There is absolutely no reason why kosher food and desserts have to be anything less than what everyone else is eating. Share with me your baking and cooking sucesses, challenges, and disasters. I will share my recipes, shabbat and holiday menu planning and my love of food.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

To Chocolate or Not to Chocolate

My mother is personally offended by any dessert that isn’t chocolate. She firmly believes that no non-chocolate dessert can ever be worth the calories. When she eats my mocha pecan pie every Thanksgiving, I can tell that she considers it some distant cousin of a chocolate dessert – nice, but not familiar enough.

This Thanksgiving, I decided to create a chocolate dessert but it had to fall comfortably within the pie, tart, or galette world. I had been ruminating about flavored tart doughs but didn’t want an all chocolate tart. I wanted something happier, less dark. I chopped up chocolate and carefully kneaded it into my sugar cookie crust. I achieved a butter-color crust with chocolate specks.

I wanted the filling to be bittersweet and ganache-like, but thicker, like custard, so it needed some eggs. The result is definitely a rich tart. I was down to the last slice on Shabbat and ended up cutting it into 1-inch squares and handed it out to 10 people like little candies. They were happy with their bites. It was, however, much too small a piece for my mom.

I would love to conduct my own survey about preferences for chocolate versus other desserts. What percentage of the time do you choose to bake chocolate as opposed to fruit, nut or other desserts? I imagine chocolate will prevail, but I am curious to see by how much. Let’s see if everyone thinks like mom.

Chocolate Tart with a Chocolate Chip Crust       Serves 8, or more

Pastry Dough

1 cup all-purpose flour

2/3 cup confectioner’s sugar

5 tablespoons parve margarine, frozen 30 minutes and then cut into tablespoons

1 large egg yolk

2 tablespoons cold water

¼ teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 ounce bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped


¾ cup parve whipping cream

1/3 cup soy milk

½ vanilla bean, scraped

12 ounces bittersweet chocolate

2 egg yolks

To make the crust, place the flour, confectioner’s sugar and margarine into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process for 10 seconds, until the mixture resembles sand.  Add the egg yolk, water, and vanilla and process just until the dough comes together. Do not mix too much. Place dough on a large piece of plastic wrap. Gather into a ball, cover and then flatten. Chill in the freezer one hour or overnight.

Preheat oven to 350ºF. Place an 8-inch tart ring on a parchment-covered cookie sheet. Grease the ring with a little margarine.

Remove dough from freezer and let sit until it softens a little so it can be rolled. Place a piece of plastic wrap larger than the ring on the counter and sprinkle with flour. Place dough on top.  Cover with a piece of parchment and roll on top of it to roll out the dough until it is at least one inch larger than the tart ring. Place your hand under the plastic, lift the dough and place in the tart ring using your finger to gently press the dough into the corners. Remove plastic and use a rolling pin to roll over the top to trim off excess dough.

Freeze 10 minutes. Line dough with foil or parchment and beans or pie weights. Bake for 20 minutes. Lift up the edges of the foil or parchment to remove it and the weights and bake another 5 minutes or until lightly browned. Remove from oven. This can be done in advance and frozen until use.

Bring the cream, soymilk and seeds of vanilla bean to boil in a medium saucepan. Remove from heat and add the chopped chocolate. Let sit for 5 minutes. Stir with a whisk. In a separate small bowl, whisk the eggs. Add ½ cup of the chocolate mixture and whisk in. Place this mixture into the saucepan with the chocolate and cream and whisk well. Scoop into the tart shell and bake for 25 minutes. Let cool and then chill in the fridge for 3 hours or overnight.

Monday, November 22, 2010

The Designer Turkey

Thanksgiving is an even more special holiday when you are living far away from all things American. My husband Andy and I were posted in Geneva, Switzerland years ago and we had a handful of American friends with which to celebrate. I went searching for my kosher turkey.

We were lucky to have a kosher butcher only a few blocks from our apartment in the city, unlike in Washington, DC where we had to drive 40 minutes into the suburbs for a kosher chicken. I went to the butcher and asked for a whole turkey in my broken French. He said that no one ate whole turkeys in Switzerland but would see what he could do. I checked in with him every few days to see how his search was going. Maybe I seemed a little desperate.

He announced one visit that he would have a fresh, whole, large turkey for me. In the meantime, I planned the rest of the meal. I bought orange-skinned yams that when peeled were completely white. It took several visits back to the store and sore fingernails to learn that in Geneva, all the sweet potatoes were white inside. I will have to admit that they did taste the same as the orange ones, but looked rather drab in a dish in which they were combined with white granny smith apples. I never found fresh cranberries.

I picked up my enormous, beautiful turkey. It was the Dior of turkeys, with the designer price tag of $140. Yes, you read that right. I thought that by living in the land of watches and banks I would be immune to sticker shock; I wasn’t. I paid the butcher and carried my baby home. It was delicious, tasting and smelling of America and enjoyed by all.  The next year, I drove to the kosher butcher just over the border in France and bought two scrawny turkeys, that looked like big chickens, for $45 total, and they were just as good.

I will never forget the $140 turkey, but only as a reminder that celebrating an American holiday in a foreign country with friends and delicious food really has no price tag.

Here are two  favorite Thanksgiving recipes, my turkey rub and corn bread, from The Kosher Baker.

Shallot and Herb Turkey Rub
This rub was inspired by one I found in Bon Appetit 1993 and goes with any stuffing. There is enough for even a very large turkey.

½ cup (1 stick) parve margarine, softened                       2 shallots, finely chopped

2 cloves garlic, crushed                                                   1 tablespoon fresh thyme leaves

1 tablespoon chopped fresh sage leaves                           Salt and pepper to taste

Cream the margarine with a silicone spatula. Add the shallots, garlic, thyme and sage and mix well. Put on some gloves and then rub mixture all over and under the turkey skin. Add salt and pepper to taste. Cover with plastic and let sit until roasting. I like to rub the bird the night before, cover and place into the fridge.

Corn Bread                               Makes forty 2-inch squares

This recipe was designed for a crowd; it makes two 9 x 13-inch pans. You can also halve the recipe, but why bother? It freezes very well.

4 cups all-purpose flour

2 cups yellow corn meal

1 1/2 cups sugar

1 teaspoon salt

2 tablespoons baking powder

4 large eggs

1 cup parve whipping cream

2 1/2 tablespoons canola or vegetable oil

2 cups parve plain soy milk

1/2 cup (1 stick) parve margarine, melted

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 9 x 13-inch baking pans.

2. In a large bowl, sift together the flour, corn meal, sugar, salt, and baking powder. In a medium bowl, whisk together the eggs, whipping cream, oil, and soy milk. Pour the wet ingredients into the dry ingredients. Add the melted margarine and stir until just combined.

3. Bake for 1 hour, or until a skewer comes out clean. The corn bread should be a little brown on top. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

Dueling Desserts

My daughter, Emily had been begging for apple tart tatin, but those last peaches of the season were asking for inclusion in something. It was such a good peach season in Maryland that I kept eating and not baking them. This was my last chance before the Triple Crown season of apple/pear/pumpkin desserts began.

Tarte tatin can do no wrong in my world – apples too mushy -- who cares? Apples stuck to the pan and the tart patched back together –I’ll eat it anyway. Armed with confidence, I made the tart, center ring of pear, then alternating granny smiths and peaches with blackberries scattered around any holes I found in the pan.

It even looked like I had imagined in my head. The blackberries performed the task of paintbrush and lightly tinted all the fruit with a red pomegranate color. I loved the taste, but Tom and Padma, I mean Sam and Emily, said that they didn’t like tasting just one fruit in each bite, they would prefer a bite of apple, pear, berry and peach each time they cut a piece. So there was born round two of the tatin battle. The second method was a little soupy and messier to turn out of the pan. But the pool of syrup on the counter was easily removed with fingers and licked. The taste was precisely what the critics were after and the blackberries more uniformly colored and glazed the dessert in red. I will give you both options so you can decide.

Rainbow Tart Tatin                                           8 to 12 servings

Storage: Store covered with plastic in the refrigerator for up to 3 days.

1 sheet parve frozen puff pastry (from a 17.3-ounce box)

8 tablespoons parve margarine

3 Granny Smith apples

3 small pears

3 unripe peaches

6 ounces blackberries

Preheat the oven to 400°F. Thaw the puff pastry at room temperature for 45 minutes.  You will need a deep, ovenproof skillet about 11 to 13 inches wide. Make sure the handle is ovenproof as well. Take a piece of parchment about 16 inches long and sprinkle some flour on it. Roll out the puff pastry sheet until it is 1 inch larger than your pan. Place the pan on top of the rolled pastry and use a sharp knife to cut a circle in the pastry the size of the pan. Remove excess dough and set the dough circle aside.

Place the margarine and sugar in the skillet and set over medium-low heat. Cook for 5 minutes, stirring often. Meanwhile, peel and core the apples and cut into quarters. Peel the pears, halve and remove cores. Peel the peaches, halve and remove the pit. Add the pears to the center of the pan, cored side facing up with the stem end facing the center, so it looks like a flower. For the next ring outside the pears, alternate apple and peach halves, core and pit sides facing up to fill up the pan. Sprinkle the blackberries around and place in any gaps between the other fruit. Cook for 15 minutes uncovered without moving any fruit.

Place the skillet in the oven for 10 minutes. Remove from oven.  Take your pastry circle and, using your hand under the parchment, lift up and flip the pastry over on top of the fruit. Be careful, the skillet is hot! Peel off the parchment and use a sharp knife to cut a few holes in the pastry. Return skillet to the oven and bake for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a silicone spatula to gently push any fruit poking out of the pastry back under the pastry. Put on oven mitts.  Place a large serving plate or platter over the pan and then flip the tart over onto the plate or platter. If any of the fruit get stuck in the pan, use a spatula to scoop them out and place where they belong on the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Option #2

Preheat oven, thaw, roll and then cut the puff pastry as instructed above.  Cut the apples, pears and peaches into 1-inch pieces.  Place into a bowl, add the blackberries and toss gently. Heat the margarine and sugar in the pan, as instructed above.  After the margarine and sugar have melted, dump all the fruit into the pan and use a spatula to spread to cover the pan. Cook for 10 minutes without stirring. Place pan in the oven for 10 minutes.

Remove and then place the pastry on top, following the instructions above. Place back in the oven for 15 minutes, or until the pastry is golden.

Remove from oven and let rest for 10 minutes. Use a silicone spatula to  push any fruit poking out of the pastry back under the pastry. Place a large serving plate or platter (one with a rim works best) over the pan and then flip the tart over onto the plate or platter. If any of the fruit get stuck in the pan, use a spatula to scoop them out and place where they belong on the tart. Serve warm or at room temperature.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Thyme Flies

Hurricane Earl was a total bust in Westhampton Beach, New York. I came up here to do several cooking demonstrations to launch The Kosher Baker and stay for Labor Day weekend. Earl simply left us with beautiful breezes. So we opened all the windows and everything went flying, especially the fresh thyme leaves that were destined for the Dijon vinaigrette for my fresh tuna salad nicoise. At my dear friend Elena Lefkowitz’s exquisite home, all weekends are full of good friends, relaxing hours and most importantly, fabulous meals. Thyme usually moves very slowly.

Our unofficial weekend food theme was the final tastes of summer. I know that we are being rocket launched into brisket in two days, but for now, this weekend is all about grilled vegetables, colorful salads, fresh fish and barbeque. Lunch on Shabbat was tuna nicoise salad and quinoa with roasted sweet potatoes, dried cranberries and green onions.

To make the tuna, marinate it for 5 minutes in some olive oil, lemon juice and dried thyme. I seared it in a hot pan for less than 2 minutes per side so the center would be rare. I steamed asparagus and red bliss potatoes and found several varieties of olives in the fridge and cut fresh herbs from pots right outside the kitchen.

Place your favorite mixed greens on each plate, some asparagus, potatoes, olives, a few slices of tuna, sliced against the grain, and then the mustard vinaigrette. For a side dish, I made the quinoa salad that I taught at the cooking demos here in Long Island as a healthy Rosh Hashana side dish. Call this salad a bridge between bikinis and brisket.

Dijon Vinaigrette makes ½ cup dressing
¼ cup olive oil
1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar
3 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1 teaspoon honey
2 tablespoons orange juice
2 tablespoons water
1 teaspoon chopped fresh thyme leaves
1 teaspoon chopped fresh oregano leaves
Salt and fresh-ground pepper to taste

Whish together the oil, vinegar, mustard and honey.  Add the juice, water and whisk vigorously.  Add the thyme and oregano and sale and pepper to taste.

Quinoa with Roasted Sweet Potatoes and Dried Cranberries serves 8
1 cup quinoa, rinsed
1 medium sweet potato, cut into ½ inch cubes
6 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil, divided
1/3 cup pine nuts, toasted, optional
3 teaspoons apple cider vinegar
2 teaspoons honey
¼ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon ground black pepper
1 teaspoon ground cumin
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
1/3 cup dried cranberries
3 scallions, sliced thin

Preheat oven to 400ºF. Place the quinoa into a small saucepan and add 2 cups of water. Bring to a boil and then simmer for 15 minutes, covered, or until the water is evaporated. Turn off the heat and let quinoa sit covered for at least one hour, up to 8 hours.  While the quinoa is sitting, place the sweet potato cubes into a roasting pan and toss with 2 tablespoons of the olive oil. Bake for 25 minutes, stirring once or twice, or until you can just pierce the cubes with a fork. Set aside.

Place the pine nuts into a small pan over medium heat and cook until lightly toasted, stirring often. Watch carefully so they do not burn. Set aside.  In a small bowl, place the remaining two tablespoons olive oil, vinegar, honey, salt, pepper, cumin and cinnamon. Whisk well.

When the quinoa is dry, use a whisk to break apart the grains. Add the vinaigrette and mix with the whisk. Add the sweet potatoes, pine nuts, cranberries and scallions and mix gently. Serve at room temperature.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Tart Spangled Banner

This summer, my husband Andy had to travel to Geneva, Brussels, and London for work and invited me to tag along as all the kids were away. Who was I to say no as I imagined myself eating me way through each city. That turned out to be pretty close to the reality.

Within one hour of landing in Geneva, our friends and hosts, Scott and Clarisse, took us to the Divonne market just over the border in France, one of the few places to buy food on a Sunday. Remember blue laws? I went from stall to stall, tasting olives, seeing raspberries the size of walnuts, eggplants and tomatoes of every color, and witnessing the summer bounty of French farms.

The highlight was when the vendor of sun dried tomatoes, trying to get me to taste one, called out “mademoiselle”. I love France.

I volunteered to bake dessert for our July 4th dinner, I was so excited to bake with the glorious fruit I found at the market.  I decided on my summer fruit galette, an open-faced tart that is super easy. I chose white nectarines, the nuclear raspberries, peaches and fraise des bois. Fraise des bois are those wild strawberries they love in Europe. Although I think I see the same kind growing in the woods in Rock Creek Park near my house, they seemed safer to eat if some French guy was selling them.

As there was no need to make them dairy-free, I substituted lovely French butter for the dairy-free margarine I usually use. The dough was a little drier than with margarine, but still worked. I made the mistake of doubling the recipe in the food processor. This recipe ALWAYS comes out better if I make one batch at a time – it avoids overmixing.

Clarisse could not find her rolling pin. As I have done time and time again, a wine bottle is a GREAT substitute.  I followed one my “Ten Commandments of Kosher Baking” and shaved off some baking time to prevent burning. I actually took off about ten minutes. European ovens are tiny – think four shoeboxes – and I even had to lower the temperature towards the end because the heat in that small oven was very concentrated. As always, you have to keep an eye on your baked goods as they bake!

We sat down on the terrace to eat with a view of the alps, with a group of Americans and one Australian and discussed the translations of national anthems around the world. Some are pretty violent actually.  We ate a delicious dinner of cod gremolata which I invented on the spot using lemon zest, garlic, and huge Italian parsley leaves, rubbed on the fish and then grilled on foil on the grill, pan sautéed potatoes, grilled vegetables and of course, coleslaw.

The highlight was the tarts, which were served with vanilla ice cream – a real treat for a kosher girl. As we fell asleep that night, happy, full and listening to the frogs from the organic pool, I thought about my tarts and the joy of celebrating the 4th among friends outside the U.S.

We used to live in Geneva and it is always a little unsettling seeing a glimpse of the life that might have been. We are happy with our choice to live in the U.S. For one, you cannot beat the Jewish life in America. Though I always love the slowness of life in Europe, the emphasis on family and free time rather than work, I find I am naturally more comfortable around that American frontier mentality, the belief that you should always move forward, improve yourself, learn something new, and work towards a goal. Life seems to stand still in Geneva. I always have shpilkes (Yiddish for ants in the pants).

Summer Fruit Galette

serves 8
Store covered in plastic in the refrigerator for up to four days.

1¼ cups all-purpose flour
¼ teaspoon salt
6 tablespoons butter or cold parve margarine, frozen for at least 30 minutes
and cut into 6 pieces
1 large egg, separated
3 tablespoons ice water, divided

3 cups fresh fruit: fraise des bois, berries, or nectarines, plums, peaches or apricots cut into ½-inch pieces
3 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons cornstarch
1 teaspoon sugar, to sprinkle on top of galette

To make the dough: Place the flour, salt, and butter or margarine into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Pulse 10 times or cut the butter or margarine into the flour and salt by hand using two knives or a pastry cutter.  Add the egg yolk (reserve the white) and 1 tablespoon of the ice water. Pulse
5 times or mix gently by hand. Add another tablespoon of the ice water and pulse another 5 times or mix again. Add the last tablespoon of water, a little at a time, pulsing or lightly mixing the dough for 10 to 15 seconds until it looks like clumps of couscous; the dough does not have to come completely together. Gather the dough into a ball.

Take a large piece of plastic wrap and sprinkle some flour on top. Place the dough on the floured plastic, wrap the plastic around it, and then flatten. Place the dough in the freezer for 20 minutes. 

Preheat the oven to 425ºF and place a rack on the lowest shelf of your oven.

Take a large piece of parchment and sprinkle it with some flour. Remove the dough from the plastic wrap and place it on top of the parchment. Sprinkle some flour on the dough and then place a second piece of parchment on top. Roll out the dough until it is about 12 to 13 inches wide, trying your best to keep the shape round. Peel back the top parchment and sprinkle some more flour once or twice while you are rolling.

To make the filling: Place the fruit in a medium bowl. In a separate bowl, mix together the sugar and cornstarch. Sprinkle on top of the fruit and mix gently. 
Place the fruit in the center of the dough circle and spread it outward, leaving a 2 to 3-inch border on the outside. Take one small section of the dough border, about 2 inches, and fold it over the fruit, leaving the fruit-filled center open. Pick up another 2-inch section of the border and repeat, pressing one section into the next to seal it, so you end up with dough pleats.

Beat the reserved egg white and brush all over the dough. Sprinkle with the teaspoon of sugar. Bake for 30 minutes. Move the galette to a middle rack in the oven and bake another 10 minutes. Let cool for 20 minutes.

Sunday, June 27, 2010

Raising the Bar

I was craving my raspberry bars. Maybe it was looking at the book photo or remembering how I couldn’t stop eating them the day of the photo shoot. My fabulous photographer and friend, Michael Bennett Kress, preferred the pecan bars during the shoot, but both of us started at the trimmed off edges of each pan and slowly worked our way in.

So there I was making raspberry bars one Friday this spring and when the bottom crust was baked, it just seemed too pedestrian to spread jarred jam when I had a fridge full of luscious, seasonal berries. I got out the rasps and blues and squished them with my hands, added sugar and some flour and spread that over the bottom crust and grated the remaining dough on top. You can serve it warm or cold, though I like the chilled bars better.

After several Shabbat meals and snacks, we still had half the pan left on Sunday. I may have also made chocolate mousse that weekend. Berries can never compete with chocolate. Sunday afternoon, three hours into the seven total of my daughter’s regret over having donated 8 inches of her hair, I needed a pick-me-up. I told my son Sam, who LOVES fruit desserts, to get us two soup spoons. He asked if we needed plates and I responded, “Why?” We sat down and inhaled the remainder of the pan. Somewhere into the final corner of the pan, things were looking up. Sam and I licked our spoons. I took Emily to get her hair layered and her friends on skype pronounced the new style gorgeous. This dessert made my stressful afternoon ever so much sweeter.

Berry Bars

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup confectioners’ sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) parve margarine, frozen for 15 minutes, plus extra for
greasing pan and parchment
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 large egg yolk
2 cups fresh blueberries
2 cups fresh raspberries
¼ cup sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour

Preheat the oven to 350ºf. Grease a 9 x 13-inch pan with some margarine. Place a piece of parchment in the pan that is large enough to go up the sides and hang over a few inches. Grease the top and sides of the parchment.

To make the crust: Place the flour and sugar into the bowl of a food processor fitted with a metal blade. Process for 10 seconds. Cut the margarine into pieces and add to the bowl. Process or use your hands to mix for another 10 seconds. Add the vanilla and egg yolk and then process or mix until the dough just comes together.

Divide the dough in half, making one piece a little bigger. Wrap both pieces in
plastic; flatten and place the smaller one in the freezer. Take the larger piece and break it into pieces and scatter over the parchment. Press the pieces into the pan as evenly as you can. Place in the oven and bake for 15 minutes.  Remove from the oven and let cool for 15 minutes. 
Meanwhile place the raspberries and blueberries into a large bowl and squeeze with your hands to break up the raspberries.

Add the sugar and flour and squeeze together. This part is fun, but you may still want to use plastic gloves as I did.  Remove the other dough piece from the freezer and, using the large holes of a box grater, grate the remaining dough over the filling. 

Bake for 50 minutes, or until the top starts to look golden brown. Let cool. Trim off about ¼ inch of the sides, if desired, and eat them immediately, and then cut into squares or long bars. Serve warm or cold.