Baking History

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Archive for April, 2008

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!!

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

Almond-Orange Cake (Focaccia alla Portoghese)

Posted by bakinghistory on April 9, 2008

A light and delicate sponge cake made with almonds and orange zest

The original name of this cake is Focaccia alla Portoghese which means Portuguese-Style Cake in Italian. In fact, the word focaccia in Italian does indicate both a savory flat bread and a sweet leavened cake. Artusi does not tell us anything more about the origins of this recipe besides its name, however the combination of almonds and oranges is an unmistakable characteristic of the cuisine of Sephardi Jews. This recipe might then have been inspired by those brought to Italy by Portuguese Jewish merchants or by the refugees that settled in many Italian cities at different times in history, such as following the expulsion of Jews from Portugal in 1497.

Incidentally, Artusi mentions a number of ingredients and dishes in his cook book that were introduced by the Jews and became part of mainstream Italian cuisine, for instance eggplants, pumpkins, and Pan di Spagna (sponge cake).

This cake has a wonderfully moist and spongy texture and is nicely flavored by the orange zest and the almonds without being too sweet. It keeps fresh for many days and it is actually better when made one day ahead. It is excellent served with tea or coffee, cut into tiny squares (or other fancy shapes) .

It is important to grind the almonds until they are reduced to a very fine powder, and even the granulated sugar should be ground briefly in the food processor or coffee grinder, especially if you use—as I do—organic sugar that tends to be relatively coarsely grained. The ground almonds need to be sifted and the larger pieces that remain in the sifter should be ground again until of the necessary fine consistency. These steps require an extra amount of time and might be tedious but are necessary to ensure a successful result and make a significant difference. Of course you can prepare the ground almonds ahead of time.

It is also essential to bake the cake at a very low temperature.

Artusi suggests to cover the cake with a crisp icing made with egg whites and sugar syrup. Personally I find that a light sprinkle of powdered sugar is more suited to the delicate texture of this cake.

From the original recipe by Pellegrino Artusi

In: “La Scienza in Cucina e l’Arte di Mangiar Bene”, 1891—Italy

Ingredients:

1 cup (150 g) whole Almonds, blanched, raw

3/4 cup (150 g) Granulated Sugar

1/3 cup (50 g) Potato Flour (starch)

3 Eggs

1-1/2 (organic) Oranges (juice and zest)

Powdered sugar to sprinkle on top of the cake

Preheat the oven to 300° F (150° C). Line a 9-inch (23 cm) round cake pan with aluminum foil and grease with vegetable oil (I used almond oil, grapeseed oil is also good for this).

Grind the almonds with 1/3 of the sugar in the food processor or coffee grinder until very finely powdered. Sift the almond mixture with the potato flour and grind again any large pieces of almonds that might have remained in the sifter. Set aside.

Grate the zest of 1/2 orange. Squeeze the oranges and strain the juice; set aside.

Grind the remaining sugar with the orange zest until fine and powdery.

In the bowl of a stand mixer using the balloon whip attachment beat the egg whites until stiff and glossy; set aside.

Beat the yolks at very high speed until light and pale yellow (using the balloon whip attachment). Gradually add the ground sugar and beat until well incorporated.

Switch to the flat beater attachment and add the ground almond mixture to the yolks and beat at high speed until light and well incorporated, taking care to scrape the sides of the bowl with a silicone spatula.

Add the orange juice and mix well.

Finally gently fold in the whipped egg whites, by hand, making sure they are well distributed and without deflating them. Pour the mixture in the prepared pan and bake in the preheated oven (place the rack in the middle position) for about 45 minutes. A cake tester in the center must come out clean and dry when the cake is ready.

Place the pan on a rack and let cool for 10 minutes. The cake will slightly deflate and shrink from the sides of the pan. Unmold it and let it cool on the rack. Sprinkle powdered sugar on top once the cake is completely cool.

Note: I had inadvertently forgot to write when to add the orange juice to the batter. I have just corrected the text.

Posted in Cakes, Dairy-Free, Desserts, Flourless Cakes, Fruit, Gluten-free, Italian Cuisine, Italy, Pareve, Tea, Treenuts | Tagged: , , , , , , , , , | 13 Comments »

Back To Baking

Posted by bakinghistory on April 3, 2008

baking.jpg
I have been unable to bake and blog for a while since I got the flu (terrible).
I could not participate in some blog events I had planned to join, unfortunately, nor keep up with comments on this blog.
I’m starting to feel better now and soon I will post new recipes.
I wish to thank all of you who still visited Baking History, left comments and even wrote to me privately to ask how I was doing.
Thank you!

Posted in Uncategorized | 10 Comments »