Saturday, September 27, 2014

Bubbe Elaine's Honey Cake (as modified by Dr. Carol)

This past week marked the beginning of the year 5775 for members of the Jewish faith. The Jewish New Year, known as "Rosh Hashanah" (literally, Head of the Year), is celebrated in Jewish homes with sweet foods, traditionally sweetened with honey, to help us with our hopes for a sweet new year. Fortunately, weight loss is not typically a "Jewish New Year Resolution." 

This honey cake recipe was created by my grandmother, Bubbe Elaine, and was so good that it appeared in her Sisterhood's cookbook up in Syracuse, New York. The recipe was subsequently handed down to my mother, Dr. Carol, who makes it every year. However, in the time that she has had the recipe, its been modified to include substantially more liquor than Bubbe Elaine's original...

This is the version of the recipe that my mother taught to me. It requires you to have a good collection of liquor, but can be easily modified if you don't want to fail a breathalyzer after eating a slice. Best part of this post? Dr. Carol is actually making the cakes in the pictures. She has great jewelry.

One recipe makes 4 medium-sized cakes baked in loaf pans. 

Prep time: 30 minutes

Bake time: 50 minutes

What you will need:

3 1/2 cups flour (note: we needed to add a little more flour...perhaps because of how much *liquid* Dr. Carol put in the mixture...)
1/3 cup coffee
1/3 cup pulpy orange juice
3/4 cup canola oil (or other vegetable oil)
1 cup light brown sugar, lightly packed
3 eggs
1 lb. orange blossom honey (an extra little dollop won't hurt either)
2 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. ground cinnamon
1 tsp. ground nutmeg
1 tsp. lemon peel (dried, found in the spice department)
1 tsp. orange peel (dried, found in the spice department)
1 tsp. ground ginger
1 tsp. ground mace
Slivered almonds to top the cakes (not pictured--I forgot about them until the end)
1 "cup" Southern Comfort brandy (Note: This is the only liquor that appeared in Bubbe Elaine's recipe)
B&B (or any other type of Brandy you prefer)
Triple Sec
Wild Turkey American Honey (or other honey liquor)
Canadian Club whiskey

Preheat your oven to 350. Spray four medium sized (Dr. Carol likes the disposable kind the best) loaf pans with Baker's Joy or some other non-stick baking spray and set aside.

Pour the honey into a large mixing bowl. 

Then, add the coffee, oil, sugar, orange juice and eggs. The next step will be adding the "cup" of Southern Comfort. This is Dr. Carol's version of a "cup" when it comes to Southern Comfort:

I'm pretty sure there was an extra slug added after I took this picture, too.

Start mixing on a low-medium speed (my Kitchen Aid stand mixer came in very handy for this recipe, especially with the pour shield, since there was quite a bit of splashing at the beginning). Add the flour to the mixture as it mixes, about a cup at a time.

Once the flour is mixed in, add the rest of the dry ingredients (baking soda, baking powder, cinnamon, nutmeg, ginger, lemon peel, orange peel). This should all keep mixing on a low-medium power.

Next, it's time to add the rest of the liquor. I can't give you exact measurements for this; it's really how alcoholic do you want your cake to be. Dr. Carol gives each bottle a good splash. I personally like the taste of the honey liquor the best. 

Let the mixture continue to beat for another few minutes and scrape the bottom with a spatula to ensure the sugar and flour are not sticking. The batter is ready when it's slightly thick. If you find that the batter still seems very runny (as in, it drips right off the spatula), add a little more flour (1/2 cup or so) and continue mixing until it seems more like a cake batter consistency. My mother claims that the reason her measurements were off were because I had a different brand of flour than she uses at home; I contend that it's because she put more Southern Comfort in when I wasn't looking.

Once your batter is the right consistency, pour into the readied loaf pans. You want to pour until each loaf pan is about 1/3 of the way full.

For toppings, pour sliced/slivered almonds down the center of each loaf pan. If you don't like almonds, you can use other types of nuts, or even raisins or other types of dried fruits.

Pop the loaf pans in the oven at 350 for about 50 minutes. Depending on your oven, you'll want to check them at around 40-45 minutes with a toothpick/testing device to see if it comes out clean in the middle. Once it does, remove from the oven and transfer to cooling rack.

Let the cakes cool in their pans for about ten minutes before transferring directly to a cooling rack. Continue to let cooling for about 20-30 more minutes, then serve and enjoy!

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

World's Best Hamentaschen

The Jewish holiday of Purim is coming up in mid-March, and one of my favorite cousins is visiting me to escape the "thundersnow" occurring in Chicago, where she lives, so we decided we would bake. Her mother (my aunt) happens to be the creator of the "World's Best Hamentaschen" and she has so graciously provided this recipe to my cousin, and by proxy, to me. These are delightful shortbread/butter cookies that are triangular shaped and filled with things like apricot, raspberry, and nutella. What's not to like? They're traditional for this holiday and people go nutso for them!!! So without adieu...The World's Best Hamentaschen:

Total Prep Time: 30 minutes

Total Cook Time: 20-25 minutes

What you will need:

5 cups all-purpose flour (in red mixing bowl)
1 tbsp baking POWDER
1/2 tsp salt
4 eggs
1 tbsp lemon juice
1 and 1/4 cups sugar
1 cup canola or vegetable oil
a little extra flour to flour your rolling surface
a rolling pin
whatever fillings your heart may desire (examples include Nutella, Apricot pie filling, raspberry pie filling, cherry pie filling, prunes, poppy seed filling for the old school bubbes out there).
A cup with a 3" diameter opening, or some other round cookie cutter that is 3" in diameter

A brief digression about the fillings for these hamentaschen: My cousin swears that if you are going to use a fruit filling, Solo is the best brand to use. However, we could not find Solo raspberry filling, and I really wanted raspberry. So we tried the Duncan Hines "Comstock" brand of raspberry filling. We found it to be a bit runnier than the Solo, but otherwise, just as delicious. So don't be afraid to use the alternate brand.

Preheat oven to 350.

Ok, first step is mixing your flour with the salt and baking powder in one mixing bowl. Mix with a wooden spoon.

In a separate bowl, mix your four eggs, sugar, lemon juice and vegetable oil.

Next, add the egg/sugar mixture to the flour mixture, and mix well. NOTE: Although this turns into a sticky dough, do not be tempted to use a stand mixer or hand mixer. I have been instructed that this "over mixes" the dough and turns your hamentaschen into mediocre cookies.

At this point, go preheat your oven to 350 degrees. Come back to your cooking surface and lightly flour the countertop.

Pour the hamentaschen dough out on to the floured surface and begin rolling until it is approximately 1/4" thick.

Use your 3" diameter cup to make circles in the dough. Try and fit as many on the dough as you possibly can, but don't kill yourself. We'll do this several times.

My aunt sent along my very own "hamentaschen cup" for this demonstration
Remove all of the excess dough between the circles and toss it back in your mixing bowl. We're going to roll it up and roll it back out to re-circle cut after we make the first round of hamentaschen.

On each of your circles, take about 1/2 of a small spoon's worth of filling and place in the center of each dough circle.

You don't want to "overfill" because they will become runny and leaky, which does not qualify for "World's Best Hamentaschen."

Then, here comes the tricky part. You will pinch the corners of the circles together to make triangular shapes. My cousin instructed me by telling me that you don't want to "smash" them together, but rather, you just want the edges to meet. Like this:

Continue filling, squishing, and re-rolling your dough until you've gone through as much as you can, and place cookies on ungreased baking sheets.

Put in the oven for approximately 10 minutes, then switch racks so the cookies get a chance to bake evenly. Cook again for another 10 minutes, then check on them. If you have a lot of hamentaschen in the oven at once, you'll need a little more time (just a few minutes), but if there are only a few, 20 minutes can do it, depending on your particular oven. Just know that at 20 minutes, you better watch 'em like a hawk. Then, when they are lightly golden on the edges or creases, you know they are ready. Take them out of the oven, place on cooling racks with a spatula, then serve and enjoy!

Sunday, January 5, 2014

Tomato, Avo and Mozzarella Salad (Caprese Deluxe)

Happy New Year!!! For all of you who are trying to start 2014 off with healthier, lighter foods, this salad is for you (though the mozzarella doesn't help a ton). I love a good caprese salad, and I love avocado, so this just plumps up an old classic!!!

Total Prep Time: 10-15 minutes

Total Cook Time: 0 minutes!! (it's a salad!)

What you will need:

1 package of baby spinach (I use the "mini" bags since the spinach isn't the star of the show and there are only two of us eating)
1 or 2 tomatoes (if your tomatoes are particularly small, use 2, but I recommend starting with just one and seeing if you want more)
2 balls of fresh mozzarella (I use the medium-sized balls fresh-packed in water)
1 hass avocado
2 large leaves of fresh basil (you can use dried too if it's handy)
good quality olive oil and balsamic vinegars
sea salt
black pepper

First, divide the baby spinach into two bowls (or however many people you are serving). It should just form a light bed. 

Next, dice your tomatoes in a large dice. The end goal will be for all of the components of the dish to be roughly the same size dice.

Now, cube your avocado.

Drain two mozzarella balls in a paper towel and cube to similar sizes of the avocado and tomato.

Place the avocado, tomato and mozzarella in the bowls on top of the spinach. Chiffonade* your basil so it's in tiny little ribbons:

*chiffonade: best way to cut basil or other fresh large leafed herbs. Stack the leaves, roll them up, then slice horizontally to create ribbons. Longer ribbons can be created by slicing lengthwise down the leaves.

Sprinkle on top of the salad, then drizzle olive oil, balsamic, salt and pepper over to taste.

Serve, and enjoy!!!