Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Apple Cherry Crumble

There are two things that make this apple crumble different than any other apple crisp/crumble that I've made before and posted here. (It's important for me to state this clearly so no one will accuse me of making and posting the same thing twice....) The first is that underneath all that delicious crumble, rests not just a mix of Granny Smith and Pink Lady, aka my new favorite, apples but cherries as well. The recipe I adapted called for raspberries, but since those cost an arm and a leg in this beautiful country, I decided to add the last remaining jar of sour cherries in my pantry. The second thing is that this crumble is completely whole grain. There is not a single grain of white flour to be found. The crumble is made with oat flour and whole oats and the filling has oat flour in it as well. Cool, huh? There are a few things to be cautious about. First, the people eating this just might not like cherries. In that case, use the raspberries, all apples, or find someone else who appreciates them more. Secondly, maybe it was because of all the water in the canned cherries and apples, or maybe it was because of the lack of thickening agent, but this crumble was mighty liquidy. So liquidy that I drained most of it off. You can handle this issue any way you please, I'm going to post the recipe as I made it. Not surprisingly, there were some cherries left in the pan at the end of the day, but on the other hand, my lover-of-all-things-fruit roommate called this her favorite thing that I made all year. So there you have it. At least at the end of the day, you'll feel virtuous eating a spoonful of this delicious crumble.

Monday, December 27, 2010

Herbed Fougasse

S told me the friends we were eating by for lunch were having a wine and cheese sort of meal and so she asked me if I would bake a bread for it. Of course I agreed and was so excited because it's not often that I get to bake bread these days if it's not challah. I wanted a bread that would go well with wine and cheese and would be just as elegant. My first thought was flatbread and my second thought was like turning on a light switch-- fougasse! French, fancy, and with a shape that looks like a ladder, appears to demand a lot of effort. Perfect! A scan through all of my cookbooks came up with many fougasses but none that appealed to me. Walnut fougasse? Olive fougasse? Not this time. I settled on a simple herbed fougasse from Sur La Table's too heavy to lift, The Art and Soul Baking. I was pleasantly surprised how not difficult this bread is to make. It begins with a biga that is left to ferment overnight and then all the remaining ingredients are added, including olive oil and dried herbs (my preference, no fresh rosemary and thyme in the shuk), and the rest is standard bread making. Shaping the bread was so much fun and I was so surprised that the shape held! S was so proud and impressed when she saw it, as were her friends. To quote her, the bread was crisp and wonderfully spiced and went great with the sharp cheeses and wine. A home run, I'd say. One note on storing this bread- do not cover in plastic wrap to store it unless the bread is cut. In that case cover only the cut parts. When covered with plastic wrap, some moisture deposits on the surface leaving some funky white spots. Otherwise, you should be good to go! I'm sending this over to Yeastspotting!

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Apricot Almond Shortbread Bars

I spent this past Shabbat with one of my favorite people, S, in Tel Aviv. It had been way too long since I'd seen her, and I hadn't yet seen her new apartment, so I was really glad to see her. I asked her what I could bring her for Shabbat and one of the things she asked for was dessert. Knowing how difficult the decision would be for me, I asked her to be very specific and she obliged by telling me that she would like something with jam. Immediately, I knew the perfect recipe. I opened Sticky, Chewy, Messy, Gooey to page 90 and there it was- the recipe for Blackberry Jamble Shortbread Bars. Except I made them Apricot Almond Shortbread Bars. And in half the quantity. But were they delicious and buttery and mm-mm good? You bet they were! The recipe feature ground almonds in the crust, to punch up the flavor. (I walked around the shuk and walked into some stores to ask if they had ground almonds. They said no but that they could grind some on the spot. Freshly ground almonds? Can't beat that!) I also had some leftover slivered almonds from the Golden Lemon Almond Cake, so those made an appearance here, too. As for apricot? It's just good. I thought it would be a nice, light accompaniment to the almonds. And I was right. S really enjoyed them and when she brought over the rest for lunch (I bailed because I was feeling waaay under the weather), she came home with an empty pan. Home run! Feel free to substitute any flavor jam and any kind of nut. This a terrific base shortbread bar recipe that just welcomes your imagination. If you're going to halve the recipe like I did, use a 9x9 inch pan and not an 8x8 pan. There will be a lot less wasted dough. 

Mocha White Chocolate Brownies

One of my faaavorite girls from last year, N, called me up and told me that she would only come visit me if I agreed to bake. She thought she was bribing me... I planned to agree to get her to visit and not bake. Well, I agreed, she came and I thought I was going to get out of baking..... and then I ended up baking. Something about girls serving their country..... Anyway, I whipped up these brownies quite fast actually so it was really no big deal in the end, end they made a lot of people happy. The recipe comes once again from the Israeli More Chocolate book and they while they are called Mocha Brownies they also feature some nougat- ground  hazelnut yumminess. The girls told me they couldnt really taste the hazelnut element but they could taste the mocha. Who knew a teaspoon of espresso powder would go such a long way? Not me. The white chocolate was a nice contrasting addition. Some of them commented that when the brownies were in their gooey fudgey state, the white chocolate was a nice crunchy contrast. Personally? I dont like serving goop, even chocolate goop, so I stashed them in the fridge to firm up. Best trick in the book- fudgy brownies with out the nauseatingly goopy texture. I mean, if I wanted raw batter, I could just lick the spoon. Next time, I'd add the hazelnuts to make them more unique and to make the nougat flavor pop. Was anyone disappointed that they were missing? Pretty sure not!

Friday, December 24, 2010

Baked Cake Donuts with Chocolate Glaze

Shortly after my last effort with the yeasted baked donuts, I got my donut pans, all the way from America. Perfectly round cavities, large and small, to make the perfect baked donut. To put them to use, this past Tuesday, my in day and usual baking day, I whipped up a batch of these cake donuts from the Doughnut book, my new authority on donuts. (I reallllly wish I had a means to fry donuts, because the variations are all so tempting but most dont use the baked donut base recipes. You're bound to fail if you bake something meant to be fried... Trust me, I know.) I can't tell you how easily this recipe came together. The batter whipped up in just a few minutes and baked in about the same time. While the donuts were baking, I threw together the chocolate glaze, which was deeply chocolately and satiny. The dipping was quite fun- I felt so professional!! I double glazed just because I had a lot extra and didnt want too much waste. The lucky eaters of the six donuts really liked them and even went back to double dip in the yummy glaze. I sort of felt like I was pulling the wool over their eyes by giving them donut shaped cake, but no one really complained. Points for being healthful, anyone? I considered throwing on some sprinkles as a real throwback to my childhood, but I decided against it. Maybe next time. Just look at those donuts, though. Arent they picture perfect?!

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Hazelnut Croquant Chocolate Cake

My friend L is getting married in a just a few weeks (!!!) and as per the usual fashion, a group of friends got together to throw her a bridal shower the other night. I immediately volunteered to bake something and asked L what she likes. Her first response? Chocolate! After all the fruit that's been going around here lately, chocolate was [shockingly] a welcome response. So chocolate it was. Since most of my books dedicated to chocolate are not here, I turned to my hebrew volume simply titled More Chocolate to look for a recipe. I chose a recipe for hazelnut mousse squares but then rethought my choice after realizing how expensive it would turn out to be. Having already purchased two of the big elements of the recipe, one being the chopped caramelized hazelnuts, I decided to use a recipe that called for them and so chose instead the Hazelnut Croquant Chocolate Cake. This cake is a rich, flourless chocolate cake that has the hazelnut croquant folded in. It is topped with a white chocolate coating and garnished with some more croquant. Sound decadent? That's because it was every bit as rich and delicious as it sounds. Since we were so few at the party, I brought home three quarters of it and let my girls go at it. They were not disappointed. All around, tasters thought it was delicious. The cake itself is simple to make, especially since I used store bought croquant instead of my own. Definitely a make again cake, when the right special occasion pops up.

Monday, December 20, 2010

Golden Lemon Almond Cake

I spent this past weekend by my sister and her husband in Neve Daniel. I always so look forward to going there for the feeling of home and family and for the awesome food that my sister makes. She made this awesome butternut squash pizza that I'm still craving as we speak. Anyway, she asked me to bring dessert and since the evening meal would be dairy, I had the leisure of making a dairy dessert. In truth, I really wanted something simple and clean and so decided to finally make the Golden Lemon Almond Cake from Rose's Heavenly Cake. It also helped alot that this cake is made with turbinado sugar as I have a massive Costco sized bag of it in my pantry and I'm trying to make a dent in it. I know I must be the last person in the world to try it, but I suppose better late than never. I made only two thirds the recipe and baked it in my kugelhopf pan which turned out to be perfect, with the exception of some browning issues. So easy to put together, this cake was moist beyond belief and pretty lemony, thanks to the abundance of lemon-sugar syrup brushed all over. My sister thought the cake was good and really moist, but noted that she didnt taste the almonds. Sadly, she couldnt really enjoy it because she got really sick Friday night and didnt want to take any more chances with food. I brought the cake back home though where the girls really enjoyed it and polished it off for me.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

One Bowl Apple Cake

Alright, here it goes. The one bowl apple cake. The last apple related post for a while. I pray that that's true. The search for apple inspiration brought me back to one of my first cookbooks, my dear favorite, the Baker's Companion. The first recipe in its cake section is this one bowl apple cake. This cake should really be called Chunky Apple Cake because the recipe itself calls for a ton of apples, nuts and dried fruit. I decided to omit the nuts and dried fruit, and as it turned out, the full amount of apples was wayyy too much. The batter was hardly a batter and it barely held together with all the apples. At this point, I started to get nervous but figured things would take care of themselves in the oven. And they did. I could see where the juices from the apples seeped into the cake for a nice touch and the cake itself turned out to be a big hit, with a nice, moist, almost juicy interior due to the hefty amount of brown sugar. The recipe says that this could be frosted with caramel frosting and although I was too lazy to whip it up, I will admit that I think for this served-from-the-pan, rustic cake it would be gilding the lily. Frosting is just too fancy for this down-home apple cake. Do make it soon.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Simple Banana Bundt Cake

Never in my life did I think I'd say this, but I think I'm tired of all these fruit related baked goods. I think what I'm saying is, bring on the chocolate! This post is once again banana related and the next is apple. So help me, I don't want to deal with either of them for a long time! Even though my roommate stashed her bananas in the freezer, releasing me from banana recipe limbo, one of my girls next door told me she had ripe ones and do you want to bake with them? I couldn't say no, lest they meet the garbage can, so I accepted, having no idea what I was going to do with them. With a sigh, I flipped through my cookbooks and settled on the SIMPLEST BANANA CAKE RECIPE EVER! Coming from Roland Mesnier's Basic to Beautiful Cakes (a bargain books purchase!), this cake was simple, easy and plain, used oil and was not a duplicate of any recipe I had previously made. Check plus for Roland Mesnier. All you do is mix some dry ingredients together, beat eggs, sugar and oil for five minutes, add everything else and bake! The cake is lightly spiced with cinnamon and nutmeg to let the banana really shine through. To maintain the clarity of the flavor, I declined to add chocolate chips, banana's classic partner. The resulting cake was super moist but...... despite the heavy greasing, it stuck to the pan. That could be because his instructions are to turn the cake out immediately. I think I would wait about five or ten minutes or just bake it in my favorite springform pan. In any case, it was nothing that a little patching up couldnt fix. Besides the girls loved the cake. As always, that's all that matters.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Maple Oat Bread

This past Shabbat we had our annual Shabbaton in the Old City of Jerusalem. We stayed in the adorably quaint place and although it was blustery and rainy, we still had a nice time. I tend to like having these "together" weekends because there's little to do to get ready, leaving lots of time to bake if I so desire. So was the case this weekend when I decided to bake a loaf of bread. The bread of choice was a Maple Oat Bread from KAF's Whole Grain Baking. I made the dough the night before and shaped it the next morning. I let it rise in an oven with the light bulb on while my roommate and I went to the shuk to go pick up candy for the weekend. Waiting for me upon my return was a nicely risen loaf and a weepy student who needed me to clean her head from lice. I know, not a pretty thought when we're discussing food. (Just so you know, her head was totally clean. Although I found nothing, she double checked yesterday and thankfully, the checker found nothing. All I can say is, the life of a madricha is never dull.) Anyway, I had shaped the loaf into three touching rolls in a loaf pan because I figured it would be an easy way to separate them, considering I would not have access to a knife to slice it with. So how did it come out? I can tell you straight away that because of my time constraints I didnt bake it quite as long as I should have. The loaf didnt suffer, it was just nice and soft and chewy. The dough itself was quite fragrant, heady with maple. The baked loaf also tasted nicely of maple although next time I would reduce the amount of maple extract because using too much leaves an unpleasant aftertaste. I used half margarine and half oil and omitted the nuts from the loaf because I was out of them but all in all this was a really delicious loaf of bread, quite a special Shabbat treat. Sending this to Yeastspotting!

Sunday, December 12, 2010

Banana Chocolate Chunk Cookies

I wish I could be proud of myself and say that all the bananas are done. All of my bananas are done and I used them quite creatively, I must say, but my roommate has black bananas sitting on her shelf and she insists I do something with them... Sorry to say, this may not be the last banana post you see around here although trust me, I wish it were. I'm so sick of banana related recipes that I'm ready to go back to apples. That, my friends, is saying something. The good news is that this is a new recipe and a real cookie! With bananas! And it's not soft and smushy! The wonders of Martha Stewart. The cookie goes together as easily as any other cookie recipe but wow, the reviews these babies got. The girls LOVED them. That could be because I told them that they were a tad bit virtuous, due to the oats, whole wheat flour and bananas, or it could because of the massive, melty chocolate chunks in there. All I know is that I didnt make enough of these. Once again, lesson learned. I omitted the nuts for the sake of the girls with allergies and because I find that generally younger people are resistant to nuts. If you're looking for a different way to use bananas, as I always am, this winning recipe has your name written all over it. No need to thank me.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Whole Grain Banana Chocolate Chip Squares

I know right now you're thinking, these have to be the ugliest homeliest bars to ever grace the blogosphere. You know what? You're probably right. While these bars may not score any blue ribbons on their humble looks alone, I can assure you that these banana chocolate bars, made with whole grain spelt flour, will win you over. Yes, you have to let these bars sit overnight for best possible texture, but you're rewarded with a sort of dense, moist, almost fudgy texture, what my girls pronounced to be, delicious and amazing. When one of my roommates tasted these she asked me what made these bars so sweet. I answered the usual, sugar and brown sugar and then I realized that the sweetness of the spelt really made an appearance here. If you're looking for an alternative banana recipe that incorporates whole grains look no further.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Financier Style Vanilla Pound Cakes

As Chanuka winds down, I finally have a chance to post. Things have been pretty busy around here this Chanuka. Yesterday, the girls went to Sderot to throw a carnival for the kids there and today we went on a bit of a strenuous hike, even for me. Although, come to think of it, anything that involves climbing and mountains is strenuous for me. Even so, the girls are all out and I'm savoring the quiet and the most recent episode of Glee. Back to this post. This past Shabbat, which was also Chanuka, I had the great pleasure of spending it with a family I really love in Efrat. M taught me five years ago at Midreshet and we're still in touch. I love her kids and being in her home because I'm so comfortable there, it's as if I'm with my own family. Anyway, whenever I go, I try to bake something because my parents always taught me that you can't go anywhere empty handed-- even from the dining room to the kitchen! I've brought the easiest chocolate mousse pie and chocolate chip cookies and inspired by my donut venture, I decided to make donuts again. Well, this obviously isnt a donut post. I made the mistake of baking a donut that was meant to be fried..... lesson learned! I had my roommate taste them and I decided they werent up to snuff. So into the bin they went. But what to make?! Fortunately, I had been browsing through my blogroll and noticed that the Heavenly Cake Bakers were making Financier Style Vanilla Pound Cakes. Bingo! Equipped with a pan that took me ages to find in Israel, I set out to making them. And these dainty little tea cakes were easy as pie. I was a bit nervous to bring a container of these meager looking cakes but then M reassured me that she loved the fact they were miniature. And so I was able to rest easy. The only thing I did differently from the recipe was to add a bit of vanilla bean paste to punch up the vanilla flavor. Oh, dont be alarmed when the batter curdles a bit. It's meant to be that way. Perfect with a cup of tea, these cakes are deliciously adorable.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Cinnamon-Sugar Baked Donuts

Chanuka is in full swing! I'm writing this on the fifth sixth night, having just lit the candles after a long day, including dinner at my sister's. Unfortunately, not all has been happy and festive. The worst fire this country has ever seen broke out before the weekend up north in the Carmel area. Much land has been destroyed and too many people have been killed. It was finally put out and today we finally got such much needed rain. Hopefully it wont let up any time soon. But I suppose I should just keep things light in tone... In the Chanuka spirit, I baked these Cinnamon-Sugar Baked Donuts last week. Truth be told, it's about time I made donuts. Years ago, I bought a donut cutter and have never used it. A while ago I acquired the new and adorable book Doughnuts by Lara Ferroni. I also ordered donut pans and finally received them today, but also found donut pans in Israel. So I figured it was about time. On my day in, I finally got to work. The recipe for these baked donuts is an easy one to put together. It might even become my new all purpose sweet yeast dough. The dough rises for an hour, gets shaped, rests and is baked for ten minutes. They are then dunked in margarine and coated in cinnamon and sugar. I originally tried to go for an Entenman's type donut by rolling them in powdered sugar but no one went for them. So I redunked and coated in cinnamon-sugar. They were quite successful and kept the Chanuka spirit alive, in my room at least. These donuts are headed for Yeastspotting. Happy holidays!

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Peanut Butter Muffins

Happy December! There's lots of excitement going on around here as tonight is the first night of Chanuka. To me, this holiday is family time and while it saddens me that for the fourth year in a row I will be without my family, I am consoled by the fact that I am in Israel lighting and celebrating with my girls. In any case, besides for all of the Chanuka hullabaloo, I've been baking a bit because I've been in and so had the time. I'd been meaning to make muffins for my roommates for breakfast-to-go as a means of finishing up the last of the buttermilk sitting in my fridge. I made these muffins, used up all the buttermilk, but sadly, these didn't make it to the end of the day and so there were none left for my dear roommates. At least they got eaten. So what did I make, exactly? I made Peanut Butter Muffins from KAF Whole Grain Baking. Delicious and (somewhat) nutritious, made with whole wheat flour. I made the recipe as is, initially opting not to make the glaze. When my first two tasters commented that there wasnt enough peanut butter flavor in the muffin itself, I quickly corrected that by whipping up the optional glaze. From then on, these didn't stand a chance. The recipe makes 12 nice sized peanut butter muffins and just enough glaze to top 'em all. You can choose to top these with chopped peanuts, but I think that garnish is more than necessary for these simple muffins.