Fritelle di Mele – Apple Fritters

Apple Fritters

The holidays always make me think of the fun family gatherings we used to have. With most of the older generation no longer with us, it makes me think even more about the holiday foods I used to watch my paternal grandmother make. Before Hannukah, my grandmother was busy making her famous square chocolate cake, butter cookies, candied almonds, Butter-Mandel Kuchen, which she called Hefeteig (yeast dough) and Schnecken. But one of the treats that we all looked forward to were the fresh apple fritters she would make. The house would smell of sweet oil, apples, cinnamon and powdered sugar. I can smell them now as I am writing this post.

I decided to introduce my family’s tradition of apple fritters for Hannukah to Mr. BT and by the smile on his face, I think it will be a tradition we will continue.

Fritelle di Mele – Apple Fritters

Yield: 10 fritters

3/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons unbleached all-purpose flour, sifted

1/4 cup sugar

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground cardamom

1/8 teaspoon ground cloves

1 teaspoon salt

2 large eggs, separated

1 1/2 teaspoons unsalted butter, melted

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup beer (lager or pilsner)

1 large firm baking apple, such as Granny Smith

1/4 cup rum, brandy or calvados

Peanut or safflower oil, for frying

Icing sugar

In a bowl, whisk together the flour, sugar, cinnamon, cardamom, clove and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, butter, and vanilla. Mix in a third of the flour mixture, then a third of the beer to combine. Add the rest of the flour mixture and beer in two additions; whisk well to combine. Set aside for 30 minutes.

Peel, core, and slice the apple into ten 1/3 cm-(1/8 inch)-thick rings. Spread out the rings on a large plate or shallow pan, and pour the rum over the apple slices. Let the slices sit for 20 minutes to macerate in the rum.

Whisk the egg whites to soft peaks, and fold them gently into the batter.

Fill a high-sided skillet or wide pot with 5 centimeters (2 inches) of oil, and heat the oil to 190C (375F). In batches, dip the apple rings into the batter to coat both sides, and fry, turning once, until the apple fritters are golden and crisp, about 3 minutes. Drain on paper towels, sprinkle icing sugar on top, and serve warm.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/12/07/fritelle-di-mele-apple-fritters/

Honey for a Sweet Year, and a Fruitful One Too

Bee sculpture

A guest post from my other half, Mr. BT:

One of the great pleasures of living in Israel is the country’s agricultural riches, something that already led to the Land of Israel being described in the Bible as eretz zavat chalav u’dvash – ‘a land flowing with milk and honey.’ The milk in this description was probably more from sheep and goats than cows; and the ‘honey’ was almost certainly the sweet syrup of the dates that grow all over the country, not bee honey. Nevertheless, the historical image of honey as an integral part of the country’s agricultural tradition remains strong within Jewish culture, and especially so at this time of year, the early autumn, when we celebrate Rosh Hashana, the New Year.

Like Pesach in the springtime, when Jewish tradition dictates that we place on the Seder table, and eat, certain foods with symbolic religious significance, we put on the Rosh Hashana table foods with symbolic importance. But unlike the Seder, where we eat bitter herbs and unleavened matza to remind ourselves of the Children of Israel’s suffering as slaves in Egypt before the Exodus, and hasty exit without having time to let our dough rise, the symbols on the Rosh Hashana table are all about the sweetness and success we wish upon ourselves for the coming year.

Of all the culinary symbols – which according to tradition include pomegranates, a fish, courgettes, and carrots – the most important, and the ones most associated with the festival, are apples and honey. We sprinkle honey on the challah or other festival bread to express our hope for a sweet year, instead of the salt that is traditionally used on Shabbat; we eat slices of apple dipped in honey as well; and the blessings over all these foods reflect our desire for success, fertility and sweetness. And of course, we keep on using honey during the following three weeks of festival period to reinforce the message.

Honey Making Factory

It’s not only the honey itself that it important in Jewish culture. The honeybee, too, has a special significance in Jewish history: the name of the Biblical prophetess and judge Dvora (Deborah) – the Jewish people’s only woman leader until Golda Meir, and a pretty feisty leader in her own right – means ‘bee,’ and her name is still popular among Jewish and non-Jewish girls alike.

Simon's Honey Shop

It’s hardly a surprise, then, that when Baroness Tapuzina and I go shopping during the whole month before Rosh Hashana, every supermarket, grocery and stall in the shopping malls is crammed with jars of honey waiting to be consumed during the holiday period, and all of it locally produced. But, like pretty well everything else in Israeli food culture today, we have a tremendous variety of honey: from eucalyptus blossoms, thistle, clover, citrus, avocado and more. Not only that, but on top of the mass-market labels, there is a good variety of artisanal honey from small producers all over Israel.

To celebrate this wealth, the Baroness and I decided to visit a couple of local producers during the annual honey festival shortly before Rosh Hashana, both to taste a good selection, and to learn more about the Israeli honey industry.

Simon's Bee Farm Shop

Our first stop was at the shop of Simon’s Bee Farm in Kfar Sirkin, a moshav (agricultural village) just on the edge of highly urban Petach Tikva. Simon’s is special for two things in particular: one is that they sell all the output from their hives, which are scattered around most of the country, whereas most Israeli beekeepers sell at least part of their output to large companies, in particular the Yad Mordekhai label (originally owned entirely by the kibbutz of that name, but now owned by the Strauss food conglomerate). The other is that they have ten different varietals, including a honey that comes mainly from onion flowers, one from avocado and mango blossoms, and a Jordan Hills honey that the bees gather from avocado and lychee blossoms. Although we’re familiar with most of the other types, we had never tried these three before: I liked the onion honey more than the Baroness did (she found the oniony flavour off-putting), but we agreed that the other two were delicious, and bought a jar of each one.

Orna Simon

Unlike in the United States, where honey is usually pasteurised and therefore remains clear and liquid, Orna Simon explained to us that none of the Simon’s honey is pasteurised, so some of it becomes thick and even crystallises in the jar. But she says that for many of their customers, especially the Russian immigrants, this is a sign of high quality.

Bee Keeper's Outfits

From Kfar Sirkin, we went on to another moshav not far from our own called Tsofit (we do have beehives on the moshav where we live, but their output isn’t sold in the village). Here at Tsofit, beekeeper Yanay Sachs has a small factory at the back of his house, not only to produce and package the honey from his hives, but also to educate Israeli children about bees and honey.

Honey Comb

Yanay showed us a very cute film (made mainly for children) about beekeeping and how honey is extracted from the hives, and then took us on a tour of the production facilities. Here, the beeswax seals covering the hexagonal cells in each frame are scraped off with a broad mechanical knife, so that the honey can flow out into a separator (where any solid bits of dead bees are removed) and then to large storage containers, from which the jars are filled.

Yanai Sachs

Yanay doesn’t have the same wide selection of varietals as the Simon family bee farm, but he says that in the case of honey, as opposed to wine grapes, talking about varietals “is a bluff, because the bees fly to all the flowers within a range of three kilometres, and you don’t know where they’ve been.” A former head of the national beekeepers council, he also dismisses other beekeepers’ marketing of organic honey as a gimmick, saying that “organic honey is no more organic than anything else.”

Honey Extractor

However valid Yanay Sachs’ comments may be, we Israelis certainly like our honey: some 400-500 beekeepers around the country, of whom 100 are full-time professionals, own 90,000 hives, each one of which produces 30-40kg of honey every year. But this isn’t all for the sake of satisfying the national sweet tooth. Agriculture is still a central part of Israeli life just as it was part of the history of the Jewish people going back more than 3,500 years, and all the honey that Israelis consume during Rosh Hashana, and the rest of the year, is just a by-product of the bees’ real work: pollinating the country’s crops and ensuring the country’s multi-billion-dollar agricultural sector continues to produce all our wonderful food.

Baroness’ Sinful Honey Cake

Rosh Hashana Table 122

Rosh Hashana, the Jewish New Year, is a holiday for starting anew. So for this year’s holiday I decided to create my own signature honey cake, something special to welcome the new promise of a sweet year to come. What would be better than to take a honey cake and top it with thinly sliced apples that were poached in white wine, and top it with a luscious 72% dark chocolate glaze. Actually, it is so delicious as to be positively sinful. Fortunately, we have just over a week to enjoy it, confident in the knowledge that on Yom Kippur we will be able to atone for this sin.

This year, as in every year, we celebrated Rosh Hashana with family and friends in Jerusalem. We thought of loved ones we missed, we laughed , and we thought of all of the things we want to do to make this year more sweet, more healthy, more prosperous, and most importantly more peaceful.

May you be inscribed in the Book of Life and we hope you have happy, healthy, prosperous, and peaceful new year.

We would also like to wish Eid Mubarak to all of our Muslim friends.

Chag Sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr BT

Apple and Honey Cake 120

Baroness' Sinful Honey Cake

Yield: One frosted round cake and 1 plain loaf cake

Serving Size: 8-10 (round cake) and 10 (loaf cake)

For the poached apples:

3 medium granny smith apples, peeled and cored

1/2 bottle Riesling white wine

2 cinnamon sticks

5 whole cloves

2 large pieces of orange peel

1 sheet of parchment paper

For the honey cake:

1/2 cup dried sugarless cranberries

1/4 cup candied orange peel

1/2 cup walnuts, chopped

800g (6 cups + 3 tablespoons) spelt whole grain flour or all-purpose flour

1-1/2 cups sugar

2 heaping teaspoons cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 teaspoon ginger

1/2 teaspoon cloves

1 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon allspice

1-1/2 cups honey

1 cup oil

4 eggs

2 tablespoons instant espresso coffee

1 cup boiling water

2 level teaspoons baking soda

Zest of two medium oranges

For the chocolate glaze:

200g (7oz) 72% premium dark chocolate

50g (3.5 tablespoons) butter or margarine

For the poached apples:

Place the apples in a medium size pan and add the spices and orange peel. Cover with the white white and place the parchment paper on top of the apples. Poach on medium heat and reduce the heat to a simmer. Poach the apples for 15 minutes or until they are tender, but not mushy. Remove from the poaching liquid, put them in a covered container and refrigerate until cold. This can be done the day before baking.

For the cake:

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Grease a 22cm (8-inch) round spring-form pan and a loaf pan.

Place the cranberries, orange peel, and walnuts in a food processor and grind until each ingredient is in fine pieces. Be careful not to grind it into a paste. Set aside.

Mix the flour, sugar, and spices in a bowl. Add the honey, oil and eggs, and whisk into a smooth batter. Dissolve the coffee into 1 cup of boiling water. Add the baking soda to the batter, and then add the coffee. Gently fold in the orange rind, and the cranberry, candied orange and walnut mixture.

Pour half of the batter into round pan and the other half into the loaf pan. Bake for approximately 45 minutes until the cake is dark brown and the toothpick is clean with a few crumbs adhering. Depending on your oven, you may have to bake your cakes for an additional 10-15 minutes.

Cool in the pan until completely cooled. The cake a be prepared up to two days ahead.

For the chocolate glaze:

Just before assembling the cake, melt the chocolate over a water on low heat and add the butter or margarine. Cool for 5 minutes.

For assembly:

Slice the apples into thin slices and place on top of the round cake. Place the chocolate glaze in the middle of the cake and spread to the edges of the top of the cake. Let chocolate glaze will thicken as it cools.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/09/10/baroness-honey-cake/

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