White Strudel

I attended P.S.115, also called E.B.B., Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from K-8.  It was a co-ed elementary school but once we hit middle school the boys were transferred out, and E.B.B was dubbed “everything but boys.”  The school was walking distance from where we lived but there was a crossing guard, a flaming red-head named Irene, to escort the children across the Grand Concourse.  Every morning at 10:00 a.m. classes came to a halt and snack was served.  The teacher, along with a class monitor, would go to the office and bring back a flat of small milk containers and either a box of cookies or a container of pretzel rods.  As much as I liked the pretzel rods, I preferred the cookies.  I can only remember one type of cookie being served, a sandwich cookie with a cream filled center, the top half chocolate and the bottom vanilla.

School was over at 3:00 p.m. and when I arrived home I was served milk and cookies as my afternoon snack. (remember in the 1950s milk was thought to be a miracle food)  The little white bakery bag on the kitchen table held either a Black and White cookie, a brownie with walnuts and chocolate frosting, or a Chinese cookie which was a marbled coffee-colored cookie with a crinkle top and a glob of hard chocolate in the center.  Having milk and cookies at home was always better than at school, the milk was served in a tall glass, straight from the fridge and ice-cold, the way I prefer it.  The cookies were bought fresh every morning in the bakery my mother frequented on Burnside Avenue.  It didn’t seem to matter what season it was, or how low the temperature fell outside, both in school and at home the snack was always the same, and after all what could be better than milk and cookies?

This recipe came from Norm’s grandmother Shaindle Rose, who my daughter Shira is named after.  It is a very 1950s kind of recipe which includes bits of the confection Turkish Delight.  My mother-in-law Lil made it the last time we were in Toronto and told me that Bubbie Shaindle called it White Strudel.
Bubbie Shaindle’s White Strudel

4 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup Crisco

1/2 cup oil

rind of a lemon

 

Filling

Strawberry jam

7 or 8 thin slices of  Turkish Delight, cut into bits

Flaked coconut

Maraschino cherries, cut in half

Golden raisins

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Using a pastry blender or the tips of your fingers, add the Crisco until the mixture resembles small lumps.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix gently and add flour if needed. Dough will be very sticky.  Refrigerate dough for one hour which will make it easier to handle but feel free to add extra flour as needed.  Divide the dough into four equal portions.  Roll out one portion at a time on a well floured board into a 9 x 12 rectangle.

Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam over the dough. Then sprinkle Turkish delight, coconut, golden raisins and sliced maraschino cherries over the top.  Using a knife for easier handling, and add more flour as needed, gently roll up dough into a log and place on baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Cool and slice with a serrated knife.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Mollie’s Mississippi Mud Cake

My friend Lori wanted to share this story and recipe about her mom, Mollie.  I was touched by the request and thrilled that she wanted to honor her Mom!  Last week I spent an afternoon with Lori watching her prepare this family recipe and when the cake was done, we shared a slice.  

My mother Mollie is an amazing cook and baker, but I think she is most renowned
for this simple, easy, delicious, and moist chocolate cake called “Mississippi
Mud”.

This cake has been in my life since I can remember, certainly since I was a
little kid in Norwalk, Connecticut, but it may have entered my life even
earlier, when I was a baby in Stamford, Connecticut.  Frankly I really don’t
remember where the recipe originated or how it came to be my mom’s signature
cake.

What I do know is that Mississippi Mud has graced all my family’s functions for
decades, particularly the birthday parties and Chanukah parties.  And now that
my sister and I have families of our own, Mississippi Mud has also become a
regular dessert at our kids’ parties and other celebratory occasions.  It shows
up in tube pan shape, as cupcakes and mini-cupcakes, and as loaves and mini
loaves.  It freezes well.  For those of us who keep kosher, it’s prepared pareve
for Friday nights, and it rarely lasts through the weekend.  Mississippi Mud
even showed up at all of my mom’s grandkids’ bar and bat mitzvah celebrations.

The Mud has become sort of famous, I think, because since the 1960’s, that cake
has not only become a generational favorite in my family, but the recipe has
been shared coast to coast and throughout North America.

My mom is the connector in our family, the one who stays in touch through telephone
and by mail, and in these high tech times, through email and Skype.  After her
years of hosting and the frequency with which she serves Mississippi Mud for
desert, she’s given the recipe away to countless friends, cousins, siblings,
in-laws and children, who continue the tradition of serving this cake and then
sharing the recipe.  And since her daughters also make Mississippi Mud, we’ve
also become disseminators of this lovely little recipe.

Mississippi Mud is a delicate, dark chocolate, simple cake served plain or with
a light dusting of powdered sugar.  No frosting, no chocolate chips, no layers
are needed to enhance or distract from the pure chocolate silkiness of each
bite.  There was a time when my parents briefly resided in Virginia, and when my
mom showed up with the Mud in hand and no frosting in sight, the sugar-toothed
Southerners scrambled to find some whip cream with which to adorn it.  But
really, no such enhancement is needed for this cake.

Mississippi Mud is part of my family’s history, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Lori Harrison Port

Mollie’s Mississippi Mud Chocolate Cake

Melt together in a sauce pan or microwave:

1 stick of butter (or margarine if making a non-dairy version)
3 squares of unsweetened baker’s chocolate (can use cocoa using the conversion
recipe)
1 ½ cups of very hot water

Pour over:

2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs
Whisk to blend and cool slightly.   Stir in vanilla and eggs

In a separate small bowl blend

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate in thirds
Batter will be very thin and there might be some lumps left – that’s okay if they are
small.
Pour into a tube pan (NOT greased or floured)
Bake at 275 for about an hour or until tester comes out clean

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, running a knife around sides. Remove cake pan
sides.  When cool, run knife around bottom of tube pan and invert on to a
plate.

When cooled, dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

My sister recalls that I came home from Kindergarten and told my mother that I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving.  At that point my parents and sister would have been living in the United States for about seven years,  and were open to the idea of celebrating this “American” holiday.  That was the beginning of a new tradition for our family, Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember my mother roasting a turkey, prepared the same way she prepared roast chicken for Shabbat, with lots of garlic, salt and pepper.  She made candied sweet potatoes, a dish she learned from my cousin’s housekeeper Edith, and a delicious stuffing made with challah, mushrooms, celery, carrots and caramelized onions.  It was sort of an Eastern European Thanksgiving dinner.  No guests, no fanfare, no cornucopia, but I always found it special and meaningful.

As a child of immigrants, the Thanksgiving narrative of people who came to America searching for religious freedom always resonated with me.  As a child of survivors, I understood that my family had much to be thankful for.  It was not a story from a textbook, it was the story of my family.  America welcomed them and gave them a fresh start, shelter, the ability to live openly and proudly as Jews, and a place to put down roots and watch their families grow and flourish.  For each of those reasons, and more, I will always be thankful.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is very traditional, given some dietary restrictions.  We have mulled cider, Turkey, stuffing, corn bread, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and our favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

3 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup oil

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed with 1 tbsp flour

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Combine eggs with oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients.  Fold chocolate chips in to batter.  Divide mixture among three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted into loaf comes out dry.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Enjoy,

Irene

Kahk

It’s the Sunday morning before Rosh Hashana and Norm and I have been busy in the kitchen all morning.  Norm is baking bagels and baguettes, experimenting with new recipes.  Schav borscht is cooking on the stove, just because there is still so much sorrel in the garden.  I have dough rising for challot, and I just made a batch of Kahk.  Yesterday I spent the morning looking through three of my favorite Jewish cookbooks.  I loved reading about the Sephardic traditions for incorporating specific foods into the Rosh Hashana meal, mainly fruits and vegetables filled with seeds, a symbol of fertility and abundance.  Inspired, I decided to make Kahk, a dry, savory, biscuit topped with sesame seeds.  Here is to a bountiful New Year!

This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food.

1 Tbs instant yeast

1 cup warm water

pinch of sugar

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbs anise seed

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs vegetable oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.

Proof yeast in about 1/3 of cup of warm water with the pinch of sugar.  In a large bowl, combine flour with salt, cumin, and anise seed.  Add the oil and blend into flour.  Add yeast mixture and remaining water to flour and knead till you are able to form a ball. Add additional water a little at a time, as needed.  Knead for several minutes and then place in oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for about one hour.  Punch down dough. Take a walnut size piece of dough and roll between the palm of your hands till you have a 4″ strand.  Form a circle and pinch ends together. Repeat till you use all the dough.  Brush kahk with a beaten egg and dip into a bowl of sesame seeds.  Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or till golden.

Yield 30 Kahk

Enjoy,

Irene

Rosh Hashana Apple Cake

My memory is of the general flurry of activity that took place before every Rosh Hashana.  The purchase of new clothing and shoes for the New Year.  The smell of chicken soup cooking on the stove, and round challas baking in the oven of my mother’s kitchen.  My mother standing over mounds of dough that she rolled and cut into various shaped noodles.  I remember her taking the noodles and tossing them into the air, like confetti.  They would separate and land on the large wooden board, left there to air dry for hours.  Little square noodles for soup, and long thin noodles for kugels or a dairy meal.  The wonderful aroma of apples and cinnamon baking inside a cake.  The live carp swimming in the bathtub, yes like in the children’s book, and yes I played with it.  The less pleasant memory of my mother stunning the carp with her rolling-pin and making it into gefilte fish.  The beautiful Limoges China that she bought in France and brought with her to the United States, china that only came out for Rosh Hashana.  Sweet memories for a sweet year.

To all of you, Shana Tovah  U’Metukah.

Note: This is from notes that I once took as I watched my mother make her apple cake.  The measurements are not exact as she never used a recipe.

Manya’s Apple Cake

4 cups flour

2 tsp baking powder

pinch of salt

2 eggs

1 1/2 cups sugar

2 sticks  butter or pareve margarine

1 tsp vanilla

1/4 cup orange juice ( added as needed when rolling dough out)

Cream butter and sugar till smooth and light.  Add eggs and vanilla and mix well.  In a second bowl sift flour, baking soda, and salt. Add to egg mixture and stir till well combined. Divide dough into two equal portions.

Filling

3 lbs. apples, peeled and cut into chunks.

4 Tbs. sugar (or more if apples are tart)

1 tsp cinnamon (or more to taste)

1/2 cup nuts (optional)

1 Tbs. lemon juice

1 Tbs. matzoh meal

Combine all ingredients and allow to sit for about ten minutes.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease 9 x 13 pan.

Take half the dough, roll out as much as possible (dough is crumbly)  and pat down inside greased baking dish. Add apple mixture. Top with remaining dough.  Brush top of cake with oil and sprinkle with cinnamon and sugar.  Take a sharp knife and cut through dough, creating squares of about 2″ by 2″.  Bake for about 45 minutes.

Enjoy,

Irene

Peanut Butter Cookies

On the corner of our apartment building was a candy store.  It was the typical corner store of that period (1950s) with a counter and bar stools where you could order your soda fountain treats.  I would often stop in after school or on the weekend and buy a candy bar.  My all time favorites were Baby Ruth or Chunky, but I also liked anything made with peanut butter.  Butterfingers, Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups, Mary Janes, James Peanut Butter Chews and Abba-Zaba bars.  My parents never ate peanut butter so I have no idea where I developed a taste for it. (although my father did discover peanut butter in his 80s and decided that it was perfectly paired with sliced tomatoes)  Like many foods there are two sides to the peanut butter debate, those who prefer the creamy variety (my daughter) or the crunchy type (me.)  The wonderful thing about eating peanut butter is that with one bite you are transported  right back to your childhood when life was messy, gooey, salty and sweet, just as it should be.

Here is the classic recipe for peanut butter cookies. You can use any variety of peanut butter, I used extra crunchy.

Peanut Butter Cookies

1 1/2 cups Skippy extra crunchy peanut butter

1 stick sweet butter at room temperature

1 cup brown sugar (packed)

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups flour

1 tsp. baking powder

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

In a bowl sift together baking powder and flour.

In a large bowl, combine and beat sweet butter, sugar, and peanut butter.  Add lightly beaten egg and mix.  Slowly add flour mixture.

Using slightly less than a tablespoon per cookie, roll dough into balls and place on cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Press down gently to flatten. Then using the tines of a fork make your cross-hatch pattern on top of each cookie.  Cookies should be about 1/2 inch thick.

Bake for about 15 minutes or till golden brown.

Enjoy,
Irene

Sour Cherry Pie

I long for slow, lazy days.  For me that opportunity comes once a week, on Shabbat.  It is the only day when I don’t rush out of bed, I don’t rush to work, I actually don’t rush to do anything other that what I want to do.  The morning starts by going into the kitchen and pouring myself a large fresh cup of the French Press coffee that Norm prepared for me before he departed for shul.  I collect the newspaper, my magazines, whatever book I happen to be reading, and step into  my backyard where I spend the next several hours in a state of bliss.  I stare at the garden, smell the roses, watch a hummingbird or a butterfly, and read.  It feels so luxurious that it is almost sinful.

As a child, after she finished shopping and cooking, I would often find my mother sitting on a chair, leaning on the windowsill and looking out over the Grand Concourse.  Just watching the people pass by.  Or she would visit with her next door neighbor over a cup of coffee, in the middle of the day!  Sometimes she would spend her morning in the kitchen, making home-made noodles or baking cakes or cookies.

How do we recapture the ability to enjoy those lazy days of summer that we so loved and still need?  For me, taking the time to make a homemade pie is a way to slow down.  You can’t rush a pie.  You have to make the dough for the crust, chill it, roll it, prepare the filling and bake it.   I find it increasingly important to take the time out of a busy schedule and doing something in a leisurely way because if we don’t, how will we bake pie?

Sour Cherry Pie

Pastry

1 1/2 sticks butter (or parve margarine)

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

2 Tbs sugar

2-3 Tbs ice water

Cut cold butter or margarine  into cubes and place in bowl of food processor.  Add flour and sugar.  Start processor and add water through feeder tube but only enough for dough to gather into a ball.  Remove and wrap in saran and refrigeration for two hours or up to two days.  Try to handle dough as little as possible.

Filling

2 lbs. sour cherries, pitted or 2 – 24 oz. jars of sour cherries. (I used the jars and the pie was really good but of course fresh is always better)

2 Tbs tapioca

1 cup sugar

1 Tbsp lemon juice

Place cherries in a bowl and add tapioca, sugar, and lemon juice. Let sit for about fifteen minutes.

Preheat oven to 400 degrees.

Set aside 1/3 of  the dough and roll the remaining 2/3 into a circle slightly larger than your pie dish.  Gentlly place dough into greased pie dish.  Cover dough with a sheet of silver foil and add dry beans as a weight.  Bake for about 20 minutes. Remove foil and  beans and add  cherry filling.  At this point you can roll out the remaining dough.  My personal preference is for a top crust as opposed to lattice.

Brush the top of the pie with either  milk for a dairy dessert or orange juice or soy milk if you want a parve pie. Sprinkle generously with sugar.

Bake for about one hour or until pie has browned.

Enjoy,

Irene

Caramel Apple Tart

I attended a day camp called Funland during one summer, or maybe even part of a summer.  Most summers were spent in the “mountains” at a bungalow colony in upstate New York.  Typically these colonies were filled with Jewish women and children who were escaping the city’s heat and humidity.  We passed the time by playing: the women played cards and the kids played with each other.  We were always at the club house or at the pool, sitting in a garden glider (porch swing) or catching lightning bugs. Me, my cousin Mel, our friend Roz and her cousin.  Not much else was going on and we didn’t seem to mind.

My husband had a similar experience outside of Toronto (of course substituting the lakes for the mountains) at Lake Simcoe and Chrystal Beach on Lake Erie. Long lazy days on the shore.  He too never attended sleep away camp until he was old enough to be a counselor.  He then spent many summers on staff at a Young Judea Camp in Ontario and, then, one summer at Camp Ramah in Canada. The seed was planted.

In 1994 our daughter went to Camp Ramah www.ramah.org in Ojai for the first time.  I am not sure if she loved the camp as much as we loved having her be a part of Ramah.  We loved the site, Ojai, the campgrounds, the staff, the kids, and visitors day.  Our own memories receded as we saw the rich and rewarding experiences that Ramah offered. Well, among our three children, at least one has either been attending or working at Camp Ramah for over 15 years.  There is a specific place where we sat each year on Visitor’s Day, (up on the hill in front of the chapel) catching up with our family, friends and our children’s friends. We will miss it this year (none of our children will be there) but we still feel very connected to all that Ramah stands for. Our hope is that our children feel the same way.

I recently found out that Zach L., Camp Director and one of my favorite people, is an amazing cook and once a week prepares a meal for his hanhalla (senior) staff. Here is one of his recipes.

Caramel Apple Tart

Crust

1 1/4 cups unbleached all-purpose flour

3/4 cup powdered sugar

1/4 tsp coarse kosher salt

1/2 cup (1 stick) chilled unsalted butter, cut in small pieces

2 large egg yolks

Blend flour, powdered sugar, and salt in food processor.  Add butter and blend until texture is of coarse meal. Add egg yolks. Pulse till dough starts to form.  Gather dough and shape into ball; flatten into disk. Wrap and chill at least 1 hour. (Dough for tart crust can be made 1 day ahead and kept chilled.)

Caramel sauce

¾ cup (packed) dark brown sugar

¾ cup whipping cream

3 tbsp unsalted butter

Bring sugar, cream, and butter to a boil in a heavy saucepan over medium-high heat, whisking constantly until sugar dissolves. Boil until caramel thickens enough to coat wooden spoon, whisking often, about 10 minutes. (Caramel sauce can be made 5 days ahead. Cover and chill. (Whisk over low heat until warm before using)

Filling

2 tbsp sugar

1 tbsp unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

1/2 tsp ground cardamom

5-6 large McIntosh or Golden Delicious apples (about 2 ½ pounds), peeled, cored and quartered.

Combine first 4 ingredients in a large bowl and mix. Add apples and toss until evenly coated.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

Spray tart pan with baking spray.

NOTE : You can either

1) Roll out dough on lightly floured surface to 13-inch round. Transfer to 9-inch tart pan with removable bottom. Cut overhang even with the top of pan. Press sides of dough to bring 1/4 inch above sides of pan.

OR

2) Take refrigerated dough and press it in the pan.

Arrange apple quarters, cut side down, in circle around outer edge of pan, fitting snugly. Cut remaining apple quarters lengthwise in half and place in center of tart, fitting snugly.  Drizzle with 1/3 sauce.  Bake tart until apples are tender, about 1 hour 15 minutes. Remove tart from oven; brush with additional 1/3 caramel sauce. Cool tart to room temperature. Re-warm remaining caramel sauce and drizzle tart lightly with remaining 1/3 sauce.

Adapted by: Zachary L.

Enjoy,

Irene

Blintzes

I was 16 years old, it was my first trip away from home, and I was going abroad.  Although my parents had never been to Israel, they decided to send me on a summer program.  I was nervous and excited and had no idea what to expect.  I didn’t know anybody else in my group but I was confident that I was going to a place where I would feel comfortable.  My mother had two friends that she had known in Poland before the war but had not seen since 1945. Manya and Sonia both lived with their families on a moshav outside of Gedera called Meishar.  My mother asked me to go see them, she said they were like family.  I had to hitchhike into the moshav, another first, and when I was dropped off at Manya’s home, (same name as my mother) she looked at me as if she were looking at my mother, with recognition in her eyes.  Manya K. and Sonia U. were neighbors and their homes were  no more than 100 feet apart.  On that first of many visits they opened their homes and hearts to me. They fussed over me and told me stories and cooked and cooked and cooked.  I literally went back and forth between their homes all day long, each one beckoning for me to come over and have something to eat. Sonia U. would make blintzes for Aruchat Arba, afternoon tea, in such an effortless way that it made an impression on me that lasted till today.  It was hospitality at its best. Warm, inviting, and gracious.

Both women have passed away but their families are still on the Moshav,  and I still see Aaron and Rosie and their children whenever I go to Israel. We sit and tell stories and cook and eat.  They are like family.




Blintzes

Bletlech (Leaves)

3 eggs

1 3/4 cups milk

2 tbsp sour cream

pinch salt

1 cup flour

Beat eggs and add milk and sour cream. Slowly whisk in flour and pinch of salt and beat till batter is smooth.

Filling

1 lb. farmer’s cheese ( I prefer Friendship brand)

8 oz. small curd cottage cheese

1 tbsp sour cream

1/2 tsp vanilla

1/2 cup sugar

1 egg yolk (gives filling a buttery color)

dash cinnamon and salt

Combine all ingredients and mix well.

Heat an 8″ omelette pan and grease with vegetable oil. (I like to put the oil on a paper towel which I use to grease the pan in between making each leaf) Heat pan and add slightly less than 1/4 cup batter, swirling pan so that  batter covers the bottom.  Fry for about 2 minutes or till there are bubbles forming and batter looks dry.  Turn leaf onto plate. Continue until batter is finished, stacking leaves. This should yield 15 leaves.

Spread leaves on dish towels and evenly divide filling among them. Fold and lightly saute blintzes in butter.

Enjoy,

Irene

Rena’s Cheesecake

Shavuot is approaching and the tradition is to serve dairy meals, stemming from a description of Israel as “a land flowing with milk and honey.” What a wonderful opportunity to create meals with ingredients that I love.  Sweet butter, heavy cream, farmer cheese, cream cheese and sour cream will be transformed into vichyssoise, blintzes, cheesecake, and one of my childhood favorites, warm broad egg noodles tossed with butter, farmer cheese, cinnamon, and sugar.  Sweet and comforting.

Of course the quintessential dessert for Shavuot seems to be cheesecake and my friend Rena H. is the local Cheesecake Queen. She has been making this recipe for years, and although she has recently “lightened” it up, I prefer the original. Growing up, my son David always anticipated having Rena’s cheesecake during the holidays, as did we all.  I recently asked Rena to share this recipe and she told me it was originally adapted from a recipe by Dinah Shore!  Who knew!
On Wednesday Rena brought over this delicious cheesecake, made with the original recipe.
Here is the original recipe.

Rena’s Cheesecake

Crust:

1 and  3/4 cups Graham Cracker Crumbs

1/4 cup finely chopped walnuts

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1 stick melted butter

Mix all ingredients together setting aside 3 tbsp for topping.  Press remaining mixture into bottom of 9″ spring-form pan.

Filling

3 eggs

2-8 oz. packages cream cheese (Rena uses Philadelphia brand)

1 cup sugar

2 tsp vanilla extract

3 cups sour cream

Combine eggs with cream cheese, sugar and vanilla. Beat until smooth. Blend in sour cream. Pour on top of crust and top with reserved crumb mixture. Bake at 375 degrees for one hour. Chill for 4-5 hours or overnight.

Serves 12

Enjoy,

Irene