Monday, March 17, 2014

Pasta & Peas


I tried this recipe for the first time this evening.  I saw the recipe online, but I did make some adjustments according to my taste.  It was pretty quick and easy, and I think it's going to be a new favorite!  The "sauce" made with peas and basil was very tasty without being overpowered by the taste of basil.  I served it will a little extra parmesan and garlic bread.  A very satisfying meal!

Pasta and Peas
Ingredients
1 lb. dried ditalini pasta
16 oz bag of frozen peas
½ cup loosely packed fresh basil leaves
1 shallot, peeled and quartered
¼ cup finely shredded Parmesan cheese
1 tablespoon butter
2-3 ounces thinly sliced prosciutto, cut into strips
¼ cup evaporated milk (can add a little bit more if desired)

Directions
  1. Cook pasta according to package directions, adding 1 cup peas the last 2 minutes of cooking. Reserve 1 cup pasta water. Drain pasta mixture; return to pan.
  2. Meanwhile, in a blender or food processor, combine the remaining peas, the basil, shallot, and 2 tablespoons of the Parmesan cheese. Add 1/2 cup of the reserved pasta water. Cover and blend or process until nearly smooth. Set aside. (if it's too thick to process/blend, add a little bit more of the water)
  3. In a large skillet heat butter over medium heat. Add prosciutto and cook for 2 to 3 minutes or until crispy. Remove to paper towels; drain. set aside. Add evaporated milk to skillet; bring to boiling. Boil gently, uncovered, for 1 minute. Add pasta mixture, blended pea mixture, and the remaining 1/2 cup pasta water to skillet. Toss gently until heated through. Top mixture with prosciutto strips, and the remaining Parmesan cheese.

Sunday, March 16, 2014

Modern Italian Grandma Returns

Happy St. Patrick's Day and Happy Purim!

I've had a long absence from my blog; basically because of some computer issues.  I desperately need an update to access and upload photos to the blog.  Although I am still working on that, I am posting this recipe for Hamantaschen.  I've had a few requests for the recipe.

This is not my own recipe.  I got it from another blog: theshiksa.com  At that website/blog you will find photos that will show step by step instructions.

Hamantaschen is a cookie that is traditionally made for the celebration of Purim.
This was my first time making this cookie.  It was fairly easy.  I do have a silicone mat and rolling pin for rolling out the dough, which definitely helps.  I always think the sticking of the dough is the biggest problem when making rolled cookies.  I use a small tea strainer for lightly sprinkling flour on the mat as I roll out the dough.  This helps to have a very light coating of flour so that the dough doesn't get too dry.

So today we will be celebrating St. Patrick's Day with Irish soda bread, corned beef, and shamrock cookies, and celebrating Purim with these delicious cookies!  Blended families and celebrations are the best.  Enjoy!


Hamantaschen

INGREDIENTS

3/4 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
2/3 cup sugar
1 egg, room temperature
1 tsp vanilla

1 tsp grated orange zest
2 1/4 cups flour (can make up to 1/2 C of this whole wheat flour)
1/4 tsp salt
1-5 tsp water (if needed)

Filling - Any all fruit preserves.  The thicker the better.  Orange marmalade works well.

YOU WILL ALSO NEED

Large mixing bowl, electric mixer, sifter, rolling pin, 3-inch cookie cutter or drinking glass with 3-inch diameter rim

Slice room temperature butter into small chunks and place in a large mixing bowl.

Add sugar to the bowl. Use an electric mixer to cream the butter and sugar together for a few minutes till light and fluffy.

Add the egg, vanilla, and orange zest to the bowl. Beat again till creamy and well mixed.

Sift flour and salt into the bowl.

Mix with the electric mixer on low speed till a crumbly dough forms.

Begin to knead dough with hands till a smooth dough ball forms. Try not to overwork the dough, only knead till the dough is the right consistency. If the crumbles are too dry to form a smooth dough, add water slowly, 1 teaspoon at a time, using your hands to knead the liquid into the dough. Knead and add liquid until the dough is smooth and slightly tacky to the touch (not sticky), with a consistency that is right for rolling out. It can easily go from the right consistency to too wet/sticky, so add water very slowly. If the dough seems too wet, knead in a little flour till it reaches the right texture.

Form the dough into a flat disk and wrap in plastic wrap. Place in the refrigerator to chill for 3 hours to overnight.

Before you begin to assemble the hamantaschen, choose and make your filling and have it on hand to work with. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly flour a smooth, clean surface. Unwrap the dough disk and place it on the floured surface. The dough will be very firm after chilling.

Use a rolling pin to roll the dough out to 1/4 inch thick. At the beginning, it will be tough to roll out-- you may need to pound it a bit. A heavy rolling pin works best. As you roll, cracks may form on the edges of the dough. Repair any large cracks with your fingers and continue rolling.

Continue rolling the dough out very thin (less than 1/8 of an inch thick). The thinner you roll the dough, the more delicate and crisp the cookies will turn out-- just make sure that the dough is still thick enough to hold the filling and its shape! If you prefer a thicker, more doughy texture to your cookies (less delicate), keep the dough closer to 1/4 inch thick. Lightly flour the rolling pin occasionally to prevent sticking.

Use a 3-inch cookie cutter (not smaller) or the 3-inch rim of a glass to cut circles out of the dough, cutting as many as you can from the dough.

Gather the scraps and roll them out again. Cut circles. Repeat process again if needed until you've cut as many circles as you can from the dough. You should end up with around 35 circles (unless you've kept your dough on the thicker side, which will result in less cookies).
Place a teaspoon of filling (whichever filling you choose) into the center of each circle. Do not use more than a teaspoon of filling, or you run the risk of your hamantaschen opening and filling spilling out during baking. Cover unused circles with a lightly damp towel to prevent them from drying out while you are filling.

Assemble the hamantaschen in three steps. First, grasp the left side of the circle and fold it towards the center to make a flap that covers the left third of the circle.

Grasp the right side of the circle and fold it towards the center, overlapping the upper part of the left side flap to create a triangular tip at the top of the circle. A small triangle of filling should still be visible in the center.

Grasp the bottom part of the circle and fold it upward to create a third flap and complete the triangle. When you fold this flap up, be sure to tuck the left side of this new flap underneath the left side of the triangle, while letting the right side of this new flap overlap the right side of the triangle. This way, each side of your triangle has a corner that folds over and a corner that folds under-- it creates a "pinwheel" effect. This method if folding is not only pretty-- it will help to keep the cookies from opening while they bake.

Pinch each corner of the triangle gently but firmly to secure the shape. If any cracks have formed at the places where the dough is creased, use the warmth of your fingers to smooth them out.

Place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper.

 Bake at 350 degrees for 20-25 minutes, till the cookies are cooked through and lightly golden.

Cool the cookies on a wire rack.

Monday, July 15, 2013

Color My World

Our front porch is one of the things that sold us on our house over 30 years ago.  There is something very homey about a front porch, something welcoming, and I always strive to have my home be welcoming to friends and family.

Twenty-six or Twenty-seven years ago I set out on a quest to buy wicker furniture for the porch.  My friend, Fran was looking for wicker furniture, too.  We didn't want to spend a lot of money (we didn't have a lot to spend!) and we ended up bargaining at a flea market. We wanted rocking chairs with the set and we needed the cushions.  We got the man selling the furniture to throw in the cushions and give us the rockers instead of regular chairs for the price -- which I really can't remember now what it was, but it pretty inexpensive. I'll never forget driving home with the two sets in Gregg's pick-up truck.  We looked like the Beverly Hillbillies with one of the rocking chairs perched up on top of the cab of the truck!

All these years later, the set was not in such bad shape.  I had stained and varnished it at one point, but it was fading and looking a little shabby.  Gregg wanted to throw it away, but I said we had to get a new set first ---- then I thought we should try painting it!  This is what started our painting spree.  Gregg painted the furniture and I got the new cushions and look how pretty it is!  We bought the spray paint at Lowe's -- they have a lot of colors to choose from and their own brand of spray paint is inexpensive.  This prompted Gregg to move on to painting some of our other outdoor things such as a food cart and a waste can.  These are both made of plastic, but the paint adheres quite well.  You know how dirty outside furniture can get and the old pale colors look dated.  With a fresh coat of a bright or deep color, everything looks like new!

Are you familiar with Laura Numeroff's books, such as If You Give A Mouse A Cookie?  (In her books, one thing leads to another....) Well, I'm feeling like a character in one of her books....moving on, we wanted to do something about our patio table umbrella.  It is terribly stained from the trees and pollen.  We tried to scrub it without much luck so I thought I would look to see if there was paint I could use on it.  Well, I didn't find paint for the umbrella but I came across paint that can be used on upholstered furniture!

So here is the can of the Simply Spray Upholstery paint.  I saw some Youtube  videos of people applying the paint to upholstered chairs and there was a video when the product was being demonstrated on the Today Show.  I looked up customer reviews of the product and they all seemed to be favorable.......So I started thinking about the two ugly chairs in my living room.  I have two Queen Anne chairs that I bought probably more than 20 years ago when pink was an "in" color -- so sometime in the '80s.  A few years ago I decide to buy (sage green) slipcovers for the chairs.  The slipcovers were really too big and Gregg always said the chairs reminded him of those wrinkly shar pei dogs.  But there is always something else that needs to be done in the house and never enough money....so I continued to live with them.  I looked into reupholstering, but that was costly, too. So along comes this paint and I figured I'd give it a try.  It was available on Amazon and I ordered 6 cans of burnt orange.
Before

These two chairs flank my fireplace in the living room and I have a painting over the fireplace with red and orange poppies.  I thought this color would look nice on the chairs. (My sofa is a gold color.)
The paint arrived the day after I ordered it!  I've been so excited to try it, but it's been raining so I had to wait for a sunny day.  I tried it out on the fabric on an arm cover.


The fabric of the chairs was actually in good shape.  Faded, but no wearing or tears anywhere.

So today was the day.  I lugged the chair outside and went at it.




First I had to wrap the wooden legs.  I used the Glad Press 'n Seal wrap.








I started with the back of the chair.  The instructions said to do several light coats so the first coat, as you can see, does not cover the fabric completely.

As more coats are added, you can see the color getting deeper.  The photos actually look a little brighter than the color is in person.  It is a deeper burnt orange.


One mistake I made -- I should have gone over the furniture with one of those lint rollers.  I had vacuumed it and brushed it, but there was still some lint from the slip covers that was not evident until I started painting.  I let the first coat dry and then I was able to pick up some of the fuzz with a lint roller, but it would have been easier if I had done it first.

Here is the chair (left) after the first coat.  Each can barely did a full coat on the chair and seat cushion.  I ended up using 5 cans to cover the chair, but I expected that I would need 4 to 5 cans for each chair.


Below you see the chair after 3 cans of paint.  You can still see the light fabric showing through (those yellow flame-like spots are the sun shining through the trees!).

I continued to do light coats over several hours.  The instructions said to wait 20 minutes between coats.  I waited longer, mostly because it was unbearably hot today, but also because of the humidity, I wanted to really give the fabric a chance to dry between coats.  The paint is thin so it quickly penetrates the fabric, but I figure it has got to be soaking into the padding.
Instructions also say to wait 72 hours before using the furniture and I am assuming it is because the paint can still be wet inside the padding.

The final result -- I love it!


The chair in my living room.  Same as before, the color looks very light in the photo.  The light reflecting on it makes it look yellow on the side, but the color came out very even and a very nice deep orange color.  I will try again to get a photo that shows the color better but I am very pleased.



I am not done with my projects yet...... I am updating my dressing room/closet.  This is a big project as we have to repair a wall that was damaged by a roof leak. Once again one project is leading to another.  Also, we are redoing the spare bedrooms and I am painting the mish mosh of furniture we have for the rooms -- nothing goes together, so I am going to refinish it, add some new hardware........ I don't know if the summer is long enough!  But I will keep you updated! 





Sunday, May 26, 2013

Brick Oven Pizza -- on the grill! & More!!


This was a white pie -- ricotta, provolone, parmesan, & romano cheese.
Pizza is one of my favorite foods, and there is nothing better than homemade pizza.  In the warm weather we make pizza on the grill and it comes out very much like brick oven pizza.

I have made my own pizza dough, but it takes quite a bit of time, and it also makes my arms sore from the kneading that is necessary.  These days, I will buy dough at a local Italian bread bakery.  There is definitely a difference in doughs.  I have tried doughs from different bakeries and some do not seem to rise very well, and some do not have a lot of taste (the taste may seem what I call, "flat").  There are subtle differences in the taste of Italian bread, which is a plain sort of bread, but if you are going to buy dough buy it at a bakery where you like the bread.  I buy dough at Vitiello's Bakery in Nutley, NJ.  I will add the recipe for dough at the end of this post, in case you want to make your own.

One package of dough is about one pound.  One pound of dough will make a large, pizzeria-sized pizza.  When we make pizza on the grill we divide the one pound package in half.

Start by greasing the grates of your grill.  I like to use a canola oil no stick spray, or you can just wipe the grates with a paper towel with oil on it.  Next fire up the grill.  (It does need to be a grill that has a cover.) Once it is hot, set the flames at medium.

Dough should be at room temperature.  Roll out each half pound piece of dough into a circle.  You can use a rolling pin to roll it out or you can stretch it out with your hands.  Place the circles of dough on a cookie sheet or pizza pan to transport to your grill.

Doesn't have to be round!
Carefully slide the dough onto the grill.  We can fit two small pizzas at a time on our grill.  Close the lid and let it cook for about 6 to 7 minutes.  You are only going to cook one side of the pizza at this time!  Open the lid and check the underside of the dough to see if it is nicely browned.  It will have a nice brown color and grate marks.  Remove the dough from the grill and flip the dough onto your pan so that the cooked side is up and uncooked side is down.  (You will need to check the dough maybe after 5 minutes the first time you try this as the temperatures of grills can vary greatly.)

You will now add your ingredients to the cooked side of the pizza.


See the nice grill marks on the underside.


In addition to the tradition sauce and mozzarella with seasoning, you can try a mixture of cheeses.  I like to add some provolone to the mozzarella, along with grated parmesan.  Also, putting the cheese on the dough before the sauce, and then add some sauce on top of the cheese, will give it a different taste than when you add the sauce first.

I like to use goat cheese with caramelized onions, fried peppers, and sun-dried tomatoes -- Delicious!
Goat Cheese w/peppers & onions

There are the typical pepperoni pies, meatball pies, sausage pies.  Use your imagination -- you can try any vegetables you like.  Just remember that these pies will cook so quickly that you will want to precook the vegetables a bit before creating the pie.  Remember to season with a little garlic and oregano, or seasoning of your choosing.

After you prepare your pie, you will put it back on the grill as before.  Close the lid and cook for another 6 to 7 minutes.

Don't be discouraged if you have a little trouble keeping the dough in a round shape.  It does not always slide onto the grates very easily and may get a little misshapen, but that is the beauty of these artisan pies!  It's a lot of fun to set up bowls of various ingredients and let guests prepare their own pies.  Half a pound of dough may be a bit large for individual pies, so a third of the dough will probably be best.  It will cook in about the same amount of time.
I think this pizza looks a little like South America!  lol

Pizza Dough Recipe:

1 pkg active dry yeast
about 4 1/2 cups flour
salt
1 1/2 cups water

In a large bowl, combine yeast, 2 cups flour, and 1 teaspoon of salt.  In a small saucepan over low heat, heat water until very warm (120-130 degrees).  Blend water into dry ingredients with a mixer on low.  Then beat about 2 minutes at medium, scraping sides of bowl.  Beat in 1/2 cup of flour to make a thick batter;  beat 2 minutes more.   Stir in about 1 1/2 cups of flour to make a soft dough.

On a floured surface knead dough about 8 minutes, adding more flour if needed.  Shape into a ball and place in a large greased bowl.  Cover and let rise until doubled (about 1 hour).

Punch dough down; cut in half; turn onto a lightly floured surface.  Cover for 15 minutes.
This will make two pies.

Pizza in a regular oven:

Preheat the over to 475 degrees.

Roll out 1 lb of dough into a large circle (or you can stretch using your hands).  Place dough onto a lightly oiled pizza pan.  Add ingredients as desired (see suggestions above for brick oven pizzas).

Bake only one pie at a time placing the pizza on the bottom oven rack!  This will ensure that your pie will brown nicely on the bottom and cook well on top.  Bake about 15-18 minutes.

Stromboli (Pepperoni bread, and other varieties)

Roll 1 lb of dough into an oval about 12 x 15 (this is approximate).

Beat 2 eggs and brush egg on dough, reserving about 1/4 of the beaten eggs.

layer thinly sliced pepperoni and mozzarella on the dough, sprinkle generously with grated cheese.  Roll dough from long side, brushing dough with egg as you roll.

Place rolled loaf, seam side down, on a cookie sheet (one with an edge all the way around because it can spill over).  brush the top with egg and make  few slits in the top to allow for expansion as it bakes.

Bake at 400 for about 40 minutes.

Variations:  Instead of pepperoni and mozzarella, spread dough with broccoli and cheddar cheese; or try spinach and cream cheese.  Cook vegetables a little bit first.  Sausage and peppers is also good.  For these items you will spread the ingredients down the center and fold each side over the ingredients overlapping the sides.

And for a delicious dessert pie on the grill --prepare the dough the same way, cooking one side, then add Nutella!  Oh, it's sooooo good when the chocolate cooks and even browns a little bit.  My friend Fran made a Nutella pizza with sliced bananas and strawberries adding a little powdered sugar when she served it. Yummy!






Sunday, April 28, 2013

Arancini - Rice Balls

Arancini or Rice Balls is not a dish that my family traditionally made.  I was not introduced to rice balls until I was an adult.  Once I tried them, however, I did like them and tried to make them myself.  Well, I have to say that the first tries were a disaster!  Rice all over the kitchen and me!  I remember the first time I tried to make them I finally put all the ingredients in a baking dish and stuck it in the oven.  We had a rice-meat sauce casserole.  It still tasted pretty good, but it was not rice balls.

I tried a few more times and I was finally able to make the rice balls, but not without a lot of trouble, mess, frustration, and lots of time.  The problem was that the rice would not stick together and I had the rice balls falling apart while I was trying to form them and falling apart as I tried to fry them. What finally made the process so much easier was my son, Chris' suggestion to use Arborio rice.  He told me that the Arborio rice has more starch so it will stick together.  He was so right!  Thank you, Chris! (Chris is an excellent cook -- not by trade, just at home.) I would suggest that you do not try using regular white rice.  Just go with the Arborio.

I looked up the origin of Arancini and found that they were first made in Sicily during the 10th century.  This was apparently the Arab period in Sicily so some of the foods were influenced by Middle East recipes.  I have to admit I was totally unaware of this history.  My paternal grandfather was from Sicily.  But this does explain why the DNA test I did shows a Middle Eastern ancestry!  I figured the DNA test had to be wrong -- now this makes a little sense.

Most of the rice ball recipes you will find are basically the same.  I tried a recipe from the cookbook Italian Immigrant Cooking by Elodia Rigante.  This is a great cookbook, but unfortunately it is out of print (some independent sellers are selling it on Amazon)..  The recipe I have created, I now consider my own as I have made many variations based on the many recipes I have referred to and based on my many trials (and errors) in making the rice balls.

The recipe appears complicated.  It's not as difficult as it may seem.  It is labor intensive.  It would be quicker and easier to have a helper as you make them.

Just an aside.... for many years I have been saving my recipes on my computer, but I have begun to save them on the app, Evernote.  This is a free app that is available on the iPhone, iPad, and accessible on a PC as well.  I don't know if it is available on other devices (such as Androids) but it probably it.  The nice thing about having the recipes on Evernote is that you can access them anywhere.  Yesterday, while I was in the supermarket I decided on making a dish that I could not remember all the ingredients for.  I pulled the recipe up on my phone and was able to see exactly what I needed.  I am not sure if there is a limit to the storage space for this app.  Maybe there is some point where more storage would need to be purchased.  For now, it's working for me!

Here is the recipe with my notes/tips along the way:

32 oz. Arborio Risotto (this is about 4+Cups of dry rice)   
2 Tablespoons of olive oil
46 oz. chicken broth
1 1/2 Cups grated Romano or Parmesan cheese
2 eggs beaten

Place the rice and olive oil in a large saucepan/stock pot and add enough olive oil to coat all of the rice. Heat up the rice slightly but do not brown.  Cover the rice with chicken broth and add a little water if rice is not completely covered.  The rice will sizzle as you pour the broth over it.  Bring to a boil, cover, and turn down the heat to simmer.  Let simmer for 20 minutes and do not lift the lid!  Remove from heat after 20 minutes.  Blend in first the cheese while rice is hot, then add beaten eggs.  Set aside while preparing sauce.

For the meat sauce:
shredded carrots about 3/4 cup
garlic  2-3 cloves
celery, finely chopped - about 1/3 cup
onion, finely chopped, about 1/2  cup
1 1/2 lbs chopped meat - mixture of veal, pork, beef or
mixture of chicken or turkey and beef
Crushed tomatoes - large can (28oz)
tomato paste- two small cans
peas - about 1 1/2 cups
seasoning

In a large sauce pan, sauté vegetables in olive oil until soft.   Do not let garlic burn!  Remove from pan, add meat to pan and brown meat.  Pour meat into a colander to drain the fat.  Return to sauce pan with vegetables.   Add tomatoes and a little water (maybe about a cup) and season to taste (salt, pepper, oregano, basil).  Simmer at least 20 minutes.  Stirring frequently.  Add peas for last 3 minutes.  Cook longer if tomatoes need to break down more.  Cool the sauce before using.  (This is a great bolognese sauce to serve over pasta, as well.  You would just need to add more more crushed tomatoes, or tomato puree to make it a little thinner.)

For rice balls:
Olive oil  and canola oil for frying (I mix them)
Italian bread crumbs, seasoned
3-4 eggs beaten, with a little water (I start with 3 and usually need a 4th)
1 lb mozzarella cheese cut into 1/2 inch cubes (You may not need the whole pound, it depends on how many people in the house will walk by as you are cooking and grab cubes of cheese to eat.)


Use a 3 quart saucepan for frying rice balls.  Add about 2 cups of oil. Let the oil begin to heat as you prepare the rice balls.  (The level of the oil will rice as it heats and as you add the rice balls.)
Have bowls with the beaten eggs and the bread crumbs, as well as a bowl with some water.

Wet hands in the water - this is so that the rice does not stick to your hands.  Scoop up about 1/4 cup of rice (I use my ice cream scoop). Form rice into a ball - you will want to squeeze it a little to pack it together so it holds. 


 Make an indentation in the ball with your thumb and add a cube of mozzarella and a spoonful of the meat sauce.  Add a little more rice to cover and re-form the ball.  


  




Dip in beaten egg then in bread crumbs.  (you may want to use a pastry brush to help cover the rice ball with egg).  











Be sure oil is hot; fry 3 - 4 rice balls at a time until nicely browned.  It doesn't take long for them to cook.  Remember everything in them is already cooked, you are basically browning the outside and just heating the inside through.  
 
The rice balls do not need to be completely immersed in the oil, but they should be more than halfway covered.  You can turn them so that they are brown all the way around.  They do not absorb that much oil as they do cook very quickly. The rice balls will be about baseball sized. This recipe makes about 2 dozen rice balls. 





Sprinkle rice balls with grated cheese and serve with sauce.  Spaghetti squash goes nicely with these.  



Sunday, April 14, 2013

Breakfast Cookies


Yummy Breakfast Cookies
One of my granddaughters is not a morning person.  She needs to be awake for a while before she is ready to have something to eat.  On those mornings when she goes to preschool she needs to have something she can eat on the run.  I came across this recipe and tried these out--really tasty!  I think the adults liked them better than the children however!   The request for the second batch came from my son.

The recipe below is as I found it online.  I will put my comments regarding changes or tips in parentheses.  (These breakfast cookies are about 300 calories each.)

Ingredients
  • 1 1/4 cups sugar (I used a little bit less.)
  • 1/2 cup butter or margarine, softened (I used butter.)
  • 1/2 cup peanut butter (I used natural peanut butter -- all peanuts, no sugar added)
  • 1/4 cup water
  • tablespoon vanilla
  • egg
  • 1 1/2 cups all-purpose or whole wheat flour (I used unbleached flour)
  • cup old-fashioned or quick-cooking oats (I used old-fashioned oats)
  • cup raisins (I used a mix of golden raisins and craisins, soaking them first in hot water)
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • cups Cheerios® cereal
Directions
  1. Heat oven to 375°F.
  2. In large bowl, stir together sugar, butter, peanut butter, water, vanilla and egg. Stir in remaining ingredients except cereal. Gently stir in cereal. On ungreased large cookie sheet, drop dough by rounded 1/2 cupfuls (rounded 1/3 cupfuls for 15 cookies) 4 inches apart. Flatten dough to about 1 inch thick. (Bake these crispy cookies as soon as the dough is mixed. Letting the dough stand awhile or refrigerating the dough will make the cookies softer.)  [I use my ice cream scoop to make the cookies.  It's about a 1/4 cup size.  The cookies are very large. ]
  3. Bake 13 to 15 minutes or until golden brown. Let stand 5 minutes before removing from cookie sheet. Store loosely covered.  [Leave the cookies on the cookie sheet until almost cool.  They break easily when still warm. I may try adding an extra egg next time I make them.  It may help to hold them together a little better.]

Monday, April 1, 2013

Passover Apple Cake

I made an apple cake for the Passover Seder.  This was a new recipe I found on Martha Stewart's website, but the recipe was from the book, Jewish Home Cooking by Arthur Schwartz.  I adjusted the spices in the cake to my taste.  Based on how it turned out, I would make some other changes. It's not that it did not taste good, as it was delicious and everyone loved it.  I would just adjust the pan size and amount of batter.  I will put the recipe here as it is from the book, then I will add my changes and suggestions at the bottom.

Passover Apple Cake                              

 Ingredients

  • Nonstick cooking spray
  • 1/2 cup coarsely chopped walnuts or pecans
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 teaspoon freshly ground nutmeg
  • 3/4 teaspoon mace
  • 3/4 teaspoon ground ginger
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup vegetable oil, plus more for baking dish
  • 3/4 cup matzo cake meal
  • 5 medium apples, such as Golden Delicious or Crispin, peeled, cored, halved, and cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 5 cups)
  • 1/3 cup raisins (optional)
    Directions
    Step 1:  Preheat oven to 350 degrees with a rack set in the center. Lightly spray an 8-inch-square glass baking dish with cooking spray; set aside. 
     
    Step 2:Mix together walnuts, 3/4 cup sugar, cinnamon, nutmeg, mace, and ginger in a medium bowl; set aside. 
     
    Step 3: In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with the whisk, beat eggs on medium speed until well combined. Beat in remaining 3/4 cup sugar, 2 tablespoons at a time, until mixture is thick and foamy. With the mixer running, slowly pour in oil. Scrape down the sides of the bowl as necessary. Stir in matzo cake meal.
     
    Step 4:  Pour half of the batter into prepared cake pan. Sprinkle over half of the walnut mixture, half of the apples, and raisins. Pour over remaining batter and top with remaining apples; sprinkle over remaining walnut mixture. 
     
    Step 5: Transfer cake to oven and bake until the sides of the cake pull away from the baking dish very slightly and topping begins to caramelize, about 1 hour and 15 minutes. Remove cake from oven and let stand for several hours until completely cool, before cutting. Keep cake covered tightly with plastic wrap for up to 2 days, as the flavor improves with age.  
     
    My Suggestions: I adjusted the spices for this cake.  I used the cinnamon as listed, but instead of nutmeg, mace, and ginger, I used about 3/4 teaspoon of Allspice.  

    I would have liked there to be a little more of the cake part in this recipe.  There were more than enough apples.  Next time I make this, I will keep the quantity of the apples the same, but I will double the ingredients for the cake batter.  Although I do not think I would double the allspice.  The apples I used, were (I believe) Pink Lady.  I think any sweet, crisp apple would be good.  After peeling the apples, I sliced with one of those 8 section slicers, then I cut each of those slices in half.  (I see that there are 16 section apple slicers available.  I need to get one!)  I would bake the cake in a larger pan.  I have a rectangular pan that is about 71/2 by 10 inches.  I laid the apples out in neat rows.  I used walnuts in my cake. I did not use raisins.  The cake took a little longer to cook than is stated in the recipe.  I think I baked it 1 hour and 30 minutes.  The sugar with the nuts is very sticky after baking and did stick to the pan a bit even though I sprayed it beforehand.  Definitely use a smooth glass baking dish and spray very well!  If you cannot find matzo cake meal, I've been told you can make your own by grinding plain matzo in a food processor until it is a powdery consistency.

    This week I want to talk a bit about my craft room.  I'm still in the process of setting up my new space, which is also our guest room when needed.  I will share some photos.