Catching up one post at a time.... Purim fell out around the second week of the course with my soldiers, around the time I feel I know them well enough to spoil them with cakes and cookies. Indeed, I brought a lot of stuff to base that Sunday and they were truly surprised. (That their "commander" baked for them or that their "commander" could bake, I'm still not sure...) One of the cakes I made that week was this Orange Poppy Seed Cake which comes from the Purim chapter of A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, although I dramatically shortened its title. I'm not sure what it is about poppy that makes it appropriate for Purim- perhaps because poppy is a traditional hamentashen filling, but this cake was easy enough to put together. I made a few substitutions but nothing that drastically changes the nature of the cake. I was unsure how an orange cake would be received with young soldiers but I guess I figured they'd eat anything. It turned out that they really enjoyed this cake. It was moist and flavorful but not too orangey and the poppy seeds really made it look beautiful. Another win for Marcy Goldman!
If you're looking for the perfect cake to accompany tea or coffee, or just to to encourage a stroll down memory lane, this is the cake for you. Memory lane, you ask? Well, this cake reminds me of the marble cakes that were served in the shul I grew up in. This cake is not only better it's a lot moister than those kiddush cakes. This recipe comes from the oh-so-reliable Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking, a book that has yet to fail me. I was in the mood to bake one Saturday night and decided to bring it (and the leftover Besamin Box Cake) to the army the next day. My co-workers loved it, despite its humble-ness. This cake is pretty easy to make and so moist from the vegetable oil that it would probably last about a week, although I couldn't confirm that because it barely lasted a full day in the office. I baked the cake in my favorite tube pan instead of loaf pans to get the tall, statuesque look. I omitted the orange zest in the cake to prevent it from being too orangey. The marbling pretty much takes care of itself- just layer the batter and see what happens, no need to swirl. The glaze on top added a nice finish and a crunchy contrast. All in all, a winner and another one for the recipe files. Although this cake is good anytime, serve it as a special treat Shabbat morning.
Yes, yes, I know it's been ages since I've posted. All I can say is I've been happily busy with army work and haven't been home too much to write. I don't know that things are going to let up, but for now, I'm gonna try to make up for lost time! A couple of weeks ago, I was asked to bring dessert for dinner and I decided to take a break from pie and bake a cake. I had my eye on this Besamin Box Cake from A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking but wasnt sure I would find ginger-ale in this country. I was really happy to find it in the supermarket and set about to make this spice cake that is perfect for winter. This cake was really successful, despite the fact that it was slightly under baked (they loved it that way!). People compared it to Entenmann's. Now I've never tasted their spice cake but if such a one exists then I imagine it's a high compliment! It was really moist with great spice flavor. I think I'd up the spices a bit and add a touch more salt. The glaze adds a slight but nice crunch. Altogether, a great cake to make again and again.
Another week, another batch of challot. Last weekend, I tried out this recipe from Marcy Goldman's A Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking. (Let me just say- if you're interested in recipes of the sort, buy this book. Everything I've tried has been a winner!) The recipe caught my eye because she says it tastes like cake and it uses fresh yeast. How does it fare? Well, it doesnt quite taste like cake (a really good thing!) but it is delicious. Crumb and texture is fantastic and the color is quite beautiful. I baked them in loaf pans to get more color all around. I've also discovered that I love sticking them on the hot plate on Shabbat so that their bottoms get nice and crunchy/toasty. I didn't notice that the fresh yeast gave this any unique flavor, but it is fun to switch things up a bit, especially since fresh yeast is so easily available here. Try this egg challah recipe- it's giving Joan a run for her money! This made two large loaves and a roll but I'm sure that you could three smaller loaves.
I know these pictures look like an oddly swirled lump of chocolate and something white but really these are brownies with a cheesecake and chocolate topping. I will admit, these look nothing like the beautiful picture in Carine Goren's Sweet Secrets, but they were pretty darn good. I made these also for my commander's surprise post-sheva brachot sheva bracha and by the next day, all the brownies were gone. I was a bit nervous about how the brownies would come out but they turned out to be dense and fudgy. The cream cheese layer is a bit thin (my pan was American size, I guess a bit larger than Israeli pans) and because I didn't let it chill sufficiently, the chocolate kind of muddled with the cheese. Instead of trashing the whole thing (which I totally would have done!) I just decided to swirl the whole thing and really no one was the wiser. Kind of messy to eat but worth getting chocolate on your chin for... and I'm not even a cheese person. It's really critical that your cheese and margarine for the filling is at room temperature or else they wont blend well enough. I made that mistake and had to strain the filling. Be smart though, give each layer enough to time to chill so that theyll come out picture-perfect.