I’m embarrassed to see how long it’s been since I’ve posted anything. Last time I posted, I said something about how I was going to start to (slowly) work on some new cookbooks. I did actually keep that promise, but then my world turned topsy-turvy.
Not long after I posted, a family looking for a new location for their business came to look at Desserts Plus and quickly made us an offer on our building. We accepted for many reasons, and starting looking for a new space. We had no idea how long it would take us.
Since moving our of our building 13 (!) months ago, we’ve had a pop-up store for Passover, rented a kitchen to cater a few major events and even had a booth at a farmer’s market for part of the simmer.
All along we worked on finding our space, which we did last summer. Several delays kept construction from starting until early this year (you can see a lot of our updates on our Instagram account).
In fact, we even have a kickstarter campaign going to try to get the final push we need to finish our space.
(You can read more about our campaign on our Facebook page, instagram or kickstarter.)
Meanwhile, while all of that was going on, I was slowly working on my next cookbook.
Last month I published Pam’s Cookie Collection:
This is smaller than my other books with just 40-something recipes, but I’m proud of this one! It’s got lots of recipes that I’ve been baking at Desserts Plus over the years, along with lots of others that I created in my home kitchen.
You can get copies here:
If you don’t have any of my books but you’ve wanted them, now is a good time to get them! For the next week one of the rewards for our kickstarter campaign is a cookbook collection. You can get one copy of each of my three books – signed if you like! (It’s listed twice – once if you’re able to pick them up at our new café and once if you need them shipped throughout North America.)
I’ll try not to be such a stranger! Thanks for stopping by and reading.
No matter how strong my intentions are to post more, I generally fail. I really, really want to put up blog posts, but life gets in the way. I could go on about how my fridge hasn’t been working for a month so I haven’t been able to cook. . but who wants to hear about that?
Instead, I’ll show you some of the things I’ve been cooking and baking at work over the last few months. And if I can find the time and energy, I’ll get more posts up. Really. 🙂
Ps: if you want to see more of my cooking/baking, I post regularly (with my sister) on our instagram account. You can find us at Desserts_Plus.
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
- 1 lb. phyllo dough
- 1/2 cup butter or margarine — melted
- 2 lb. Granny Smith apples — peeled, cored and diced
- 2 Tbsp. honey
- 1 Tbsp. cinnamon
- 1 Tbsp. flour
- 4 cups pecan halves — approx. 3/4 lb.
- 2 Tbsp. sugar
- 2 tsp. cinnamon
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
- 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.
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 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
2 tablespoons melted butter
1/2 cup dry bread crumbs
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.
‘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.
1 x 9 inch pie crust
1 1/2 cups pumpkin puree
1 cup brown sugar, packed
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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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%)
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°.
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.
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.
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.
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.
On one hand, it seems like Passover has been over for ages. On the other hand, we’re just finally getting back into the normal pace of things at work. It’s amazing how long it takes to get things back to normal once the holiday is over.
As I get a little distance from Pesach I’m beginning to think about getting some new posts done. I have some things lined up, but are there any requests? Let me know if you’d like to see something on the blog and I’ll see what I can do (no guarantees).