Oct 112014
 

image herb yeast bread

It’s Sukkot, and the weather has kindly cooled down. We’ve even had some early rain, the signal for me to go into a fine frenzy of baking. Sourdough bread.  Applesauce Oatmeal Muffins. And the easy yeasted herb bead I’m about to show you.

I speculate that the cool-weather hunger for carbs is a throwback to old times, when my ancestors, back in the frozen Ukraine, prepared to survive the winter. I imagine my great-great grandfather shaking snow off his big boots, humming in a bass voice and stacking the day’s supply of logs and kindling in a corner. His plump wife stands in the kitchen, hands on hips, surveying her rye and wheat flours in their big bags. A couple of braided onion ropes hang from the ceiling; jars of shmaltz and preserved fruit glimmer on the shelves. Her treasured sourdough froths comfortably in its jar. In the main room, the big ceramic stove is lit, and the comforting fragrance of baking bread wafts around the wooden house.

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Mar 092014
 

image onion roll

This is on of the goodies we’re going to pack into our Mishlochei Manot (Purim packages).  I recycle the junky snacks we receive into other packages, feeling a bit guilty. Not guilty because we’re not going to eat what our friends and neighbor planned, and spent money on, and took the trouble to deliver. No, guilty because all those little candies and snacks are going to contribute to Israel’s massive post-Purim sucrose hangover. I should just throw it all out. But I rationalize that someone should enjoy the junk…because in the end, our friends and neighbors did go to the trouble.

I love best the Mishlochei Manot that feature a few home-cooked things. Foods that were made by hand – cakes and cookies and specialties of the donors – I keep. Some go into the freezer right away to stay fresh for next Shabbat. Some we serve at our Purim feast. For our own Mishloche Manot, we’re thinking – and by we, I mean my son Eliezer, the Little One and I – of Hamentaschen,  filled with cherry jam.  And  small potato kugels.  Probably the chocolate fruit/nut clusters, because they’re excellent, and easy to make. And instead of the usual small challah, which looks good in the package but which I suspect never gets eaten, onion rolls.

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Feb 162014
 

carrot cake cream cheese frosting

I’m ready to admit it. Carrot cake is really homely-looking.

But looks aren’t everything.

Flavor counts. So does nostalgia. When I asked Husband which cake he’d like for his birthday,  his eyes went soft and he sighed, “Carrot cake.”There seemed to be a heavy element of childhood memories in that sigh.

I said, “With cream cheese frosting?” And Husband gave me a brilliant smile. Yes.

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Jan 222013
 

applesauce crumb cake recipe

It’s a quick and easy cake with a homely face. But it’s more sophisticated than it appears, being moist with applesauce, yet crunchy on top, and perfumed with lemon.

Pretty good cake for about 10 minute’s work. Hopefully autumn’s apples inspired you to make  home-made applesauce.  Which of course went into my applesauce oatmeal muffins. But, and let’s be realistic here, canned applesauce works fine.

A neighbor taught me this recipe long ago, when we were both still young mothers. I was in the middle of a domestic emergency in my Jerusalem apartment.

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Oct 112012
 

image-bialys

Bialys were a specialty of Jewish bakeries in Bialystock, Poland, before WWII. I imagine that they came about the same way that pizza did in Italy. Excess bread dough was pressed into a convenient shape for eating out of hand and topped with the Ashkenazi favorite fruit, onions.

Jews immigrating to the States and settling in New York brought the flat rolls to America. Their bakeries sold bialys, pletzels, and goods that immigrants nostalgic for the pungent tastes of the old country craved. For while bialys are often eaten at breakfast, they are pungent indeed, with onions, sometimes garlic, and plenty of pepper.

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Jun 242012
 

image-onion-tart

Oooo, I love onions! Caramelized to sweetness, then balanced out with thyme and cheese: onions, onions, onions.

When the summer onions come in, all firm and beautiful, it’s only natural to cook something showcasing them. I was in a mood for something enclosed in shortcrust pastry, like the Fresh Apricot Tart. With a little recipe adjustment, the same basic crust works well with this melt-in-the-mouth onion filling. It calls for a little thinking ahead, but follow my schedule and you’ll see that all the steps are easy. The result is a tart that’s delightfully light, yet robust enough to serve as a vegetarian main dish for 4.

I have served this in thinner slices at a party for 16 people and it disappeared in minutes.

And, just because, there’s a little surprise at the end of the recipe. A little ditty from the silly ’60s. Not much to look at there, but if you eat your onion tart while listening to the song,  (maybe with your eyes closed), you will find that the experience is that much more…enhanced.

I hope you like the kazoo.

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Jun 182012
 

image-fresh-apricot-tart
Sweet-tart apricots for a sweet-tart tart.

This is my last apricot post for the season. I think.

The thing is, I found the most amazingly deep-colored apricots in the shuk, a variety I hadn’t seen yet. Their flavor is true to the promise of their enchanting color, filling the senses with the essence of fresh apricot when you bite one. It made me realize how often we settle for just a hint of flavor in today’s fruit, accepting fleshiness and juice in exchange for those original strong tastes which go away in refrigerated storage. Or get sacrificed for varieties that travel well and keep a few days longer in the supermarkets.

While happily snacking on the little fresh golden globes, I visualized an apricot tart in a plain short crust. Something to show the fruit off, without a lot of fancy added ingredients to compete for your attention. Although a flourish of whipped cream or scoop of vanilla ice cream on the side wouldn’t distract from the apricotish wonderfulness of  it. (When did whipped cream and ice cream ever go wrong?)

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Mar 072012
 

hamentaschen

Do you love hamentaschen? I’m betting you do.

I sure do, but I’m not at all fond of the over-sweet, stodgy hamentaschen flooding grocery stores and supermarkets right now. It’s so worthwhile making my own, that I’m going to interrupt my pre-Purim baking marathon to post this recipe. It’s a real, old-fashioned hamentasch with a delicate cookie crust. The filling is up to you. I’ve kept it pareve to accommodate those eating meat meals on Purim day. But I must say that these hamentaschen are fabulous filled with dulce de leche.

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Jan 252012
 

home-made-condensed-milk

It’s really much cheaper to make your own condensed milk. And you can make quantities of it at one time with almost no effort. But it does require time and patience. It’s something to stir while doing other kitchen projects. Like an intensive cooking or cupboard-cleaning session, or a morning of  phone calls you’ve been putting off. Actually, the coolest thing would be to have a magical spoon that stirs all by itself. Lacking that, just old-fashioned patience and time will  do.

Why would I want to make my own condensed milk? Well, here in Israel, all condensed and evaporated milk is imported in squeezable tubes and cans. Living in a dairy-rich country, it seems wrong to buy a milk product that’s been shipped across the planet. That’s Noble Reason Number One.

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