have her exact ingredients on hand, so I just used whatever I did have, using the guideline of about 3 cups liquid. I used some cream, a bit of regular milk, and soy milk for the rest. I also totally missed the seventh egg, using only six medium. The resulting bread pudding was certainly no beauty, but was so..... housewarming. My roommate cut into it and deemed it delicious, so then I knew it was going to be okay. I was worried that the texture would be wet and mushy and eggy, but I was happy to see that it wasn't wet at all, but perfectly moist. I set it out for the girls to devour, and when I came home most of it was gone. I really was surprised about that. Anyway, feel free to doctor this recipe as you wish. And just know that french toast is not your only option when contemplating uses for stale challah. This post is headed straight to Yeastspotting! Check it out!

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Chocolate Chiffon Cake

This past weekend I stayed in the dorms for Shabbat with a couple of girls who decided to stay in. Instead of buying food for Shabbat, I decided that I was going to cook food. Could one have Shabbat any other way? I don't think so. So just for the three of us, I made everything from challah (mommy's obviously) to dessert. Everything in between was the no-brainer, it was the dessert part that, as usual, threw me for a loop. What to make? I knew that this week, I really wanted to make a chocolate cake and after going through all my books, I finally settled on a Chiffon Cake from the Cake Bible. But then chiffon cake made me think of all the other flavors, vanilla, orange, lemon... When I asked the girls to pick a flavor, they chose chocolate. So chocolate it was. (Fortunately, I also had the extra egg whites sitting around the fridge.) For those who arent familiar with it, chiffon cake is a cake invented by Harry Baker that is similiar to angel food cake but uses the yolks as well as whites, and also contains oil. The oil was his secret ingredient that added moisture to this spongy cake. Making it is easy- blend all of the ingredients, save for the whites, beat the whites, fold in and bake. Like angel food cake, this is foam cake gets cooled upside down to set its structure. Unfortunately, my pan is only one piece, so parts of the cake did get stuck to the pan. For my next chiffon cake (orange, anyone?) I'll bake it in a springform pan with a flower pin in the center, as per Rose's latest technique. The girls loved the cake, but barely made a dent in it, as we were only three people. After Shabbat, the other girls took care of it, leaving just a trail of crumbs behind. You might want to dust with powdered sugar to hide its imperfections, for contrast, or just because; suit yourself.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Mekupelet Crumbed Banana Cake

 As I mentioned in some earlier post, last week was Purim. With it came an excess of junk that I didnt know what to do with. All of the madrichot pooled together all the junk and placed it on our table for the girls to take as they wanted. The only thing I took for myself were the famed Israeli chocolate bars, the Mekupelet. Between me and the other madrichot, we got a ton of them, many of them mehadrin. Having recalled a Mekupelet cake in one of my Israeli cookbooks, I collected many of them. This cake before you is not the Mekupelet cake (I will get around to making it soon!) but rather the delicious Mekupelet Crumbed Banana Cake. You see, at the same time that all the Purim craziness was happening, I had three overripe bananas sitting in my fruit bowl, waiting to be used. Marcy Goldman had a recipe for a banana toffee crumb cake in her oft used A Passion for Baking. I had everything except the toffee so I decided to swap in crumbled Mekupelet. Brilliant! (If I may say so myself...) I knew this cake would be a hit and indeed it was from the very first bite. Extremely moist banana cake (love using sour cream!) topped with a chocolatey crumb- what could be bad? I finally employed the technique of applying the crumble when the cake has already set up on top and guess what? Works like a charm! No sinking crumble! Leaves you with a cake that not only tastes delicious but looks beautiful, too. Feel free to use toffee bits, crumbled chocolate bars, whatever ya got- be creative!

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Chocolate Wows

This past Shabbat I was in Katamon with my dearest friend, E. It took a reallly long time to finally find a weekend that worked for both of us, but it did and I had a great time. (Thanks, El, if you're reading this!) I offered to bake challot (mommy's again) and dessert. Because A the chocoholic was coming, chocolate was the only way to go. It took me ages to figure out what to make- at first I wanted a cake- but then settled on these appropriately named Chocolate Wows from Good Housekeeping's Favorite Chocolate Recipes. These cookies more than live up to their name- chewy and chocolatey, like a brownie in a cookie, with toasted pecans. Mmmm! Everyone raved about these, but really, what's not to love? To up the deep chocolately flavor in these, I used Dutch process cocoa (my fave!) and about 3 1/2 ounces 60 percent cacao chocolate and the rest bittersweet. I also toasted the pecans as mentioned. (Don't skip this step- it takes the pecan from humble to sublime. You can't help but eat them all up.)  Once again, my pictures look nothing like the photograph because I keep forgetting to adopt the food stylist trick of reserving some chopped pecans and chocolate chips to press into the top. Go ahead and do it if you remember, if not, your eaters will just be surprised when they take a bite. That's about it. Enjoy your chocolate fix for today. (Sorry for the long pictures, these were the first taken on my new camera. Still getting the hang of it, so bear with me.)

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Shaker Lemon Pie

I really wanted to have this pie baked and posted in time for Pi Day (last week) but it just didnt work out that way, so I'm posting this now. At a recent visit to Rami Levi, I picked up some lemons. It took me a while to figure out what I wanted to do with them (and I still have a few of them left to use!) but I finally settled on this Shaker Lemon Pie because it's a pie and because I wanted to try my hand again at baking with the full fruit. This pie is credited to the Shakers, a thrifty bunch that tried to avoid wastefulness in their cooking, hence the use of the whole lemon here. I was intrigued by this concept but knew that the girls would not take too well to having peel in their dessert. Although most recipes that you can find for this pie are the same, I opted to use Rose Levy Beranbaum's version from The Pie and Pastry Bible. Being without a mandoline, I sliced the lemons as thinly as I could and macerated them for a good 18 hours before baking. I opted for a butter/shortening crust instead of her suggested cream cheese crust with no harm done. Once the lemons were finished macerating, assembly was pretty easy- just whisk together some eggs and add to the lemons to form a custard and bake. So how did it turn out? Pretty deliciously, I think. The sugar mellows out the lemons to produce a lemon-bar like custard filling. Yum. And the peel? Had a nice zing, but without the usual bitterness that the pith contributes. I was a big fan. The girls? They loved the flavor but unanimously decided I should make this again without the peel. I tried to explain that that would defeat the whole purpose of this pie but to no avail. I'm still happy I tried it and this would be a great dessert to make for lemon lovers with more sophisticated palates and open minds. This pie requires advanced preparation so plan accordingly.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Many Splendored Quick Bread

Purim Sameach everyone!! (But more on that in a later post!) This quick bread from Rose's Heavenly Cakes has been in the far reaches of my mind since I got it but when I saw real green zucchini here in Israel, it was the first thing I thought of. I know you're thinking, they dont have zucchini there? Well, there are two different types, light green squash that are suitable for cooking, and regular green zucchini. They have a specific season, I believe, so I was thrilled to find them in a health food store right near the shuk while I was waiting for my bus home. I bought four, and having already had carrots and bananas at home, was very excited to put it together. There's not much to say except that this is very simple to put together once you've got all your mise en place. The toughest part was grating the carrots and zucchini. The result is a very moist cake. The girls kept asking me if this cake was healthy and while I couldnt lie and say there was no oil, the banana, carrot, zucchini, and oatmeal certainly make this a more virtuous option. I was on sign in when this one was eaten, but girls popped in to give me the thumbs up and it was all gone by the time I popped my head out. I omitted the nuts from the original recipe, but otherwise, everything remains the same.

Friday, March 18, 2011

Adventures with Rye Part 7: Crispy Rye Crackers

I'm not really sure why I never thought to make crackers before. They are as easy as pie (dough) and awesome. Awesomely addictive, that is. In addition to the spelt pitas that I made for Shabbat last weekend, I made these, figuring I'd need something to much on Shabbat morning. Well, they didn't make it that long. I know I only made half a recipe, but still. This recipe comes from Whole Grain Baking (another duh!). It was hard to pick a cracker recipe but knowing that I still had rye flour sitting in the fridge, I opted for these Crispy Rye Crackers. Just like pie crust, you mix some dry ingredients together, in this case, rye flour, regular flour, and a bit of cocoa powder. Stir in some caraway seeds (YUM!), rub in some fat, drizzle in some water and molasses. Chill, roll, bake. Done. I topped half of the batch with fleur de sel, but I think I preferred them without. I would say these would be great for tuna fish or whatever else you got laying around, but they are also so good by themselves. They are so munchable, you can't stop at just a few. Definitely going to try more crackers in the future. Sesame? Can't hardly wait.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Spelt Pita

This past Shabbat, we had a school weekend in a beautiful community called Nof Ayalon. Knowing that the food we would be eating for lunch was yeshiva food, I took the opportunity to once again bring my own bread with me so at least I knew I would be eating something. I whipped out my Whole Grain Baking and decided to make the Spelt Pita. It's been a while since I last tried my hand at making pita (the last try was the successful Whole Wheat Pitot) and I still have a bag of spelt flour hanging around from when I discovered a health food store that sold presifted every type of flour imaginable. (I have since found a much closer store that carries everything in more. I even found rye flakes!) It seemed the natural choice. One might ask, why make pita when you live in Israel? Now, it's true that pitot are Israeli's most loveable bread, especially if you love falafel. With their built in pocket, they are ready for any sandwich filling and they are ubiquitous. Still, there's something to be said about homemade bread- it's just fun! Especially watching them balloon in the oven. That never gets old. And I've never seen a spelt pita in any store. So there. Back to the recipe. I made a half recipe and it was quite simple. Make a sponge, add remaining ingredients, knead, let rise. I stashed my dough in the fridge overnight and baked them off Friday morning. I rolled them a bit too thin, so next time I would make them smaller so that they are more bready and sandwich like. I wasnt able to enjoy them right out of the oven, they would be soo good that way, but nonetheless they were really good. The spelt lends a noticeable sweetness and mellowness and I love the speckled, branny look it gave the dough as well. These breads are off to Yeastspotting!

Apricot Ginger Upside Down Cake

Months ago, when I was planning what to desserts to bake (I dont even remember what for), I found this upside down cake in Carole Walter's Great Cakes and decided to make it. I even went out and bought a can of apricot halves. I guess at the last second I opted for something else and so the apricots were relegated to the pantry shelf. I finally decided to put them to use (time for something else to take a seat in the pantry!) and having all the ingredients for this cake decided to make it while I was already making the pumpkin cake. This cake is a traditional upside down cake in that you just melt some margarine or butter in a pan, sprinkle with sugar and top with fruit. The batter is then spread over the top and baked. I had a slight mishap turning the cake out, I simply replaced the apricot halves and no one was the wiser. I was a bit nervous about how this cake would be received; my roommate was the first one to try it, and she, lover of all things fruit, declared it to be yummy. Although it finished second to the pumpkin cake, it was finished and enjoyed, and I'm happy that at least some girls tried something new. I think they were honestly astonished to see apricots on a cake. Anyway, some notes. The cake was nice and moist but I was nervous the fruit would make the top of the cake too soggy. Indeed it was very moist, which is to be expected somewhat. Take care to thoroughly drain and dry the apricot halves to prevent any problems. The cake looks quite elegant but would also be at home with some vanilla ice cream.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Whole Grain Pumpkin Cake

Last week, I took a girl to the doctor on Emek Refaim. While she was in his office, I took the opportunity to go into the supermarket right next door. This supermarket is quite pricey, but their produce is beautiful and they carry loads of American products. I rarely go there because it's not often that I'm in the area, but I decided to take advantage. The first thing I looked for was canned pumpkin. I had gone through my last can around Thanksgiving time to make a pumpkin pie and I decided it was time to replenish my stock. I came home with four cans. :) This is all very well and good, but then came the challenge of figuring out what to do with them. First up? Pumpkin cake. I know, I know. Last year, I made Pumpkin Cake with Cinnamon Buttercream. But this cake? Far more humble. Baked in a simple 9x13, made with whole grains, and studded with chocolate chips.... as homey as homey gets. I cut them into huge hunks and piled them on a plate. Made with both margarine and oil, this cake was tender and moist; you could see it in the cut pieces. As far as the whole grains? You never would have guessed they were there. A dusting of powdered sugar would be nice here, but forgo it as I did if you're feeling rustic. 

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Gingerbread White Chocolate Blondies

I've had my eye on these for aaaages and I finally got around to making them this week. (Tip-Writing down a list of all the things you want to bake is really effective in getting rid of baker's block! I think it's safe to say that I'm back on my baking game!) I happen to love gingerbread and I think the pairing of the spices with white chocolate is brilliant and not just in terms of the color contrast. Put that into moist, fudgy bar form, and you have a winning combination. (I wonder how it would play out in a scone....) Anyway, I did make a couple of changes based on the reviews on the Martha Stewart website and they were to cut down the butter/margarine. Reviewers complained they were too greasy so I used a bit less than two sticks rather than two and a half. Also, I baked them in a 9x13 pan for thicker blondies, rather than in an 11x7 pan for a thin blondie, as pictured on the site. These cookies were a hit with the girls! I'm always very surprised when they taste things other than chocolate. They were a bit wary of them at first- many didnt even know what gingerbread was! (Don't worry, I educated them fast!) After they got passed the name, they tasted and loved them. The few pieces that were left were finished the next morning by my roommates, who werent dairy at the time of baking. They subsequently declared them very delicious. :)

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Chocolate Chip Cookie Pie

This past Shabbat, I returned to Bar Ilan (ahhhh) to visit my dear friend, S. She recently spent Shabbat by me (the one where I cooked!) making this past weekend my turn. She asked me to bring challot (Mommy's challot) and dessert. Although I didnt have a lot of time, I knew exactly what I wanted to make! Obviously a pie! (I'm on a bit of a pie kick- can you tell?) But not just any pie! The weekend before, I was at my sister's and she served a chocolate chip cookie pie. Bingo! Her pie looked quite cake like and was baked in a store bought shell. I wanted something really more cookie like and in a homemade shell. In my first or second year, I made a pie like this from Carole Walter's book and it really was a cookie in a pie shell. I went in a slightly different direction, using the Tollhouse Pie from the Baked cookbook, after seeing rave reviews on blog throughout the internet. Described as a "cross between a pecan pie and a chocolate chip cookie", this pie is made with whiskey, which I swapped for vanilla, and does indeed turn out with a nice gooey texture, although you probably can't tell that from the matte looking surface of the pie. The chocolate chips sink to the bottom forming a nice chocolatey layer. I used their pie crust recipe and chilled it thoroughly baking. The filling was done before the bottom of the crust had much color so I turned off the top heating element to cook the bottom more. The result was a home run of a pie- not a crumb left in sight. S commented that she usually hates pie crust but that she loved this. She actually kept raving about it, which she said was a pretty good indicator of how she liked it. The sentiment was echoed by everyone who tasted it. In lieu of a microwave, as the Baked authors suggest, I just heated this pie up on the hot plate well before dessert time and it was perfect. Ice cream is a must, but you'll love it without it, too.

Sunday, March 6, 2011

Mommy's Challot

Chodesh tov and happy Adar! New week, new month, new challah recipe. I thought I was done with my challah exploits, but it seems I can't resist trying a new recipe. These challot are special to me because the recipe is none other than my own mother's. Growing up, I can't remember a time when we always had homemade challah. It was very rare that my mother baked them, but when she did, it was a special treat. At some point in high school, I remember her making a honey whole wheat challah for Sukkot, and it was very shortly after that I started to bake challot myself. I have very warm memories of my mother's kitchen- she's a fantastic cook and baker. When the smell of these wafted from the oven and even more so when I took my first bite, I was brought back to her kitchen. I don't know why it took me so long to make them, but they turned out so well. The texture was so nice and fluffy, but the flavor was all water challah, just like I like it. I made half a recipe but doubled the salt and switched from fresh yeast to dry, as that is what I use these days. I also cannot overstate the importance of sesame seeds on top of challot. I don't know why I didnt insist on them all the time. They are delicious! This bake is also unique in that it's the first time I tried this brand new flour type, Stybel #18, flour especially for challot, hence the picture on the bag. I stumbled on it in the supermarket, and unable to resist anything challah related, I bought a bag to try this time.....

Friday, March 4, 2011

Brownie Pie with Peanut Butter Crust

Chocolate and peanut butter... making its second appearance in a pie in the last month. All I gotta say is that people here love chocolate and peanut butter and I looooove making pie. So making this pie for our weekly meeting was a no-brainer. Well actually it was a brainer, because the original recipe for this (which comes from Pie by Ken Haedrich) did not call for a peanut butter crust. I happened to have some leftover dough from the Peanut Butter and Jelly bars. Not wanting to waste, I thought it would work perfectly as a pie crust. Work perfectly? Certainly did and definitely elevated this brownie pie to new heights. Moving on to the brownie pie itself..... The filling comes together much like the typical brownie, except for the fact that the eggs are beaten for four minutes until fluffy, giving the filling extra lift in the oven. The nice crunch meringue like crust totally belied the ooey gooey chocolately filling inside. I threw in a handful of chocolate chips for good measure and would swap in some cocoa for flour next time to make this pie even more chocolatey. This pie won raves all around and after the meeting was over, it didnt last long in my room when the girls found it. Apparently I outdid myself with this one. Try it, even with a regular pastry crust, you wont be disappointed. Vanilla ice cream, anyone?

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars

Grow up on peanut butter and jelly sandwiches? I didnt, but that didn't stop me from making these Peanut Butter and Jelly Bars. Even if you're not nostalgic for that classic childhood treat, these are a fun and easy cookie, perfect for the lunchbox (protein and fruit!) or for anytime. The recipe comes from Martha Stewart's Cookie book, a book that has fast become a reliable point of reference for a good cookie bake. A peanut butter dough is made, and most of it lines the bottom of a pan. Then the dough is topped with jelly, I used strawberry, and the remaining dough is crumbled on top of that. The dough was extremely easy to handle, allowing me to pat it in the pan easily. I omitted the chopped peanuts from on top, but add them back, if desired. I didnt chill these bars as directed before serving as I didnt want to keep the girls waiting, but I dont think any damage was done. Cut these bars small, a little will go a long way. Serve with tall glasses of cold milk, if desired.