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.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2010/03/29/p-is-for-patience-and-passover/

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/

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement

Tomorrow at sundown begins the observance of and twenty-five hour fast during Yom Kippur. The meal before the fast should be simple, not too rich and not too spicy. It is better not to make the meal with garlic or hot peppers.

At the completion of the fast, it is better to eat something that is not too hard on the stomach, so we usually break the fast by eating biscuits (cookies) and crackers, and of course some water, but not too fast or you will upset your stomach.

A Yemenite co-worker told me today that I should drink a glass of fresh pomegranate juice before the fast, it will make the fast easier. I just happen to have some pomegranate juice and I am going to try it.

I found a very interesting Saudi Arabian food blog called Arabic Bites. Two sisters share their recipes from the region. I have really enjoyed reading the blog and I decided to make one of their recipes for the break-the-fast, Cardamom Biscuits. They are actually Iraqi biscuits called Klejah and they are not too sweet, just a perfect end to the fast.

Hope that you have an easy fast. Gmar Chatimah Tova (May you be sealed in the book of life).

And to my Muslim friends, Ramadan Kareem.

Passover Preparations

We are going to my cousin’s in Jerusalem as we do every year and we always bring the charoset, chicken soup with matza balls and dessert. I always try to bring a different dessert.

I am still trying decide what to bring this year. Maybe one of these:

  • Torta di Carote from the Veneto region
  • Persian Rice Cookies
  • Super Moist Banana & Almond Cake
  • Chocolate Almond Torte with cinnamon, allspice, cloves and a dark chocolate glaze

Last year I made Gâteau à l’Orange et au Gingembre from one of my favourite blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini. It is a moist cake that has an intense orange and ginger flavour. I might be tempted to make it again this year. It was a huge hit. And, it is very easy to make.

Gâteau à l'Orange et au Gingembre

Serving Size: 8 - 10

Orange and Ginger Cake From Chocolate and Zucchini

For the cake:

3 small oranges or 2 large oranges (preferably organic)

6 eggs

250g (1-1/3 cups) sugar

250g (1-1/3 cups) almond flour or almond meal

Thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger

1/4 C candied ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze:

Zest and juice of a lemon

60 g (1/3 cup) thick sugar crystals, the type used as a topping for chouquettes or brioches

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Grease a 24 cm (8-inch) springform cake pan.

Clean and scrub the oranges well. Put them in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Put the saucepan over medium heat, and simmer for two hours, adding a little hot water when the level gets too low (note : you may, like me, find the smell of whole oranges boiling very unpleasant, but it has nothing to do with the smell or taste of the finished product). Drain, and let cool. Cut in quarters and puree in the food processor.

Peel and chop the fresh ginger. Cut the candied ginger in small dice. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the orange puree, the sugar, the almonds, the baking powder, the fresh ginger, until well blended. Fold in the bits of candied ginger.

Pour the batter in the cake pan, and bake for about an hour, until puffy and golden. Let cool for a few minutes on a rack, while you prepare the frosting. Run a knife around the cake to loosen it, and remove the sides of the pan.

Put the sugar crystals in a small bowl with the lemon juice and zest. Spoon this mixture evenly onto the top of the cake. Let cool completely before serving. It can be made a day ahead, wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/14/passover-preparations/

The second dessert I made were chocolate-covered Weesper Moppen, which are Dutch almond cookies. They are chewy cookies with a wonderful almond flavour which can be made plain and rolled in coarse sugar or covered in dark chocolate. I like them because they are not very sweet.

Chocolate- Covered Weesper Moppen

Yield: About 20 cookies

250g (8oz + 2 tablespoons) coarse almond paste or grind 125g//1/2 cup of blanched almonds and 125g (1/2 cup) of fine sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

1 small egg

200g (8oz) 80% dark chocolate (Valrhona or some other premium brand), melted

Mix everything except the chocolate together until you have a soft paste.

Wet your hands with cold water, and roll the paste into log. It will still be very sticky and a bit hard to manage. You could roll them in a little kosher for Pesach icing sugar or put the dough in plastic wrap and roll it into a log and place into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up a little.

With a sharp knife (wipe it between cuts) cut the dough into 20 rounds about 1/2 inch or 1cm thick. Place them cut side down on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silpat liner.

Let them dry out for about 2 hours. I put them in a cold oven, with the fan on, for one hour, which worked excellently!

Then, preheat the oven to 200 C / 375 F. When the oven is hot, bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Check that they don't brown too much. Remove them from the sheet, let them cool.

After they have cooled, dip them in the melted chocolate. You can either cover the entire cookie or just one side.

They will dry out a bit more as they cool, but they should still be slightly chewy. They are best served the same day or the following day.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/14/passover-preparations/

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