Apple Pecan Baklava

19 Sep

I love baklava, especially made with pecans (I’m highly allergic to pistachios and not overly fond of walnuts, but you can use either of those or a mixture) and I also love apple strudel made with light, crispy phyllo dough.  I realized that combining the two couldn’t be bad and created this Apple Pecan Baklava.

If you don’t follow the tradition of not eating nuts for Rosh Hashana, this would make a lovely dessert for  the holiday — if you do, then just save this and make it for another occasion.  Enjoy!

                          Apple Pecan Baklava

apple baklava

  • 1      lb.  phyllo dough
  • 1/2  cup  butter or margarine — melted

                        Apple Layer

  • 2     lb.  Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored and diced
  • 2     Tbsp.  honey
  • 1      Tbsp.  cinnamon
  • 1     Tbsp.  flour

                        Nut Layer

  • 4   cups  pecan halves — approx. 3/4 lb.
  • 2   Tbsp.  sugar
  • 2   tsp.  cinnamon

                        Syrup

  • 2/3   cup  honey
  • 2/3   cup  sugar
  • 1 1/4   cups  water
  • lemon zest — from 1 lemon
  • orange zest — from 1 orange
  • 2  Tbsp.  fresh lemon juice
  • 2  Tbsp.  fresh orange juice

Preheat oven to 375ºF.

Apple layer:  Place the apples, honey and cinnamon into a non-stick skillet, stirring over medium heat. Cook for about 10 minutes, or until any liquid has evaporated and the apples have softened.  Remove from the heat and add flour, stirring until it’s mixed in.  Cool.

Nut Layer: Place the pecans, sugar and cinnamon in the food processor.  Pulse until the pecans are coarsely ground.  If you start with ground pecans (3/4 lb.) just mix them with the sugar and cinnamon in a bowl.

Assemble: Melt the margarine/butter and use a pastry brush to coat a  3 qt. or 13x9x2″ baking dish.  Cut the phyllo sheets in half, then lay one sheet on the bottom of the baking dish.  Lightly brush with butter/margarine and repeat with another 5 layers of phyllo.  Sprinkle 1/4 of the nut mixture (about 1 cup) over the phyllo, and layer another 5 sheets of phyllo, continuing to brush each sheet with butter/margarine. Repeat the nut mixture and another 5 sheets of phyllo, then add all of the cooked apples, spreading them out in an even layer.  Top with another 5 sheets of phyllo, 1 cup of nuts, 5 sheets of phyllo, 1 cup of nuts and then top it off with the final 7 sheets of phyllo.

Use a serrated knife to carefully cut the baklava into pieces.  Traditionally, baklava is cut diagonally, so that the pieces form diamonds.  Make sure you cut right through to the bottom.

Place in a preheated oven and bake for 45 minutes or until a dark golden brown.

Syrup:  As the baklava bakes, prepare the syrup.  Place all of the syrup ingredients into a pot over medium-high heat and stir. Once it comes to a boil, reduce the heat to low and simmer for 5 minutes.  Keep the syrup warm (on a very low element) until the baklava has finished baking. Remove the baklava from the oven and carefully pour the syrup through a strainer, over the baklava.  Once the liquid hits the baklava, it may start to boil and splatter, so be very careful.

Let the baklava cool for at least an hour before serving.  Can be made a day ahead.

 

 

Honey Cake

18 Sep

Tipsy Honey Cake

Rosh Hashana means honey cake.  To start the new year off with a sweet bite, traditionally we serve and eat honey itself or items made with honey. In my family, we’ve always made a version of this boozy honey cake.  The finished cake doesn’t taste overly alcoholic, but it does add to the overall flavour of the cake.

What a list of ingredients! It’s long, but easy to put together and produces a moist and flavorful honey cake.  My favorite honey to use for baking is buckwheat. It has a stronger flavour that holds up to the other flavours in the recipe.  Having said that, over the last few years I’ve found it impossible to find buckwheat honey and have made it with several other types (most typically, clover honey) and it’s still delicious.

The cake recipes also calls for what we call ‘rye’ up here, but I’ve been told in the US is often known as “Canadian whiskey” or “rye whisky”.  You can use rye, whisky or rum.

honey cake 3

2 ¾ cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon ground allspice
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 cup tea, brewed — strong and hot
1 cup honey
1/2 cup Canadian rye (whiskey)
1/2 cup fresh orange juice
1/2 cup canola oil (or other light flavoured oil)
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
3 large eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 tablespoon orange zest

Preheat the oven to 350ºF.

Sift together the flour, baking powder and soda, salt, cinnamon, allspice and ginger. I like to use a whisk to combine all of these ingredients.

In another bowl, combine the hot tea, honey, rye and orange juice.

Using either a stand mixer or a hand mixer, cream together the oil and white and brown sugars. Add the eggs, mixing them in one at a time. Add the vanilla and orange zest.

Add one third of the liquid and mix on low speed. Add one third of the flour mixture and mix on low speed until just combined. Repeat until all of the wet and dry ingredients have been incorporated.

Pour into a bundt pan that has been sprayed with vegetable oil and lightly floured. Bake for 45 minutes or until a skewer inserted comes out clean. If the cake starts to brown too quickly, loosely tent a piece of aluminum foil over the cake for the rest of the baking time.  Let cool completely and then turn the pan over and carefully unmold the cake onto a serving plate. Typically, the bottom of a bundt becomes the top when you take it out of the pan, but I really like the way the ‘bottom’ of this cake comes out and always keep it on the top when plating.

Wrapped well, the cake can stay on the counter for a couple of days.  Freezes beautifully.

Honey Cake 2

 

Quick and Delicious (and easy!) Apple Strudel

9 Sep

Quick and Delicious Apple Strudel

I like a crisp, slightly tart apple for baking — a Pink Lady or Granny Smith would be my choice.  I love the addition of pecans for the flavour and the texture they add, but they are completely optional.  For Rosh Hashana, many people have the minhag (custom) of not eating nuts and the pecans can be left out and the strudel will still be delicious!

I use oil to keep the strudel parve, but if you want to replace it with melted butter, that would work beautifully.

Serves: 12

  •   2       lbs. Fuji apples — peeled, cored and grated (about 6 apples)
  •   1/3    cup raisins, seedless
  •  1/3    cup chopped pecans — *optional
  •  5       Tbsp. sugar, divided
  •  3       tsp. cinnamon, divided
  •   3       Tbsp. flour
  •   10     sheets of filo dough
  •   3       Tbsp. canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350ºF. Prepare the filling by shredding the apples into a mixing bowl.  If they are very juicy, squeeze out any excess liquid.  Add the raisins, pecans if using, 3 Tbsp. sugar, 2 tsp. cinnamon, flour and nutmeg and mix well.  Set aside.

Lay out one sheet of filo dough and lightly brush with oil.  Mix together 2 Tbsp. of sugar and 1 tsp. of cinnamon and lightly sprinkle the filo with some of this cinnamon/sugar mix.  Repeat with another 4 sheets of filo, oiling and sugaring all but the last sheet.

Arrange half of the apple filling in a row along the longer side of the filo – keeping it about 1″ from each edge.  Roll the strudel up, keeping the filling against the edge as tightly as possible.  Give the excess dough on each end of the roll a twist and tuck the dough under the roll. Place the strudel on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and brush it with oil.  Sprinkle on the cinnamon sugar and use a sharp knife to cut diagonal slits every inch or so – just cut through the dough on the top of the roll, allowing steam to escape while it bakes.

Repeat with the rest of the filo and apple filling.

Bake at 350ºF for 30-35 minutes – until the strudel is golden brown.  Allow to cool, slice all the way through and serve.

apple strudel

 

Buttermilk Cheese Kugel

4 Sep

The High Holidays are fast approaching and it seems everybody I know is in menu-planning mode.  A good cheese kugel is great for lunch during Rosh Hashana or for breaking the fast on Yom Kippur.

I know a lot of recipes call for some sugar, but I prefer to leave it out of cheese kugels — leave it for the apple or other fruit versions.  I like my cheese kugel to have a little tang and will either add sour cream, or in this case, buttermilk to the recipe.  The topping is optional, and it is delicious without it, but perhaps just a little more delicious with it.

Serve with extra sour cream on the side or if you must have a little sweetness, some sliced strawberries in syrup.

buttermilk kugel 2

 

Buttermilk Cheese Kugel

375 grams egg noodles — wide

5 large eggs
2 cups buttermilk
1/2 cup melted butter
375 grams dry curd cottage cheese
1 teaspoon salt

Optional Topping
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
pinch salt
2 tablespoons chopped parsley

Cook the noodles following the instructions on the package. Drain well and transfer to a large mixing bowl.

In a medium mixing bowl, mix together the eggs, buttermilk, melted butter, salt and cottage cheese. Pour this mixture onto the noodles and stir to thoroughly mix.

Lightly butter a 2 quart (liter)  casserole and pour the noodle mixture into the pan.

If you choose to add the optional topping, mix all of the topping ingredients together in a small bowl and sprinkle the mixture on top of the noodles.

Bake the kugel in a preheated 375º oven for 1 hour, or until the top is golden brown and the kugel has set.

 

 

Sneak Peek: Tahini Cookies

13 Jan

The cookie cookbook is rolling along and I hope to be done soon, so I thought it was time to share a new recipe — a sneak peek, so to speak.

I love sesame seeds, sesame paste (tahini) and sesame oil — basically any form of sesame works for me, but usually in a savory dish.  When I was brainstorming ideas for the cookie book, tahini made it to the notepad, though I’ve never baked or even tasted a cookie made with it.  I was trying to decide which other flavours I would use with the sesame — maybe cardamom or Chinese five spice? — but  I decided the first thing I should do was try baking a cookie that didn’t introduce more flavours and then go from there.  When I first tasted these, I was so happy with the results that I decided they didn’t need anything else.

If you like sesame, these cookies are for you. They’re deceptively simple to make, but the double dose of flavour from the tahini and the sesame seeds is delicious. They’re light, yet rich — perfect with a cup of tea.

Once baked, these cookies are delicate, so handle with care. They freeze beautifully in an air-tight container. Keep them parve by substituting a good quality non-dairy margarine for the butter.

sesame cookies

6 ounces butter — softened (3/4 cup)
1 cup tahini — well stirred
4 ounces powdered sugar — (1 cup)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
10 ounces flour — (2 cups)
1 cup sesame seeds, for rolling

Preheat your oven to 350ºF.

Cream the butter, tahini and powdered sugar together in a stand mixer until smooth. Add the salt and vanilla and mix through.

Scrape the sides of the bowl down, add the flour and mix on low until it’s thoroughly mixed in and forms a dough.

I use a 1 ounce (2 Tbsp.) scoop to portion the dough, then roll them into balls. Roll the balls in the sesame seeds then place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Gently press the balls down until they are approximately 1/2″ thick. Leave an inch between cookies because they will puff up a little as they bake.

Bake one pan of cookies at a time on the middle rack of the oven for 10 minutes. Turn the pan and bake another 10 minutes or until the bottom and edges have lightly browned.

Makes 24-30 cookies.

Radio Silence and Cookies

16 Dec

Haven’t posted in a while, because I’ve been busy working on recipes for the next book!

Yep, Cookies it is.  These are just a few images of what’s been going on in my home kitchen recently.

Much more to come! And between you and me, this is a really delicious book so far.

Image

Cranberry Sauce

13 Oct

Cranberry sauce is one of those things that is really, really easy to make, but i think a lot of people forgo making it and opt for opening a can instead.  If you have access to fresh cranberries (or frozen,  depending on the season) don’t question it — make a batch yourself and see how easy and delicious it is.

I always make it with orange or mandarin juice because I like the flavor combo. You can use water if you prefer.  I also like the addition of some ground, dry ginger.  I’ve tried it with fresh ginger, but it was too strong for my taste.  You can omit the ginger altogether, or substitute cinnamon, clove, nutmeg or allspice.  And if you’d like even more of a citrus kick, add some zest,

IMG_20131012_061945

Happy Thanksgiving!

  • 3 cups (or one 12 oz. package) fresh cranberries
  • 3/4 cup sugar
  • 1/2 cup fresh orange or mandarin (or tangerine or . .) juice
  • 1/2 tsp. dry ginger

IMG_20131012_061830

Wash and pick through the cranberries.  Add everything to the pot and place over medium-high heat.  Once the liquid comes to a simmer, reduce heat to medium and let cook for 5-7 minutes, or until the cranberries have all popped and the sauce has thickened.  Pour into a dish to cool.  Can be served warm or cover and keep refrigerated for up to one week.

Makes 2 cups.

IMG_20131012_061553

Pumpkin Pie

7 Oct

Pumpkin Pie

‘Tis the season and all.  Canadian Thanksgiving is next week — with American Thanksgiving (and Chanukah) coming in late November. Add to that the fact that pumpkins are available everywhere, it’s the perfect time for pumpkin pie.

I love pumpkin pie and my recipe is nothing crazy — just a good, classic pumpkin pie.  I’ve tested the recipe with cream and non-dairy creamer — both are good. You can also substitute soy, almond or coconut milk if you want to keep it parve and prefer one of those options.

I’ve done taste tests with this recipe using fresh pumpkin that I’ve roasted and pureed myself versus canned pumpkin puree. While I can detect a difference and prefer the fresh pumpkin, the results were split right down the middle by my testers.

If you choose to use fresh pumpkin, use a sugar or pie pumpkin – they contain less liquid than the ‘regular’ pumpkins. Cut the pumpkin in half, scrape out all of the seeds and stringy membranes, place cut side down on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper and bake in a 375 oven for 45-60 minutes, until the flesh is fork tender. Allow to cool then scoop the flesh out of the skin and puree.

pumpkin pie

1 x 9 inch pie crust

1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar, packed
pinch salt
2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
3/4 teaspoon ground allspice
1/2 teaspoon ground nutmeg
1/8 teaspoon ground cloves
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/2 cup half and half of non dairy creamer, soy, almond or coconut milk

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees. After docking, blind-bake a 9″ pie crust (store bought or home-made) for 10 minutes. Remove from oven and set aside until the filling is ready.

Place all of the filling ingredients into the bowl of a food processor and process until all of the ingredients are well incorporated. Or place all of the ingredients in a bowl or large measuring cup and use an immersion blender to puree and combine.  Pour the filling into the par-baked pie crust and return to the oven.

Bake for 45-50 minutes, until the filling no longer jiggles and the top has browned slightly. Cool and serve.

pecan pumpkin pie slices

Pumpkin Pecan Pie

This is a slight variation on the Pumpkin Pie recipe above, exchanging some of the brown sugar for corn syrup and replacing some of the pumpkin with pecans.   I think I might actually like this one more. . shhhh.

pecan pumpkin pie

1 x 9 inch pie crust
1 cup pumpkin puree — fresh roasted or canned
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
pinch salt
1/2 cup half and half, non-dairy creamer, soy or almond milk
2 large eggs
2 tablespoons flour
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon allspice
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/8 teaspoon cloves
1 cup pecans

Preheat the oven to 375 and blind bake the docked pie crust for 10 minutes. Remove from the oven and prepare the filling.

Place all of the filling ingredients into a food processor except for the pecans (or use an immersion blender in a large measuring cup or mixing bowl). Puree until everything is well incorporated. Pour the filling into the par-baked crust and sprinkle the pecans on top of the filling.

Bake for 40-50 minutes, until the filling has puffed up a bit and has browned.  Remove and cool completely before serving.

Rosh Hashana Recipes (step-by-step demos)

14 Aug

It’s that time of year again — if you have some time, here’s a link to my step-by-step demo (on eGullet.org) for making meat kreplach:http://forums.egullet.org/topic/89669-egci-demo-meat-kreplach/

And here’s my demo on knishes (with stretch-dough):
http://forums.egullet.org/topic/81940-egci-demo-knishes/

And, finally, here’s a demo for chicken soup:
http://forums.egullet.org/topic/89668-egci-demo-chicken-soup/

All of these freeze well, so they can be made now and tucked away for the holidays. (Freeze the kreplach once cooked, but the knishes should be frozen raw, then baked from frozen, not thawed.)

Maple Pecan Biscuits

30 Jul

Unless I’m working on a recipe, or baking something for a holiday, I don’t often bake at home.  But sometimes the mood hits and I want the house to fill with the aroma of something delicious baking in the oven. Generally, this means I want a simple recipe , something that’s easy enough to prepare during the week, but special enough to make for Sunday morning brunch or to enjoy with a hot mug of tea.

These Maple Pecan Biscuits are just the thing.  A really easy recipe that doesn’t require any special equipment and only takes a short time to assemble and bake.  These are on the rustic side, so don’t waste time trying to make them look perfect.  The dough shouldn’t look uniform when it’s ready to bake — you should be able to spot little pieces of butter mixed in with the chunks of pecans.  And when they’re done, eat them while hot and crumbly with a little butter and a warm drink to wash it down.

image

Maple Pecan Biscuits

  • 1 cup chopped pecans
  • 1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 Tbsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt
  • 2 Tbsp. brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup butter, chilled and cubed
  • 1/4 cup maple syrup
  • 1/4 cup milk (2%)

image

Preheat the oven to 350°. Place the pecans on a baking sheet in a single layer and toast the nuts for 5-7 minutes, or until they are just starting to brown.  Set aside until cool.  Increase the oven temperature to 400°.

1pecanmaple

In a mixing bowl, stir the flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and brown sugar together.  Add the butter and use a pastry cutter, forks or your fingertips to work the butter into the dough. You want the work the butter into pea-size or slightly smaller pieces, but not completely incorporated into the flour.
maple pecan 2

In a measuring cup combine the maple syrup and milk and mix.  Pour into the dry ingredients and use a fork to combine.  Use your hands to bring the dough together and then turn it out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Pat the dough into a rectangle that has a uniform 1″ thickness.

maple pecan 3

Cut the rectangle into 8 squares, then cut each square in half, into triangles.  Move the pieces around on the tray so that there’s room between all of them.

Place in the preheated oven and bake for 16-20 minutes, or until golden brown.

maple pecan 4

Serve hot out of the oven on their own or with some butter.  Though they will keep for a couple of days if they’re well wrapped, these really are best when served fresh and still warm.

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