Monday, June 17, 2013

Caramel Sauce

Caramel Sauce. Those two words are enough to conjure up childhood memories of Friday visits with my sister to the local candy store and then on to the nearest TCBY shop for some Cotton Candy flavored ice cream dripping with liquid amber deliciousness. Caramel. Sugar never tasted so good. But making it in my own kitchen? I've only ever heard horror stories about burning the sugar time after time and having to scrub the pan clean afterwards with nothing to show for it but an empty bag of sugar and some cracked fingernails. So it came as a surprise when a couple of months ago I made my first attempt at caramel sauce and succeeded. And then tried again this past Friday and was once again met with success and the the most addictively delicious topping to ever grace ice cream. The first time it was made for an engagement party as an accompaniment to chocolate peanut butter ice cream and this time for a "showerette" for a dear friend, as a topping for peanut butter ice cream and cookies and cream ice cream. You're right to think that I couldnt resist. I caved and had some. Yum. This recipe comes from David Lebovitz (only logical to make his sauce to go with his ice creams) and was pretty easy. I did find that the sauce came out pretty thin but when allowed to boil takes on a thicker consistency, and obviously when it cools, it thickens as well. The first time, quite a bit of sugar hardened, the second time less, perhaps because my ingredients were at room temperature. Heat on low while stirring to melt the sugar and smooth out the sauce. Your patience will be rewarded. I served this in a glass soda fountain-ey coca-cola glass to add to the ice cream-parlor look.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Oatmeal Raisin Bars

I've been feeling pretty lousy lately, what with this really debilitating cold (and just when the weather has finally gone all summery!) and my voice is starting to go. (I suppose I should be grateful that it's been four days since I got sick and the laryngitis is only kicking in now.) Work is a bit slow so there really is no excuse not to take advantage of the time and post.
I turned to a Taste of Home for inspiration for the engagement party and this is one of two recipes that I made. I'm pretty sure that the only reason I made these homey cookies was because I had everything on hand. Otherwise, I'm not sure that I would have made these for a party. I'll let you in on a little secret, though. These were delicious. First of all, how can anything with an oatmeal crumble be anything less? But, despite their sour cream filling (I kind of have an aversion to dairy and anything overtly dairy tasting. I know, I'm weird) they won me over. The filling is creamy and doesnt taste too strongly of sour cream and the raisins get perfectly softened during the baking and some cinnamon binds everything together. These arent what I would envision if you said oatmeal raisin bars, but try them, I'm sure they'll win you over, too.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Cookie Dough Brownies

It's been a long time since I've updated this blog and truthfully, I've thought about neglecting it altogether. In the last couple of months, I've been released from the army, started a full time job and a part time job and overall just been too tired to keep it up. I can hardly remember the last time I baked something that was a dessert and not bread. Every time I think about getting back into the kitchen, my bed calls my name and almost always wins out. I will try to be better, or at least get all of the backed up posts written.
The last time I went all out in the kitchen was for an engagement party that I hosted for a friend of mine in the army who get engaged. I baked and baked and baked. And then made some more. It was actually really fun and the get together was really nice, even though there was a boatload of leftovers... Enough to feed an army (haha, not so funny!) and that's exactly where I sent them the next day. One of the things I made was these Cookie Dough Brownies from the Cookie Dough Lover's Cookbook and they were really, really well received. These don't require much effort but they are multi- layered so that may put some people off. If you really know how to manage your time, you can always get your other cakes made in between steps. The key is organization, people! I would say that this is a successful cross of two very comforting and homey foods, brownies and cookie dough. Who could say no?!

Monday, March 4, 2013

Coconut Sandwich Cookies with Chocolate Ganache

Purim is not my favorite holiday and thankfully it passed as quickly as it came. (Anyone else feel like this year is just flying by?!) Part of the Purim festivities is the obligation to give mishloach manot to at least one person. This is where people invest most of their energies, after their costumes are all settled, of course. People spend hours choosing a theme and then buying the goods and assembling these packages. I can remember my parents buying cases of junk food just for this purpose and forming an assembly line around our dining room table to assemble the mishloach manot for our many family members and friends. Me? I always choose to go the homemade route. Include one or two baked goods, and you're good to go. This year, it took a long time for anything to evolve in my head, and even at the last second, I changed the theme again. These cookies were the product of a possible "black and white" theme. (It fell through.. I ended up making homemade smores and just adding two of these cookies in so as not to waste them.) The recipe comes from the Israeli book simply called Chocolate. I purchased it in one of my very first years here in Israel and haven't used it that much but I gather that will be changing. These cookies are delicious by themselves, flavored with desiccated coconut and ethereally light in texture due to the addition of cornstarch. Add a simple ganache filling and you've elevated these cookies to gift-giving heights. I'm almost certain the only change I made to the recipe itself was to add a dash of salt to the cookie dough. Easy, delicious and holiday friendly.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Reinhart's Whole Wheat Cinnamon Raisin Bread

When the whole grain grain bug started acting up again, I knew immediately that a cinnamon raisin bread was in my future. I made a white flour version of this bread eons ago and I figured it was time to give this classic a healthier twist. It took me a while to get my act together and plan ahead but once I did, this recipe, also from Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads, was fairly simple to make. My bread wasn't a really high riser but I think I gave it less kneading time than I should have. This bread is yummy. I LOVE cinnamon with a passion so this was a no-brainer. Paired with homemade pumpkin butter, it is simply divine. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Chocolate Velvet

Two weekends ago, I was hosted by my friend Nili in Jerusalem. She insisted that I bring nothing but as my father taught me, don't go anywhere empty handed. So I decided to make a cake. I settled on chocolate because it always pleases. I started leafing through my books and settled on this cake. It's an Israeli recipe and literally translated it means Chocolate Velvet. Turns out that's exactly what you get here. Nothing short of rich, chocolate fudge in every bite. The cake went over really well but because it is so rich, I went home with half. The solution? Bring it to my Ulpan students. I made them earn it though by making them first translate the recipe. It was quite amusing to listen to. They made short work of finishing the cake for me. I made this cake parve for Shabbat but you can make it dairy. I also used coffee liqueur instead of the chocolate called for. Feel free to use any flavor that you have on hand. To keep this cake fudgy and moist, the recipe instructs you to place a pan of boiling water in the oven along with the cake. This is a technique I'll adopt because you get the steam effect without risking seepage into the cake. Happy Purim!

Monday, February 18, 2013

Reinhart's Thin Wheat Crackers

I can never resist a cracker recipe when I stumble on one both for their ease of preparation and for the high marks they get in the munch-ability category. They are just so darned good, with everything and at anytime! That is why immediately after the graham cracker episode I continued on to make these Thin Wheat Crackers from Whole Grain Breads. These were not only delicious and ridiculously foolproof but of all the crackers I've made (and there have been a bunch) these most successfully brought me back to my childhood Shabbatot where we would have my father's famous eggs and onions, almost always with a side of crackers. Indeed, when I wasn't stealing a few from the little baggie I stored them in, I ate them along with some egg salad that I quickly made for the occasion. Yum.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Strawberry Rhubarb Icebox Pie

Here it is! The delicious pie that I made last weekend that made use of the crackers I made and the fresh haul of rhubarb. I was told to avoid using fruit in my dessert but I pretended I didn't hear and decided to make this pie because who can resist this winning combination?! Well, everyone was won over by it and pretty much only crumbs remained. This recipe comes from Lauren Chattman's Icebox Pies and it is super easy, no need to turn on your oven at all. I served this with homemade vanilla ice cream (to appease the fruit haters) but you could do without it. If you can get your hands on rhubarb, take advantage and make this!

Monday, February 11, 2013


Last week, I made my way over to the shuk for some fruits and vegetables. I haven't been there in ages but somehow, despite all the time that has passed, being there felt like coming home. The sights, sounds and smells, everything I love about Israel captured in once place. Home. While I was there, my eye caught sight of some rhubarb! It turns out to be rhubarb season here. It has a pretty short season here so Im glad I got out of the army just in time for it. Obviously, I picked up a bunch of it. (Luckily, strawberries are in season also so I picked up some of those.. More on what I did with them later..) When I got home, my thoughts immediately went in a million different directions but I knew for sure I wanted to make rhubarb jam. So I did, using a very simple recipe. Once I had the jam, I thought, well what am I going to smear it on?! Having no bread to make toast from I thought of whipping something up from scratch. Crumpets was my first thought (and an appropriate nod to my good friend A who just got engaged to a Brit) so I went about finding a recipe. Crumpets are that classic British tea time staple that are similar to what we know as English muffins. I chose Rose Levy Beranbaum's recipe and set to work. Overall, these were simple to make and delicious to eat but my technique with the rings and the measuring was a bit amateurish. Oh well, there's always the next batch of jam.

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Reinhart's Graham Crackers

Every now and then, I find myself in a whole grain baking kick. I have no idea where this inspiration hits from, but when it strikes, it strikes hard. This week, the book of choice was Reinhart's Whole Grain Breads. Flipping through the pages in the cracker chapter, I contemplated the Graham crackers. Years ago, almost at the start of this blog, I made Graham crackers and about a year and a half ago I made chocolate Graham crackers. Both of those were more cookie like crackers than cracker-crackers (know what I mean?!) so I thought that license enough to repeat myself. These Graham's are made entirely of whole wheat flour and without fat. The original calls for honey but I ran out in the middle and made up the difference in date syrup. A bit of cinnamon adds that comforting, homey, redolent of childhood flavor. So how'd they pan out? These crackers were definitely crackers. Because of the lack of fat here, they are very, very crunchy. I think I would add a tablespoon of oil or margarine next time to ensure that I don't break any teeth. That said, the flavor was definitely there and I enjoyed them spread with peanut butter. Add some fresh apple slices and you have the perfect afternoon snack. They didn't last that long though because between my munching and using them as a pie crust for a wonderful pie I made, they disappeared super fast. Try them, you'll see why.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Sundried Tomato Bread

Finishing up the army has left a gaping hole in both my heart and my schedule, making it possible to just be for a little while before I find a job. It also means that I get to tie up some loose ends here and there and one of those things is this blog. This website has seen nothing but neglect and sporadic posting this past year and a half and I hope that that will change somewhat now that I'm no longer a soldier. (How it hurts to write those words!!!!) In any case, let's talk about bread. One of my favorite things to eat these days is sundried tomatoes. I used to hate them but now consume them with a passion and have taken to putting them in everything. I've long wanted to bake them into a bread and a while ago, I did just that. I chose a white bread recipe from Bernard Clayton's New Complete Book of Breads and took it from there. This recipe started as the Feather Bread but I swapped out the 1/3 cup of butter or shortening with the sundried tomato oil and kneaded in some chopped sundried tomatoes. Yum. At first, the dough resisted the tomatoes, but some stubborn kneading solved that problem. I formed these into two long loaves and slashed them before baking. I might have also
baked them on the pizza stone cause why not? but it's not necessary. The breads came out fragrant and delicious and exactly how I'd imagined them to be. Now, if I could just get my hands on some more sundried tomatoes...

Saturday, January 12, 2013

Banana Cream Pie

It's been quite a while since I've been asked to make dessert for a meal but that's what I was given to make for today's Shabbat lunch. Usually, my dessert brainstorming takes a ridiculous amount of my time but this time it was quick and painless! Banana cream pie! I had a couple of bananas laying around on my counter and I had serendipitously picked up a couple of pie crusts earlier Thursday after my frolic in the snow (yes, we got snow!) so I was all set for pie. Loyal readers of this blog will know I have a weakness for pie making and that I jump at the chance to make a cream pie (something about witnessing pastry cream thicken just does it for me!) so it was time for this classic to have its due. Finding a recipe proved to be a bigger challenge. Every book I own has a recipe for this pie but none were usable until I opened up the KAF Baker's Companion and settled on their version. It pretty  much doesn't get simpler than this and using store bought crust makes this even faster work. I made the filling the night before so it would have time to set properly and then topped with whipped cream at my leisure Friday morning. I chose to layer the bottom with banana instead of folding them into the pastry cream as some other recipes advise. It's up to you, either way you'll have a winning pie on your hands, just as this was.