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

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




Brownie Meringues

We are now three weeks away from Passover.  This is the first time in about twenty years that we will be conducting the Seder in the dining room primarily because twelve of us can fit there.  No need to empty out the living room, order extra tables, rent cloths and napkins.  Yet instead of being happy about shedding all of the planning and angst that can accompany preparing for a large Seder, why are my thoughts drawn to Seders past with longing and nostalgia and to future Seders with something akin to dread.  It has been a difficult year.  My 92-year-old father passed away in September and for the first time, he will not be present at our Seder. Growing up in NYC, Seders were pretty traditional affairs; my father and the other men would stand and chant the Haggadah in unison, with no one else participating.  The wives read along silently and the children wiggled and giggled and waited for dinner.  It was not egalitarian or engaging or educational and yet I have warm and happy memories.  The table was beautifully set, the fine china was brought out, wonderful aromas came from the kitchen, new clothing was purchased, cousins got together and my father and the other men argued about politics all through the meal. Pesach was special. Continue reading

Brownies and Good Neighbors

When we moved into our home in Beverlywood about 21 years ago our next door neighbor immediately greeted us with a cake.  Having grown up in an apartment building in The Bronx, I always thought that particular tradition was something that only happened in the movies.  Sara S. and her husband Ben had built their home in Beverlywood in 1947 and had lived there ever since.  Sara was a petite, elegant and vibrant woman in her seventies.  Ben was a towering, handsome businessman who was still going to work every morning ( and still does.)  Having moved into Beverlywood just after the birth of our third child, there was something so comforting about having Sara and Ben next door.  Sara and I soon discovered that we both loved to cook and garden.  Sara was famous for her fudge, a recipe I never was able to coax out of her, but through the years we were the happy recipients of numerous tins of fudge and enjoyed every piece.  Sugar, butter and eggs passed back and forth between our kitchens.  Sara heated her pool during the summer and my children had swimming lessons there.  If my kids weren’t in the pool on the weekend, Sara would call me on the phone and remind me that heating a pool was an expensive proposition and my kids better get over there and use it.  Last week Sara passed away.  It was not only the loss of a friend and neighbor but the end of an era.  Good neighbors are hard to find.  Fortunately we still see Ben as he leaves for the office in the morning.  So, in memory of Sara and to promote “neighborliness” here is a recipe you can make.  It isn’t fudge but it is pretty close.  A dense, dark, fudge brownie.  Why not make a batch and bring it over to your neighbor.

Chewy Fudge Brownies
4 Oz. unsweetened chocolate
1 stick butter
1 tsp. pure vanilla extract
2 eggs
1 1/4 cups sugar
1/4 tsp. salt
1/2 cup flour
1 cup walnuts
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour 8″ square pan. Melt chocolate and butter in heavy pan set over low heat or in double boiler. Stir till melted and smooth. Let cool for a few minutes. Add vanilla, eggs, sugar and salt to chocolate mixture and stir. Add flour and mix well and then add nuts. Bake 45 minutes till toothpick in center is barely clean. Remove and cool on rack.

Enjoy,
Irene