Baking for Mama – May She Rest in Peace 1912-2007

My 95-year-old Grandmother has not been well lately passed away Saturday 29 December in the USA, which had me thinking of all of the wonderful times we had cooking together. I owe a lot of my cooking skills to her. She encouraged me to take cooking lessons and taught me how to make all of the family holiday recipes. During December, we always baked all of the special goodies for family near and far. Family would always come to visit during the Christmas vacation, and even though we did not celebrate Christmas, we always had special goodies around, such as her chocolate cake, 1-2-3-4 cake, her amazing butter cookies, Rose’s apricot tarts, and her schnecken. But the baked goods that she always looked forward to was the big package of German goodies that family friends in Germany sent my grandparents. The package came from the famous Lebkuchen Schmidt bakery in Nürnberg. She would open the package and take a deep whiff, and then delicately open the packages. We would stand there in excitement smelling the spicey goodness and salivating, waiting to take a bite of the lovely Elisen lebkuchen and speculaas cookies. You could smell the cardamom, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg all over the house.

I usually buy lebkuchen when I am in Germany, but this year I was unable to make a trip there before Christmas, so I decided to do the impossible and try to make some myself. I knew that they would not be as good as Lebkuchen Schmidt, who have been making these amazing biscuits since 1927. My first attempt resulted in overbaked biscuits because I had spread the dough too thin on the oblaten wafer. However, the second time round I managed to get it right and even my famously critical other half drooled every time he came close to one. I decided to leave my lebkuchen natural and used square oblaten instead of round. If you cannot find oblaten wafers, which are similar to communion wafers, then use rice paper.

I couldn’t find candied orange, so I made it myself using thick-skinned navel oranges.

Mama, I made these for you and if I didn’t live so far away, I would have brought you some to savour.

Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen

Yield: 75 pieces of five centimeter (2 inches) diameter

470 g (2-1/3 cups) sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar

400 g (14 ounces) hazelnuts (one-half milled rough and the other fine)

80g (3 ounces) whole almonds, finely chopped

50 g (1.7 ounces) roughly chopped walnuts

100 g (3.5 ounces) of finely cut candied orange and lemon peel respectively

Freshly grated untreated orange and lemon peel

1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger root in syrup

1 teaspoon of the following milled spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, mace, cardamom, nutmeg

Oblaten Package

2 packets of oblaten wafers (5 cm (2 inches) diameter)

Punch Icing

130 g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon of rum

2 teaspoons of red wine

Chocolate Icing

20 g (.7 ounces) of bittersweet chocolate (preferably 70%; high quality)

For decoration:

A selection of nuts and candied fruit

Use the egg whisk attachment of an electric beater to beat sugar, eggs and vanilla sugar so that the foamed mass has doubled and the sugar is dissolved.

Ground Hazelnuts and Almonds

Candied Orange Lemon and Ginger

Then add the nuts, candied and fresh orange and lemon peel, ginger and spices. Cover the batter and leave it in a cool place for 24 hours.

Oblaten Sheets

Unbaked Lebkuchen

The next day form small, approx. 15 g (1 rounded tablespoon), balls from the mix with wet hands and place each on a wafer so that a 3 to 5 mm broad margin remains. Place the wafers on a baking paper lined baking tray and bake until light brown for 10 to 12 minutes at 200C (400F) in a preheated oven.

The Lebkuchen should be well risen but not quite finished inside because they have to further develop and remain soft inside. The finished Lebkuchen should be slid onto a drying rack to cool. Place one-third of the cookies to the side: they should remain natural, e.g. without icing.

For the punch icing:

Mix the sifted icing sugar and to a smooth consistency with rum and red wine. Then dip the upper surface of a further third of the Lebkuchen (not the wafer side) into this icing.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt and temper the chocolate, and then dip the upper surface of the remaining Lebkuchen. Leave the iced Lebkuchen on a drying rack to dry.

Decorate the lebkuchen with nuts and candied fruit while the icing or natural cookie is still soft.

Store the completed Lebkuchen in an airtight tin. Cover the cakes with greaseproof paper and lay a few apple peelings on top. This keeps them soft and moist. Try to let the cookies mature for about ten days before serving them.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/29/baking-for-mama/

Spanish and Indian-Inspired Hannukah

I really like finding interesting recipes that may not be holiday-specific, but fit in with the types of foods that are typically served for the holiday. And I like to mix cultures in a meal. I think it makes the meal more interesting. So, for this meal I decided to serve a Spanish potato fritter which is also made in Italy, and an Argentinian cut of meat with Indian spices. I just love global cooking!

Try it some time, instead of having a themed dinner party where the entire menu is from one country or region, try making the menu diverse by making a Swedish appetizer, Middle Eastern main dish, Thai side dish and a Brazilian dessert.

I decided to make another variation of the Ashkenazi potato latkes and make something a little more Sephardi, so I made potato and sage fritters. These are quite light and are perfect for a hot appetizer. They are very easy to make and can be made a few hours ahead of time and reheated in the oven. The recipe only called for one tablespoon of sage. I like a nice sage flavour, so I added two tablespoons. I probably could have added more. The lemon is rather pronounced, so if you don’t like a strong lemon flavour, you could put in only one teaspoon of lemon zest.

Potato and Sage Fritters

Yield: 40 fritters

For the sponge:

1/4 cup warm water

2 tablespoons all-purpose flour

1/2 envelope (1-1/8 teaspoon) active dry yeast

For the fritters:

450g (1lb) pound russet potatoes, peeled and cut into 1-inch cubes

Cold water

1 tablespoon plus 2 teaspoons sea salt

2 large eggs

1/2 cup extra-virgin olive oil

2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon finely chopped fresh sage leaves

2 teaspoons freshly grated lemon zest

1/2 teaspoon coarsely ground black pepper

4 to 6 cups peanut oil, for deep-frying

To make the sponge:

In a small bowl, combine the water, flour and yeast. Mix well and set aside in a warm place until yeasty-smelling and covered in very small bubbles, about 45 minutes.

In a medium saucepan, cover the potatoes with cold water. Bring the water to a boil over high heat, add 1 tablespoon of sea salt. Reduce the heat to a simmer, and cook until the potatoes are tender, 20 to 25 minutes. Drain and mash the potatoes with a fork. Allow them to cool.

Potato and Sage Fritters

In a small bowl, whisk together the eggs and olive oil until thoroughly combined. In a bowl, combine cooled potatoes with the sponge, flour, sage, lemon zest, pepper, and 2 teaspoons of salt. Mix to evenly distribute the ingredients. Add the egg mixture to potato mixture, and stir until thoroughly combined. Use a rubber spatula to scrape down the sides of the bowl. You should have a thick, sticky batter. Add a bit more flour, if needed. Cover the bowl with a towel and set aside in a warm place to rise until doubled in size, for 1 1/2 to 2 hours.

Heat the oil in a deep-fryer or heavy pot to 190C (375F).

Potato and Sage Fritter Batter Risen

Scoop 1 tablespoon of the risen batter at a time, and use another spoon to scrape it into the hot oil. Don't crowd the fryer. Fry fritters until golden brown, 2 to 3 minutes, turning them over occasionally. Drain the fritters on paper towels to absorb any excess oil. Sprinkle with salt and serve warm.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/15/spanish-and-indian-inspired-hannukah/

We got a great deal on Argentinian asado, or short ribs as they are called in the States. The best part was that they had relatively little fat on them. Slow cooking is a must for this cut of meat, so when I saw this recipe and it didn’t call for slow roasting, I was a bit skeptical. I didn’t have time to marinate them for three days, so maybe that makes the difference. I marinated the ribs for a full 24 hours and then slow roasted (roasting pan, 2 cups of water, covered with foil) them in the oven at 150C (300F) for 1-1/2 hours and then grilled them. They were outstanding and I can only imagine what they would be like if I had marinated them for three days.

We actually had a problem with this recipe because the way the asado is cut here in Israel, the pieces of bone (rib) embedded in the meat are almost three inches long, which means that the thickness of the meat is considerably greater than in the States. This means that you can’t expect to cook it through with just a few minutes on the grill, however hot. In a typical South American grill in Israel (we have quite a few of them just up the road in Kfar Saba, where there is a big Argentinian immigrant community), the asado is often slow grilled for more than an hour on a vertical stand placed a few inches from the fire, which brings out the full flavour in this rather fatty cut of meat.

This marinade is also great on chicken. You can put it directly on the chicken and cook it straight away if you want.

Indian-Style Grilled Short Ribs

Yield: 4

Recipe from Chef Floyd Cardoz

6 garlic cloves, coarsely chopped

2 tablespoons finely chopped fresh ginger

1/4 cup dry red wine

3 tablespoons red wine vinegar

3 tablespoons pure maple syrup or honey or date honey

3 tablespoons vegetable oil

3 tablespoons tomato paste

1 tablespoon rosemary leaves

1 tablespoon kosher salt

2 teaspoons thyme

1 1/2 teaspoons freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon ground coriander

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/2 teaspoon sweet paprika

1/4 teaspoon ground ginger

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper

8 beef short ribs on the bone (about 450g (1lb) each), trimmed of excess fat

In a blender, combine the garlic, ginger and red wine and puree. Scrape the wine puree into a medium bowl and stir in all of the remaining ingredients except the short ribs. Pour the marinade into 2 resealable plastic bags and add the short ribs. Tightly seal the plastic bags and refrigerate the short ribs in the marinade for 3 days.

Indian-style short ribs

Light a grill. Remove the short ribs from the marinade, scraping off any excess. Grill the short ribs over moderately high heat until they are lightly charred and medium-rare, about 5 minutes per side.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/15/spanish-and-indian-inspired-hannukah/

Italian Hannukah

The first night of Hannukah we were invited to a friend’s house to celebrate with their family. We had a nice meal of mushroom soup, potato latkes, butternut squash and curry latkes, salad, homemade Merlot wine and peapod wine. It was a delicious dinner.

I volunteered to bring dessert and instead of bringing soufganyiot, I decided to make an Italian holiday dessert, Panettone in honor of my Italian ancestry. A couple of years ago, I found an interesting take on this sweet bread which is usually made with raisins and candied fruit. The one I made is called Cranberry Pistachio Panettone. It is an eggy, buttery sweet bread, but not too sweet. I like it better than the panettone I used to buy in Milano and Lugano. It is really easy to make, just a little time consuming because of the rising time, but well worth the wait. You can freeze it, just make sure you wrap it well.

I baked it in a tall, narrow cooking pot that I use to cook pasta or asparagus. If you can find a paper panettone form, then use that. I could find one in any of the baking shops. You can also be decadent and make this with dried tart cherries instead of cranberries.

Dinner Under the Stars

The beginning of last week we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. We had delicious dinner in their lovely Sukkah. I forgot to bring my camera, but will update this post when my friend sends me the pictures we took using her camera.

Our friend Miriam makes delicious wines using grapes, other fruits and herbs. We had the honor of having her cabernet sauvignon, strawberry and summer wines, which is made from pea pods. Yes folks, you read it correctly, pea pods. It was delicious and tasted quite fruity; very difficult to describe without sounding a bit pretentious. The strawberry wine was a little fizzy and tasted as if you were biting into a giant, luscious and ripe strawberry. Yum.

We closed the meal with delicious lemon cakes that her daughter made and the Kritika Patouthia biscuits and mango-nectarine sorbet that my husband and I made.

Kritika Patouthia are Greek biscuits from the island of Crete. They are filled with ground almonds, ground walnuts, sesame seeds and honey and are typically rolled in icing (powdered) sugar. I decided that they were sweet enough and omitted the icing sugar. These cookies are delicious and went well with the last of the summer mango-nectarine sorbet. I came up with this recipe when I didn’t have enough mangoes to make sorbet. The nectarines work quite well with the mango and do not get lost with the strong mango flavour.

Kritika Patouthia

Yield: 5 to 6 dozen

Dough:

1/2 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons orange juice

Juice of one lemon

6 tablespoons white sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Filling:

1 cup ground walnuts

1 cup ground almonds

1 cup sesame seeds

1 cup honey

Confectioners' sugar

Orange flower water or orange juice for sprinkling

Mix together olive oil, water, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar. Set aside. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add olive oil mixture to flour mixture.

On a floured surface, work and knead to a smooth dough. Cover dough (you can place the empty bowl over it) and let dough rest for an hour.

While dough is resting, make filling.

To Make Filling:

Combine ground walnuts, ground almonds, sesame seeds and honey together in a bowl. Mix until well coated.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Sesame Almond Walnut Filling

Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 3 inch squares. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in center of each square.

fold up

Moisten edges with orange flower water or orange juice and cover the filling by folding in the four corners and pressing them firmly together in the center.

Bake for about 25 minutes. While cookies are still warm, sprinkle lightly with orange flower water or orange juice and dip in a bowl of confectioners' sugar.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/10/06/dinner-under-the-stars/

Mango and Nectarine

Mango and Nectarine Sorbet

Serving Size: 8

3 medium size mangoes, cut into chunks

3 large nectarines, peeled and cut into chunks

Juice of one medium size lemon

1/2 cup simple syrup or to taste

ying and yang

Place the mango and nectarine chunks in a food processor and process until the mixture is a puree. Add the simple syrup and lemon; mix for one to two minutes. Put in an ice cream maker, following manufacturer's instructions.

Take the sorbet out of the freezer 15 minutes prior to serving.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/10/06/dinner-under-the-stars/

Sweet Break at Work

Every Thursday my team takes a 30 minute break to go to the rooftop and enjoy the fresh air and homemade goodies that each team member, in turn, brings. Sometimes we have the break in the morning, and have breakfast goodies, and sometimes we have the break in the afternoon. We change it around for variety and the last couple of months we decided the theme would be cakes and ice cream. When we had the breakfast round, one of my colleagues brought a gas burner and made omelets. They were delicious.

This week was my turn and since my birthday is at the beginning of next week, I decided to celebrate my birthday and make homemade ice creams and cakes. I prefer cakes without icing and really like cakes or tarts with lots of fruit. So, I decided to make a plum cake, cherry coffee cake, dulce de leche ice cream, and for the adventurous I made pomegranate gelato. Everything was delicious except for the pomegranate gelato. It was terrible. The recipe calls for cornstarch as a thickener, which I have never been able to find in Israel, and so I decided to use an egg yolk instead. It was not enough to form a custard, and I should have added more eggs, but I decided to process it anyway. The gelato didn’t solidify completely, and it had a very funny chalky aftertaste. I am going to try and make a pomegranate sorbet instead.

Meggyes Piskóta

Serving Size: 8 to 12

(Hungarian Cherry Coffee Cake) This cake is moist, chock-full of cherries, easy to make and is delicious. You can make this a day ahead.

Softened butter and dried bread crumbs, for the pan

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2/3 cup sliced natural almonds

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

300g (2 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature

1 cup granulated sugar

1-1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

6 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1 pound sweet cherries, pitted (preferably fresh, or use 380g (12 ounces) frozen cherries, unthawed, and bake for a few more minutes)

Confectioner's sugar, for garnish

Preheat to 375°F. Butter a 13- X 9-inch baking pan, coat with the bread crumbs, and tap out the excess.

Process the flour, almonds, baking powder, and salt in a food processor until the almonds are very finely chopped, almost a powder; set aside.

Beat the butter on high speed in a medium bowl until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light in color and texture, about 2 minutes. Add the yolks one at a time, beating well after each addition, then add the vanilla extract.

Using clean beaters and a clean, dry bowl, beat the egg whites on high speed just until they form stiff, shiny peaks. Fold half of the whites into the butter mixture, then half of the almond-flour mixture; repeat with the remaining whites and almond-flour mixture to make a thick batter.

Prebaked Cherry Coffee Cake

Spread evenly in the pan and arrange the cherries in rows in the batter.

Bake until golden brown and until the top springs back when lightly pressed in the center, approximately 30 to 35 minutes. Sift confectioner's sugar over the top. Serve warm or cool completely.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/09/07/sweet-break-at-work/

Almond-Plum Cake

Serving Size: 8

Adapted from a recipe from Food & Wine magazine

1 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

3/4 cups granulated sugar

250g (9 ounces) almond paste

85g (6 tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

6 eggs, at room temperature

2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla paste

3 large plums (12 ounces)—halved, pitted and cut into 1/2-inch wedges

Preheat the oven to 350°. Butter and flour a 22cm (9-inch) spring-form pan. In a small bowl, mix the cake flour with the baking powder and salt.

Beat the sugar with the almond paste until crumbly. Add the butter and beat at high speed until light in color and fluffy, about 2 minutes. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating until fully incorporated between additions. Beat in the vanilla extract. Gently fold in the flour mixture until fully incorporated. Put the mixture into the prepared pan.

Prebaked Almond Plum Cake

Arrange the plums over the top of the batter. Bake for 1 hour and 5 minutes, or until the cake is deeply golden and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean.

Let cool for 15 minutes. Run a knife around the edge of the cake and remove the outside ring of the pan. Let the cake cool for at least 30 minutes longer.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/09/07/sweet-break-at-work/

Dulce de Leche Ice Cream

Yield: About 1 liter (quart)

1 1/2 cups heavy cream

1 1/2 cups milk

2/3 cup dulce de leche

6 egg yolks

1/4 cup sugar

Pinch of salt

In a saucepan over medium heat, warm the cream, milk and the dulce de leche, stirring constantly, until the mixture is blended and steam begins to rise from the surface, 4 to 5 minutes.

In a heatproof mixing bowl, whisk together the egg yolks, sugar and salt until blended. Gradually add the hot cream mixture, whisking constantly until fully incorporated. Transfer the mixture to a clean saucepan and set over medium-low heat. Cook, stirring slowly and continuously with a wooden spoon or spatula, until the custard thickens and a finger drawn across the back of the spoon leaves a path, 8 to 10 minutes; do not allow the custard to boil.

Pour the custard through a fine-mesh sieve set over a clean bowl. Cool the custard to room temperature and refrigerate until chilled, at least 1 hour.

Transfer the custard to an ice cream maker and freeze according to the manufacturer’s instructions.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/09/07/sweet-break-at-work/

"Often Imitated, but Never Duplicated"

This was my Uncle Alfred’s slogan for his restaurant, The Annistonian. My 96-year-old beloved great-uncle died two weeks ago, two days after his birthday. Uncle Alfred was born in Berlin, Germany to a family of butchers. Instead of becoming a professional boxer (he was a junior champion semi-professional boxer in Berlin), he decided to follow in the family footsteps and became a Metzgermeister (master butcher) in 1928.

In June of 1938, Uncle Alfred volunteered to report to the local police station, where he and other men were taken to Sachsenhausen. His family was worried when he did not come back that evening after reporting to the police station and his mother went to the police station to find out what happened to him. She saw a school friend of Alfred’s, who worked at the police station and he promised to find out where he had been taken. Six weeks later, and thanks to his school friend, he was released from Sachsenhausen. When he returned home, his mother told him to leave the country right away. He listened to her and a few days later, through the help of the Hebrew Immigrant Aid Society of Europe (HICEM), he went to Belgium, stayed two weeks, and then made his way to Paris. He eventually went to Marseilles, and started looking for a country that would give him citizenship. He found out that Colombia was accepting immigrants and he obtained passage to Colombia in the fall of 1938.

He worked in gold mines in Colombia for one year and became very sick and almost died. He decided dying of malaria was not going to be his fate and he moved to Bogota, where he worked in various restaurants and then eventually opened a restaurant and butcher shop. After the war was over, he found out that his parents, two brothers and one sister died in Auschwitz. One sister came to Bogota and raised a family and another sister immigrated to the US.

He went to New York in 1951, met my great-aunt Helen at Grossinger’s and in 1953 came to my hometown where he opened a fine-dining restaurant called the Annistonian in 1958. From 1958 – 1976, people came from near and far for his hand-cut steaks, seafood, fish and his pièce de résistance… Wiener Schnitzel.

I wish I had taken the time to learn more about cooking from him. I really regret this now. One of his most amazing feats in the kitchen was that he could carve a turkey and put it back together and you wouldn’t realize it had been carved until you got up close to it. He also made very good strudel and Black Forest cherry cake. When I tried making both of these desserts, he gave me his good housekeeping seal of approval. I was honored.

When I decided to move to Israel, Uncle Alfred called me “his hero”, but he was my hero. He survived the Nazis, moved to a strange country where he had to learn how to work in the gold mines for survival, survived the loss of most of his family, triumphed in Bogota and made a family and a career in the US. To honor his memory, I made a meal.

Uncle Alfred, I will always treasure your great humor, your amazing charm, your delicious food and your great dancing.

The menu was as follows:

Appetizer

Tapenade

Main Course

Wiener Schnitzel

Bratkartoffeln (Home fries)

Spinach

Wine: Wuerttemberg Edition Gourmet Kerner 2004

Dessert

Fig Galette

We began the evening with my husband’s tapenade. He adds just the right amount of garlic to give it that kick. In addition to the usual ingredients he added a little fresh rosemary and oregano. It was delicious.

I have a confession to make, and please do not send me any cards or letters in protest, but my husband hand-cut and pounded a whole turkey breast instead of veal. The veal was 15EUR/20USD per kilo and is just over our budget right now. If you do happen to make this with turkey, do not marinate it in lemon juice.

Wiener Schnitzel

Serving Size: 4 to 6

2 pounds boneless leg of veal or turkey breast, cut into 1/4 inch slices, pounded thin

1 cup lemon juice (omit when using turkey)

1 teaspoon salt (leave out if you are using kosher meat)

1/4 freshly ground pepper

3 eggs

3 tablespoons water

1/2 cup all purpose flour

1 cup dry bread crumbs

1 1/2 cups canola or light olive oil

Lemon slices

Arrange veal in single layer in large baking dish. Pour lemon juice over the veal and let stand one hour, turning the veal twice. Drain the veal and pat dry, then sprinkle it with salt (don't use salt if you are using kosher meat) and pepper.

Beat eggs and water in a pie plate. Coat veal with flour, dip in egg mixture, coat with crumbs, patting them in gently, and shake off the excess. Put the slices between parchment paper on a plate and refrigerate for at least 20 minutes.

Heat the oil in large heavy skillet until it begins to smoke. Fry one cutlet at a time in the oil until golden brown, about 2 minutes each side. Drain the meat on paper toweling and keep in a warm oven until all the cutlets are cooked. Garnish with lemon slices and parsley sprigs.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/08/11/often-imitated-but-never-duplicated/

The trick to making good home fries is to use waxy, firm potatoes. Do not use baking potatoes. Peel them and parboil them either the day before or earlier in the day.

Bratkartoffeln

Serving Size: 6 to 8

2.5 kg (4-5 lb.) potatoes, waxy potatoes

250 ml (1 cup) yellow onion, thinly sliced

125 ml (1/2 cup) olive oil

2 tablespoons good Hungarian sweet paprika

1 teaspoon good Hungarian hot paprika

Salt and pepper

Parsley (optional)

Parboil the potatoes until tender, but still firm. Let cool and then cut into 1/8inch/3mm slices.

Sauté the onions gently in the olive oil until translucent. Add the paprika and let the onion take on its color and taste. Add the potatoes and fry until golden brown and slightly crispy. Season with salt and pepper and heat everything through.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/08/11/often-imitated-but-never-duplicated/

Fresh from Oven

The fig galette was easy to prepare, but make sure that you place the tart on a rimmed cookie sheet, otherwise you will have a mess in your oven.

Fig Galette

Serving Size: 6

For the dough:

1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1 tablespoon granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

100g (7 tablespoons) cold margarine or butter, cut into cubes

3 tablespoons very cold orange juice or water

For the filling:

566g (1 1/4 lb.) ripe figs, stemmed and quartered lengthwise

1/3 cup firmly packed brown sugar

1 1/2 teaspoons finely grated lemon zest

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Egg wash

1/4 cup sliced almonds

To make the dough, in the bowl of a food processor, combine the flour, granulated sugar and salt and pulse to blend. Add the butter and shortening and pulse until reduced to pea-size pieces. Add the water a little at a time and pulse until the dough just begins to come together in a rough mass. Transfer the dough to a work surface and shape into a disk. Wrap with plastic wrap and refrigerate until well chilled, at least 2 hours.

Preheat an oven to 200C/400F.

Line a rimmed baking sheet with parchment paper. Lightly dust a work surface and a rolling pin with flour. Roll out the dough into a round slightly larger than 13 inches/33cm and about 1/8 inch/3mm thick. Lift and turn the dough several times as you roll to prevent sticking, and dust the surface and the rolling pin with additional flour as needed. Use a dough scraper or an icing spatula to loosen the pastry if it sticks. Trim off any ragged edges to make an even 13-inch/33cm round. Cover with plastic wrap and set aside.

To make the filling, in a large bowl, gently toss together the figs, brown sugar, lemon zest and vanilla until all the ingredients are evenly distributed.

Crust

Uncover the dough and transfer to the baking sheet. The edges of the dough round will hang over the pan edges. Arrange the figs in a pile in the center of the dough, leaving a 2-inch/5cm border uncovered. Fold the dough up and over the filling, pleating loosely all around the circle and leaving the galette open in the center.

Ready to Bake

Brush the pleated dough with the egg wash. Sprinkle the almonds on top of the dough and press on them lightly to help them stick.

Bake until the crust is golden and the figs are tender when pierced with the tip of a knife, about 40 minutes. Transfer the galette to a wire rack and let cool. Serve warm or at room temperature.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/08/11/often-imitated-but-never-duplicated/

Wedding Fit for a Baroness

I was married for the first time this past December. Originally the wedding was planned in the spring in Israel. It was going to be a beautiful garden affair in an old Arab villa, called the Green Villa, overlooking Tel Aviv. But, unfortunately we had to cancel this wedding and two long years later, we finally had an unexpected dream wedding.

Wedding planning can be quite stressful on a couple and we were certainly not devoid of this stress. After much deliberation, we decided that it was more important to have my family at the wedding and so we embarked on planning a wedding in my hometown in the US. It was a difficult decision because my husband wanted his friends at his wedding, but he had already been married once and he knew that since it was my first wedding, my family was more important.

My dress was made in Israel two years ago. I co-designed it with the dress designer I hired. It was made of gold duponi silk, with an embroidered ribbon on the bottom of the dress and topped off with a gold veil. The train was made of a slightly darker gold duponi silk with tiny embroidered flowers in the same color thread. It was two pieces cut like the sash of a Kimono and joined together with a small bow.

My parents asked the Rabbi that married them in 1963 to officiate the wedding. He is the current Rabbi at my hometown synagogue and he had met my husband twice before. Being married by the same Rabbi that married my parents 43 years before was a real added bonus to the special event.

Everyone in my family had been married under the huppah my great grandfather built for the synagogue, but unfortunately it finally fell apart several years ago and the synagogue had not purchased anything to replace it. I am from a small town, so you can’t just call up the local huppah company and rent something. I had to think of something creative. At first, I thought I could make my own huppah cover. I would buy a piece of silk and paint it, but that was going to be a lot of trouble and what if I messed it up? So, I started looking on the internet for ideas, but a ready made one cost a minimum of 400USD. Then, my husband suggested that since we couldn’t get married in Israel, how about getting married under the Israeli flag. So, I started looking for a huppah-size one and they cost a minimum of 300USD. It was way over our budget. Then, something drew me to checking on eBay. I had never bought anything on eBay before, but I searched for “Huppah” and ‘lo and behold…. there was my huppah cover up for bid. It had never been used and was simply beautiful. I bid immediately and on the final day was in a bidding war with another person. They contacted me by email and asked when I was getting married. I told him and he said if I won, would I sell it to him for the same price I bought it because he was getting married two weeks after me. I said sure. I won the bid and he received the huppah a few days after my wedding.

The week before the wedding we still had to get flowers and get the poles and decoration for the huppah. Because I got married between Christmas and New Years, there were no flower deliveries, so there were no flowers to be had. No problem, we went to Home Depot, bought tropical plants and the four poles for the huppah. My husband drilled holes in the poles and attached hooks to the poles to hold up the huppah cover. We bought ribbon at the fabric store and a cousin and my sister painstakingly decorated the poles.

My sister decorated the synagogue with the plants we bought and I had a spa day at the salon/spa that my cousin works at. She is a wonderful massage therapist and she gave me the spa day as a gift.

We rented a CD player and played a medley of classical baroque music for the wedding ceremony. It began with Jewish Baroque music, Monteverdi and Rameau pieces, then my grandmothers walked to Tres Morillas (Spanish Baroque music performed by El Cancionero de Palacio), then the huppah holders, the Groom, Rabbi and Cantor walked down the aisle to to La Bomba (Spanish Baroque music performed by Ensalada; not the Mexican song). I walked down the aisle with my parents to Monteverdi’s Orfeo Toccata and we closed the ceremony with Bach’s Jauchzet Gott in allen Landen.

The reception was at a event hall/restaurant called Classic on Noble that is owned by friends of my family.

The menu was simple, but elegant:

Blood Orange Caipirinha

Antipasti (seasonal grilled vegetables)

Spanikopita triangles

Salad with dried fruit, nuts and pears

Salmon with goat cheese grits and roasted baby vegetables

We decided to forgo the traditional wedding cake and decided to have a dessert table:

In honor of David’s Hungarian heritage and our love for chestnuts, I made two Gesztenyetorte (Chestnut Torte). This cake is three slices of walnut sponge cake with a delicate chestnut cream filling. Melts in your mouth.

Gesztenyetorte

Serving Size: 8 to 10

(Chestnut Torte) Recipe from George Lang's Cuisine of Hungary by George Lang

For the sponge cake:

Salt

10 egg whites

¾ cup sugar

¼ cup flour

½ cup finely ground walnuts

Butter and flour for pan

Chestnut filling (below)

Chocolate, grated or shaved

For the chestnut filling:

1kg chestnuts in shells or 450g canned Swiss or French chestnut puree

3 oz semi sweet chocolate

225g + 2 Tbs sweet butter

¾ cup vanilla sugar

1 whole egg

¼ cup light rum

For the sponge cake:

Preheat oven to 190. Add 1 tsp cold water and a pinch of salt to the egg whites. Whip egg whites until soft peak stage. Continue to beat and add the sugar, spoon by spoon until egg whites are very stiff. (A spoon should be able to stand up in the meringue if it is beaten stiffly enough.)

Gently add the flour, walnuts and another pinch of salt. Fold in, making sure you do no break the egg white foam.

Line a baking sheet 17 x 12 inches with wax paper. Butter paper lightly, sprinkle with flour and shake off excess.

Spread batter evenly on the prepared baking sheet. Bake in preheated oven for 12-15 min, until firm and golden brown on top.

Cool completely with wax paper over top to keep cake from getting crusty; then cut lengthwise into 3 pieces.

For the filling:

Cook the chestnuts, shell and skin them and puree while still warm. You should have about 1 lb of puree.

Soften the chocolate in the top part of a double boiler over hot water. Beat together the butter, vanilla sugar, egg and rum until the mixture is very light and foamy.

Add the softened chocolate and the chestnut puree, and beat until thoroughly mixed.

Fill cake layers with chestnut filling and cover sides and top with more of it. Decorate with grated or shaved chocolate. Chill in refrigerator for several hours before serving. Serve thin slices, this is a very rich cake.

Note:

This cake can be round, square or oblong. It is an easy cake to make and yet quite different from the run-of-the-mill torte. The layers have the texture of a moist sponge cake. Make smaller layers and have a torte with more than 3 layers if you prefer. If you bake the dough a little longer, you will get crisper layers.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/07/06/wedding-fit-for-a-baroness/

And, I gave the restaurant the recipes for two other desserts:

Anacapri Tart – An orange mascarpone tart with a rosemary crust. A slice of heaven. This tart is an Italian confection and represents our love of anything Italian.

Anacapri Tart

Serving Size: 10

For the pastry:

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp fine sea salt

1 cup confectioner’s sugar

2 tsp minced rosemary leaves

Grated zest of 1 orange

12 tbsp sweet butter, cubed

1 large egg

1 large egg yolk

2 tbsp cointreau or grand marnier

For the filling:

1 1/4 cups orange juice

grated zest of 1 large orange

1/3 cup dark brown sugar

1/2 cup mascarpone, or similar sweet cheese

7 large eggs

3 tbsp cointreau or grand marnier

Confectioner’s sugar

For the pastry:

Place the flour, salt, sugar, rosemary, and the orange zest in a medium bowl and rub the cold butter into it with fingertips or a pastry blender until it resembles very coarse crumbs. Combine the egg, the egg yolk and the liqueur and, with a fork, stir it all into the bowl with the flour mixture, forming a rough paste.

Turn it out onto a lightly flowered work space and, with a few short strokes, form the mixture into a dough. flatten the dough into a disc, wrap it tightly in plastic wrap and place it in the freezer for 20 minutes. press the rested, chilled dough over the surfaces of a buttered 12- to 14-inch tart pan with a removable bottom. cover the pastry-lined tin in plastic wrap and chill it again, for twenty minutes, in the freezer.

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees.

With a fork, prick the chilled pastry over its surface and bake it for 10 minutes. lower the temperature to 375 degrees and continue baking the pastry for an additional 5 or 6 minutes or until it is firm and barely beginning to take on some color. Cool the pastry thoroughly on a rack. Proceed with the orange cream.

For the filling:

If the oven is not already hot, preheat it to 400 degrees. In a medium bowl, beat together the orange juice, the zest, the sugar, and the mascarpone, amalgamating the ingredients as well. add the eggs, one at a time, beating vigorously, incorporating each before adding the next. add the liqueur and beat thoroughly.

Pour the orange cream into the prepared pastry and bake the tart for 20 to 25 minutes or until the cream is just firmed and has taken on patches of burnished skin and the crust is deeply golden.

Cool the tart on a rack for 15 minutes before removing its ring and permitting it to cool thoroughly. Thickly dust the tart with confectioner’s sugar. Serve the tart on the day it was baked; do not refrigerate.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/07/06/wedding-fit-for-a-baroness/

Gâteau Surprise Chocolat Pistache (from the Chocolat & Zucchini blog) – A rich pistachio cake with a dark chocolate ganache. To remind us of our Mediterranean home. And, we both adore pistachios.

All in all the wedding was simple, elegant and beautiful as the title of this entry says, A Wedding Fit for a Baroness. I want to thank all of my family, especially my parents, my sister and my cousins Gil, Dionne, Allen and Heather, for making my special day very special. It was my dream wedding and more.

And especially to the love of my life, my beautiful husband David who works so hard to make our dreams come true. I love you baby!

Spanish and Italian-Inspired Shabbat Dinner

Since I was too ill to cook the last night of Pesach, I made the meal for Shabbat. Luckily, I still had some matza for my dessert.

Dinner this evening was:

Carn Estofada amb Prunes i Patates (Catalan-Style Veal Stew with Prunes and Potatoes)

I used osso bucco instead of the recommended veal shoulder. As the dish was simmering away, my husband sneaked a taste of the sauce and moaned blissfully, “this dish should be in a museum.” Need I say more? This dish is outstanding. The flavors of chocolate, prunes, chili, cinnamon and orange zest marry into an amazingly complex sauce that just bursts on the palate. The crispy potatoes add the perfect texture to the dish. This is a very rich dish that should be served with a dry and assertive red wine, such as the one we had. In the absence of the Rioja, we drank, a good Cabernet Franc or Shiraz would do pretty well.

For dessert, I made a family recipe that I have never made for my husband. They are matza fritters and they are made in several different countries. The Dutch call them Gremshelish, the Italians call them Pizzarelle Con Giulebbe. My recipe is combination of the Italian version and the version my grandmother used to make from leftover Matza Shalet batter. She served it with a lemon custard. This custard is dairy, so if you keep more than one hour between eating meat and dairy, you can serve this with a non-dairy lemon sauce of your choice.

This was a big hit with my husband. The custard is very light and creamy and the fritters are also light, but should not be served with a rich meal like we had for Shabbat dinner. You should make a double or triple recipe of the custard for all of the fritters.

Pizzarelle Con Crema di Limone

Yield: About 25 fritters and 2 cups of sauce

(Matzah Fritters with Lemon Custard)

For the fritters:

5 matzahs, broken into small pieces

1/4 cup sugar

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1 teaspoon grated lemon rind

1/4 teaspoon vanilla

Pinch of salt

1/4 cup raisins

1/4 cup slivered almonds or pine nuts

3 egg yolks, lightly beaten

2 egg whites

Vegetable oil for deep frying

For the lemon cream:

1/4 cup sugar

2 large egg yolks

1 cup single cream (half and half)

2 tablespoons grated lemon peel

1-1/2 teaspoons fresh lemon juice

1/4 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the batter:

Wet Matza

Place the matza pieces in a bowl of cold water and soak until soft but not falling apart, one to two minutes. Drain in a colander and squeeze out any excess water.

Mix all Ingredients

In a large bowl, mix together the matza pieces, sugar, cinnamon, lemon rind, vanilla, salt, raisins, pine nuts and egg yolks.

Add Egg Whites

Ready to Fry

In a separate bowl, beat the egg whites until stiff but not dry. Gently fold the beaten egg whites into the matza mixture.

Frying Fritters

In a large, heavy pot, on medium-high, heat at least 2 inches of oil. Drop heaping tablespoons of the matza as necessary, until they are a deep brown on all sides. Remove with a slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.

Matza Fritters

Serve warm or at room temperature, accompanied by the lemon custard.

For the lemon cream:

Whisk sugar and egg yolks in medium bowl to blend. Bring cream and lemon peel to simmer in heavy medium saucepan. Slowly whisk the cream mixture into the yolk mixture. Return to saucepan. Stir over medium heat until custard thickens and leaves path on back of spoon when finger is drawn across, about 5 minutes (do not boil). Strain custard into bowl; discard solids. Whisk lemon juice and vanilla into custard. Chill until cold, about 3 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Cover and keep refrigerated.)

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/04/14/spanish-and-italian-inspired-shabbat-dinner/

Baby It’s Cold Outside…Soup and Socca

It snowed in Jerusalem this morning and we had hail this afternoon in central Israel. Spring has not sprung yet. Jerusalem gets snow about once a year, but yesterday it didn’t stick.

I like visiting Jerusalem. I think it is a romantic city with all of the Jerusalem stone buildings and the skyline of the old city. The best way to get an overview of the old city is to climb on the roofs of the houses there. The view is amazing.

I really like going to outdoor markets. They are full of sights, sounds, smells and are also a great place to people watch. You can find some amazing faces in the market, like the amba man and the juice man. Their faces are timeless….just put another period costume on them and it could be the market 2,000 years ago in Jerusalem.

Mahane Yehuda market is just the market to see all of the things I described above. It has also revamped itself with chic cafes, restaurants and other shops. I was always afraid to go there because of the bombings. I only went there last summer, for the first time since I moved to Israel over six years ago.

The market is always busy, but it is very crowded on Thursday night and Friday morning. Everyone is busy finding things to prepare their Shabbat meals.

I found chickpea flour at the market. My husband and I went to Provence last summer for a glorious vacation and every since we tried the Nicoise specialty, socca, we wanted to try and make it at home. We had our first socca at Lou Pilha Levain Nice.

They prepare theirs on a copper pan. They specialize in serving Nicoise dishes and they do a wonderful job.

They have delicious gargantuan tourte de blette (upper left corner of the above photo), which is a sweet tart filled with swiss chard, raisin and pinenuts and sprinkled with icing sugar. Typical tourte de blette are not as thick as theirs.

Socca is a type of savoury pancake made of chickpea flour and water. It is dead easy to make, but not always easy to reproduce. You need to cook it at a very high temperature for a short period of time. It is typically cooked on a large round copper pan over a very hot wood fire or gas flame.

Of course we don’t have the big round copper pan and open fire they have to make this, but I thought I would give it a try with our cast iron plancha in the oven.

The other night, my husband made a delicious pot of minestrone con ceci (chickpea minestrone). He is refusing to give up the recipe. It is basically the farmers market, sans the fruit, in a bowl. Suffice it to say it was delicious and gave me an idea to try to finally make socca so we could say we had a ceci or hummous festival at our house. I decided to add fresh chives and fresh thyme to mine. It reminded me of Nice, but that is for another posting…..

Chive and Thyme Socca

Serving Size: 4 to 6

300g (1 cup + 5 tbsp) chickpea flour

500ml (2 cups) cold water

1 tsp salt

Pepper

2 tbsp olive oil

1 tbsp chopped fresh chives

1 tbsp chopped fresh thyme

Heat a cast iron skillet in a 240C/475F oven.

Mix together all of the ingredients above and whisk until you have a smooth batter. The batter should be thinner than crepe batter.

Socca batter

Brush a generous amount of oil on the pan. The oil should be smoking. Pour the batter on the hot plancha and cook with the oven door slightly ajar for the first couple of minutes and then turn on the grill (broiler) to maximum so that the socca can get crisp on top.

Socca on the Plancha

Keep an eye on it as it bubbles and rises, but make sure that it doesn't burn. It should only be slightly brown.

It should be slightly crisp on the outside, but creamy on the inside even though it should be about 1/8 of an inch or 3mm thick.

Cut it into squares.

I tried making it on the stovetop and it works, but you have to cook it like a crepe and turn it over. I prefer the oven method.

Socca with Chives

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/16/baby-its-cold-outsidesoup-and-socca/

Israeli Breakfast – Us Time

Friday is a day off and since the shops close at 3pm here, we try to do all of our Shabbat shopping on Wednesday or Thursday evening. This allows us to have a nice leisurely breakfast on Friday and also gives us time to talk about life and current events.

I think it is so important to find some “us time” to spend with your loved ones. Communication is definitely the key to a successful marriage. This is something I learned from my family. My grandmother also told me to always have dinner on the table and he won’t go looking for food at another restaurant. You can interpret that any way you want. ;-) And, she was married for almost 65 years, so she must have done something right.

My husband is originally from London and sometimes for a change, I make buttermilk scones for breakfast instead of making wholewheat bread or buying bread from our favourite bakery.

This morning was one of those days.

Making scones is not much different from making biscuits and they taste great with butter and honey, labane and jam or just plain. Sometimes I make them with walnuts or raisins.

David likes to spread fresh avocado on his! Yes, I realise that we are being a bit unconventional. We should be having them for afternoon tea with strawberry preserves and clotted cream, but we dare to be different.

Our usual Friday breakfast routine is Ilan’s coffee, fresh squeezed orange juice, fresh herb omelet and a scone or some sliced fresh bread.

Omelet with fresh thyme, chives, marjoram and sage

We always have labane, bulgarian cheese spread, cottage cheese and jams on the table. If I wasn’t allergic to raw tomato we would also have Israeli salad (tomato and cucumbers).

Various Israeli cheeses: Starting at 12:05, Tome, Smoked Emek, Sheep Cheese with Bay Leaves, Camembert, Tzaftit, Farmers Cheese with Nigella Seeds

Occasionally, we will go to a boutique dairy and buy sheep, goat or buffalo cheeses.

The picture above was taken at the Buffalo farm at Moshav Bitzaron. They have amazing buffalo milk cheeses. For example, the cheese on the left is Tzaftit with herbs and sesame seeds. It is a very mild cheese. They also have some of the best buffalo mozzarella and cow milk butter in the country. They let you try before you buy. And ….

The buffalo are adorable! They also have a petting zoo for the kids.

Scones

Yield: 8 to 10 scones

113g (1/2 stick) butter

5 to 7 cups self-raising flour

1 cup buttermilk

Preheat an oven to 220C (450F). Lightly grease a baking sheet with butter or use a silpat liner.

In a food processor, pulse the flour and butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Transfer to a bowl.

Alternatively, in a bowl, stir together the dry ingredients. Then, using a pastry blender, cut in the butter until the mixture resembles coarse meal.

Make a well in the center of the flour mixture and pour in the buttermilk. Using a fork, mix together until a soft elastic dough forms.

Turn out the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead 5 or 6 times until the dough is smooth. Roll out about 3/4 inch thick. Using a scallop-edged cookie cutter 3 inches in diameter, cut out rounds. Transfer to the prepared baking sheet.

Bake the scones until they rise and are golden brown on top, about 15 minutes. Serve hot.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/10/israeli-breakfast-us-time/

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