Sunday, April 29, 2012

Tahini Cake

This cake has been on my list of recipe to bake since I first saw it in Carine Goren's Sweet Secrets 2 many months ago. I admit, the thought of putting tahini into a cake sort of threw me, but hey, when you're living in the Middle East, what doesnt have sesame in it?? Apparently, this combination only sounded bizarre to the Americans so I just went ahead and gathered all the ingredients. I was really nervous that this cake would scream sesame, but aside for the fact that the pan is oiled with tahini and sesame seeds for decoration, the flavor of the tahini is present but understated. This cake is super easy to make- all it takes is a bowl and a whisk. The resulting cake has unparalleled texture- incredibly moist and tender but sturdy. If you have a bottle of unseasoned tahini laying around, give this cake a try. You won't be disappointed.

Friday, April 27, 2012


The very last cookie that I made before Pesach, the one that got the most enthusiastic review and I think the one I'm most proud of! I had some leftover dulce de leche sitting in the fridge after baking a birthday cake for one of my soldiers and the only thing I could think of to do with it was make Alfajores, the classic Argentinian cookie. Alfajores seem to be easy to make but Argentinians are very particular about them; getting the cookie to be the perfect melt-in-your-mouth texture isn't easy but I figured I'd make them anyway and leave the worry of authenticity behind. I turned to Micky Shemo's book for this recipe and seeing how many cookies it would yield opted to halve the recipe. (Even having halved it, I got PLENTY of cookies- guess it depends on how small you cut the cookies.) This recipe uses a generous amount of cornstarch which gives it its texture and also makes the dough a dream to work with. Bake these I cookies just until puffed and set- you're not going to get much color on these. As I mentioned, I used store bought dulce de leche but you can always make your own. As far as the coconut element, I rolled some in coconut and left some plain. Your call. Either way, you're going to have some happy campers, er, soldiers.

Thursday, April 26, 2012

Coffee White Chocolate Refrigerator Cookies

These were the second type of cookie that I made during my pre-Pesach baking fest. It took me a while to find  a recipe that would make use of what I had left in the house but I finally found it in Better Homes and Gardens Biggest Book of Cookies and I must say, I was quite surprised by how successful they were. The amount of espresso in the recipe was alarming so my expectations were quite low, even after I reduced the amount. I threw in whatever white chocolate chips I had left sitting around and took care to underbake them, ensuring a chewy, instead of crisp, cookie. The combination of white chocolate chips and coffee turned out to be a winning one, and the strength of the coffee was toned down by the baking. Needless to say, these cookies disappeared really fast. These cookies are slice and bake, refrigerator-style cookies, so if you're not interested in baking right away, or you're looking to bake cookies in advance, just stash the rolls in the freezer and bake as needed.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Almond Toffee Bars

Pesach is finally over! That means no more matzah and cream cheese (hello bread!), back to work, and hopefully, back to posting as well! This post and the next couple (when those will see the light of day, I don't know) are all cookies that I made before Pesach in an effort to get rid of as much chametz in my pantry as possible. I had some slivered almonds leftover and I thought to make these Almond Toffee Bars from my much loved and often used, King Arthur Flour Baking Companion. A tender, almond scented shortbread like crust is topped with a brown sugar topping and studded with almonds. These cookies are easy to make, feed a crowd and are incredibly addictive. I only made one change, and that was to use soy milk instead of regular milk, as that's what I had on hand. Also, the almond extract in the base is a bit overwhelming, giving the cookies a sort of coconut like flavor which was delicious, but I would reduce the amount next time.

Friday, April 6, 2012

Poppy Seed Cookies

 I supppose this will be my last post before Passover begins tonight! I can hardly believe it's here already, but the holiday is not the subject of this post; these Poppy Seed Cookies are. After making the Orange Poppy Seed Cake for Purim, I had leftover poppy seeds sitting in my fridge. I headed back to Marcy Goldman's Treasury of Jewish Holiday Baking and decided to make this recipe. It seemed basic enough and I had all of the ingredients on hand. All it takes is one bowl and a whisk to whip this up plus a bit of chill time. I found these cookies to be addictive and delicious, crunchy and snappy, redolent of the best sugar cookies- the perfect accompaniment to tea or coffee. I love the look of the poppy seeds in the cookie but their flavor isn't so prominent in the finished product, which my friends actually appreciated; I guess the younger crowd isn't that fond of poppy seeds... I started shaping these cookies with a fluted cutter as Marcy shows in the book, but I decided that wasn't the best option for this soft dough, as the shape got ruined in the transfer. No matter how you cut 'em, though, these simple and unassuming cookies really are worthy of being made. Happy holidays!

Thursday, April 5, 2012

Pastry Cream Tart with Strawberries

Ok, I know the title is misleading because the strawberries are glaringly absent from these photographs, but trust me, they were there. I made this for a Shabbat lunch a couple of weeks ago and I topped the tart just before serving so Shabbat+topped-a-la-minute= no strawberries in the picture. This tart is just another in my line of cream filled pies/tarts because even though I'm no fan of creams and custards, they are just fun to make! This recipe comes from the Israeli Ben Ami cookbook. The cream here is vanilla flavored; I used vanilla bean paste instead of a vanilla bean and the specks were nicely present in the finished tart. You can use any seasonal fruit that looks good- strawberries are just at their end and I personally love them. I macerated them overnight in a bit of sugar and orange liqueur. To keep things parve, I used soy milk and non dairy whipping cream. My tart shrunk a slight bit so make sure to thoroughly freeze it. Don't let it get too dark or else it will be hard to cut... I know :) This tart not only looked impressive but was gone pretty quickly. Considering this dessert features the winning combination of strawberries and cream, that comes as no surprise.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Whole Wheat Bran Rolls

Last weekend, I got in the mood to bake some bread. It's been a long time since I've made bread that wasn't challah but I figured I'd need some bread for Shabbat and why not. I had a bag of wheat bran laying around and a bit of whole wheat flour chilling out in the fridge so all was ago for some whole grain bready goodness. Flipping through Micky Shemo's first (Israeli) book, I was reminded of this Whole Wheat and Bran Rolls, a recipe that has long been bookmarked in my to-make files. Not needing a full batch, I halved the recipe and taking the lazy way out, made it in my mixer. (After all, what are mixers for if not for the luxury to be lazy sometimes?!) I used instant yeast, soy milk, left out the dough enhancer and used a drop more white flour than whole wheat because I was a tad bit short. A note about the salt, he uses a half tbsp for a small amount of flour and the rolls were borderline salty, so adjust to your liking. My rolls came out to be very sturdy and dense and if you notice, each of them burst, clearly because I didn't let them rise enough. They were hardy and substantial and had a great wheaty taste, but trust me on this one, let them rise undisturbed! Your patience will be rewarded!

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Chocolate Cake with Marshmallow Topping

How on earth can it be that Pesach is here already?! I've spent the morning doing laundry and trying to get my apartment into a somewhat chametz free state and I need a break before I start to tackle the kitchen. In an effort to get rid of chametz and other almost finished baking things, I've been baking! Last motzash, I managed to make a cake that's been on my to make list for ages. Although it didn't make a dent in my self-rising flour, I did finish the cocoa powder,  and my (precious, imported from America) marshmallows. This cake comes from the book More Chocolate and was not only fun to make but was delicious and beautiful to look at. (You're going to have to just make it to believe it because I wasn't able to capture pictures of this one.) It starts with a dense chocolate cake, studded with white chocolate chips and mini marshmallows and is topped with a thick layer of marshmallow-white chocolate yumminess. This cake disappeared in record time and pleased many a mashak/it last week. Take care not to over bake the cake layer or the cake will turn out slightly crumbly and on the dry side.