Sunday, October 31, 2010

Banana Crunch Cake

Have I mentioned yet how exhausted I am? We just returned from an amazing three day trip to the Golan and boy am I tired. And sore. In a good way. The trip was really terrific, the Golan is just stunning and so full of history. I miss it already. So that's where I've been for the last few days and I'm only getting a chance to post this cake now. I made this cake the same day I made the apple cake and although it finished second, because it was dairy, it was in no way second rate. Made with whole wheat and oat flours, some bananas and buttermilk, and finished with a crunchy oat topping, this cake turned out moist and tender. Although not everyone could discern strong banana, everyone agreed that it was delicious.

Monday, October 25, 2010

Fresh Apple Coffee Cake

In case you were wondering, these past few days have been a bit hectic. I started volunteering weekly at the local soup kitchen, which always exhausts me and then on Friday, one of my girls had to go to the emergency room. I was with her all of Friday and spent Shabbat in the hospital as well. I visited her again for a while yesterday and went today to the soup kitchen. I'm basically zonked. Thank G-d, she's home and her eye, the reason she was hospitalized, is on the mend. On top of that, the school is going for a three day trip up north. This is going to be a craaaazy week. Amidst of all this, I have a pile of apples on my counter, super ripe bananas in my fridge and I've been receiving numerous complaints that I haven't baked in ages. So yesterday, in need of some serious down time, I baked. Two cakes. The first one was this Fresh Apple Coffee Cake from Beth Henspberger's the Bread Bible. I'll just admit straight off the bat that this is an underused book. It hides behind a whole other row of books so I never see it but for some reason I pulled it off the shelf and was reminded that it has a coffee cake and quick bread chapter. It was there that I found this recipe... and other inspirations for a later date! Anyway, I had all of the ingredients on hand for this recipe so I set out to make it. Not only was it easy, but it was delicious! When I came back from the hospital, this cake was gone as in gone  and all of the girls bombarded me with, That was amazing, that was delicious! So I'm going to take their word for it. To me, this cake really is a good with coffee-cake as opposed to the other apple cake on this blog. While both good, this one is both lighter in color and texture and just screams for coffee or tea. Honestly, I have no notes to make about this cake because I made it exactly as is, and it turned out perfectly. I hope it will for you, too.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Rustic Apple Galette

I finally collected enough apples to bake something substantial with. I had my heart set on making a pie but yesterday when it came to actually putting it together, I was too tired to put together a two crust pie. Thinking about it rationally, it's not much more work, considering you're making a double batch of pastry in one go, but it made perfect sense to me. I opted instead for the pie's more rustic counterpart, the galette, which is slightly less work but equally impressive. I used the galette recipe from Rose's Pie and Pastry Bible and truthfully, it couldnt be simpler. There arent even pictures to document each step because it was so simple. I made one of her crust recipes and chilled it. I sliced Granny Smith apples and tossed them with lemon juice. I rolled out the chilled dough, which was a pleasure to work with, into a large circle, and mounded the apples inside, not bothering to form them into a fancy pattern. I think it's more rustic, anyway. I sprinkled some sugar over the top, topped with some margarine and chilled the galette for a good half hour while my oven preheated. Here is where I think the secret to success lays. The last time I attempted a galette, I didnt chill my assembled tart long enough, which meant the fat didnt have time to thoroughly solidify so when it hit the heat, the fat continued melting before the crust had time to set. This time, I was wise to my mistake and let it chill. The proof is in the picture. I was rewarded with a beautifully set crust that didnt tear or rip or leak apple juices all over. I chose to leave the galette in all its rusticity, which meant omitting the apricot glaze. No one minded. They were just happy I baked. It disappeared literally in minutes, the girls offering profuse compliments, leaving but a few flakes of pastry behind.

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Fatwitch Blondies

My dad left us last Thursday but not before spending some more time shopping for presents for the family back home. My younger sister put in special requests for ANYTHING I COULD THINK OF, which if you know me is quite difficult because I put a lot of thought into buying gifts for people. That translates into me never being able to find just the right thing to suit the person and then no one is satisfied. My dad ended up picking up some cool jewelry but I thought that a good gift would be one that comes from me not from a store. I decided to bake up some cookies and send them back home to my sister. I chose to make the blondies from the Fatwitch book. (Having tested a bunch of recipes from the book, I can safely declare it a solid book with both classic and more fresh recipes that deserves a place on any shelf. My only gripe is that the final products as I make them don't resemble their cookbook counterparts.) The only change I made to this recipe was to substitute golden syrup for the molasses, which added a caramelly dimension to this otherwise homey cookie. I layered the cooled bars in parchment and placed them in a container and tucked them away in my dad's suitcase. My sister sent me an email upon receiving them saying that they were so good and still so fresh! A gift much appreciated, I guess. Like all the other Fatwitch recipes, these are simple to make. You can use the original molasses or you can try the golden syrup version. Either way, someone somewhere will be happy to eat these.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Hamelman's Challah

As I mentioned in previous posts, pop's is here in Israel visiting. Yesterday, we spent the day doing errands in town, visiting the shuk, but mostly just spending time together. He leaves Thursday... not too excited about that. But let me tell you about this Challah. Once I knew that we were spending Shabbat together, I immediately wanted to bake challot. Nothing new right? You see, my dad and I have an interesting relationship when it comes to challah. I've been baking challot for about six or seven years, starting way back when I was in high school. Those were my early baking days and I knew nothing about bread at all. The recipe I made every week was a honey whole wheat, not necessarily the best loaves to make when you're starting out. Sure enough, my loaves would come out dense and shapeless. I would bring them to the table and my dad would lift one up and start swinging it as if it were a baseball bat. He used to crack many a joke at their expense. Sad times. I always say, it's lucky that I didn't take offense and quit challah baking because these days, my challot are light and fluffy and beautifully braided. I havent really been around New York enough to show him that my challot are really good so I jumped at the chance. Of course, there was a lot of pressure on to make sure that these wouldnt flop. For some reason, I decided to try another new challah recipe and this week, it was Jeffrey Hamelman's Challah from his awesome book, Bread. I made only half a recipe because we were only going to be four adults and two was more than enough. The only adjustments I made were to round up the sugar and oil to a full tbsp and to use Israeli all purpose flour. I also glazed the breads with egg white, so as not to be wasteful. How did they come out? They were just barely sweet with a nice chewy, if a bit dense, texture. The crumb was nice and yellow and the breads held up in the oven and sliced like a dream. These were perfect with savory toppings as well, which in my book, always adds a few points. Once more, these loaves are headed over to Yeastspotting!

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Fatwitch Brownies

Earlier this week, my dad, sister, brother in law and niece piled into my sister's car and drove way up north for a day trip. The plan was to go to Caesaria and then visit some family on the way back. In between, we went to Ikea and got lost quite a bit. But Caesaria was the highlight. Beautiful, clean beaches.... so relaxing and so beautiful. Since we were having such a long day, I figured I should bake something for the road. I decided to make the classic Fatwitch brownie. Now, I should have known that no one eat them- my father eats candy, my sister had a cold and couldnt taste anything, and I pass on the sweets these days. My brother in law had a couple but that still left me with plenty of extra brownies. So I brought them home and cut them in half for the girls. They had smelled them baking all the night before and couldnt have then so they were more than happy to devour what was on the plate. A few notes about the brownies themselves. The recipe calls for a little more than 1/2 cup of chocolate chips. Thinking this wouldnt be chocolatey enough, I subbed two tbsp dutch cocoa powder for two tbsp of the flour. When the brownies came out of the oven, I thought they were going to be cake like, but as they cooled, they settled into a dense fudgy brownie that actually looked quite like the picture. I cut the brownies into twelve humongo ones, so you might want to cut them into sixteen squares. Overall, I think these brownies are right up there with the Baked ones, also known as my favorite brownie. So that's not too shabby. 

Oatmeal-Craisin-White Chocolate Bars

The second recipe I tried from the Fatwitch cookbook was the Oatmeal Cherry Bars. Except I didn't have cherries, I had craisins. And once you have oatmeal and craisins, there needs to be white chocolate. So in the white chocolate chips went and out came Oatmeal Craisin White Chocolate Bars. I figured since their drop cookie counterparts are always so successful, these should be, too. And they were. I came home that night to crumbs and more compliments for these than the White Chocolate Bars. These bars are much easier to make than cookies because it doesn't involve creaming, the fat is melted and the rest is just as simple as stirring everything together with a spoon or spatula. Be sure to let these cool for an hour lest they fall apart on you. Don't worry if the cookies feel to hard to cut through, a bench knife should do the trick. These would double nicely as a quick breakfast for those in a hurry. 

Friday, October 8, 2010

Chocolate Covered Chocolate Shortbread

Now that the holidays are over and SFW is in full swing, our weekly meetings with our sweets loving director M have resumed. I asked her what she wanted for the meeting and she immediately responded, anything with chocolate. Of course. But I was running low on eggs and so my options were narrowed significantly. Thankfully, I remembered that shortbread is made without any eggs and it is so simple to make. I used the Chocolate Shortbread recipe from the KAF Cookie Companion (they have a whole chapter devoted to shorbread) but decided to take a page out of Carole Walter's cookie book by opting to dip the shortbread sticks into chocolate melted with a bit of oil. The only thing I did differently was bake the cookies in one 9x13 inch pan instead of two 9 inch pans and from there cut them into sticks. If you're going to dip into chocolate, or white chocolate, make the recipe ahead of when you need it because it takes ages for the chocolate to dry. That didnt deter anyone from eating them at the meeting. I left the rest of them at home while I went to meet my dad and came home the next day to an emptied tray. And compliments. Fudgy and chocolately. Obviously they weren't fudgy but I think dutch process cocoa just does miracles for baked goods. So there you have it, delicious chocolate shortbreads. 

Thursday, October 7, 2010

White Chocolate Bars

There is A LOT of posting to be done and very little time right now. My dad finally came to visit (!!!) and we spent all day together up north. I'm exhausted right now but taking the time to update before I go spend Shabbat with him at my sister's and fall even more behind. Anyway.... My friend S took a trip to America and of course I used that as an opportunity order books.... have I mentioned this already? Anyway, when I spent Shabbat with her in Tel Aviv, I picked them up. One of the books I ordered is the newly released Fatwitch Bakery Cookbook. I immediately began reading through them and mentally bookmarking recipes. So far, I've made three which I'll eventually get around to telling you about. I made these White Chocolate Bars the same night as the Oatmeal Craisin Bars, left them for the girls and went off to see my dad. When I got home the next days, both plates were completely emptied, save for a few crumbs and some plastic wrap. The White Chocolate Bars were easy to make although they look nothing like their picture. They were thin, golden brown bars that were sweet from the white chocolate. The top was nice and crackly and cooked in less time than the recipe stated, so watch them carefully. It's possible that beating them more would give them more height. But the girls were happy and so was I. Except when they called these blondies. Which they are obviously not. See for yourselves. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

KAF'S Whole Wheat Challah

I spent Shabbat in Tel Aviv with one of my closest friends S, who just up and moved there. Besides for the fact that it was SWELTERING over there and I didnt cool off until well after I returned to Jerusalem, I really enjoyed spending it with her and seeing the city and meeting some of her friends. Obviously, I was going to use the opportunity to bake challot and this week's recipe comes from KAF's Whole Grain Baking book, which I realllly like, if you didnt know that already. The original recipe calls for whole wheat pastry flour, but as I have no idea what that is in Israel, I went ahead and used regular whole wheat. The dough needed more flour than the recipe stated and instead of using white flour I used whole wheat which accounted for the resulting density in the loaves. Thankfully, the loaves, while on the denser side, were not at all dry. The braiding held beautifully and the flavor was nice and hearty a bit nutty with a lovely sweetness from the honey. I kept going for more, although between you and me, when it comes to bread, that's not too difficult. When I get around to it, I'd like to try this again with more white flour in the recipe and see how it turns out. Until then, these challot are off to Yeastspotting once again!

Friday, October 1, 2010

Almond Plum Tart

Things have been happening so fast in terms of holidays that it's hard to keep up with posting. I turn around and it's Erev Shabbat again. While I'm waiting for my laundry to finish its cycle, my challah dough to rise and my episode of Top Chef Just Desserts to load, I figure I'd post this tart that I made last week, when the first days of the holiday began. As previously mentioned, I offered to bake for my sister and this is the tart I made. The recipe for this Plum and Almond Tart comes from Alice Medrich's Pure Dessert and couldnt be easier to make. My sister called this tart simple but good. I thought it was beautiful and "simple" to be a compliment because it fits right into the premise of the book, recipes that are simple but fresh, using few ingredients but highlighting them at the same time. Making this tart is as easy as dumping a few ingredients into a food processor and slicing some fruit. If you dont believe me, check out the photos...