Cookies Perfect for Passover

I remember Passovers past at my grandparents’ and parents’ houses were always large and boisterous with at least 25-30 people attending, spread over two or three tables. We always invited friends who didn’t have anywhere else to go, and also the stray Jewish soldiers who were “stuck” at Fort McClellan during their basic training. Occasionally, we had a visiting Israeli soldier or two share the seder with us. I really miss these seders, my grandparents, my great-aunts and uncles, the wonderful food, the family tunes, waiting for Uncle Alfred or Papa to proudly read the last stanza of “Had Gadya” in one breath, ribbing my uncle Don about watering my wine, misbehaving at the “children’s” table (some of who were over 30), and the seder discussions. I must admit that I am more than teary-eyed as I am writing this post.

The seder was always a grand affair: the unveiling of the grand china, crystal, and silver, the beautiful way Alberta plated the individual servings of the haroset, hard-boiled egg and karpas. The lamb that my father carefully slathered with mustard and basted every 30 minutes, the minted peas in lettuce cups, the wild rice mixture or boiled new potatoes, and the pièce de résistance, the matza balls swimming in golden chicken soup. For dessert, Mama’s lovingly-made matza schalet with its beautiful crunchy crust and creamy lemon custard with just the right sourness.

Since moving to Israel, we attend the seder at my cousin’s or their in-laws where we share their seder traditions and variety of food from Poland, Bulgaria and  Russia: gefilte fish, fritas de prasa, and matza blini. The younger generations add their own traditions like rocket and endive salad with walnuts and pears. And, Mr BT and I are bringing new traditions to their seder: Italian haroset and whatever flourless dessert tickles my fancy.

This year I decided to bring a tray of cookies and found two easy and delicious recipes for fudgy chocolate-walnut cookies and a variation of Sicilian pistachio cookies which Mr BT and I enjoyed eating at a bakery in Venice. Both of these cookies were a huge hit. I really liked the salty-sweetness of the pistachio cookies, and the other cookies were a chocolate lover’s delight. I couldn’t find any orange blossom water for the pistachio cookies as I had wanted, but it will add a slight orangey floral note.

Don’t be afraid to add new traditions to your seder table. There is always room for the old and new traditions.

Flourless Chocolate Walnut Cookies

Fudgy Chocolate-Walnut Cookies

Yield: 1-1/2 dozen

320g (9oz or 2-3/4 cups) walnut halves

3 cups icing (confectioners') sugar

1/2 cup plus 3 tablespoons unsweetened Dutch-process cocoa powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large egg whites, at room temperature, not beaten

1 tablespoon pure vanilla extract

Preheat the oven to 180C (350F). Line 2 large rimmed baking sheets with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Spread the walnut halves on a large rimmed baking sheet and toast in the oven for about 9 minutes, until they are golden and fragrant. Let cool slightly, then transfer the walnut halves to a work surface and finely chop them.

In a large bowl, whisk the icing sugar with the cocoa powder and salt to combine. Whisk in the chopped walnuts. Add the egg whites and vanilla extract and beat just until the batter is moistened (do not over beat the mixture or it will stiffen). Spoon a tablespoon of the batter for each cookie onto the baking sheets.

Bake the cookies for 16- 20 minutes, depending on your oven, until the tops of the cookies are glossy and lightly cracked and feel firm to the touch; shift the pans from front to back and top to bottom halfway through.

Slide the parchment paper (with the cookies) onto 2 wire racks to cool completely before serving. The cookies can be stored in an airtight container for up to 3 days.

Flourless Pistachio Cookies

Pastine di Pistacchio

Yield: 1 dozen

(Flourless Pistachio Cookies)

190g (7oz) pistachios (roasted and salted)

100g (3.5 oz) almond meal

120 grams (1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons) caster (granulated) sugar

2 egg whites, room temperature, not beaten

1 teaspoon orange blossom water (optional)

A few drops of green food colouring (optional)

Icing (confectioners') sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 170C (325F). Line a baking sheet with a silpat liner or parchment paper.

Grind 90 grams of the pistachios finely and set aside. Chop the remaining 100 grams roughly and place in a plate or flat bowl for rolling.

Put the finely ground pistachios, almond meal, sugar, egg whites, optional orange blossom water and optional food colouring in a large bowl. Mix just until the batter is moistened, do not over beat. If the batter is too moist, add a little more almond meal.

Form one tablespoon of the batter into balls and roll in the chopped pistachios. Place the cookies about 2 centimeters (3/4 inch) apart and bake for approximately 13 minutes. Let cook for 10 minutes before moving to a baking rack. Dust with icing sugar, when cooled.

P is for Patience and Passover

Spring has sprung all over Israel. Almond trees, hollyhocks and other indigenous wildflowers are all in bloom. And spring means we have moved our clocks forward and are now frantically preparing our homes for seven days of Passover, which starts tomorrow night. A time where we have to get rid of every little speck of bread, flour, etc. that may be still hanging around the house. It is a holiday where you need a lot of patience; something that I have a lack of, I must admit. Yes, Mr. BT, I really am admitting that I, Baroness Tapuzina, am impatient.

We are going to be spending the seder with my cousins and so I don’t have to prepare a full seder this year, which is a good thing since I have spent the last several days coughing up both lungs. Yes, my body picked the worst time to have an upper respiratory infection. The good news is that this evening is the first time I haven’t had numerous coughing fits, so I think I am on the mend.

Mr. BT spent a good portion of the morning making his top secret, often imitated, but never duplicated, unbelievably delicious haroset. If the Pharoah had tasted this, he would have let our people go for the recipe, but I fear that Mr. BT wouldn’t have given it up. Would you believe that he won’t even let me watch him make it? And, I am the one who educated him about other haroset than the standard Ashkenazi ones.

I was tired of making the same almond flour-based cakes that I make every year, so I decided to challenge myself and make something I have been wanting to try for years, but was afraid that I wouldn’t have the patience to make them successfully: the French macaroon. I know, I am crazy to make something new for something as important as the Seder, but I really needed the challenge. What I didn’t need was a challenge when I felt like crap, but I had already bought the ingredients and I knew my loving husband would help me, wouldn’t you honey?

So, I read every blog post I could find about making macaroons. Some said to stay away like the plague (they didn’t say which one of the ten), others said after the 9th try you will get them right and don’t make the batter too thick or too thin. But, I didn’t let them scare me.

One of the most important things you must have to make a macaroon is a scale. It is very important to have exact measurements for this recipe. Scales are relatively inexpensive now. I purchased a nice digital scale for 55NIS/10GBP/15USD.

I cracked four eggs the day before I made the macaroons and let the egg whites “rest” in the refrigerator for 24 hours. Some people let them sit on the counter for 24-48 hours, but I was not too keen on leaving them out even though it is still cool enough to do that here. Every post, including Pierre Herme’s recipe, says that you should use old egg whites, meaning ones that have not been separated the same day you make the biscuits.

The other important part of making the perfect macaroon is to have feet on the outside of the biscuit. My macaroons did not have happy feet or any other kind of feet. I guess that will happen on my 9th try. And there will be another try. I must have my feet.

The macaroons turned out okay and surprisingly they did not try my impatience.  No, they don’t have happy feet and some of them wouldn’t come off the silpat, but I was able to salvage 40 out of the 70 I ended up making. I filled them with Rosemarie chocolate filling that I purchased at one of my favorite cooking shops, Touch Food.  I am presenting these macaroons as a gift for the host and hostess, instead of serving them as dessert for the seder.

We want to wish you and your family a happy, healthy and peaceful Pesach. And also Happy Easter.

Chag kosher v’sameach,

Baroness Tapuzina and Mr. BT

P.S. – Keep checking the blog. I am going to make a few new dishes during the week.

French Macaroons

Yield: about 25 filled or 50 unfilled

225g icing sugar

125g ground almonds

125g egg whites (from about 3 large eggs, but do weigh it out)

A few drops of lemon juice

25g caster (granulated) sugar

Food coloring of your choice (follow directions on box)

Place the egg whites in a bowl and refrigerate for 24-48 hours. Bring them to room temperature before you start making the macaroons.

Put the icing sugar and ground almonds in a food processor until you have a fine powder. Stop halfway through and loosen any bits that may have clumped in the bottom of the processor bowl.

Sift the almond mixture into a large mixing bowl several times, removing any of the chunky almond bits in the sifter.

Put the room temperature egg whites into a clean metal mixing bowl and whisk until they start to hold their shape. Add a few drops of lemon juice, then gradually whisk in the caster sugar in two lots until the whites form stiff peaks. Finally, whisk in the food coloring until well combined.

Mix one-third of the whites into the dry ingredients. Then tip the rest of the whites on top and, gently fold them in with a spatula, using a figure-eight motion. It will be stiff at first, but it will gradually loosen. You want it to be smooth and glossy, but not too liquidy. The texture is very important and tricky to judge: when you fold the mixture, it should form a ribbon on the surface. Too runny, and you’ll end up with flat crisps; too stiff, and it’s meringue.

Take your piping bag, fitted with an 8mm plain nozzle and fill the bag with the macaroon mix. Then turn up the sides and twist to seal the mixture inside to get rid of any air so that when you squeeze the bag, a solid stream of mixture comes out of the nozzle.

On about three baking trays that have been lined with silpat liners or parchment paper, pipe a round, 2cm-diameter (1-inch) blob (by squeezing the closed end of the bag). Lift the nozzle sharply to finish the blob. Repeat, leaving about 2cm (1-inch) around each one to allow for spreading (they should spread to about 3cm (1-1/2-inches). Continue until all the mixture has been piped – you should have about 50-60 blobs in all.

If any of the macaroons have nipples, smooth them gently with a wet finger. Let the macaroons rest for 45 minutes. This helps them to form a smooth shell when baked. Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 130C (260F) fan (or 140C/280F).

Bake the macaroons in the middle of the oven, one tray at a time. After 5 or 6 minutes, they should start to rise, forming a lacy collar around the bottom. Cook for a total of 12-15 minutes – don’t let them burn. Remove from the oven and let them cool on the trays. You should then be able to remove them gently by moving the silpat liner away from the macaroon. If not, carefully ease off with a knife.

Pair macaroon shells of similar size and sandwich together with 1-2 tsp of the filling of your choice. Eat immediately, or keep in the fridge for a day to enable the flavour of the filling to enhance the macaroon.

Liddle Lamzy Divey

My father used to sing the Little Lamzy Divey song to us when we went on long driving trips to Florida. I used to love singing that song and it was always one of my requests. The lamb dish I made for Shabbat reminded me of the song.

Mr BT surprised me with dried sour apricots that he bought in a spice shop on Levinsky street in Tel Aviv. Levinsky street is filled with spice shops and delicatessens with delights from Turkey, Greece, Romania, etc. I love cooking sweet and savory dishes with sour apricots because they have a much stronger apricot flavour than Mediterranean apricots. I grew up using sour apricots and was very upset when it became more difficult to find them.

I had some lamb in the freezer begging to be cooked, so I decided to make a deliciously fragrant Moroccan tagine with dried sour apricots and olives. Even if I say so myself, the dish was a triumph.

I used Suri olives, which many people here call Syrian olives, that Mimi from the Israeli Kitchen gave me for this recipe. They are small green, bitter olives, with a large pit that are high in oil content and excellent for producing olive oil. The interesting thing about these olives is they are not Syrian at all, they are actually Lebanese and are named after the town of Tyre (Tzur in Hebrew). Over the years, the pronunciation changed, and it is now pronounced Suri, meaning Syrian in Hebrew. I love their crunchy bitter taste and they were a perfect choice for this dish.

The earliest machinery for crushing olives and the oldest surviving olive trees were discovered in Israel. The oldest olive oil jars, dating back to 6000 BCE, were found in Jericho.

Today, olive groves cover more than 200,000 acres, from the mountains of the Galilee to the Negev desert. The largest concentration of olive groves are in the north of the country. The average harvest for the production of olive oil is about 6,000 tons, but current consumption is double that amount, meaning that we also have to import olive oil, primarily from Spain, Italy and Greece.

Each of the main communities here: Jews, Arabs, Druze and Circassians, cultivate olives. Israeli olive oil is considered to be more aromatic, more strongly flavoured and full of character than the more delicate European olive oils.

Lamb Tagine with Sour Apricots and Olives

4 pounds bone-in lamb shoulder or neck, or 2-1/4 pounds boneless lamb stew meat, cut into 2-inch chunks

4 garlic cloves, minced

1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt

1 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper

1 teaspoon sweet paprika

1 teaspoon ground ginger

1 teaspoon ground cumin

2 large yellow onions, peeled and quartered

2 cinnamon sticks, each 2 inches long

Large pinch crumbled saffron

1-1/4 cups dried apricots, sliced

1 cup cracked green olives, pitted and sliced if desired

1/3 cup halved almonds, toasted

Cooked couscous, for serving

Chopped parsley or cilantro, for garnish

Trim excess fat off lamb. Put meat in a deep Dutch oven or cast-iron pot with the garlic, salt, black pepper, paprika, ginger and cumin. Rub spices and garlic evenly all over meat.

Thinly slice onions, then mince enough of them to yield 1/2 cup. Add minced onion to the pot with the lamb; reserve onion slices.

Place the pot over high heat and let cook, turning meat on all sides, until spices release their scent, about 3 minutes. You need not brown the meat. Add 3 cups of water to the pot (it should come 3/4 of the way up lamb), along with cinnamon and saffron. Bring to a simmer, then cover the pot. Braise for 45 minutes.

Turn meat, then top with onion slices. Cover pot and braise for at least another hour and a half, or until lamb is very tender. Use a slotted spoon to transfer meat to a bowl, leaving broth and onions in pot.

Place pot back on the stove over high heat and add 3/4 cup apricots and the olives. Simmer broth until it reduces by a third and thickens slightly, about 10 minutes. Return the lamb to the pot and keep warm until serving. (Tagine can be prepared 4 days ahead; chill, then remove fat and reheat before serving.)

To serve, chop remaining 1/2 cup apricot slices. Put couscous in a serving bowl and top with almonds and chopped apricots. Pile the tagine in center of couscous and garnish with herbs.


Ice Cream – Middle Eastern Style

L to R: Roasted Apricot-Almond Ice Cream and Tehina-Pistachio Ice Cream

It is quite hot here now and I thought it was time to pull the ice cream maker out again. I took a look at my long list of ice cream recipes and really didn’t see anything that tickled my fancy, so I started thinking about what ingredients are available right now and one of them was fresh apricots. As most of you know by now, I love to experiment with different ingredients and I didn’t want to make some ordinary apricot ice cream, so I thought about what spices would go well with apricots…. ras al hanout. I got the idea for this ice cream from a recipe from a fellow blogger, Mike’s Table. He is hosting a blog event called “You Scream, I Scream, We All Scream for Frozen Desserts“. I can’t wait to see the other entries.

The other ingredient I have wanted to experiment with for quite a while is raw tehina (sesame paste). I didn’t want to use sugar to sweeten the tehina because it just didn’t sound right to me, so I decided the perfect sweetener in keeping with its Middle Eastern roots would be date honey, also known as silan in Hebrew.

The apricot ice cream came out nice and creamy with a strong fruity taste, although perhaps not quite as acid as I would have liked. Next time, I will try adding some dried sour apricots as well.

The tehina ice cream is creamy and has a smoky sesame flavor that is reminiscent of halva. It is not too sweet and the pistachios add a nice crunch. Next time, I will add some chopped dates to the mixture.

They are both delicious ice creams and will be added to the top of my ice cream recipes.


Roasted Apricot-Almond Ice Cream

Yield: About 1 liter (quart)

12 ripe apricots

2 teaspoons ras al hanout

1 tablespoon sugar plus some for sprinkling

2 tablespoons honey

1 cup double cream

Small squeeze lemon juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

3 egg yolks

1/2 cup whole milk

1/2 cup whole almonds with the skins

Roasted Apricots

Preheat oven to 220C (425F). Cut the apricots in half, remove the seed, and place the halved apricots, cut side up in a baking dish. Sprinkle them with sugar and the ras al hanout. Roast them in the oven until they are caramelised (as shown in the picture above). Let them cool for 20 minutes. Puree the apricots, honey and any juices from the baking dish in a food processor or blender. Transfer to a bowl and mix with 1/2 cup of the cream, lemon juice and vanilla. Mix well and set up in an ice bath with a strainer on top.

Ice Cream Base

Meanwhile scald the remaining 1/2 cream and 1/2 cup of whole milk, talking care not to boil it. In the bowl, beat the egg yolks and 1 tablespoon of sugar until creamy. Temper the eggs with a scoop of the hot cream and slowly add the rest. Place the egg-cream mixture in a clean saucepan and cook at medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of spoon.

Pour the cooked custard through the strainer, discarding the solids, into the cooled apricot mixture and whisk all together. Place a piece of plastic wrap directly on the surface to prevent a skin from forming and put in the refrigerator for about six hours.

While the custard cools, toast the almonds on a cookie sheet in a 200C (400F) oven for about 5-10 minutes, shaking them halfway through to prevent burning. Once they have cooled, cut the almonds in half.

When the custard is cold, place it in a ice cream maker, and follow the manufacturer's instructions. Add the almonds during the last minute or two of churning. Transfer to the freezer and eat when ready.

Tehina-Pistachio Ice Cream

1 cup raw tehina (raw sesame paste)

2 cups full fat milk

1 cup double cream

4 egg yolks

1/2 cup date honey (silan)

2 teaspoons vanilla

3/4 cup roasted pistachios, roughly chopped

Scald the milk in a saucepan, taking care not to boil. Remove from the heat and add the tehina, mix well, cover, and let steep for about an hour. In a bowl whisk the egg yolks and date honey.

Rewarm the milk mixture and strain into the yolk mixture, constantly stirring, using a spatuala to extract as much of the milk-tehina mixture as possible. Discard the solids.

Tehina Ice Cream Base

Place the egg-tehina mixture in a clean saucepan and cook at medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture is thick enough to coat the back of spoon. Strain the mixture once again, and cool over ice-cold water. Chill in the refrigerator, add the double cream and churn it in an ice-cream maker according to manufacturer's instructions.

Passover Preparations

I am busy deciding what to prepare for the main dish and dessert for Passover, since most of the other items on the menu are the expected traditional fare. I am considering the following:

Roasted Poussins with Pomegranate Sauce

Chicken Tagine with Apricots and Spiced Pinenuts (from my friend Chef Farid Zadi)

Patatine e Carciofi Arrosto (Roasted Potatoes and Artichokes)

Torta del Re

Nottingham Nut Cake

Lemon, Creme Fraiche and Chestnut Cake (for a dairy meal)

Damp Apple and Almond Cake


For more ideas, click here. I will post my menu in a couple of weeks.

Chag Purim Sameach – Happy Purim!

My first post on this blog was during the holiday of Purim and here we are one year later making Hamantaschen again. I decided to make three of the four fillings I made last year: Cranberry-Orange, Date-Walnut and Apricot Lekvar.

My family did not have a tradition of making Hamantaschen for Purim. My German grandmother made Haman’s Ears, which was dough that was rolled out and cut into strips, fried in oil and dusted with powdered sugar. I only started making this biscuits about 12 years ago when the little old lady that used to make them for our synagogue developed dementia and couldn’t make them anymore. She was not a member of our congregation, and so we used to drive 60 miles to Birmingham to buy them from her to serve at our congregation’s Purim party. One of the congregants went to pick up the 10 dozen Hamantaschen she had ordered and the little old lady didn’ t know why she was there and hadn’t made any biscuits. So, I received a frantic phone call asking if I could make them. I said I had never tried, but how hard could they be? I found a recipe and I have been making them ever since.

This year, I wanted to make another cookie in addition to the Hamantaschen because I had to make gifts to give to our landlords, who live about 100 yards away, and our new neighbors. It is Jewish law that on Purim one must send at least one Mishloach Manot (sending gifts of food) to a friend and also send Matanot La’evyonim (gifts to the poor). You are suppose to give two different types of ready-to-eat food, each of which require a different blessing. So, you can give two different cakes or biscuits or fruits, etc or mix them up.

I was looking at an Italian blog and found a link to a recipe for biscuits that are from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. A friend of mine who is from Venice told me that he remembers going to a bakery in the Ghetto and buying these biscuits. They are called Impade and they are filled with an almond filling and rolled in icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar). Have a look at the link below for more pictures on how to make the cookies. If you speak Italian, then you can read the entire recipe. Here is a loose translation (I did a few things differently):


Yield: About 45 biscuits

Venetian Jewish Almond Cookies


500g all purpose flour

275g sugar

3 small or medium eggs

125 ml corn oil


250g whole blanched almonds

200g sugar

2 eggs

Zest of one lemon

Impade Dough

Mix the sugar and the flour together and create a well. Add the eggs and the oil and bring the flour-sugar mixture from the sides into the egg-oil mixture. Mix until you create a ball, similar to pie dough. It should be soft and elastic. Set aside and prepare the filling.

Impade Almond Filling

Grind the almonds and place in bowl. Add the sugar, lemon zest, the eggs and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Rolled dough

Take 1/3 of the dough and roll into a 2cm (4/5 inch) diameter snake. Cut the snake into 5cm (2 inch) pieces and roll each one flat into a rectangle.

Rolled out and filled

Put one teaspoon of almond filling in the middle of the rectangle and bring the long sides together over the filling and pinch together into a crest.

Impade Prebaked

Then shape the dough into the shape of the letter "S".


Bake the biscuits at 200C (400F) for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 180C (350F) for an additional 15 minutes.

Roll them immediately in icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) and let them cool.

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.

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


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


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.

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.

Erev Yom Kippur

Tonight, I making a simple two course meal consisting of a Moroccan Kdra called Djej Kdra Touimiya or Chicken Kdra with Almonds and Chick-Peas, green beans, and some fresh fruit for dessert.

A Kdra is a tagine that is cooked with smen (I have to use olive oil), onions, saffron, cinnamon and sometimes ginger, depending on where you live. I am making a Fez version, which is made with a little dried ginger.

I think I was Moroccan in a former life because I am in love with the food, the architecture, the music and the culture in general. My earliest introduction to Moroccan food was when I bought Paula Wolfert’s, Couscous and Other Good Food from Morocco, at a cookery shop in Seattle, Washington. The first dish that I tried got me hooked and I have exploring Moroccan food ever since. Since moving to Israel, I have been intrigued even more.

Chicken Kdra with Almonds and Chick-Peas (Djej Kdra Touimiya)

Serving Size: 4 to 6

1 cup blanced whole almonds

1/2 cup dried chick-peas, soaked overnight or canned (if you must)

1/4 teaspoon pulverised saffron (mixed with a little tumeric)

Salt to taste (omit for kosher chicken)

1 teaspoon ground white pepper

1/2 teaspoon ground ginger

1 large cinnamon stick

3 tablespoons butter or olive oil or 2 tablespoons smen

1-1/2 kg (3 to 3 1/2 lb) chicken, quartered

2 medium yellow onions, quartered lengthwise and finely sliced

4 cups chicken stock or water, more if necessary

1/4 cup chopped parsley

Juice of 1 lemon, or to taste

Put the almonds in a pan, cover with cold water and simmer, covered for approximately two hours. Set the almonds aside, submerged in water.

In another saucepan, cover the soaked chick-peas with fresh cold water, boil and reduce to a simmer. Cook for one hour. Drain and rinse with cold water. Rub the chick-peas to remove their skins. Discard the skins.

Note: For canned chickpeas, rinse and skin them and set them aside. Do not add them until the chicken has finished cooking.

Place the butter, smen or olive oil in a casserole. Add 1/2 of the saffron-turmeric mixture, the spices and the chicken. Cook on a low flame for two to three minutes. Chop 4 or 5 slices of onion fine and add to the casserole. Add the stock or water. Bring to a boil and add the fresh chick-peas. Reduce to a simmer and cook for 30 minutes, covered.

Add the remaining sliced onions and parsley. Cook for an additional 30 minutes or until the chicken is falling off the bone. Remove the chicken from the casserole. If relevant, add the canned chick-peas to the sauce. Boil the sauce at a high heat, uncovered and reduce the sauce to a thick gravy.

Drain the almonds and add the remaining saffron to the sauce. Cook for an additional two or three minutes and spoon over the chicken. Sprinkle with lemon juice. Serve with couscous or rice.

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.

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.

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.

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