Passover Lemon Meringue Pie

Last week I lost two important people in my life, my cousin Robert, who was more like an older brother than a cousin, and my close friend Ruthie.  I went back East for Robert’s funeral and what I experienced over the course of five days was the workings of a family who come together like pieces of a patchwork quilt, all different in design but stronger and more effective as one unit.  Almost my entire immediate family, as well as my extended family, came to Philadelphia where we spent our days cooking, eating, crying and  laughing in the comfort of our cousin Micheline’s home.  Even after both refrigerators and freezers were filled to capacity we continued to cook.  It kept us busy and focused, taking care of each other and everyone around us.

After the funeral we prepared Shabbat dinner for about twenty.  Everyone participated in their own way, some by offering words of comfort to the mourners, some by taking charge of the kitchen, some by providing comic relief.  On Saturday night, the evening before everyone’s departure, Denise (Robert’s daughter) said that it was just the kind of evening her father loved, having the family together, sharing good food and good wine.  The night ended with my daughter Shira, myself, and Denise all sitting around the table sharing a pie which we ate straight from the tin, one spoonful at a time.

Passover is just around the corner, a time when families get together.  May it be filled with joy, and not with sorrow, and with the memories of those we lost but will never forget, and why not make some pie that can be shared straight from the tin.

Lemon Meringue Pie

Crust

1 cup Matzoh Meal

1/4 cup melted margarine

1/4 tsp cinnamon

2 tbsp sugar

1/8 tsp salt

Blend ingredients together.  Press into a greased 9″ pie pan and bake at 375 for 15 minutes or till golden brown.

Lemon Meringue Filling

5 tbsp potato starch

1/4 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

2 cups water

3 eggs, separated

2 tbsp margarine

1/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

1 tbsp grated lemon rind

Combine potato starch, salt and 1/2 cup sugar in top of a double boiler and then add water.  Cook, stirring over boiling water till thickened. Cover pot, lower heat and cook for ten minutes, stirring occasionally.   In a bowl, combine egg yolks with remaining 1/2 cup sugar.  Spoon a little of the hot cooked mixture into the yolks, stirring rapidly.  Then pour yolk mixture back into the pot. Cook 2 minutes, stirring constantly.  Add a drop of water if too thick.  Remove from heat.  Add margarine, lemon juice and lemon rind to filling and allow to cool to room temperature.  Pour into pie shell.

Meringue

3 egg whites

dash salt

6 tbsp sugar

Using a beater, beat egg whites with salt till foamy, gradually adding  6 tbsp sugar till smooth and glossy.  Pour Meringue over pie filling and bake in 325 degree oven for about 15 minutes.  Chill and serve.

Enjoy,

Irene

Plum Galette

There were days when we just didn’t want to get on the bus to Orchard Beach.  We wanted to escape the crowds, the scene, the heat of our apartment, and the people.  We would take our transistor radio, a book, a towel, and a reflector, and  just like thousands of others teens in New York City,  and just like the song, we could be found up on the roof.   How can I explain what attracted us to this large tar-covered space.  It was not scenic or pretty, had no charm, the tar was hot and you could get it on your feet if you weren’t careful.  It was convenient but it wasn’t about convenience.  It was about finding a place that felt so far away from everything happening below.  Our own little retreat in the middle of the city.  We didn’t seem to care about the lack of atmosphere, we always had fun and for some reason, nobody ever came looking for us.  But even up on the roof  you wanted something great to eat.  I don’t remember what we brought with us, if anything, but if I had it to do all over again, then I think a slice of pie would be just perfect, plum pie.

Plum Galette

Dough

1 1/2 cups flour

1 stick butter or pareve margarine, cut into 1/2 ”  cubes

3 Tbs sugar

1/2 teaspoon salt

3-4  tablespoons ice water

In a food processor, combine flour, butter, sugar and salt till dough looks like cornmeal.  Slowly add ice water, 1 tablespoon at a time,  and pulse until dough forms into a ball.  Remove dough, wrap in wax paper, and refrigerate for an hour or two.

Filling

15 Italian plums, pitted and cut into wedges

1/3 cup sugar

1 Tbs flour

Toss plums with flour in a bowl.

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.  On a floured board, roll chilled dough into a circle till about 1/4 ” thick.  Transfer to parchment paper covered cookie sheet.  Pile plums in center, leaving about 1 ” border of dough all around.  Fold dough in pleats around plums and sprinkle with sugar.  Bake for about 45 minutes or till golden.  Serves 8

Enjoy,

Irene

Hamantaschen

It is Sunday morning, March 13th, 2011.  My plan was to bake Hamantachen today, allowing for enough time to ship them to New York and Florida.   I am still going to bake, but things feel different.  In the background the radio is turned to NPR, reporting on the situation in Japan.  There is a tradition of giving Tzedakah before Purim, and so as we approach the holiday,  I hope you continue to bake, and to give…. http://www.redcross.org

Wishing you a Chag Purim Sameach.

Note: I posted this recipe last year, and the comments I received on the dough ranged from those who said it was much too soft to work with, to those who felt it was perfect.  The trick is to play with it, add flour as needed, and enjoy!

The Purim of my childhood was not very memorable.  I do not remember dressing up costume, attending Purim carnivals or going to hear the reading of Megillat Esther.  I do not remember my mother making hamantaschen or delivering Mishloach Manot.  Purim was not part of the fabric of my childhood.  My first encounter with hamantaschen was watching my mother-in-law, Lillian Saiger, make them in her home in Toronto.  It made quite an impression on me.  I was 21 years old, a newlywed, still in college, and living in a foreign country.  My in-laws were living in the same home that my husband’s maternal grandparents had owned.  The hub of that house was the kitchen, with windows that faced a backyard filled with lilac trees.  It was a house with history and part of that history included baking hamantaschen. Lil made enough hamantaschen to ship to her children, some of whom were already living outside of Toronto.  She made her own filling, a combination of dried fruits that she stewed and pureed and then gently placed in the center of these circles of dough that she had rolled out and cut.  She pinched three corners together and baked the cookies until they were golden.  They were soft, warm and delicious.  I remember that the hamataschen were kept in a tin, placed in a cupboard next to the breakfast room table.  We would have them with coffee every day, until they were all gone.  I don’t have any idea if they actually lasted till Purim.  We eventually moved to Los Angeles and had three children of our own.  Each Purim, we dressed the kids in costumes, delivered mishloah manot and took them to hear Megillat Esther.  Each year I would make hamantaschen and place them in a tin to have with coffee.  They may not be exactly the same as my mother-in-law’s ( I don’t think she actually used a recipe) but they are close.  Thank you Lil!

P.S. Keep them in a tin.

Lil’s Hamantaschen
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tsp. baking powder
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup orange juice

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.  Combine eggs and oil and mix well.  Slowly add orange juice and then mix into dry ingredients.  Put mixture onto floured board and handle until soft and pliable.

Filling
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. dried pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
3-4 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water or orange juice

In a small heavy bottomed pot combine all ingredients over low heat and cook until fruit is soft, about 20 minutes.  Add water if needed.  Process mixture in Cuisinart for about 30 seconds until mixture looks like a dark jam. Roll dough out on floured board till about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out small circles and place a teaspoon of filling in the center.  Pinch sides together to form a triangle.  Brush with beaten egg and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown.

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

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

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