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Friday, April 22, 2011

Kosher...

It was delicious and I can't wait to eat more of it. It was Passover dinner at a friend's home. I'm not religious in the slightest; a born-again agnostic with little more knowledge of the Jewish faith than what I've gathered from the yearly family friends' Hanukkah party. When I was invited I decided I'd undertake the development of a recipe I found on NPR's Kitchen Window Blog, Matzo Pie. I made the asparagus-leek pie subbing mashed sweet potatoes with the cottage cheese for those with lactose allergies. It was good and everyone seemed to like it. That's not what this post is about however.

Pies and casseroles...

This post is about the terrific cuisine which is Jewish (and or Kosher) cooking. I had never had haroseth. I had never eaten Mazto Ball soup (which, by the way, is my new long-sought alternative to Chicken Noodle). I had never had Gefilte Fish which brings me back to the wonderful fish cakes my mum used to make when I was much younger. Combined with a wide selection of vegetables, a wonderful greens pie/quiche, and Kugel made for arguably the best meal of a religious celebration enjoyed in some time. Desert was great too, with a chocolate torte with just a tint of orange liqueur or something similar, delicious nut cake, and a great biscotti-like bread a friend of mine needs to share his recipe for.

I really didn't expect to like it this much...
I'm thinking Kimchee, Gefilte Fish, and goat cheese toasted; call me mad...

I guess I just wanted to say that I loved the food of Passover but even more so that I am truly grateful that my friends would invite me over for such an experience - beyond the dinner. It's an unusual thing when I can say that I see the good in religion but I really feel like I saw a new side of Judaism this passover. What little I learned showed me a renewed importance of perseverance and community. It's a wonderful thing to share a meal with friends...

Sunday, April 17, 2011

Nouveau Gateaux...

It was my mum's birthday and the two requests she made were to make dinner and a birthday cake. The former, a precarious undertaking, the latter more enjoyable.
Dinner was molasses and cornmeal coated salmon, pan seared and finished in parchment, baked. The cake, small, vanilla, layered with raspberries and a lightly sweet-tart lemon buttercream. Despite terrible difficulties in baking at first (Cake Mk. 1 was quickly thrown away) the finished product came out terrifically, if I might say so.

Hidden in the frosting is a great light-yellow speckling

The cake itself came from Joy the Baker's Vanilla Cupcake recipe and the frosting from memory and 100 Best Vegan Baking Recipes. It was:
  • about 2 cups confectioners Sugar
  • 8 tbsp butter, softened (unsalted)
  • 3 tbsp lemon juice
  • 1 lemon's zest
  • 1/2 tsp almond extract
  • 2 tbsp milk
There was about 1/4 yield left over, some people enjoy that solo, but you can scale the recipe if need be, apparently, depending on your cake's proportions.

I simply studded the cake batter with some raspberries and sliced it in half, making 2 thin layers, spreading a healthy dose of frosting beneath and atop a dense layer of fresh raspberries. Further frosting the outside, I finished it off with a few fresh raspberries.

Dense but that really isn't always a bad thing... This is not a "boxed" cake after all!

It was dense, sweet but not too much so, tartly refreshing from bite to bite, and brought each of the cakes many flavors together wonderfully. Best of all, it was liked as a birthday gift (thank you baked goods for making shopping less stressful).

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Relaxing with Brownies?...

Well, not in that way, but it's been a very long Tuesday (and week for that matter) so what better way to let it all go than to bake something good. It's not even a healthy recipe I made so it has to be even more relaxing than usual (it is still whole grain, so we're ok).
They were supposed to be S'mores brownies but I lacked Graham crackers so I substituted pretzel bits. Hoorah!

Yes to the relaxing effects of Cacao...

S'more Brownies of Mine
Courtesy of Joy the Baker and with inspirational pictures from Half Baked Baker
1 1/2 cups flour (white whole wheat, of course)
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter + 1/2 cup canola oil
6 oz unsweetened bakers chocolate, chopped
5 large eggs
1 1/4 cups brown sugar
1 cup cane sugar (white sugar)
2 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup broken graham crackers *But, I subbed about 1 cup of broken up pretzel bits
12-20 large marshmallows, broken in half, to coat the top of the batter

So many elements to savor...

Combine the butter and chopped chocolate in a small bowl over a simmering double boiler configuration, stirring to melt and combine each. Combine oil, eggs, and sugar in a medium bowl. Combine these two mixtures, adding the vanilla.

In a separate bowl combine dry ingredients (sift...) and add slowly to the wet mixture.

Preheat oven to 350 and empty batter into 13x9 or so inch pan, preferably lined with parchment, and top with crumbled pretzels. If you prefer, combine the pretzel bits with the batter prior to pouring, or swirl it in, layering slightly. Top with torn marshmallow bits, side by side.

Bake for about 30 minutes, but check, as they can easily be overcooked! Mine were a bit dry and cake-like (which may have been due to the fact that I first read teaspoons of baking powder as tablespoons, which I did correct, but...). They had nice flavor and texture nonetheless and were very well received. Oh, chocolate you are man's friend...