Archive for the ‘dessert’ Category

Banana Cake with Chocolate Glaze

June 6, 2014


My mother called to tell me she made an amazing banana cake–the best ever!–she wanted to thank me for helping her convert the recipe from a margarine/butter-based recipe to an oil-based recipe. Instead of replacing the butter with oil in a one to one ratio, I told her to add slightly less oil than butter and make up the difference in volume with a little water.

Why? Because most butter is only about 81 percent butterfat (somewhere between 80 and 86 percent). The rest is water and milkfat solids. So 3/4 cup margarine is approximately equal to 10 Tbl. oil and 2 Tbl. water.

She also made a few of her own tweaks to the recipe–a little less sugar, a pinch more flour–and the result was a moist, but not greasy or heavy cake. My mom was thrilled: “Usually my banana cakes fall in the center or are heavy, but this cake was perfect!”

I was inspired to make the cake, too. My blender was on the counter, so I used that to mix up the batter. I decided to gild the lily by making a chocolate glaze with melted chocolate chips and coconut oil. The glaze tastes a bit like Magic Shell or the coating on ice cream bars. The flavor combination of cake and glaze is reminiscent of chocolate covered frozen bananas.


Cookbook Review: Dairy Made Easy & “180 Cal (or Less!) Cheesecake” Ramekins

May 26, 2014


Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a copy of this book to review. Opinions are my own.

Leah Schapira and Victoria Dwek have released another book in their “made easy” series in time for Shavuoth. Like the earlier books in this series, Dairy Made Easy is a slim book, very attractively designed. The target audience for this book seems to be cooks who already have plenty of comprehensive, basic cookbooks and are looking to freshen up their dairy menus with recipes that are creative but not too much of a patchke.

The recipes in Dairy Made Easy are clearly explained and reasonably do-able for most cooks.  While most of them look fairly easy to make, not all of them are dead simple. Recipes that sound delicious but a little involved: Arancini (deep-fried cheese-stuffed rice balls), chocolate croissants, and cheese buns/babka.

This being a dairy cookbook, the recipes feature lots of butter, cream and cheese. Most don’t have over-the-top amounts, but some do. The Three Cheese Quiche has a pint of sour cream and almost two sticks of butter in the crust and over 2 1/2 lbs. of cheese in the filling. The Cajun Creamy Pasta, the Penne a la Vodka, the Pesto Cream Sauce and the Alfredo sauce all use about a pint of heavy cream.

The authors do include a “Make it Light” page that lists the lighter recipes in the book and provides tips for lightening up some of the richer recipes. A sidebar explains how to use Greek yogurt as a substitute for higher fat ingredients like cream cheese or sour cream. (Throughout the book, the authors suggest using a particular brand of Greek yogurt and another brand of hard cheese.) There is also a “Make it Pareve” page.

Another thing to bear in mind: the book emphasizes pasta and bread, not whole grains and legumes. The main dishes in this book are primarily divided between the chapters “Pizza,” “Pasta,” and “Soups, Salads & Sandwiches.”  There are ten pasta dishes, five pizza/calzone recipes and four sandwich recipes. Besides these bread or pasta main dishes, there is one fish recipe, one quiche recipe and one frittata recipe.

All that being said, the bottom line with any cookbook is whether or not the recipes are appealing and actually work. On this count, the authors definitely deliver. I have liked everything that I have made from this book and there are a number of other recipes I want to try. Here is what I have already made from this book:


Cheese Blintzes

May 19, 2014


Blintzes are not really all that hard to make. A blintz is just a thin pancake (crepe or bletlach) wrapped around a filling and then sauteed in butter until golden brown on the outside.

There are two aspects that intimidate people: (1) making the crepe and (2) wrapping the crepe around the filling.

Mostly, making crepes is a matter of practice and adjusting your standards. You are rolling the crepes up, so they do not need to look perfect. A tear here or there can usually be worked around. As you make the crepes, you will improve your technique, figuring out how much batter you need for your pan and the best way to swirl the batter around to evenly coat the pan. You will fall into a rhythm, with each succeeding crepe looking nicer and being easier to make.

Rolling up blintzes is the same as rolling burritos. You put a line of filling on the bottom of the crepe, fold over the bottom of the  crepe to cover the filling, fold in the sides, and then roll it up.



Raisin Bran Muffin Top Cookies

April 23, 2014


I needed to use up some silan (date syrup), dates, raisins, bran and whole wheat flour before Passover. The obvious choice was bran muffins.

My original idea was to replace the brown sugar in my favorite bran muffin with the silan. Googling for a rule of thumb on converting from brown sugar to silan, I came across a recipe on for chocolate chip bran cookies. I came up with my own recipe for raisin bran muffin top cookies by combining the muffin recipe with the cookie recipe and then kind of winging it based on whatever I needed to use up in my pantry.

I was a little worried how my experiment would come out, but the cookies tasted deliciously like raisin bran cereal and had the texture and appearance of bran muffin tops.

A bonus: these cookies are high in fiber and have no refined sugar. In addition to having been a great way to use up pantry items before Pesach, these are also a great way to cleanse the body after Pesach.



Lemon Parfaits

April 18, 2014


My family loves meringue cookies, but making meringues leaves me with lots of leftover egg yolks.  What to do with the leftover yolks? Lemon curd!

It so happens that lemon curd is delicious spread on meringue cookies, but it is also very useful in other refreshing lemon desserts. One of my favorite lemon desserts is lemon angel pie, and the lemon mousse from that recipe is also very nice layered as a parfait.

Here is how I made my lemon parfaits for Passover. I bought small dessert cups known as “tasting cups” and filled them with layers of the lemon mousse, plain whipped topping, small dabs of lemon curd and Passover lady fingers.

You don’t have to use lady fingers for this recipe; cubed sponge cake will work just as well. In fact, if you have leftover bits of stale sponge cake, making parfaits is a great way to use them up. If you don’t want to make lemon curd, you can make raspberry mousse by mixing raspberry jam (to taste) with whipped topping. Or you can make chocolate mousse by whipping cocoa powder and sugar into whipped topping. You could layer leftover bits of brownies with cocoa mousse, whipped topping and chocolate syrup.


Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

April 11, 2014


Chocolate cupcakes made with quinoa? Yes. They are really good: moist, fluffy and intensely chocolate.

This is an adaption of a recipe from a 2009 cookbook called Quinoa 365, by Patrica Green and Carolyn Hemming. It also appears on the authors’ website, Patricia & Carolyn. This recipe has been making the rounds on the internet, appearing on quite a number of food blogs, all with rave reviews.

Cake on the Brain had the idea of making the batter into cupcakes to make the cake more sturdy and less squidgy. I thought this was an excellent idea and copied it. I don’t have the jumbo muffin pan that Cake on the Brain apparently possesses, so instead of getting 12 large cupcakes, I got 15 normal cupcakes.

I made very few changes to the original recipe. To make the recipe pareve, I replaced the butter with oil and the milk with coffee.

The recipe calls for either 2 cups of cooked quinoa or 2/3 cup dry quinoa cooked with 1 1/3 cups water. If you are making quinoa pilaf or salad, just make extra quinoa. I made a whole 12 ounce bag of quinoa (2 cups dried), which, when cooked, was enough for a quinoa salad plus this recipe.

Bonus: Patricia & Carolyn also have a recipe for Quinoa Lasagna that looks fantastic and would be great for Pesach.


Coconut Macaroon Tuiles

April 10, 2014


Imagine a cookie with the flavor of a coconut macaroon, with a undertone of salted caramel. Sort of like the flavor of Girl Scout Samoa/Caramel deLite cookies. Now imagine that this cookie has the crisp texture of a potato chip. That is what these tuiles taste like.

The original recipe comes from a Seattle-based pastry chef, Laurie Pfalzer. When she baked for the bistro at the Salish Lodge and Spa, she used the tuiles as a garnish for creme brulee and layered them with strawberries and whipped mascarpone.

I haven’t decided what to do with these cookies yet. Layer them with lemon curd/whipped cream/strawberries? Drizzle them with chocolate or sandwich them with chocolate (like Brussels cookies or lace cookies)?

The batter is extremely easy to mix up. The tricky part is shaping. The sticky batter must be patted out into thin rounds. This is fiddly work.

The original recipe called for baking the tuiles at 350 for 8-10 minutes, but my tuiles did not bake evenly that way. I had better luck baking them at 250 for a half hour.


Prune Danish Braid (use up your leftover lekvar)

March 26, 2014


I had leftover lekvar and I mulled over all these creative options for using it up in a dessert. When I presented these options to my husband, along with the option of a simple prune danish, my husband voted for the danish.

The filling for this danish can be straight-up lekvar spooned out from the jar, but I decided to make it a little more interesting. Walnuts, mini mocha chips and an orange-vanilla glaze add extra texture and flavor.

As far as the dough is concerned, I use a few tricks to make and bake the dough extra quickly: (1) putting the dough in a warm oven to push it to rise faster; (2) folding the dough at intervals to strengthen it instead of kneading; and (3) putting the shaped dough in the oven after a very short (15 minute) rising period. With these tricks, the recipe will take about 1 3/4 hours from assembling your ingredients to pulling the danish out of the oven. If you take things a little slower or allow for a slightly longer rising time, it will take closer to 2 hours from assembling your ingredients to pulling the finished danish from the oven.

If you double the dough, you can make two small challahs plus the danish.



Molten Chocolate Chip Hamantaschen

March 16, 2014


Ok, I guess this is a bit late in the day to post. But, better late than never!

Chocolate chip cookie dough filled with ganache, served warm so that the chocolate filling is all melted and runny. The hamantaschen will spread if they are not contained, so it is best to enclose the shaped cookies with foil to keep them from spreading.


Fruit Tart Hamantaschen

March 10, 2014


For this, take hamantaschen puff pastry shells, fill them with a spoonful of jam and then top with fresh fruit. Alternatively, you could fill them with vanilla pastry cream (or, more prosaically, vanilla pudding) and then top with fruit. Or you could put in a bit of jam, then vanilla pudding and then the fruit. Or you could fill them with lemon curd and then top with fruit. Or you could pipe in chocolate mousse . . . Well, you get the idea.

As in the above picture, you can dust the top of the tarts with powdered sugar. To make the fruit shiny, brush it with jam (raspberry for berries and apricot for other fruits). An easy trick for glazing the fruit is to put it in a bowl and toss it in a bit of corn syrup. This gives it a clear glaze and also makes the fruit a bit sticky, which helps bind the fruit pieces together.

Update: If you want to fill these with pareve (dairy-free) vanilla pudding, combine a box of Osem pudding mix with 3/4 cup of coconut milk.  Fill each hamantaschen with a small spoonful of pudding mix and top with half a strawberry.

Other Hamantaschen:

Peanut Butter Filled Chocolate Hamantaschen
Midnight Mint Hamantaschen
Basic Hamantaschen Recipe, plus tips
Darth Vader Hamantaschen
Angelina Ballerina Hamantaschen
Hamantaschen Apple Galette
Lemon Curd Hamantaschen
Hamantaschen Puff Pastry Shells
Hamantaschen French Toast Casserole


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