Baking History

A Taste For The Past

Posts Tagged ‘Holidays’

Gingerbread (Novel Food #6)

Posted by bakinghistory on December 20, 2008

gingerbread-1

Mildly spiced gingerbread cookies

ROUNDUP part 1 Roundup part 2

novel-foodSimona of Briciole and Lisa of Champaign Taste are hosting a new edition of their wonderful seasonal blog event, Novel Food. It is one of my absolute favorites since it pairs literature and food. This time, it was really difficult to choose which literary work to feature between two that I particularly like.

Since this is the winter edition, I finally opted for a short story by O. Henry, one of my absolute favorite American writers.  The short story is “The Gift of the Magi” and illustrates the theme of gift-giving: at the end, the author shows what is, in his view, the wisest gift to give, independently of what money can—and cannot—buy.

I won’t reveal anything else, since the story is short and well worth reading.  I read it for the first time when I was nine years old, and its implications deeply struck me then—now, almost three decades later, I am still moved by it, even if in somewhat different ways.

The characters of the story are a young married couple, Della and James Dillingham Young, and you can see them portrayed above in gingerbread dough and white icing.

The time  is around Christmas, the setting a big American city, but the theme transcends any specific time and place and is ultimately about the essence of human love.

here is a short excerpt:

Della finished her cry and attended to her cheeks with the powder rag. She stood by the window and looked out dully at a grey cat walking a grey fence in a grey backyard. To-morrow would be Christmas Day, and she had only $1.87 with which to buy Jim a present. She had been saving every penny she could for months, with this result. Twenty dollars a week doesn’t go far. Expenses had been greater than she had calculated. They always are. Only $1.87 to buy a present for Jim. Her Jim. Many a happy hour she had spent planning for something nice for him. Something fine and rare and sterling — something just a little bit near to being worthy of the honour of being owned by Jim.

Even if there is one specific food mentioned in the story, chops, I took the liberty of choosing gingerbread instead. The following recipe produces a wonderful dough, very easy to work with, mildly spiced and sweet.

From the original recipe by Hannah Widdifield

In: Widdifield’s New Cook Book: Practical Receipts for the Housewife”, 1856—USA

Ingredients:

1-1/4 lbs AP flour

1/2  lb. dark brown sugar

1/4  lb butter

1/2 tbsp ground ginger

1/4 tsp cinnamon

1 yolk

1/2 cup milk

1/2 tbsp baking soda

Icing:

1/2 lb confectioner’s sugar

lemon juice as needed

1 egg white as needed

Sift flour, spices, and sugar. In a mixer, on low speed, mix butter with flour mixture until it resembles wet sand. Add yolk and mix briefly. Dissolve baking soda in milk and add to mixer bowl. Switch to the dough hook and knead the mixture on low speed for 5-7 minutes, until the dough forms and is smooth and supple. Let the dough rest, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

Meanwhile, preheat the oven to 300F.  Take about 1/4 of the dough and knead it briefly by hand, then roll it rather thin and cut the cookies. Place the cookies on an ungreased cookie sheet (preferably insulated) and bake for about 15-18 minutes. Let the cookies cool on a rack—they will be soft and crumbly while hot but will turn crunchy as soon as the cool.

Make the icing by mixing powdered sugar with a few drops of lemon juice and a bit of egg white, just enough to have a stiff paste that can be piped, and decorate the cookies.


Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Cookies, Bars, & Biscotti, Holidays, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Pumpkin Pie

Posted by bakinghistory on October 30, 2008

Traditional Pumpkin Pie

Update: Ivy has posted the ROUNDUP

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Ivy from Kopiaste… is hosting another wonderful event devoted to pies, this time sweet ones.  I decided to enter a classic all-American pumpkin pie, a traditional dessert enjoyed in the Fall and always part of the Thanksgiving feast.

The poet John Greenleaf Whittier, born in Massachusetts in 1807, immortalized pumpkins—and pumpkin pie—in his work The Pumpkin, from which the following verses are taken:

What moistens the lip and what brightens the eye,

What calls back the past, like the rich Pumpkin pie?

There are many versions of pumpkin pie, more or less rich, more or less spiced, some sweetened with sugar, others with molasses, maple syrup, or even with honey.

The recipe I feature here is very simple, minimally spiced with cinnamon, and sweetened with very little sugar.  If the pumpkin is very tasty to begin with there is no need to be heavy handed with spices, and sweeteners like molasses might be too strong and overpower the delicate flavor of the main ingredient itself. Even if canned pumpkin is an acceptable shortcut, it cannot compare with freshly roasted pumpkin and the result will be much tastier—and definitely worth the extra time and effort—if the latter were used.

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From the original recipes by Bertha Lippincott Parrish

In: “The ‘Home’ Cook Book”, by the Children’s Summer Home of Cinnaminson, NJ, 1914—USA

and Juniata L. Shepperd

In: “Handbook of Household Science”, 1902—USA

Ingredients

Filling:

1 cup (250 g) roasted and pureed pumpkin

1/4 cup (60 ml) cream or milk

3 tbsp sugar

1 tsp cinnamon or 1/2 tsp nutmeg (according to taste)

1 large egg, divided

1 tbsp butter

1/4 tsp salt

Crust:

1-1/4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (scant) butter

1/4 tsp salt

ice water as needed

Preheat the oven to 375F (190C).

Make the Crust: In a food processor put flour salt and butter (diced), and pulse until mixture resembles coarse crumbs. With the machine running add enough water for the dough to come together. Do not overprocess. Wrap the dough in wax paper and let rest in a cool place for about 30 minutes. Roll the dough to about 1/8-inch thickness and line a deep pie dish, make a decorative rim. I used a small cookie-cutter shaped like a maple leaf to decorate the rim of the pie as well as the top.

Make the filling: Cream the butter and add the sugar little by little, then the yolk, cream or milk, salt and spice, and then the pureed pumpkin.  Beat the egg white till stiff peaks form, and add it to the pumpkin mixture, gently, until well incorporated.

Fill the prepared pastry shell, decorate the rim and top as you like, and bake in a preheated oven (375°F), until the pastry is golden brown and the filling barely wiggles in the center. Let the pie cool on a rack.






Posted in American Cooking, Blog Events, Holidays, Pies & Tarts, Spices, Thanksgiving | Tagged: , , , , , , , | 6 Comments »

Baked Honey Custards (Rosh Hashanah 5769)

Posted by bakinghistory on September 25, 2008

A golden and velvety dairy dessert flavored with honey and cinnamon

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish New Year, is approaching soon: the celebration begins at sundown Monday September 28th.

It is customary to eat honey to celebrate, in the hope that the new year will be a sweet one.

This simple custard is sweetened entirely with honey and could be a delicious addition to the table for this Holiday. It is milk based, but it could work as well with strained orange juice for a parve version. It is also very easy and quick to assemble.

Other ideas for Rosh Hashanah desserts are these:

Honey Cake—which I posted last year

Honey Cookies—from Miri at Room for Dessert

Magical Honey Cake—from Baroness Tapuzina

September is also National Honey Month and you can read all about it at Louise‘s Months of Edible Celebrations

From the original recipe by the United States Dept. of Agriculture

In: “Farmers’ Bulletin”, 1917—USA

Ingredients

5 eggs

1/2 cup of honey

4 cups scalded milk

1/8 tsp ground cinnamon

1/4 tsp salt

Preheat the oven to 325F (170C).

Mix the eggs, honey, cinnamon and salt, then add the milk in a fine stream. Mix well to combine but try to avoid making the mixture foam too much.

Fill 8-10 ramekins and bake the custard in a water bath: place the ramekins in a roasting pan, preferably placing a rack underneath them, fill the pan with hot water so that it reaches half-way up the side of the ramekins. Cover with a piece of aluminum foil and bake for about 1 hour and 15 minutes, or until the custards are still giggly in the center. Let them cool in the water bath, then refrigerate. Serve well chilled.

L’Shanah Tovah!

Posted in American Cooking, Dairy, Holidays, Honey, Puddings, Spices | Tagged: , , , , , , | 9 Comments »

Covered Cheesecake

Posted by bakinghistory on June 8, 2008

An unusual version of cheesecake: the cheese filling is baked between two layers of sponge cake

While reading this recipe I was immediately intrigued: a cheesecake that was made by baking the cheese filling between two layer of sponge cake was unusual and I was curious to see how it would turn out. Mid-way through assembling it I was suddenly sure it would never work: the cheese filling seemed too liquid compared to the cake batter and at that point I had not many hopes of getting any decent results.

However, the cake did surprisingly turn out well—the filling stayed in, the cake baked just fine and the final result was surprisingly good. It is also a relatively quick cake to make and overall I found it worthy to share. A good cup of tea or coffee to accompany it are all that is needed. I have made this cake many times since and it is always a pleasant dessert.

The holiday of Shavuot begins June 8 at sunset and ends June 10 at nightfall: to celebrate this holiday it is customary to eat dairy foods, and cheesecake is one of the traditional choices. This recipe would be a nice addition to the holiday menu.

From the original recipe by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum

In: “The International Jewish Cook Book: 1600 Recipes According To The Jewish Dietary Laws…”, 1919—USA

Ingredients

Filling:

2 eggs

1/2 cup (100 g) sugar

1 cup milk

1 tbsp cornstarch

1/2 lb. pot cheese

1 tsp (organic) lemon extract (or to taste)

Cake:

1 cup (200 g) sugar + a little extra to sprinkle on top of the cake

2 oz. (60 g) butter

1 cup (237 g) water

2 eggs

2-1/2 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

1tbsp butter + 1 tbsp flour for the cake pan

Preheat the oven at 325F (160C). Butter and flour an 8-inch springform cake pan

Make the filling: Dissolve the cornstarch in a little milk (taken form the total), then add the rest of the milk and mix well. Bring to a boil on low heat until the mixture thickens, stirring constantly. Set aside to cool, stirring once in while to prevent a skin from forming on top.

Put the pot cheese through a fine strainer and set aside. Beat the eggs with the sugar at high speed, until very light and fluffy. Mix in the cheese, lemon extract and finally the cooled milk mixture. Set aside in a cool place.

Using a blender or mixer to make the filling is not a good option: the mixture turns out too liquid.

Make the cake batter: Sift the flour with the baking powder and set aside. Cream the butter then begin to add the sugar a little at a time, then add the eggs well beaten and continue mixing at high speed, then add 1/3 of the flour and mix well. Add 1/3 of the water and mix it in, then continue adding 1/3 more flour, 1/3 water, the the remaining flour and then the rest of the water. The batter should be light and fall in a ribbon when the beater is lifted.

Pour half of the batter into the prepared cake pan, making sure it is well distributed to make an even layer.

Then pour the cheese filling all over it, working in circles starting from the center (the filling should be soft enough to fall in a ribbon) and making sure the cake layer is well covered by the cheese filling.

Finally pour the remaining cake batter on top of the cheese filling, still working in circles to distribute it as evenly as possible. With the back of a spoon gently even out the top cake layer and then sprinkle lightly with granulated sugar. Bake for about 35-40 minutes, until the top is golden.

Let the cake cool in the pan placed on a rack for about 5 minutes, then gently remove the side of the pan. Let the cake cool and then refrigerate overnight in a closed container.

Remove from the refrigerator 15 minurtes before serving. Keep any leftover cake refrigerated.

Posted in American Cooking, Cakes, Desserts, Holidays, Jewish Cooking | Tagged: , , , , | 13 Comments »

Pesach Cake With Walnuts

Posted by bakinghistory on April 16, 2008

A moist and light walnut torte for Passover

One of my favorite songs in the Sephardic music repertoire begins with this verse:

“Purim, Purim, Purim lanu

Pesach, Pesach a la mano”

which in the Ladino language means that Purim is over and Passover is approaching.

Tortes and pastries made with ground nutmeats (almonds and walnuts, pistachios and hazelnuts) are common in the Passover menus of Jewish communities around the world given the prohibition against foods that are considered leaven. Grains such as rye, spelt, wheat, barley, and oats, which can ferment, cannot be used to make baked goods to be eaten at Passover. Ground nutmeats, and potato starch, are then used instead.

This cake is simply made with ground walnuts, a small amount of matzo meal, no shortening, and a relatively high amount of eggs. The result is a moist sponge cake that can be enjoyed at the end of the Seder meal or with afternoon tea and coffee. The walnut taste is intense thanks to the long baking time at a moderate temperature, which toasts the nuts and brings out their flavor. There are many variations on this basic type of cake, such as those made with a mixture of walnuts and almonds and flavored with orange juice and zest, or by using toasted hazelnuts in place of the walnuts.

From the original recipe by Florence Kreisler Greenbaum

In: “The International Jewish Cook Book: 1600 Recipes According To The Jewish Dietary Laws…”, 1919—USA

Ingredients

1/2 lb shelled walnuts

1/2 lb sugar

9 eggs, divided

2 tbsp fine matzo meal

1 pinch of salt

Preheat the oven to 300° F (150° C). Line an 8-in cake pan with aluminum foil and generously grease with almond oil (or olive oil).

Grind the walnuts with 2 tbsp of sugar until fine and set aside. Beat the yolks at high speed until pale yellow and fluffy, then add the remaining sugar 1 tbsp at a time until the mixture is light. Mix in the ground walnuts, salt and the matzo meal and beat at high speed until well mixed. Take care to scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl with a spatula once in a while. Beat the egg whites until firm peaks form and add a small quantity to the walnut mixture, mixing well to lighten it. Add the remaining egg whites by hand, gently folding them in with a spatula, making sure they are well distributed (the walnut mixture tends to stick to the bottom of the bowl). Pour the prepared batter in the pan and bake for about 55 minutes, or until a cake tester comes out clean (not less than 45 minutes anyway).

Make sure not to open the oven door before 45 minutes, or the cake might collapse.

Take the cake out of the oven and leave it in the pan on a rack to cool for about 5 minutes. It will slightly sink and shrink from the sides. Unmold it and let it cool completely on the rack.

This year the Festival of Passover, the celebration of the Exodus from Egypt, from slavery to freedom, begins at sundown on Saturday April 19.

Chag Pesach Sameach!!

Posted in Cakes, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Flourless Cakes, Jewish Cooking, Pareve, Passover, Treenuts | Tagged: , , , , , , | 15 Comments »

 
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