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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.

 

 

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.)

Passover Post — No Time to Post

8 Mar

I started off the year well, posting more times in one week than I did in all of 2012. I did well into February until I got buried under Passover prep and all of the sudden I had no time to do anything.  I have a notebook full of recipes just waiting to be typed up and pictures on my phone ready to upload, but they’ll have to wait until after Passover before they get turned into posts. I thought I’d be able to post some great new recipes for Passover, but time got away from me (though there’s still a chance of some posts during the holiday).  Instead, I’ve done a little search online to find my Passover footprints and round them up into a single post here.  Some of the links are recipes on my blog or other websites, some are links to my business and my books and a few of them are links to eGullet.org, where I spent 3 Passovers blogging for the members there during Passover (I look back on those foodblogs now and can’t figure out how I got them done).

These are recipes on my blog:

The three eGullet Passover foodblogs I did over the years:

My family business: So, the reason I’m so busy now is that along with my parents, I own a kosher food store (the only independent kosher food store in the city) and catering company.  Passover is our busiest time of the year, no question.  We turn our store over completely for Passover,  removing all items that are not kosher for Passover from the shelves, freezers and coolers and bringing in well over 1,000 kosher for Passover items (plus beef, lamb, veal, poultry and deli). Starting last week, we’ve been getting truckloads of products delivered almost daily, starting with an initial order that weighed in at 11,600 lbs.  You can take a look at what we sell on our Facebook page, where we posted this album/tour.

On the side, I write cookbooks.  So far, two.  The second book is Passover –  A Kosher Collection. For the three weeks leading up to Passover, my days are spent (among other things) answering questions from my customers.  Younger customers are looking for help with traditional recipes, older customers are looking for new ideas and vice versa.  I realized that there was a need for a new Passover cookbook and went to work on it.  In the US and Canada, you can by it in various Judaica stores, and it’s available on Amazon.com in hard copy or for the Kindle/eReader.  You can also order them from my website, and I’ll ship them anywhere! Around the web – my Passover friendly recipes/articles from other sites:

To all those preparing for Pesach, I hope it’s an easy year for you and hopefully I’ll be back during the holiday with more recipes.  Chag sameach!

Hamantashen

12 Feb

Through the years I’ve tried several different types of Hamentashen.  Some of my favorites include almond pastry with apricot filling, gingerbread pastry with pear filling, cream cheese pastry with any fruit filling, yeast pastry and chocolate pastry with cherry filling.  Though all good, sometimes I think there’s nothing better than a plain-old-simple-pastry with assorted fruit fillings.

Here’s my recipe for Simple Hamantashen dough.  You can fill these with anything you want — jam, pie filling, chocolate, etc.  I’ve made my own apricot, pear, poppy seed, prune and other fillings, but there are lots of great fillings out there, ready to go.  Use whatever you like.

I use lemon zest in the recipe because I really love the hint of lemon flavour it adds to the cookies, but you can leave it out and they’ll still be delicious.

image

Ingredients:

  • 1/2 cup margarine, soft
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp. vanilla
  • zest of one lemon
  • 1 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp. salt
  • 2 1/2 cups flour
  • assorted fruit jams, pie fillings or other fillings

image

Preheat an oven to 350°.

Using an electric mixer or a stand mixer with the paddle attachment, cream the margarine and sugar together until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs and vanilla and mix until incorporated. Add the lemon zest, baking powder and salt and mix through.  Add the flour and mix on low until it’s all combined and a ball of dough forms.

Divide the dough into 2 sections, setting one aside.  Roll the other section approximately 1/8″ thick on a well-floured counter.  Use a cutter to cut out 2 1/2″ – 3″ circles.  You can keep the scraps and re-roll them once.

Place about 1 tsp. of a filling of your choice in the center of each circle.  Bring three sides of the dough together to make a triangle.  Pinch the three corners together and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.  Continue with the rest of the dough.

Place the hamantashen in the oven and bake 15-17 minutes, or until the bottom and edges are golden brown.

image

You can make the dough the day before you want to make them, keeping it in the fridge, well wrapped.

Makes approximately 4 dozen hamantashen.

Passover Cheese Blintzes

9 Apr

Every year we turn our kosher food store into a Passover kosher food store.  For over a month, from Purim through Pesach, my days are all about Passover. We pack away all of the  chometz and get tonnes and tonnes (literally) of kosher for Passover food – it takes us days to get everything unpacked and on the shelves. We even rent a 40 foot train container and park it in our parking lot for extra storage.

As soon as that first items hit the shelves (or even before that) our days are filled with customer questions – about the products we sell, about the foods we cook and about recipes and menu ideas.  Some people love cooking for Passover — they love pulling out the recipes that are traditional in there family and/or experimenting with new recipes and ideas.  Others . . . well, others feel differently.  They fear Passover and loathe matzo.  I also hear a lot of complaints about how heavy the food is.  But it doesn’t have to be.

I am firmly in the camp that likes Passover food.  Really. I actually like matzo. I hear people say they think it tastes like cardboard all the time.  I have no problem with a piece of matzo with butter and some fruit for breakfast. In fact, I’m quite happy with it. Seder meals that include soups, starters, at least two meats, several sides, and dessert can weigh you down, but those meals don’t have to, and the rest of the week can certainly focus on other, lighter things.

One of my favourite treats, something that’s good all year round but I tend to cook rarely outside of Passover is cheese blintzes. The delicate wrapper (bletlach) filled with creamy cheese and served with strawberries and a crisp salad make a great dinner — one that I enjoyed  tonight.  They were so delicious I was questioning my decision to keep them as a Passover treat — but maybe that’s part of what makes them so special.

Blintz Wrappers / Bletlach (based on a recipe from my book, Passover – A Kosher Collection)

It may take a few tries to get the hang of making these, but once you do, they’re easy to make. Fill them with cheese, fruit, potatoes or meat.

4 large eggs

1/2 cup cool water

5 Tbsp. potato starch

1/4 tsp. salt

oil for the skillet

Whisk the eggs, water, potato starch and salt together in a large measuring cup and let it rest for a few minutes.  Whisk again, making sure you get rid of any potato starch lumps.  Heat an 8″ non-stick frying pan over medium heat.  Lightly brush the pan with oil — I like grape seed.  Whisk the batter again and pour some into the pan — swirl the pan immediately so that the batter forms a thin layer and pour any excess batter back into the measuring cup.

Cook until the blettle (single bletlach) starts to bubble a little, the top is dry to the touch, the bottom just starts to brown and the edges start to pull away from the pan.  Loosen the edges and turn the blettle out onto a baking sheet lined with parchment.  Continue with the rest of the batter, whisking before each blettle and brushing with oil after every 2 or 3 bletlach — you should get 12-15 bletlach from one batch.  Separate the layers of bletlach with parchment paper.

Cheese Filling

2 lbs. 1% pressed cottage cheese (or paper or baker’s cheese)

4 large eggs

1 tsp. salt

1 Tbsp. sugar

Combine all of the ingredients in a mixing bowl and mix with a spoon until everything is thoroughly incorporated.

Assemble the blintzes by placing one wrapper on your work surface with the cooked-side up.

Place approximately 1/4 cup of the cheese mixture along the bottom edge of the wrapper and roll it up from the bottom so that the filling is covered with the blettle.  Fold the left and right sides in so that both ends are closed then continue to roll up from the bottom, using the whole blettle.  Continue with the rest of the bletlach and filling.

You can refrigerate or freeze them at this point or heat some butter in a skillet and brown on both sides for 2-3 minutes, until golden brown.  Serve on their own or with strawberries and sour cream.

Blintz Strawberries

These strawberries are great with the blintzes or use to top your matzo brei for breakfast.

1 lb. strawberries, hulled and sliced

3 Tbsp. sugar

3 Tbsp. fresh orange juice

1 tsp. potato starch

2 tsp. cool water

Place the strawberries, sugar and orange juice in a pot over medium heat and cook until the strawberries have release some juice and the liquid comes to a simmer — this should take about 5 minutes.  In a small bowl, whisk the potato starch and water together.  Add to the pot and stir through.  Cook another minute, or until the juices have thickened slightly.  Remove from heat. Serve hot of chill and serve cold.