Something Sweet: Cookbook Review

September 5, 2015

something sweet cover reduced

Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a review copy of Something Sweet. Opinions expressed are my own.

Four years ago, Miriam Pascal started her kosher blog Overtime Cook as a creative outlet. What started out as a lark ended up changing Pacal’s life, leading her to a burgeoning career as food writer and photographer. Something Sweet is her first cookbook.

Flipping through this beautiful cookbook, it is easy to see how Pascal has won the loyalty of her many readers, both at Overtime Cook and through her column for Whisk (Ami Magazine). She understands that home bakers want recipes that are simple to prepare, but with a bit of “wow” factor.

Almost all the recipes in the book look easy to make. Some are classic recipes–like chocolate chip cookies–that Pascal has adapted to work with oil instead of margarine or butter. Many others put a modern spin on old favorites, such as the Blueberry Muffin Cookies or the Pumpkin Crumb Cake. Quite a few have a playfulness that should particularly appeal to kids, like the Fruity Pebbles Cookies, the Confetti Cheesecake Cupcakes, the Chocolate Peanut Butter Milkshake or the Cookies ‘n Cream Stuffed Waffles.

This mix of basic and more creative recipes makes the cookbook useful for novices and seasoned bakers alike. Even if you have many dessert cookbooks, Something Sweet will give you something new to make. On the other hand, if you are just starting out in the kitchen, you will appreciate that Pascal has included all the dessert staples: chocolate chip cookies, brownies, three recipes for chocolate cake (one for cupcakes, one for layer cake and one for bundt cake), an all-purpose vanilla cake, a few different flavors of mousse, two sorbets, chocolate truffles and barks, pie dough, tart dough, roll-out vanilla sugar cookies, cookie icing, several recipes for cake frosting and glazes and even three sauces for plating desserts.

With this cookbook in hand, you should be prepared to face almost any dessert challenge, whether it is a simple cake for Shabbos, a plated dessert for sheva brachos or even a dessert table for a simcha. The book helpfully lists which recipes are appropriate for various occasions and gives detailed advice about freezing desserts, plating individual servings and setting up a dessert table.

Pascal includes a few whole-grain/low-sugar desserts, and she replaces margarine wherever possible with oil, but this not the sort of whole-foods cookbook that replaces dairy ingredients with cashew cream, silken tofu or coconut milk. There are quite a few recipes that require (to be pareve) margarine, pareve whip, soy sour cream or soy cream cheese.

In general, Pascal is not afraid to use convenience foods to make recipes easier. For example, the lemon and strawberry mousses get their fruity flavor from store-bought pie filling that is folded into a mix of whipped cream and cream cheese. There is also a Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie that is basically pareve ice cream mixed with pumpkin puree and some flavorings, spread in a store-bought graham cracker crust.

The Pumpkin Ice Cream Pie is only one of several recipes in the book that are perfect for this time of year. Here are others: Healthy Apple Spice Muffins, Chocolate Chunk Honey Cookies, Honey Sour Cream Bundt Cake, Pomegranate Cupcakes, Pumpkin Crumb Cake, Apple Pie Thumbprint Cookies, Gingerbread Biscotti, Caramel Apple Bundt Cake and Braided Apple Pie.

I made the Pumpkin Crumb Cake and can highly recommend it. The subtle flavor of pumpkin melds perfectly with the cinnamon-ey, crumb-topped, velvet-textured goodness of classic crumb cake. And both the cake and crumb topping are made with oil instead of margarine. I wanted to make individual portions, so I divided the batter between 13 tulip muffin cups.  These muffin cups are extra deep, so there is more room for batter and crumb topping. Even so, I was afraid that the very generous amount of crumb topping would spill over as the batter rose in the oven, so I only used half of the crumb mixture. It turns out, I could have used more, but the mini crumb cakes were still delicious with the lesser amount of crumbs. Read the rest of this entry »

Frozen Chocolate Mousse

July 20, 2015

smallaquafabachocicecreamtext

Many years ago, I had a recipe for pareve ice cream that was perfect, except for one thing: it called for raw eggs. I revised the recipe a while back by heating the eggs with sugar until they reached a safe temperature. But, that was kind of a pain to do.

Now, I have veganized that recipe, replacing the eggs with something that has recently been dubbed aquafaba, a neologism for the liquid left over from cooking beans. It seems that this liquid can be whipped into something very much like meringue. It can be turned into meringue cookies, topping for lemon meringue pie, marshmallows, marshmallow fluff, Italian meringue buttercream and more . . .

In the last several months, there has been a flurry of experimentation with this in the vegan community. It seems to have started with Jöel Roessel, who discovered that the liquid from cooked chickpeas could be whipped into meringue and then posted about it on his blog, Revolution Vegetale. It really took off, though, when Goose Wohlt shared his experimentation with this technique via Facebook (full story here and here and here). There is much more information on this Facebook page.

Theoretically, all you need to do for aquafaba mousse is whip the liquid from a can of chickpeas until it forms a dense white foam and then fold into the foam some melted chocolate (3.5 ounces). I think that the mousse has better texture when sugar is whipped into the aquafaba foam. The added sugar makes for a dense, stable meringue instead of a delicate foam. To balance the added sugar, I add in some cocoa powder and oil.

I have tried this mousse various ways. I am giving you two versions I especially liked. The first version has more sugar/cocoa/oil. The meringue is especially stable, but the resulting mousse is very light and delicate instead of dense and firm. If you like a denser, firmer mousse, try the second version, which adds in more chocolate and reduces the cocoa/sugar/oil.

Read the rest of this entry »

Raw Brownie Truffles

July 16, 2015

smallrawtruffletext
These remind me of rum balls–intense chocolate-ey nuggets with a slight chewiness to them.  Actually, they are really more or less a chocolate-covered bite-sized Lara Bar, but with a lighter, brownie-esque texture. I keep these in the fridge or the freezer. Excellent as a quick pick-me-up snack, but pretty enough to serve at a party as a fancy candy.

I don’t remember exactly where I got the basic proportions for this recipe (I made this before Pesach and wrote everything down on a scrap of paper), but I remember looking at a recipe for raw date brownies by Chana Schottenstein on Joy of Kosher, (which is very similar to this recipe on Minimalist Baker) and that might have been my starting point.

I ended up making this three times, finally changing the nut I used, in order to get the right texture.

My first two batches of this were made with pecans. Only pecans. The first time I made it, I had the problem of the mixture becoming oiley when I tried to shape it into balls. At first, I thought this was a problem of how I mixed everything together:  perhaps the nuts were getting overheated and releasing oil as they were processed with everything else in the food processor? The second time, the mixture was okay as long as I handled it very gently.

Then I realized that the problem might be the pecans, so I researched the oil content of different nuts. Turns out that pecans are especially high in oil content, and almonds are much lower. Almonds are about 55 percent oil and pecans are 70 percent oil. A third batch of raw brownie made with almonds instead of pecans was lighter in texture and taste, more like a brownie than chewy fudge.

Read the rest of this entry »

African Vegetable Stew

July 14, 2015

smallafricanstewtext

Originally called “Soul Soothing African Peanut Stew,” this recipe is really more about the vegetables than the peanuts. The flavor of peanuts is actually pretty subtle. There is so much else going on: chickpeas, spinach, tomatoes, sweet potatoes, onions, garlic and lots of spice.

I know . . . the right name is African Peanut Stew . . . and the concept is based on a real West African dish (Maafe or Domodah).

This comes from a cookbook that my sister-in-law has been steadily working her way through: The Oh She Glows Cookbook by blogger Angela Liddon. Everything my sister-in-law has made from this book has been fantastic, and she has made a lot of the recipes from the book. My sister-in-law makes this stew for company and it has become her most requested recipe.

Given the above, you would think I would just faithfully follow the recipe instead of changing it around. But, I changed it just a little bit. Just a little.

I added eggplant, increased the amount of spinach and reduced the amount of broth. Plus, I replaced the jalapeno pepper with a poblano pepper.

You can use my changes, or follow the recipe as originally written, but do try it. The combination of peanut butter and vegetables sounds improbable, but the end result is fantastic.

 

Read the rest of this entry »

Frozen Strawberry Mousse

June 10, 2015

smallstrawberrymoussetext

This tastes just like regular strawberry mousse, but it is not made with the usual egg whites or whipped cream (or Rich’s Whip). If you haven’t already heard about aquafaba, you won’t believe what aerates the mousse. Here are the three ingredients in this mousse: strawberries, sugar and–this is the part that makes the mousse fluffy–the water from a can of chickpeas.

Yes, really.

If you take the liquid that beans were cooked in and whip it, it turns into meringue. If you want the story behind all this, take a look at this interview with Goose Wholt. There is a Facebook page dedicated to this topic: Vegan Meringue–Hits and Misses.

If you want to see a video of how to make this, look at this youtube video by Tivonika:

I ended up using different proportions of strawberry, sugar and chickpea liquid, but the basic methodology is the same.

Bonus: If you want to know how to make the crunchy bits sprinkled on top of the strawberry mousse, take a look at this Passover recipe by Estee Kafra.

Read the rest of this entry »

Chocolate Caramel Cheesecake

June 9, 2015

smallchoccaramelcheesecaketext

Okay, so I should have posted this before Shavuos, but I just didn’t get to it. Bookmark this for next Shavuoth: super creamy cheesecake topped with soft caramel sauce and shards of milk chocolate. Kind of like a rolo crossed with cheesecake.

The basis for this was my Turtle Cheesecake, which is the same, but also has chopped pecans mixed into the caramel sauce and has a chocolate glaze instead of chopped chocolate. The chopped chocolate is easier to prepare than the chocolate glaze and is much, much easier to cut through when serving the cheesecake. I explain how to make home-made caramel sauce, but you could just buy caramel sauce or dulce de leche for the topping.

Read the rest of this entry »

S’mores Chocolate Cake

June 8, 2015

mediumsmorestext

Chocolate cake, glazed with chocolate, topped with a mixture of marshmallows, graham cracker bits, cake cubes and a drizzle of more chocolate glaze. Easy to make and keeps well.

Read the rest of this entry »

The Silver Platter

May 19, 2015

thesilverplatter
Disclosure: Artscroll provided me with a review copy of The Silver Platter. Opinions expressed are my own.

The Silver Platter is what you would expect from an Artscroll cookbook: beautiful photos of food, attractive layout and stylish recipes. The book also represents the launch of a new kosher food personality, Daniella Silver, under the mentorship of the beloved cookbook author (and fellow Canadian) Norene Gilletz.

If the book has a distinct “culinary point of view,” it is best summed up as follows: easy, uncomplicated recipes that are simply seasoned, gluten-free (or adaptable to gluten-free) and feature lots of fresh vegetables/grains/legumes. While the cookbook looks like it belongs on a coffee-table, it will get a work-out in the kitchen.

Within two days of getting the book, I made four recipes from it. On Thursday, I made the Cheesy Smashed Roasted Potatoes (big hit–see below for recipe), and on Friday, I made the Lemon-Infused Lentil Rice, the Roasted Baby Potato & Tomato Medley and the Shaved Corn & Asparagus Salad (substituting string beans for the asparagus–also see below for recipe). Everything was easy to make and was a success.

The cookbook has a certain level of health-consciousness, prominently featuring trendy grains and vegetables like quinoa and kale. As a nice bonus, the back of the book lists nutritional data for every recipe. But, the cookbook seems to be more about “family friendly” than “super healthy.” While sweeteners aren’t tossed into every recipe, sugar, honey, maple syrup, ketchup and jam are fairly frequent additions to marinades/sauces for fish/chicken/beef and to salad dressings.

The dessert section features mostly simple, home-ey recipes, like cookies, brownies and bundt cakes, which all use oil instead of margarine or butter. Additionally, every dessert recipe is either flourless or can be made with gluten-free flour mix. Not all the dessert recipes will work for Passover, but quite a few will, such as the Rocky Road Brownie Cake and the Almond-Crusted chocolate Tart.

Here is one thing that I wished this cookbook had: suggested menus. I would have loved to have seen how Daniella Silver puts these recipes together into full meals for different occasions.

Speaking of menus, if you are still looking for dairy recipes for Shavuos, here is a list of dairy recipes in the book: Dairy Blueberry Soup, Double Cheese Cauliflower Gratin, Crustless Spinach & Feta Cheese Tart, Caprese Penne Salad, Roasted Balsamic Tomatoes & Feta Cheese, Fresh Berry Toast, Lemon Garlic Spaghetti, Cauliflower Crusted Pizza, Grandma Marion’s Cheese Muffins, Carrot Cake and Heavenly Halvah Cheesecake.

cheesysmashedpotatoesartscroll

Reproduced from The Silver Platter, by Daniella Silver with Norene Gilletz, with permission from the copyright holders, ArtScroll/Mesorah Publications. http://artscroll.com/silver


Read the rest of this entry »

PI DAY 3.14.15

March 14, 2015

smallbananapitext

Happy Pi day!

Some pie recipes:

Banoffee Pie (another version is pictured above)

Tarheel Pie (brownie pie)

Lemon Angel Pie (kosher for Passover!)

Chocolate Chess Pie (another brownie pie, with easy pareve ice cream)

Pecan Filo Tartettes

Apple Galette

Blueberry Toaster Tarts

Chocolate Pretzel Tart

Blueberry Torte

Apple Breton

Chocolate Caramel Tart

Purim Bananagrams

March 3, 2015

purimbananagramtext

I decided to turn my recent obsession with banana cake into a mishloach manot theme. I was playing Bananagrams with my kids when the idea hit me: Purim Bananagrams!

Components of Bananagrams mishloach manot: alphabet cookie squares (these cookies look like Bananagrams tiles), banana cake, a banana, a banana-strawberry juice box, and candy made from Rice Crispies, chocolate and banana chips. The note with the mishloach manot has a drawing of Bananagrams tiles spelling out a Purim message. I have recreated that message in tiles in the picture above. I have also used Hebrew tiles to spell out Purim words and a message.

One more thing: I made a cake for the seuda (a chocolate cake with chocolate glaze) and I used the alphabet cookie squares to write Happy Purim on it. (I have to say, alphabet cookie squares are a really handy way of writing a message on a cake. This is a good thing to keep in mind next time you have to write happy birthday on a cake and don’t feel like using a piping bag.)