Friday, September 26, 2008


i had an aunt who was always in a rush, busy doing "things". who had time to waste, she would ask rhetorically when questioned why she was incessantly racing around. the joke was she was a disaster in the kitchen: she figured the higher the heat, the faster whatever she was making would cook. her quest to be uber-efficient led to many a burnt dish. of course, it wasn't her fault because "something must be wrong with the recipe" she'd utter (LOL). in her defense, however, there were a few things she made very well and what i am posting here was one of them.

this is a version of an apple cake she made during the holiday period which is now quickly coming upon us. everyone always loved it, especially while it was slightly warm. this rosh hashanah (or any day) cake is really ridiculously simple to make and requires one bowl and a pyrex (8 x 8 in) baking dish.

the texture of the cake batter — once baked — is airy soft. underneath it, and baked into the cake, is a layer of apples perfumed by cinnamon and flavoured with dollops of tart apricot jam and a spattering of brown sugar. as it bakes, you'll want to grab it from the oven and eat it right away .... guaranteed or your money back! :)

not much more to say than simple, quick and delicious for this one. the recipe can be doubled also and baked in a larger pan.

oops, forgot to add — for a sephardi version of this cake, you can do as we did and use fresh figs, stems trimmed and cut in half, instead of the apples. you will probably need between 12 to 15 figs, depending on the size of them. add 1 tbsp orange flower water instead of the vanilla.

gâteau express aux pommes

makes approx 9 servings


1/2 c oil
1 egg
1 c sugar
juice of a large orange
1/8 tsp salt
1 tsp baking powder
1 c flour
1/2 tsp vanilla extract or seeds of 1/2 vanilla pod

5 large apples, appropriate kind for baking*
1 tsp cinnamon
2 1/2 tbsp brown sugar
2 tbsp apricot jam, slightly heaped**

*replace the apples with fresh figs, cut in half; enough to cover the bottom of the pyrex;
**you can use a sour cherry jam or a plum one.


preheat your oven to 350F and grease your pyrex and set it aside.

place all the batter ingredients in a medium sized bowl.

stir or whisk the batter for about 45 seconds until it is blended.

make sure there are no lumps and set it aside to continue the recipe. it should be pourable.

take the apples and peel them. core and slice each apple thinly and place them in the pyrex.

dust about 1 tsp of cinnamon over the apples evenly.

place the brown sugar over the apples, distributing as you go, and then place dollops of the jam over the brown sugar.

stir the batter once more and pour it over the apples. make sure to get all the batter out of the bowl! you will see pieces of apple peaking through - that is how it is supposed to look.

bake the cake for 50 to 60 minutes until it is fully golden brown. as it bakes you should see little areas where the juices from the apples, the brown sugar and jam are bubbling through.

it can be served warm or at room temperature.


Thursday, September 25, 2008

the lighter & heavier side of the honey cake

in most jewish homes, especially ashkenazi, come rosh hashanah, tradition is to serve slices of honey cake to welcome the new year. this means there are a million and one recipes for this particular cake, with every family usually having that one special recipe that is baked year after year, a recipe which has been passed down over the generations. often however, people also try out a new recipe every year — in addition to what they traditionally make.

honey cake can be one of those things that people either love or hate, usually for one or two reasons. it's no secret that some can be as heavy as lead and dried out, usually the sign of a bad recipe or something having gone wrong along the way. i mean, really, who would want to eat that every year?!

honey cakes are traditionally a denser type of cake; in other words, they typically have some heft to them. this is mostly due to the ratio of ingredients and the method of baking. of course, there are different variations of the same theme which give rise to honey cakes of the lighter side. these are usually achieved by beating the eggs whites and incorporating them into the cake to make an airier texture.

another issue comes down to spices. not everyone is a spice lover, especially in cakes. children sometimes avoid eating honey cake, lamenting that "it's too spicy!". as a child, i have to admit, i didn't much like it either! invariably there is often an adult guest at rosh hashana who won't touch it either for that same reason.

so, to that end, i bring you the best of both worlds....

the first recipe in this post is for a honey cake which is amazingly good — in fact, excellent — one which involves zero spices, is incredibly light in texture and deep in flavour. the best part is that it honestly improves over the days you keep it. the top of the cake, once baked, is somewhat sticky and caramel-y tasting. the best thing though is how easily & fast it can be thrown together: it's called chiffon style for good reason. no beating of the egg whites with the benefit of a really light texture. the only caveat to the recipe is that you need a large loaf pan,
9 x 5 x 3 inches (don't use the smaller one or you'll have the cake overflow in the oven). since it needs to slowly bake and rise, the cake pan is not greased. you will therefore need to cut out a rectangle of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. not following this step will result in you never being able to get the cake out of the pan. after all this said, it's really worth a try! believe it or not, without a single spice in it, it still tastes like a honey cake ;)

the second version — the antithesis of the first — is for that heftier type of cake. this one is equally as good but has spices and requires the egg whites to be beaten and incorporated. the pan, in this case, is greased. you can use a tube pan or a large bundt type one. the recipe makes a very large cake (for a crowd!) but it freezes well for the month of the upcoming holidays.

for several more honey cakes i've posted, look here. check this, too.

have a sweet new year!

chiffon style honey cake

makes 1 loaf (10 - 12 slices) - double the ingredients for a large cake but use a tube pan with removable insert or angelfood cake pan.

use: 23 x 13 x 8 cm [1.9 liters] - 9 x 5 x 3 inches loaf pan UNGREASED.


2 eggs
1/2 c brown sugar (packed) or reg white sugar
1/2 c oil
3/4 c honey
1/2 c strong coffee (or tea)

1 1/2 c flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/8 tsp salt


if using a loaf pan (you need the standard large one), cut a piece of parchment paper to fit the bottom of the pan. DO NOT grease the pan -- very important.

if you're doubling the recipe, use an angelfood cake pan with a removable insert, you don't need the parchment paper AND don't grease the pan either).
do NOT use a bundt pan as it will not release from it.

preheat the over to 350 F.

mix dry ingredients together in a bowl and set aside.

beat eggs with sugar -- add the rest of the wet ingredients.

add the flour in 3 parts to the wet ingredients.

pour the batter into the pan and bake at 350F for 15 minutes. lower the oven to 300F and bake for about 1 more hour. test the cake with a toothpick -- it may need longer or you can raise the temp to 325F. to finish it. don't open the oven before 1 hour or it can fall.

* * * * * * *

rosh hashanah spiced honey cake

makes a LARGE cake (18 to 20 slices) - recipe can be halved


3 tbsp shortening*
2 tbsp vegetable oil
4 egg yolks, 4 egg whites
1 c brown sugar, packed
2 c honey
3 tbsp whiskey or brandy**
zest of 1 orange & its juice
3/4 c warm very strong coffee (or strong tea)
3 1/4 c flour
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp each: cloves, allspice, cinnamon & ginger***

*can use (parve) margarine also
**you can omit this and replace with more coffee or o.j.
***or you can use 1 tsp cinnamon alone


1. large bundt pan or angel food cake pan -->well greased and floured - preheat oven to 325 F.

2. mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl; do NOT include the brown sugar in it.

3. beat the egg whites until stiff.

4. blend all the wet ingredients together with the brown sugar in another bowl or mixer until well combined.

5. mix the wet mixture into the dry one until well blended.

6. carefully add the egg whites in several additions to the mixed batter to keep the volume.

7. put the cake batter in the cake pan and bake for about 1 hour or longer -- maybe ~ 1 hr 15 min. test it with a toothpick to make sure the center is cooked. don't open the oven before 50 minutes or so or it will fall.

8. remove from the oven and let cool for approximately 15 minutes. if you are using the angel food cake pan, do not turn the cake over to cool because it will fall out!

9. after initial cooling, remove and let cool completely.


Wednesday, September 24, 2008

move over, gefilte fish

maybe it's a jewish thing, but pickled salmon prepared in this manner — poached in a sweet and sour mixture with onions and pickling spices, then served cold — is extremely popular as an appetizer or alternative to the traditional gefilte fish. since not everyone is a gefilte fish lover, this is an alternative to the "same old, same old".

this version is very good since it doesn't require much work, especially if you get the fish already in fillets (i.e. skinned and boned). another very good thing about this is that it keeps well in the refrigerator and can be frozen, if prepared ahead of time. of course, if you're strict about following the customs about not cooking with lemon or vinegar on rosh hashanah, then skip this one for now.

seeing as i am running late with everything these days, pictures will follow shortly.

easy yomtov pickled salmon

enough for 10 people - recipe can be cut in half easily


4 lbs fillets of salmon, no skin or bones

1 3/4 c ketchup
3/4 c sugar
1 1/2 c lemon juice
1 1/2 c water

1 large onion
1 - 2 tbsp pickling spices*


preheat the oven to 325 F.

wash salmon pieces and dry them with paper towel. cut them into individual serving pieces and set aside.

*you can add the pickling spices to the sauce wrapped in a cloth if you don't want them all over the place (as i prefer) or add them loosely later on in the recipe.

cut the onion in rings about 1/8" thick.

place sugar, lemon juice, ketchup and water in pot and bring it to boil. if using the pickling spices in a cloth, add them now. cook until sugar is dissolved. simmer the sauce for about 2 minutes.

in a large pyrex, place half the onion rings on the bottom.

place the salmon on top in one layer only. if using the pickling spices loose, then sprinkle them over the fish now.

pour the hot mixture over the salmon evenly.

place salmon in oven and cook about 20 minutes. don't cover the pyrex.

take the salmon out and place the remaining onion over the salmon.

let the salmon cool completely and cover well with tin foil. place in the fridge to marinate for at least 48 hours.

can be made ahead and frozen.


Monday, September 22, 2008

peach butter crust tarte

okay, i'm a bit late with this post. however, seeing as peach season is just behind us, there still must be a few still readily available at reasonable prices. i'm sure it can be made with drained canned peaches, too, if fresh ones aren't available or are prohibitively costly. better yet, use frozen sliced ones which are available at some supermarkets in the freezer section.

the filling for this tarte consists of nothing much more than peaches, some sugar and flour. that's it, besides a sprinkling of cinnamon and splash of amaretto or peach schnapps liqueur if you like. using the dough recipe in my previous post, the pastry can be made in the morning and refrigerated, with the rest of the recipe finished later on. the most tedious part, though very simple, is removing the skin from the peaches.

this tarte is, in my opinion, at its best once it's been refrigerated. the delay seems to improve the flavour and texture of this easy-to-make dessert.
hope you like it.....

peach butter crust tarte

serves 6 to 8


1 pastry recipe

6 to 8 good sized peaches, skinned & sliced thinly (see this post)
3 tbsp flour
8 tbsp sugar
1 - 1 1/2 tbsp amaretto or peach schnapps (optional)


crushed amaretti cookies, optional


preheat your oven to 375F.

skin and slice your peaches (approx 1/4" thick). place them in a medium sized bowl.

add the sugar and flour to the peaches. add the amaretto or peach schnapps, if using.

stir well. they will look thickly coated at first.

wait 10 minutes or until you see the juices develop.

place the peaches carefully into the chilled pastry in the tarte pan.

place the tarte on a lined baking sheet in order to avoid any possible spillage during baking.

sprinkle with cinnamon if desired and crushed amaretti (almond) cookies.

bake for about 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown.

remove from oven and let cool completely.

refrigerate and serve.


no roll pastry dough for tart(e)s

not everyone is so adept in the kitchen. a close friend of mine, for example, shouldn't be allowed into any kitchen let alone her own; she is simply a baking disaster. though she tries, pastry is not her forte. i've witnessed it and it's not pretty. while i try not to laugh, it's impossible. as she stares at me with this "what did i do wrong now" look on her face, i just roll my eyes and say, "move over, lemme do it {....again}. i then whisper in her ear, "next time buy it at the store and pretend you made it." she isn't amused and flings pastry dough at me that is stuck to her fingers like mortar.

this pastry is one even she can't screw up. let me rephrase that: yes, she can but it's much harder to do since all is done in a food processor and the dough is patted into the pastry and not rolled out. it's simple and fast and pretty much idiot proof provided you measure correctly, don't over process and FOLLOW DIRECTIONS {my friend always thinks she can do it "her way" LOL}.

one important thing about pastry dough - especially those for tart(e)s & pies. chilling your finished — rolled & fitted — pastry for a good 1/2 - 1 hr before baking usually retards the process of shrinkage once in the oven. just an extra tip....

no roll (butter) pastry dough

makes enough for 1 9-inch tart(e)

this can be made with the addition of ground almonds and almond extract or with vanilla beans and a bit of vanilla extract. adjust it according to your filling. the pastry can also be made without any flavourings at all. while it is made with butter, margarine can be used instead but it must be the kind which comes in blocks or rectangles and is solid.

1 1/4 c all purpose flour
1/4 c ground almonds or the beans on 1 vanilla pod*
1/3 c sugar
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp almond extract or vanilla extract*
1/2 c butter or margarine (cold)
1 egg yolk

*optional — you can omit these items and make a plain crust.


place the flour, ground almonds or vanilla beans if using, salt & sugar and extract in the food processor and pulse until blended. this can be done in a bowl, by hand, also if you don't have a processor.

add the butter which you have cut in small pieces. make sure it is still cold.

process by pulsing, or use a pastry cutter if doing it by hand, until it is incorporated and is sandy. don't overprocess.

add your yolk and pulse only until you get a ball of dough. do the same by hand but with a wooden spoon.

chill the dough for 15 minutes.

place the chilled dough in an ungreased tarte pan with a removable bottom.

press it in with your fingers and make sure to go up the sides of the tarte tin.

fill with the filling you like and bake at 375F. see here for an example.

Friday, September 19, 2008

sweet memories

growing up with my european parents often meant eating foods or dishes that you would never see on the tables of my canadian friends whose families were more or less north-americanized by at least 2 generations. i knew my friends thought we were weird from the faces they made when, on occasion, they would stay for supper. no, the food wasn't bad at all — it just wasn't the "meat and potatoes" they were used to. how embarrassed i was, thinking my friend was probably sorry s/he accepted the invitation and would never talk to me again ;) hamburgers and hotdogs didn't often grace our table. no, i got things like a green salad with escarole/frisée and arugula alongside this kind of sweet-sourish fresh apricot custardy tart .... and that wasn't part of dessert but rather what went with the salad for part of a summer meal. as i child, i just didn't appreciate it.

one thing my parents
, like many europeans, were big on when it came to baking was hazelnuts. with their very distinctive flavour, they showed up in many a thing from chocolate confections to cakes & breads/pastries and cookies.

hazelnuts, unless you buy them already skinned can be a real pain to prepare; i still have vivid memories of my mother roasting and then rubbing these little almost dried chickpea looking nuts with a tea towel -- sometimes pounds of them before the holidays -- to remove their dark brown papery skins. what work it was for something to be gobbled up in a fraction of the time it took to remove their outer coatings.

a while ago, i happened across a recipe for a cookie from one of my favourite {french} foodstylists-now-baker, florence edelmann, which is exactly the same as i remember eating on special occasions. they are sugary, crispy and full of hazelnut flavour. to be honest, all you need is just one or two of them to feel satisfied.

in the end, all i have to say is -- sugar fiends -- these are a definite "must try" if sweet things are up your alley & you like the taste of hazelnuts! not only are the following croquants aux noisettes terribly simple to make, they taste incredibly good, look like you spent a lot of money on them and store for a very long time without any deterioration to their texture or flavour. all this from very few ingredients!

croquants aux noisettes
sugary crispy hazelnut cookies

makes 18 cookies


1/2 c hazelnuts (whole) [70g]
6 tbsp flour [40 g]
1/2 c + 1/3 c minus 1 tbsp sugar [160 g]
1 pkg vanilla sugar - NOT vanilla extract
1 egg white


preheat the oven to 400 F (200C) and line TWO baking sheet with parchment paper. you must use two sheets or bake one batch and then the next as the cookies need space on the baking sheet. they will spread out as they bake.

divide the hazelnuts equally. grind 1/4 c with 1 tbsp of the sugar until it is fine (i.e. almost powdery). be careful not to overprocess the nuts or they will become oily.

chop, by hand, the other 1/4 c. do not chop the nuts finely - you want a coarse texture.

place the nuts and sugars in a medium sized bowl.

stir to blend and add the egg white.

mix it until it is blended.

add the flour and stir to combine until you have a type of (sand-like) dough. don't overmix.

divide it into 18 equal portions.

using a tablespoon, place the cookie dough on the baking sheet - 9 per baking sheet, WELL spread out.

bake the cookies for 8 to 10 minutes - they should be lightly golden brown.

the undersides should be golden.

very important: let them cool several minutes on the baking sheet so they do not fall apart. they will be fragile at first but firm later. move them to a cooling rack after ~ 10 min.

these cookies stay crisp and store very well — umm, if you have any left later, that is!


Tuesday, September 09, 2008



break fast ....

i've never been one of those people who wakes up hungry. even after a full night's sleep, food isn't the first thing on my mind. no, my number one priority, after battling with the "snooze button" on my alarm clock for 20 to 30 minutes every morning, has always been caffeine — and lots of it. i need to work for my appetite to be awoken in the mornings. to this day, it amazes me how people wake up ravenously hungry .... some of them ready to bite your head off until they've sated their appetites. maybe i'm strange but the sight and smell of food in the early morning even makes me feel nauseated :o

in my feeble attempts to mend my ways (ahem....i mean become more health conscious) and eat breakfast every morning, i've been on my bran muffin "kick" — a mouth full of bran cereal is enough to choke anyone to death, so one might as well get it in a more palatable form :)


ok, muffins and i have never had a great love affair ..... especially healthy ones. one day, a while back, i came across a recipe which looked decent. i was leary of the results the first time i tried this recipe; low-fat stuff usually tastes like crap. these, however, are pretty damned good for what they are in terms of ingredients. they make anywhere from 8 to 12 and freeze great in ziploc sandwich bags to grab for the those busy mornings when you're on the run. give 'em a try to see for yourself — and remember: these ones won't leave that big stain of grease on your napkin!

walnut & date bran muffins

makes 8 to 12, depending on size of muffin tins

wet ingredients:

1 c applesauce
1 egg
2/3 c {clabbered} soymilk or milk*, or buttermilk
1/3 c brown sugar, packed
1/4 c molasses or sorghum or brown rice syrup
1/4 c oil
1 tsp vanilla

*if clabbering the soymilk or milk, you will need 3 tsp of white vinegar. if using buttermilk then you don't need to do this.

dry ingredients:

1 c all purpose flour + 1 c whole wheat flour
1 c all bran (cereal)**
1 tsp baking soda (not baking powder)
3/4 tsp salt
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ginger powder

1/2 - 2/3 c chopped walnuts
1/2 - 2/3 c chopped dates (i use ~10 to 12 dates)

**you can use any bran cereal, as long as it's 100% bran


preheat oven to 375F and grease or line muffin tins.

if you are not using buttermilk, then you need to clabber your soymilk or regular milk. this means you are adding an acid to it (vinegar) which will thicken the milk and make it react with the baking soda to make the muffins rise during baking. note that when you clabber soymilk, it does not thicken as much as regular milk; it still works fine however.

place the soymilk or milk in a bowl and add 3 tsp of white vinegar. let it sit while you measure the dry & wet ingredients.

after you have measured all the ingredients, the mixture will have thickened and will appear curdled. this is what you are looking for.

mix all the dry ingredients together in a large bowl and set aside.

mix all the wet ingredients and stir to combine. add the buttermilk or the clabbered (soy) milk and stir again.

add the wet mixture to the dry and stir to combine. make sure to stir it well but do not overmix.

add the walnuts and chopped dates and let the mixture sit for a minimum of 5 minutes. this is important: you need the bran cereal to absorb some of the liquid.

after 5 minutes, measure out equally into muffin tins and bake for 30 to 35. turn down the oven to 350 during the last 10 minutes.

let cool or eat warm. these can be frozen for later use.