Category Archives: Dessert

Tradition, Tradition… or Not?


We’re just days away from two major holidays, Passover and Easter.  I grew up celebrating Passover and Mark’s family celebrates Easter and together we practice our family’s traditions and have created some new ones that are now all our own.

For us, the root of our traditions centers on our love of food.  Food brings people together, it sparks conversation, and it inspires people to learn more, share more, and love more.

This year for Passover, we’ll be doing a quiet Seder at home and we’ll be hosting a spring brunch on Sunday that will feature elements of both traditions.

As I do my menu planning, I continue to debate (with myself) what to make.  The trouble with tradition, or perhaps the reason for tradition, is that so many of the “traditional” foods are no longer part of our regular diet – dishes like low and slow cooked brisket, oversized matzo ball soup, kugels, honey cakes, are once, twice, maybe three times a year specialties.   But, that is what makes them special – heavy too – but always special.

Does a departure from the traditional Ashkenazi (Eastern European) menu in favor of a Latin/Asian/Sephardic (North African) inspired meal mean I am losing my traditions?  What would Tevye say?  Or is it a fun and inspired way to add new culinary skills to a millienia old meal?

These oil laden dishes are really most worth savoring because of the stories of the parents, grandparents and great grandparents that made the same dishes in their own kitchens once upon a time.

In the end I think I will continue to slowly and very subtly make adjustments to our menu, but one thing is for sure, we’ll eat lots and lots of matzo.

If you’re invited to a Seder or just want to have a sweet Passover friendly treat try this recipe out:

For Matzo Toffee – or Matzo Crack, depends on who you ask!
4 to 5 pieces of matzo*
1 cup firmly packed dark brown sugar
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate, or semi-sweet chocolate chips
Toppings, as desired
  • Preheat the oven to 375 degrees Fahrenheit, and line a baking sheet with aluminum foil and/or parchment paper.
  • Place the matzo in one layer on the baking sheet, breaking it when necessary to fill the pan completely. Set aside.
  • In a large sauce pan, melt the butter and brown sugar over medium heat, stirring constantly. Once the mixture reaches a boil, continue to cook for an additional three minutes, still stirring, until thickened and just starting to pull away from the sides of the pan. Remove from heat and pour over the matzo, spreading an even layer with a heat-proof spatula.  Be super careful, this is a great way to burn a finger or a hand.
  • Put the pan in the oven, then immediately turn the heat down to 350 degrees. Bake for 15 minutes, watching to make sure it doesn’t burn. If it looks like it is starting to burn, turn heat down to 325.
  • After 15 minutes, remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle the chocolate over the pan. Let sit for five minutes, then spread the now-melted chocolate evenly with a spatula.
  • You can leave it just as is, enjoying the simplicity. Or add your favorite toppings while the chocolate is still melted.   I like to add dried unsweetened fruit or blanched almonds or pistachios, steer clear of the peanuts, they are not kosher for Passover.

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Orange Biscotti


If we’re being honest, any time of the year is a good time for cookies, but the start of Fall seems like an especially good time for cookies that are meant to enjoyed with a cup of coffee, tea, or hot cocoa.

This little cookie is inspired by the season and full of flavor, so really 1 or 2 (or 3 or 4) is enough.

Gluten Free Double Chocolate Orange Biscotti
Ingredients
1 cup blanched almond flour
2 tablespoons cocoa powder
1 tablespoon GF corn starch
1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
1/8 teaspoon of Kosher salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
1 tablespoon of agave nectar
1 tablespoon of fresh orange juice
1/8 cup dark chocolate chips
1/8 cup pistachio nuts
1/4 teaspoon orange zest
Sprinkle of sugar
Set oven to 350 degrees
 
In the bowl of a food processor combine the almond flour, cocoa powder, corn starch, baking soda and salt.  The ingredients will pulse to be even finer and fully integrated.
 
 
Then add the orange juice and the agave syrup and pulse again until the ingredients start to form together into a ball. (Helpful hint: scrape with a spoon the batter away from the edges).  Add the pistachio nuts, the chocolate chips and orange zest and pulse one more time.
 
 
Pour all of the ingredients onto a cookie sheet with parchment paper.  Use your hands, or the parchment paper to guide the dough into a loaf shape, about an inch tall and 8-10″ long.  Bake in the oven for 15 minutes at 350 degrees.
 
After 15 minutes, remove the pan from the oven and allow to cool – for about 15 minutes.  Then with a sharp knife cut the loaf in a diagonal and if you’d a little extra sweetness, sprinkle with sugar.  Then separate the slices cookies by a few millimeters and rebake for another 15 minutes at 300 degrees.
 
 
Finally, you know what to do… eat and enjoy!
 
 

Gluten Free Apple Muffins


Easy holiday, or anytime recipe, no dairy, no gluten, no sugar, no mixer!

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is quickly approaching and I am excited for the many baking opportunities.  It is customary to wish people a “Sweet New Year” and even more customary to enjoy the sweetness of the season’s bounty of fruits, particularly apples, with honey.

Frankly, I could eat apples and honey any time of day or year, but I realize that to snack or travel too far with this sweet snack can become a bit of a sticky situation.  So, instead, we have muffins.

Gluten Free Apple Muffins
Ingredients
1 1/2 cups of GF all purpose flour (Namaste brand)
1/2 cup of GF Oats
1 teaspoon of baking soda
1 teaspoon of cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon of Kosher salt
 
1/2 cup canola oil
2 eggs
2 4oz. containers of unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup of agave syrup
1 large (Braeburn) apple grated
 
1/4 apple chopped and cinnamon for garnish
Set oven to 325 degrees

In a medium size bowl mix the flour, oatmeal, baking soda and cinnamon and salt.

In a separate larger bowl mix the canola oil, agave syrup, and vanilla extract.  Add to that the eggs and whisk by hand.  Then add the apple sauce and continue to mix.


Then using a box grater, grate a large apple into the wet ingredients.  I used a Braeburn apple, which has a sweet but tart flavor, but you could use whatever kind of apple you most prefer.  Fold the grated apple into the wet ingredients.

Add the dry ingredients to the wet and continue to stir, stopping when the dry ingredients are completely incorporated and before you over mix.

Scoop large spoonfuls into muffin liners and then you can add slivers of chopped apples and a sprinkle of cinnamon to the top.  The apple sliver remind me of shark fins, but taste delicious, and serves as a hint of all the amazing apple goodness inside.

Bake for 25 minutes and then enjoy.  These are delicious alone, or with a pad of butter, smear of almond butter, or maybe even a slice of sharp cheddar.

This will be the first of many sweet things as we move into fall!

 

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes – Gluten Free/Dairy Free


Sometimes you just have to do your sweet tooth a favor, and by favor, I obviously mean indulge its cravings and drown it out in chocolate.  That’s pretty much the deal with anything that is triple chocolate, like these triple chocolate cupcakes.  I made them for a family gathering, because I wanted to accommodate everyone’s dietary restrictions, even if cupcakes typically fall outside of a diet.  And, the beauty of these cupcakes is that, even though they are dairy and gluten free, they are awesome!

Triple Chocolate Cupcakes
adapted from Elana’s Pantry, which is an amazing resource for anyone exploring GF baking

Ingredients

¼ cup coconut flour
¼ cup cocoa powder
¼ cup vegan chocolate chips
¼ teaspoon kosher sea salt
½ teaspoon baking soda
3 eggs
¼ cup canola oil
½ cup agave nectar
Set oven to 375 degrees

Here’s the thing, with gluten free baking you might come across ingredients that seem a little “ehh” or just plain weird.  Frankly that is how I felt about the coconut flour, mainly because the smell and taste of coconut reminds me of a bottle of Banana Boat, but this high in fiber flour has no such smell or taste. So fear not!

Moving on… In a medium size bowl combine the coconut flour and coca powder, salt and baking soda.

In a separate and larger bowl, blend the oil, eggs and agave.  Then slowly add the dry ingredients to the wet, and add the chocolate chips.

Scoop about 1/4 cup of batter into muffin wrappers and bake in a 375 degree oven for 20 minutes.  Check with a toothpick to make sure they are done and fully baked.

While the beautiful and very chocolatey cupcakes are cooling, get to work on the frosting.

Vegan Chocolate Frosting

Ingredients

3/4 cup dairy-free spread (Earth-Balance is also soy-free)
2 2/3 cups powdered sugar
6 tbs unsweetened cocoa powder
2 tsp vanilla extract

In a medium sized bowl mix the coca powder, and powdered sugar over the spread with a spoon.  Add the vanilla and then use a blender to fully incorporate and achieve the soft, whipped consistency of butter cream, you know without the butter.

Pour yourself a big, BIG glass of milk/soy milk/rice milk/almond milk and enjoy!

Gluten free Blueberry Crumble


We are having a major blueberry moment in our house.  Yesterday we went through two pints of blueberries.  That is a lot, FYI.  Luckily for us, blueberries are like natural vitamins for your body when you consider their health benefits: packed with cancer-fighting, anti-aging, eyesight-saving and disease-fighting antioxidants.

So, last weekend when we were having a BBQ Birthday party and my sister-in-law’s house I went for the perfect summer dessert, blueberry crumble, made gluten free and dairy free to accommodate everyone’s needs.

Ingredients: Blueberries, Lemon Juice, Sugar, Gluten Free Flour Mix

Ingredients
Filling:
2-3 pints of blueberries
1/4 lemon, squeezed
1 tbsp corn starch
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 brown sugar
 
Crumble:
1 egg
1 cup gluten free flour mix
1/4 cup sugar
1/4 cup brown sugar
1 tsp baking soda
4 tbsp dairy free “butter spread”
*Extra butter for pan

In a large bowl wash and rinse all of the blueberries, and keep an eye out for any pesky stems.  Shake to dry and then add the lemon juice, sugars and cornstarch.

Gently mix the berries and sugars and allow it to set for a few minutes.  The juice will begin to form, and the cornstarch will take effect to keep it from getting too thin.

After about 15 minutes pour the blueberries into a “buttered” pie dish and use the now empty bowl to prepare the crumble.  (Don’t bother washing the bowl, there is some goodness stuck to the sides!)

With your rings off, mix with your hands the flours, sugars, and egg.  The mix should be “crumbly” and hold a small shape if you were to pack it with your fingers.

Pour the topping on top of the blueberries, leaving about a half inch of blueberries at the edges.  Dot the top with small pieces of “butter”.

Bake in 350 degree oven for 40 minutes, or until the top is evenly browned and the blueberries’ juice is bubbling and bright.

Sooo good!

Share this with friends, family, or eat it all by yourself – this is a perfect, healthy forkful of summer in every bite!

Berry Good Breakfast Muffins


True story, inspired by “If You Give a Moose a Muffin”, if you’re coming to my house, I am going to make sure that there is coffee.  And if there is coffee you’ll probably want something to eat. And if you’re going to eat something it might as well be a muffin.  And if people are going to be eating muffins, I am going to be baking them.

That is the story behind these Berry Good Breakfast Muffins, we had people coming over at 7am (*I know!  That is crazy early!) and I thought 7am visits deserve muffins.  But, these muffins shouldn’t be cloyingly sweet, or filled with butter and chocolate.  They should be a healthy breakfast is a small paper cup.
Berry Good Breakfast Muffins Ingredients
adapted from Joy the Baker’s Raspberry and Jam Muffins
1 1/4 cups whole wheat flour
1 1/4 cups dry oatmeal
1 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup nonfat Greek Yogurt
1/2 cup brown sugar
1 egg

2 tablespoons raspberry jam (I use no sugar added)
1 cup chopped blackberries

In a large bowl add all of the dry ingredients, flour, oats, baking powder, baking soda, salt and cinnamon and with fork blend together.
In a separate bowl add all of the wet ingredients, egg, yogurt, apple sauce and sugar.  With that same trusty fork blend these ingredients.  There is something to be said about a recipe that doesn’t require, or isn’t made any easier by using an electric blender.
When the wet ingredients are blended all the pieces will be fully incorporated and smooth.  Slowly add the wet to the dry and incorporate together and whisk together so everything is one big batter.

I used blackberries because that is what I had on hand.  I chopped them up so that the juice would flow throughout each bit and because blackberries are bigger and have a stronger flavor than blueberries (another delicious option).  Really any fruit works here.

With each scoop of jam I broke it apart into smaller chunks within the batter and very gently folded it in without turning the batter a pretty shade of pinkish purple. 

Set these little breakfast bites into a 375 degree oven for 16 minutes.  The batter makes 18 muffins, so you might want to invite people over at 7am to share these with and enjoy!

(Texas) Pecan Shortbread Cookies


I watch the Bachelor.  
I watched when Trista met Ryan, the formerly chubby comedian, Jen, the football player, the actor’s brother, the British guy, Brad, Deanna, Jason – paused after Jason because it was so gross – Ali, and now back to Brad.  
I watch with my husband and my sister.  It has become something of a Monday tradition; three otherwise normal people completely engrossed in some producers’ idea of fantasy dates, and hanging onto every clue giving goo-goo eyed look, and promise of “I’m here for the right reasons”.
Mark likes to call it from the very first episode and on more than one season he has been right.  Julie and I watch for the subtleties (if you can call them that) in each date.

Tonight is the finale, and tonight Brad will follow his heart back to Texas with one girl as happy as can be, and another girl heartbroken – or at least reality tv broken.

Texas Pecan Shortbread Cookies
*Did you know that the Pecan Tree is the state tree of Texas?
1 stick of butter 
1 cup whole wheat flour
1 cup pecans (ground up in a food processor after 45 seconds)
3/8 cup powdered sugar
1 tsp vanilla
1 tsp cinammon
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips


First I poured the flour into a pan and sort of toasted it a la Dorie Greenspan’s Roasted Flour Shortbread cookies.  Whole wheat flour tends to have a nutty flavor and fuller texture than traditional flour but the 5-8 minutes of “toasting” on medium heat seemed to really highlight that flavor.
With the flour off the heat add the the salt, cinnamon and processed pecans.  Pecans add even more flavor, they’re a good source of antioxidants and are low in cholesterol.  Hey, when you’re making cookies you look for the goodness anywhere you can.

In a medium size bowl cream the butter, powdered sugar and vanilla.  When the butter is sweetly yellow and fully incorporated and smooth add the flour mixture. 

When the flour and butter are fully blended form the dough into a ball and wrap with plastic and refrigerate for about an hour.  Truly, I don’t think an hour is necessary – it was late on Sunday night so 40 minutes worked just fine.

With the dough out of the refrigerator is going to be firm and perfect for cookie cutters.  Here is a tip, layer the dough between two sheets of parchment paper and first use your hands to massage it flat and then use a roller to make it thin (about 1/4″) and uniform.  The heat of your hands will warm the dough a bit, the roller on the dough, when it is right from the fridge, will crack it up too much.

I chose hearts, you know, Bachelor finale and all.  Set the oven to 300 degrees and bake for about 18 minutes or until the edges start to turn golden brown.

Allow to cool.  Then you can dip into chocolate, drizzle with chocolate or eat plain. 

I have my favorite in tonight’s finale, but I’ll tell you what these cookies taste a lot better than a rose and come with a lot less heart ache.  Enjoy the show and the cookies (they can both be a guilty pleasure!)

Apple Oatmeal Kugel


Over the long and sometimes warm and sometimes very cold weekend I spent a lot of time behind my stove.  I really like to cook over the weekends and sometimes you (I) cook too much.  I also really don’t like to throw things away that taste great, and well, eating the leftovers to get rid of it all doesn’t really do anyone any good.

So, as necessity is the mother of all inventions, a new recipe was born.  It’s not exactly seasonal (apples really makes me think of the fall) but it is definitely comforting.
Apple Oatmeal Kugel*
Ingredients
2 cups cooked oatmeal
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
1/2 – 2 apples chopped
1/4 cup raisins
1 egg
1 tbsp of brown sugar
1/2 tbsp almond butter (negotiable*)
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla
1/4 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp baking powder
1/4 tsp salt
1/2 tsp turbinado sugar (optional)
Juice from a 1/4 lemon
1/8 cup of slivered almonds

Step 1: Breakfast.  If you’re like me, when you woke up you thought about making something fun with low cholesterol oatmeal, but you have to have breakfast first.  So, you made an abundant amount of oatmeal. By the way cooking oatmeal is always a 2 (water) to 1 (oatmeal) ratio.  In this case I wanted a less watery version, so I went 3 cups of water, 2 cups of oatmeal, Mark and I both had a small bowl of oatmeal with toppings and about 2 cups of cooked oatmeal remained.  Don’t throw out the leftover cooked oatmeal!

Step 2: Oatmeal Toppings.  While the water is boiling and the oatmeal is cooking, chop up your favorite kind of apple (mine is Honey Crisp – they are out of this world good).  Add the apples and raisins to a pan on medium heat with a smidge of butter (like a 1/4 of 1/4 tbsp).  Let the apples and raisins begin to soften and add 1/2 tsp of cinnamon and continue to stir so that the fruit is completely covered.  For your breakfast take 1/8 cup of apples and raisins and reserve the rest for later.
Step 2: Dry Ingredients: After you finish your breakfast return to the pot where the oatmeal has now cooled.  Add the whole wheat flour, salt, baking powder and baking soda.  Combine all of these ingredients.  If the oatmeal is overly sticky – mine was – slowly add 1/8 cup of water at a time until it has a smoother consistency.

Step 3: Wet ingredients.  I included 1/2 tablespoon of almond butter in the oatmeal.  It added a warmer hint of color, but didn’t change the flavor – this is totally up to you to include.  For a nutty flavor I’d recommend at least a tablespoon.  Add the egg and the brown sugar and continue to incorporate.

Step 4: Back to the apples.  The apples and raisin have cooled and should a soft golden color.  Bring the pan back to a medium-low heat and add the vanilla and lemon juice.  Cook the apples until the juice is absorbed.
Step 5: Bring it all together.  Combine the apples and raisins into the oatmeal and then spread the entire mix into a 9×9 baking dish.  If so desired, and I am sure it is desired, sprinkle on additional cinnamon, turbinado (raw) sugar, and some almonds.  Bake for 45-50 minutes at 350 degrees.  
Here is the warning: your kitchen will have the warm, sweet smell of cinnamon, vanilla and apples.  You’ll know how relatively healthy this little snack is and will have a hard time just eating one bite, but that’s okay, because really (not just relatively) this is a pretty healthy way to go.

*So, I am calling this a kugel, because the flavor and consistency most closely reminds me of my Nannys’ (grandmas‘ – they both make it) noodle pudding.  There are no noodles, so noodle pudding is the wrong name, and kugel kind of sounds funny, but it’s pretty much what it is.  The other thing it is, is sweet, but not too sweet, healthy, but not boring, simple but not bland and probably something that will pop up on a holiday table of mine in seasons to come.

Pear Cranberry Muffins


This weekend I finally got back to baking.  After the holidays I didn’t have a lot of baking interest, which is not to say I wasn’t still consuming baked goods by the handful, I was.  In any case, I wanted to foray back into the flour, sugar, butter and eggs with a healthy and seasonal pick.

Pear Cranberry Muffins 
Ingredients
1/4 + 1/8 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup whole wheat flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon of salt
2 tbsp unsalted butter
2 tbsp nonfat Greek yogurt
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
1/3 cup sugar
1/3 cup fresh squeezed orange juice
zest of one orange
1 cup chopped Bosc Pear
1/4 cup chopped fresh cranberries
1/4 cup chopped walnuts
Set oven to 350 degrees, bake for 25  minutes
This looks like maybe a lot of ingredients, but it is really pretty simple, and very easy, and beyond delicious.  Yes, I received comments like “this is the best muffins you’ve ever made!”.  So, what are you waiting for?

In a small saucepan melt the 2 tbsp of butter, and set aside to cool.  In a small bowl whisk the egg and then add the Greek yogurt and continue to whisk.  At this stage is may start to resemble cottage cheese, do not worry.  Slowly add the cooled, but melted butter and the sugar and continue to whisk.  
Now the egg mixture is a beautiful creamy golden color.  At this time add the fresh squeeze orange juice, the zest and the vanilla, give this a good whisk and set aside.

In a separate bowl mix the flours, baking powder, baking soda and spices.  Set this aside and move onto the chopping of the pears, cranberries and walnuts.
Create a well in the flour bowl and pour in the egg mixture and mix enough to fully incorporate the dry and wet ingredients.   With a spoon mix in the the chopped pears, cranberries and walnuts.
With a large spoon scoop the batter into muffin cups and bake for 25 minutes at 350 degrees.

These muffins are a delight, full of moisture, seasonal fruits and low in calories.  Secret: These beat those packages 100 calories vita-muffins in flavor, and health!

Baked Donuts, a Delight for the Holiday Season


There are two “traditional” Hanukkah foods: latkes (fried potato pancakes) and sufganyot, (donuts, fried dough balls).  This doesn’t really add up to the healthiest food choices.  For our Hanukkah party last weekend I knew I couldn’t skimp out on traditionally made latkes, but donuts…  that I could tweak.  

I scoured the Internet for baked donuts, with ingredients that I had on hand and I lucked out with a recipe from Piece of Cake.  This rules out any recipe that calls for buttermilk powder, shortening, etc.  Which means, you probably have these ingredients too, and because they are baked and not fried you might want to enjoy this less guilty treat after Hanukkah, or Christmas morning.
Baked Donuts Ingredients
For the dough:
1/2 cup + 3 tbsp warm milk, 95 to 105 degrees
1 1/8 teaspoons active dry yeast
1 tbsp melted unsalted butter
1/3 cup sugar
1 egg
2 1/2 cups all purpose flour
1/8 teaspoon nutmeg
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt
Topping:
3 tbsps of unsalted butter
1/3 white sugar
1 tbsp cinnamon

So here is the thing, this recipe can look pretty intimidating.  It has yeast, it has a specific measurement for milk, yikes.  But here is the truth.  I made this recipe without a rolling pin, while preparing and serving a Hanukkah meal for 8 and with three adorable kids running around, in other words – these pictures, not so hot – but the donuts, out of this world.

Pour the yeast in the base of your Kitchenaid Mixer, or a large bowl, and then add 3 tbsps of the warm milk.  I used a thermometer to get this just right, and its important – in this case baking is more like delicious chemistry, than playtime.

 
While the warm milk and the yeast are dancing and expanding and doing their magic, you are melting some butter and combining it with the rest of the milk and the sugar.  Allow the yeast and milk to get to know each other for about five minutes, no less but, more is okay.  Then add the butter/sugar/milk combination to the mixer.
Now, in a separate bowl, combine the flour, salt and nutmeg and slowly pour the dry ingredients into the mixer all while mixing with the paddle on a low speed (I used 2).  Add one egg and let that continue to incorporate.  When the flour is fully mixed in, should take 3 minutes or so, remove the paddle mixer and attach the dough hook.


Let that hook do its work for a few minutes and pull the dough from the bowl and put some of your own muscle into it.  Sprinkle some flour on your workspace and knead the dough into a soft, smooth ball.  Place the ball into an oiled bowl and wrap the bowl with plastic and tuck it away into a warm space for at least an hour.
I did this at 11am, when family arrived at noon.  After about an hour roll the dough out to about 1/2″ thick and cut your donuts.  You do NOT need fancy tools.  I used a juice glass for the big rounds and a shot glass for the holes.  Once the donuts are all cut, cover with a clean kitchen towel and tuck the pan away for another 45 minutes.

After 45 minutes your donuts are soft, puffy and are ready to bake place them in a 375 degree oven for 8 – 10 minutes.  They should have a very soft golden glow, mine were very soft gold, but that just added to their super soft chewiness.


While the donuts are baking, melt three tablespoons of butter.  When fully baked dip each donut (top and bottom) into the butter mixture and then into the sugar and cinnamon mixture.

Yes, your fingers will get messy, and yes you will have used a lot of utensils and bowls, but you know what will also happen?  The twelve awesome donuts that you made will disappear, and your niece will return again and again to the table seeking out one more bite.  I think they even beat Dunkin’.