Category Archives: Chocolate

Reality Bites

I used to define myself as agressively Jewish.  When I lived in New York I did everything I could to let everyone I know that my head and my heart lay in a cocoon of Jewish life.  I wore Hebrew t-shirts, was never without some kind of Jewish or Israeli jewelry, I joined Jewish and Zionist youth groups and was obnoxiously Zionist.  I was a second generation Holocaust survivor with a chip on my shoulder the size of Bergen Belsen.

 

Bus in Jerusalem wishing everyone a good year

All this agressive sentiment disappeared when I made aliya (immigrated to Israel).  I didn’t need to show the world how Jewish I was.  I was living the life I always wanted to live.  I was in a country that when the bus driver wished me a happy holiday he meant one with apples and honey, not eggnog and mistletoe.  I was in a country where the local convenience store was open 24/6.  I was in a country where I didn’t have to vote based on the American candidate’s foreign policy toward Israel, but on the political party’s internal policy toward the piece of land I called home.  I was home!

To define myself politically I could use one word:  right-wing.  Okay, two words, but they’re hyphenated.  I used to think of myself as rabid right-wing on the Israeli political spectrum (ironically, I think of myself as left-wing when it comes to American internal policy).  I even lived, by choice, over the Green Line.  I was a settler, from my head covering down to my Naot sandals.

Ju-Boy and I had been dating for about three months when we had our first political discussion.  Good thing I was wearing a seatbelt at the time, because I might have just jumped out of the car speeding through Jerusalem.  Ju-Boy, the man who was on the same page as I was in so many ways, turn out to be an evil left-winger who would sell the country down the Jordan River for peace on a piece of paper.  “Well, Sweet, ” I said, “it’s been fun, but I have to break up with you now.”

By the time he got me home (I at this point was surprised that he didn’t break out in hives as we crossed the Green Line) he had managed to calm me down, claiming we still were on the same page.  According to Ju-Boy, what sounded like left-wing garbage coming out of his mouth was more centrist than I thought.  And, according to Ju-Boy, what sounded like the patriotic Zionist truth coming out of my mouth was more centrist than I thought.  Couldn’t I see that my reality was skewed?  We were both Centrist Zionists with different leanings.  Yeah, right, he would give away my home right from under me for an about-to-be-broken promise.

As you all know, we didn’t break up.  But from that day forward, a new rule was forged — no politics.  Some rules are meant to be broken but we mostly keep to this one, especially at the Shabbat table.

Miriyummy and Ju-Boy -- still together in spite of the line that divides them

Hebrew Slang Lesson of the Day — חי בסרט — chai baseret — literally, to live in the movie, but colloquially it means not to live in reality.  I think that politically, my Ju-Boy lives in the movies.  I sure with him the feeling is mutual.

Am Yisra'el Chai Baseret!

So Ju-Boy and I are living happily ever after, ever politically opposed, yet in harmony amity, two opposites co-existing as one, which is the best way I could come up with to segue into this post’s recipe…

Black and Whites

Growing up in New York one of my most favorite bakery treats was when my mother bought me a huge black and white cookie.  They were huge back then, but I think they’ve stayed the same size, but my mouth has just gotten bigger…  I think the only place you can get them in Israel is at the Brooklyn Bakery in Jerusalem.  If you’re not headed that way, you probably have to make your own.

Cookie Bit:

  • 1 1/4 cups flour
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/3 cup buttermilk (I use soy milk with a dash of vinegar)
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1/3 cup unsalted butter, softened
  • 1/2 cup white sugar
  • 1 large egg

Black and White Icing Bit:

  • 1 1/2 cups confectioners’ sugar
  • 1 tablespoon clear corn syrup
  • 2 teaspoons lemon juice
  • 1/4 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 tablespoon water (you may not need all of it)
  • 1/4 cup cocoa powder
  1. Preheat oven to 350°F (180° C).
  2. Sift together the flour, baking soda and salt in medium bowl.
  3. In a small bowl or cup, mix together the buttermilk and vanilla.
  4. Beat the butter and the white sugar together in a large mixing bowl with an electric mixer for about 3 minutes or until evenly distributed.
  5. Add the egg to butter and sugar mixture, and beat until blended.  You may have to scrape down the sides of the bowl once or twice.
  6. Gradually beat in the flour mixture one cup at a time, and add in buttermilk mixture between each cup of flour, and mix until smooth. This time you really will have to scrape down the sides of the bowl while mixing.
  7. Spoon batter in 1/4 cup size servings onto a baking sheet lined with parchment paper.
  8. Bake on the middle rack for about 15-17 minutes, or until the tops are golden brown and spring back when touched.
  9. Place on a cooling rack, and allow to cool completely before icing.
  10. Stir together the confectioner’s sugar, corn syrup, lemon juice, vanilla, and 1/2 teablespoon of water in bowl until smooth.
  11. Place half of the mixture into separate bowl and add cocoa powder, and remaining water bit by bit until it is the same consistency as the white icing. If the icing is too runny, add more confectioner’s sugar until it is smooth and spreadable.
  12. Turn cooled cookies flat side up, and spread icing with pastry spatula, or butter knife. The cookies are meant to be domed on the bottom, flat on the top.  Spread the white icing over one half, chocolate over the other. The icing does not set solid on these cookies, and does not harden.  I don’t know what they put into the icing in New York to harden it.  I’m not sure I want to know.

I haven't made these in a while. In fact, I prefer to actually deny myself the pleasure and only indulge when in New York. So we'll have to make do with a Googled graphic, sorry...

Kiddush Club

Food likes and dislikes are a very subjective subject.  My favorite food is sushi.  I love the stuff, extra wasabi and ginger please.  I would probably eat it for breakfast, lunch and dinner, except my budget won’t allow it and I’m in no mood for mercury poisoning a la Jeremy Piven.  Ju-Boy chides me that I can’t abide rare meat, yet will gleefully eat raw fish, and steal some off his plate as well.

But one man’s sushi is another man’s fish bait.  Take peanut butter and chocolate, for instance.  Did you think this was going to be a post about sushi?  Think again.

Peanut butter and chocolate is an American institution.  How many of us baby boomers grew up with the “hey, you got your chocolate in my peanut butter!” commercial?  Raise your hands if you did, but wipe the Reese’s crumbs off first, okay?

I’ve discovered that Brits, who can’t abide the peanut butter and jelly combination, will quite happily devour what has become a kiddush club classic at shul — homemade Reese’s peanut butter bars.  But one man’s peanut butter bar is another man’s (or in this case, woman’s) unpalatable food combo.  Did you think this was going to be about peanut butter bars?  Think again.

Ever since I first brought a batch of the stuff to the shul kiddush club it’s been a hit.  Every Shabbat, after services, we would gather together and make kiddush.  It seems that the well-loved combo goes very nicely with single malt whisky.  Whisky purists may disagree, but our whisky snobbishness is entirely an affectation, so we get to make up our own rules.

But Dalia, who, like her father and so unlike her mother, isn’t partial to a dram and was not a fan of the peanut butter bars neither.  And I like Dalia.  We have the same taste in jewelry and Teva Naot sandals.  I felt bad that while we were all happy with the kiddush fare, dear darling Dalia, who always diligently collected the siddurs after davening, was relegrated to the dry, store-bought wafers.  I had to come up with a solution.

And thus was born the Dalia Bar!  White chocolate, yummy!  Buttery crumb crust, nummy!  Dalia Bars became a hit with Dalia and the rest of the kiddush club as well.

Dalia Bars are actually a combination and variation of two of my favorite recipes, my Miller Bars and another Recipezaar staple, Fudge Filled Bars, by the incomparable MizzNezz.  I “fudged” around with the ingredients and came up with this winner.

A year ago Ju-Boy and I left this particular synagogue and now daven in one that is closer to home in both distance and outlook.  The kiddush club soldiers on without us, I hear, although Dalia Bars are no longer on the menu.  Maybe I’ll send over a batch next week for old times’ sake.

Dalia Bars

  • 2 1/3 cups flour
  • 2/3 cup packed light brown sugar
  • 3/4 cup butter
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 (14 ounce) can sweetened condensed milk
  • 1 300 gram (1 1/2 cups) white chocolate or butterscotch chips
  1. Preheat the oven to 180 degrees C  (350 degrees F).  Grease a 9X13 inch (33 X 23 cm) baking pan (I always just line it with parchment paper).
  2. Combine the flour and brown sugar.  Cut in the butter until it resembles coarse crumbs.
  3. Add the egg and mix well.
  4. Take half the mixture and press it into the bottom of the lined pan.
  5. Mix the chips with the sweetened condensed milk and melt.  I do this in the microwave on high for three minutes, you can use the double boiler method if you like.  Stir well to combine the two into a gooey, fudgey mass.  Pour this over the crumb layer in the pan.
  6. Now cover the gooey, fudgey mass layer with the second half of the crumbs.  Press down a bit (with clean hands, of course).  Don’t be afraid, but be gentle.
  7. Bake in the oven for about 30-35 minutes until brown and bubbly.  Let cool, or even better, place in the fridge for an hour.  I then just lift the whole thing out by the parchment paper, place on a cutting board and cut into squares.

Freezes beautifully!

Nice with some single malt whisky, even better with a cup of English tea or a good, strong mug of coffee

Beet It

God does great work...

I have been blessed with four of the most gorgeous, stunning daughters on the planet.  This is not news, I’ve mentioned my girls before, but am always happy to marvel at God’s and my handiwork.  Gorgeous they may be, good-hearted most assuredly, and skinny?  My girls are skinny!

There are a few levels of man plans, God laughs here:

Skinny Miriyummy at 16, no cellulite, no sunscreen!

1) I used to be skinny.  My mother used to say that I was hovering around ghetto weight (Warsaw, not Harlem).  I was a picky eater as a child, but totally scarfed down the calories as a teen.  A regular high school lunch would include two slices of pizza, half a felafel, both washed down with a large Tab (remember Tab?), a brownie from Heisler’s bakery and a cone from Baskin Robbin’s to eat on the way back to school.  I never gained an ounce.  My metabolism was freakishly fast until the age of 32, when I turned into an inflated lifeboat overnight.  It’s as if God pulled the string and pffffffft!

 

I Googled British food and came up with this picture. Point made.

2) I love to cook.  Even more than that, I love to feed!  What’s the use of cooking something if you can’t shtup it to your friends, family, neighbors, co-workers and strangers you meet at the bus stop?  I must have been a French fois gras farmer in a previous life.  God had a good giggle when he introduced me to the X.  The man grew up on Jewish/Polish/English cuisine, meaning his mother’s overboiled, under-seasoned chicken, potatoes and wilted green stuff (the vegetables in that house were usually unidentifiable by the time they hit the plate, and actually, they weren’t very green by then as well).  I would serve him a meal lightly seasoned with a few spices, he would take one bite and reach for the water glass, gasping, “Are you trying to kill me?”

 

Nothing to eat in the house, how sad!

3) The X passed his food genes on to my babies.  I love to feed, they love to say “Don’t like!”  Sassy, my oldest, can eat one lettuce leaf, push back her plate and say, “Thanks, I’m full.”  Nomush is the vegetarian who hates vegetables.  Tinky is my best eater, she will actually finish a whole plate of food (a small plate), but that will satisfy her for the rest of the week.  Didi will come into the kitchen after Ju-Boy and I have filled the fridge and the larder with the weekly shopping, look at it all in disdain and say, “There’s nothing to eat in this house!”

 

Photo by Yummy! by Yemi -- my cupcakes were eaten before I could photograph them (I should always have such hardships in life)

I like to play in the kitchen, experimenting with different techniques, interesting foods, freaky recipes.  One of the ways I get my picky progeny to eat a balanced diet is to sneak certain ingredients into their favorite dishes while they’re not looking.  Kidney beans and brown rice can be cleverly disguised in a zhuzzed soup, especially if you bling up the bowl with croutons and grated cheese.  Whizz up a few carrots in the food processor with the steel knife, hide them in the pasta sauce and the kids just might believe it’s bolognese.  My lastest sneaky coup has been to hide (are you ready for this?) beets into chocolate cake.  Strange but true!  I found the recipe on a food blog called Yummy! byYemi (any blog with the word yummy in is has to be good).

Don’t overdo it with the beets.  You want to enrich the cake, but too much pureed beet adds an earthy flavor to the chocolate, and you don’t want your cover blown.

 

Hilalee and Didi jumping for joy -- cupcakes for dessert again!

I first tried this dessert on Rosh Hashana, as beets are one of the simanim.  We don’t do the simanim thingy per se, but I try to incorporate them into the meal itself.  I made the recipe into chocolate/beet cupcakes, and received the Hillalee Seal of Approval.  Hilalee is Didi’s friend, and she’s the antithesis of Mickey from the Life Cereal commercial from the 70s.  Hilalee doesn’t like or eat anything (she could be one of my kids).  But she did like my mini beet chocolate cupcakes.  And if Hilalee likes them, you might love them.

 

 

Pick Me Up Cake

Yemi calls this Pick Me Up Cake, which is a much more attractive name than Chocolate Beet Cake.  We emailed back and forth a bit when I asked for the recipe, and she told me that she made it up herself!  In her own words:

  • 2 cups steamed beets
  • 6 tablespoons cocoa powder
  • 3 tablespoons rice flour (or regular flour)
  • 3/4 cup brown sugar
  • 1 1/2  teaspoons baking powder
  • 4 tablespoons butter, softened
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • 3 eggs
  • 1/4 teaspoon salt
  1. Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Coat a 9 or 10 inch cake pan with vegetable cooking spray.  Set aside.
  2. In a blender puree the beets, and vanilla extract until smooth.  Set aside.
  3. In a small bowl combine the cocoa powder, rice flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Set aside.
  4. In a large bowl beat the butter and sugar for one minute with an electric mixer. Beat in the eggs for about 5 minutes. Beat in the beets, until the mixture is nice and smooth.
  5. Stir in the contents of the small bowl containing the cocoa powder into the batter carefully until it is completely mixed in.
  6. Pour batter into prepared pan and bake for 30-35 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the middle comes out clean.  Allow to cool completely on a wire rack.
  7. Sprinkle with powdered sugar and enjoy!

Thanks Yemi!

 

The Story of Noah — Good Friends in High Places

Rainbow Chocolate Balls

We all know the story of Noah — it rains, people start getting wet, but the ark is warm and cozy and in the end Noah finds a nice spot, high and dry and don’t we all love a happy ending?

 

Noah's Ark by Rebecca Shore

 

It was going to be a great Friday!  Ju-Boy and I were in the supermarket shopping for Shabbat when the heavens opened and the rain started coming down.  Everyone was smiling, rain is something we so desperately need here in Israel, and everyone loves the yoreh, the first rain of the season.  And how appropriate, since this was the Shabbat where we read Parshat Noach, the story of Noah.  Some of the checkout ladies started dancing in the parking lot, oblivious to the wet.  The guy who had fight with me at the cheese counter (he claims I cut in front of him, but how was I to know, he was standing in line at the meat counter at the time) smiled at me, and I smiled back.  Everyone here loves the first rain.  The weather hasn’t yet turned cold and after a long, hot summer, the first rain makes everyone happy.  Driving home while the drops pounded on the roof of the car, I watched the streets flood (in Ra’anana the streets flood even after a drizzle) and turned to Ju-Boy and said, “This is going to be a great Shabbat Noach!”  I couldn’t wait to get home and start braiding my challot and cook in my cozy house, filled with light and music and the smells of Shabbat coming out of my oven.

And then… boom!  Literally and figuratively.  A flash of lightning, the boom of thunder, and the lights flickered.  I quickly unplugged the computer and went back to braiding the challah.  Whew, that was close!  And then… boom!  And once again, I planned, God laughed, and the lights went out!  You could hear my scream all the way to Mount Ararat!  So the house darkened, the oven went cold, and we waited.  Then the lights flickered, our spirits were raised, and then, boom!  The lights went out again and the Miriyummy household entered the Middle Ages.  No electricity!  I had such plans for that electricity — I was going to bake challot, chickens, whip eggs whites and cream, even Ju-Boy was tenderly blow-torching a roast that was then going to get some oven time.  I quickly stuck my braided challah into the fridge and waited for the lights to come back on.  In the meantime, we started cooking on top of the stove (if you have an electric oven, you should have a gas hob).

Good friends in high (and dry) places

We called the Electric Company and heard a recording that the power cut was massive — Ra’anana, Kfar Saba, Hod Hasharon, Herzliya, Ramat Hasharon, we were all in the dark.  We had some friends who still had electricity, some friends who were busy hunting for candles.  Remember Serene Shar and Peaceful Perry from Headless Chicken?  They had electricity and said we could use their oven.  I quickly drove my challot over, leaving Ju-Boy to deal with the rest of the cooking over the stove in the darkening house.  The Electric Company promised to reconnect us at 4 PM, and when that came and went I quickly drove home through the flooded streets (and no working stoplights!) to get the chickens and shove those in Shar’s oven.  Shabbat was coming faster than a tsunami of floodwater and that’s when Shar and Perry truly proved that they were foul-weather friends and issued an invitation to eat with them that Friday night, a mingling of food and friends, 17 of us around the table basking in the light of the house and the light of Shabbat.  By the time we returned home around 10 PM that evening the lights were on and the day had been saved.  Don’t we all love a happy ending?

Rainbow Chocolate Balls

Even before the thunder went boom and the lights went out I had decided that we were going to have a dessert straight out of the story of Noah — everyone needs a rainbow.

The recipe isn’t mine, it’s Shy-Boy’s, so he’s my guest chef this week.  One of the best things about this recipe?  No electricity needed!

 

The ingredients

 

  • About 50 plain biscuits (we use petit beurre, two sleeves worth)
  • 200 grams (1 cup) margarine
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 cup cocoa (we use Dutch processed)
  • 1 egg
  • A few glugs of wine
  • Rainbow sprinkles

 

Crush the biscuits with a rolling pin. We normally use a food processor, but that's when we took electricity for granted.

 

 

Try to get a fine a crumb as possible.

 

 

Work the margarine in with your fingers until well blended.

 

 

Add one cup of sugar.

 

 

Blend well. The crumbs should have the texture of wet sand.

 

 

Add one cup of cocoa.

 

 

Blend well. The crumbs should have the texture of cocoa-colored wet sand.

 

 

Add the egg.

 

 

Add a few glugs of wine.

 

 

The crumbs should now have the texture of a stiff goop -- you know, you should be able to form balls that won't fall apart.

 

 

Get your paper casings ready. We started out with size #3 (pictured here) but quickly moved to a smaller #2.

 

 

Rainbow sprinkles are good for a Noah-themed chocolate ball. Shy-Boy claims the best coating is flaked coconut.

 

 

You should form the balls with damp hands. Having a bowl of water nearby (or a faucet) is a huge help.

 

 

You should make the balls about yea-big, but in actuality, make them any size you like.

 

 

Roll the balls in the rainbow spinkles until coated. This was the only part of the recipe in which I got to help. Shy-Boy was busy making the balls, I was busy rolling them in the sprinkles, it was a real Lucy and Ethel moment for us.

 

 

One perfect ball...

 

 

The recipe makes about 50 balls or so. Your mileage may vary depending on how big or small you make these babies...

 

Chill the balls in the refrigerator for at least an hour or so before serving.

We brought these to Shar and Perry’s house where they were a hit for dessert.  We brought them home to have with kiddush and for dessert for lunch the next day.  Keep them in a Tupperware in the fridge, handy for snacking, great with a cup of coffee, a bit of whisky, or just a colorful nosh on a rainy day.

My Favorite Shiksa

Dree the Divine

Nature versus nurture, it’s a crap shoot, really.  How much of the person you are today is because of DNA?  How much of your personality is due to your upbringing?  Case in point:  my brother, Skeezix.

Skeezix in the sailor suit, self-fulfilling prophecy?

Skeezix is three years younger than I am.  In spite of my efforts to destroy this interloper into my happy childhood, he’s managed to survive to become one of the defenders of truth, justice and the American way.  Skeezix is a submariner in the US navy, stationed in Pearl Harbor.  We were both raised in the same home, both smothered in chicken soup, sweet kiddush wine and the paranoia of  Holocaust survivor parents.  And yet, we have ended up on opposite sides of the Jewish spectrum.

I am what you would call agressively Jewish.  I am Torah observant, I keep kosher, my week revolves around the spindle of Shabbat.  Judaism for me is not just a religion, it’s a way of life.

Not so for Skeezix.  In his early teens he began to buck against my parents and our way of life.  Today is he a fervent athiest.  He revels in letting me know how delicious pork is, that he has no clue when Yom Kippur is, and it’s really pissing me off that he inherited our mother’s cast iron frying pan and he’s using it to fry up his shark steaks and bacon strips.


Defender of truth, justice and the right to treif up a frying pan

One of the things that drove my parents to despair is that Skeezix married Dree, the Shiksa.  My father sadly shook his head and oy-yoy-yoyed into his Gemara.  My mother threatend to put her head in the oven.  Dree is the epitome of Shiksahood.  Tattooed, pierced in places you can only begin to imagine, this bacon-eating, Santa-loving transplanted surfer girl was every thing my parents dreaded Skeezix would bring home.

I have to admit, I was also prejudiced, at first.  My brother’s description of their wedding included the line, “Dree’s dad got so drunk we had to carry him out to his truck.”  No offense, my darling Dree, but those are words never really heard at an Orthodox Jewish wedding.

Skeezix and I planned a joint trip back to New York, me bringing my two youngest from Israel, Skeezix bringing the Shiksa and her daughter (from her first marriage) from Hawaii.  I was planning on being gracious, but not overly friendly.  I was sure this family reunion was going to set off an Armageddon in the Bronx (as if that didn’t happen all the time).

Dree and Skeezix

I planned on being gracious, and yet again, Miriyummy plans and God laughs.  What I discovered was that Dree was one cool Shiksa.  She’s funny, she’s smart and she refuses to take any crap from  the anti-religious Skeezix.  She’s the one who pushed my brother to light Chanuka candles in my father’s house.  She’s the one who forced him to drink kosher wine at my mother’s Shabbat table.  She made sure the chocolate dreidls they brought my kids from Hawaii were kosher.  She dragged my brother out of the apartmet to smoke in the stairwell so as not to offend my father on Shabbat.  As much as I wanted to not like Dree, I grew to love her.  She respected my parents’ way of life, and made my rebellious brother respect them as well.

Dree and Skeezix are unfortunately separated now, though still married.  I never thought I would say this, but I hope my stupid brother comes to his senses and realizes what a treasure he has in my favorite shiska.  Listen, if your family has to have a token shiksa, let it be one  as cool as Dree.  Aloha au ia ‘oe kuaana!

Chocolate Babka

This is a Carine Goren recipe.  The first time I posted some pictures on Facebook of a chocolate babka I made I got a comment from Dree that she loves that stuff.  So here’s a yeast cake that transcends all religions and brings family together, even when they are 12 time zones apart.

For the dough:
1/2 kilo (3 1/2 cups) flour
1 tablespoon yeast
100 grams (1/2 cup) butter
1/2 cup + 2 tablespoons (300 ml) milk
4 eggs (at room temperature)
scant half cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon salt
For the filling:
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup cocoa
1 teaspoon cinnamon
100 grams (1/2 cup) very soft butter
1 beaten egg, for brushing on top

To make the dough, place the flour and yeast in the bowl of a stand-mixer.  Attach the dough hook.  Melt the butter together and then add the cold milk to the melted butter so the liquid is just lukewarm.  Add th butter/milk mixture to the flour/yeast mixture, together with the eggs and sugar.  Mix at low to medium speed until the dough pulls together, and then add the salt.  Continue mixing until the dough is smooth and just a tiny bit sticky.  Cover and let rise until doubled.

Because the dough is sticky, it’s perhaps best to let it rise halfway in a warm place in your kitchen and then to let it finish rising in your fridger for another two hours.  This way the dough cools down and will be less sticky to work with.  You could also prepare the dough a day before, or let it rise in the fridge overnight.

To make the filling, mix together the sugar, cocoa and the cinnamon in a small bowl, and set aside.

Yes, these are supposed to be rectangular. What are you going to do, call the Babka Police?

Take out the doubled dough and punch it down.  Divide it into two separate (yet equal) pieces.  Roll each piece out into a rectangle about 1/2 centimeter (a little over an inch) thick.  I can never get the perfect rectangles you see on TV, but it really doesn’t matter, because when you roll the whole thing up in the end you can’t tell anyway.

I’ve impressed myself here

Spread the butter over the two rectangles (polygons, blobs) and then try to sprinkle the filling evenly over the buttered dough.  Roll each blob up from the long end, then twist the two rolls together and place in a buttered (or parchment-papered) round cake pan.  Brush with the beaten egg.  When I first made this recipe, as you can probably see in the photo, I didn’t read all the instructions, because, you know, I’m such a hotshot cook.  So I mixed the butter with the sugar, cocoa and cinnamon instead.  It was still spreadable, still edible, but not as good as doing it according to Carine’s instructions.  Hubris bites.

To rise or not to rise?

At this point you should have remembered to preheat your oven to 170 degrees C (340 degrees F).  Place the rolled babka into the oven, there’s no need for an additional rise.  Bake for about 50 minutes until the babka is all brown and yummy and inviting.

The reason you don’t have one more rise before placing the babka in the oven is because that’s the way most of our grandmothers did it.  If you really, really feel you need to let it rise just a bit one more time, go ahead, the Babka Police aren’t going to arrest you.

Mmmmm, babka! Who wants to come over for some coffee and cake?

Another Day In Paradise

Paradise Cake

Normally I’m a very confident cook.  People like my food.  Ju-Boy says I shouldn’t get too cocky.  Yes, that’s the word he uses, cocky.  I’ll make something and when I finish putting it together I might take a small taste, and if it’s worked out well I might just punch the air, do the Happy Happy Joy Joy dance and say, “I rock!”

“Don’t get too cocky,” Ju-Boy will almost always reply.  If he’s not there, I will play both parts.

I love desserts.  Actually, I love every course, from soup to nuts, as they say.  But I have a special place in my heart, stomach, psyche, for dessert.  I could be that once upon a time my Magyar father told me that it’s a Hungarian custom to eat dessert first.  My Lithuanian mother would then say it’s only because Hungarian Jews are slaves to their sweet tooth.  They would be worried about pogroms, so they would save the best for first.  Makes sense to me.

Ju-Boy, amazing cook that he is, is not a patissier.  He makes a decent trifle (Brits appreciate understatement, so he knows this should be a compliment).  He can serve up a pretty plate of fruit.  But beyond that, his talent lies with meat and potatoes, not sugar and spice, everything nice.  So as you can imagine, when I joined the Ju-Boy family, my dessert skills, along with my pastry bag and collection of sprinkles, were quite welcome… with the exception of Optimus Prime.

Optimus Prime, dessert hater

I would bring out pretty bowls of chocolate mousse and he would decline to partake.  I would serve up ice cream cake with praline topping and he would decline to partake.  I would bring out a bowl piled high with chocolate-covered profiteroles and he would decline to partake.  This kid was starting to give me a complex.  It didn’t matter that everyone else at the table was begging me to induce a sugar coma, Optimus was not interested in my desserts.  My balloon of contentment was starting to deflate.

One night we all went out to dinner to celebrate a bunch of birthdays.  Dessert was chocolate mousse cake replete with whipped cream and birthday sparklers.  You can just imagine my surprise and horror when Optimus cut himself a piece of cake and ate it!  Okay, that’s it!  I’m angry now!

Do not administer chocolate!

My anger soon evolved into smug bitchiness.  It wasn’t long before Optimus started to groan.  “Urgh, I feel sick!  Dad, why did you let me eat that piece of cake?  You know what sugar does to me!  That’s why I never eat dessert.”  As much as I wanted to hold a gun to his head, I obviously hadn’t, he had eaten that chocolate bombe bomb fully compos mentis.  I fully understood now, and knowledge is power.

My smug bitchiness soon evolved into irritation.  Optimus wasn’t feeling well and was going to make sure we all knew about it.  In the car on the way home I began to wish we had never ordered that &@*%! cake!  “Dad, drive slowly, I’m going to be sick!”  (Brits are polite, they don’t hurl.)  “Dad, open a window, I’m going to be sick!”  “Dad, can you stop the car, I’m going to be sick!”  And so on, and so on, ad nauseum

So imagine my surprise a few weeks ago when, during Shabbat lunch at our house, I served up some Paradise Cake and Optimus ate it!  It seems he’s been building up a tolerance.  What’s even more wonderfully surprising is that a few days later he called to ask for the recipe!  He and the Rani were having guests the following shabbat and they wanted something Miriyummy.  At that moment he was my favorite child.

I’ve been making Paradise Cake for over 27 years.  When the X and I were first dating in Jerusalem we used to frequent a restaurant called Le Souffle, and Paradise Cake was their flagship dessert.  They gave me the recipe and PC became my signature dessert for years.  Don’t you love restaurants that are generous and share recipes?  Sadly, Le Souffle went out of business in the mid-80s, but Paradise Cake lives on.

Paradise Cake

The recipe can be made parve but tastes so much better when dairy.  If you need the parve conversion, give me a buzz…

  • 15-20 plain biscuits (depending on the size of the dish)
  • 2 cups whipping cream
  • 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 200 grams (1 cup) butter
  • 3 tablespoons cocoa
  • 3 tablespoons sugar
  • 1 tablespoon instant coffee
  • 4 eggs, separated
  • 1 80 gram box (3 ounces) instant vanilla pudding
  • 2 tablespoons vanilla extract
  • chocolate syrup for decorating
  1. Dip the cookies one by one in the whipping cream and lay on the bottom of your cake pan  (I’ve used all sizes).  Reserve the rest of the cream for the vanilla layer.
  2. Make the chocolate layer by melting together the dark chocolate, butter, cocoa, sugar and instant coffee.  You can either do this on the stove top.  I normally nuke it for 3 minutes.  Mix to combine well.
  3. Add the egg yolks one at a time, mixing well after each addition.  If your chocolate mixture is still hot, don’t dawdle, you don’t want scrambled eggs in chocolate sauce.
  4. Whip the whites to stiff peaks.  Fold into the chocolate mixture until completely combined.  Spread this over the cookie layer and place in the fridge to set, between 15 and 30 minutes.
  5. In the meantime, take the rest of the whipping cream and whip together with the instant vanilla pudding and the vanilla extract.
  6. Spread this over the chocolate layer.  Cover with plastic wrap and place in the fridge for at least an hour to chill.
  7. Before you serve the cake, decorate with chocolate syrup or whatever else you like to use to decorate cream cakes (I once used pulverized sugared almonds, a bit hit).

I don’t often quote my X, but will here:  “One piece and you’re in paradise, two pieces and you’re in heaven, three pieces and you throw up.”

You Say It’s Your Birthday

Photo by -Sylvie- of Recipezaar.com

 

My mother, of blessed memory, hated the heat.  Born in Lithuania, she spent the first 35 years of her life either there, or freezing her tushy off in Sweden (with a short stop in Bergen Belsen, also not exactly warm, balmy breezes).  My mother loved freezing her tushy off, she hated the heat.  When I first became engaged to The X, with an August date set for the wedding in Israel, my mother kvetched about the trip which would take place during the hottest month of the year.  After the glass was broken and my mother hugged me under the chuppah, she whispered in my ear, “If you ever give birth to any babies in the summer, I am not coming to help!” 

No summer babies, do you hear me? Oh, and mazal tov!

Mommy plans, God giggles… 

Ever hear the phrase lazy days of summer?  Hah!  I have four of the most gorgeous daughters on the planet, each one more beautiful than the next, each one simply exquisite, each one born in the summer. 

Aren’t they beautiful?

Three of my gorgeous girlies have birthdays at the end of July, all within two weeks of each other.  Nomush, my maverick, decided to let me experience pregnancy during a record-breaking swelter, all the way through to the end of August. 

And you know what?  My mom came out each time to help!  In the multiple diaper-induced coma back then I am not sure I fully appreciated her sacrifice.  Back then we had no air-conditioning, and I’ve never seen anyone wait for the chill of the Jerusalem evenings more. 

It’s never to hot for a cuddle — Savta and Didi

Yes, it was hot under there!

Five years ago I got married again, and yes, it was during the summer.  When I called my mom with the good/bad news, she said to me, “Oy!  Miraleh!  Again with the summer?”  And this time, with the wisdom accumulated over  score of years (in between weddings), I absolved my mother from coming out.  She loved the pictures I sent her. 

So July and August can be busy months in the Miriyummy household.  Once upon a time there were birthday parties to plan, Bat Mitzvah celebrations to coordinate, presents to buy, cakes to bake… oh yeah, the cakes!  I once tried to get the girls to have ice-cream cakes for their parties, but all they really have ever wanted was a deep chocolate cake (like their Miri-mummy, can I blame them?). 

Deep Chocolate Birthday Cake with Miriyummy Ganache 

I’ve made bajillions of birthday cakes over the years, but back in 2004 the lovely Molly53 posted a cake on Recipezaar that has become THE birthday cake in our household.  We accept no substitutions.  I usually make a non-dairy version. 

Cake: 

  • 1 cup butter or 1 cup margarine (200 grams)
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 3 eggs, well beaten
  • 1 cup cold black coffee
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1/2 cup cocoa
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 tablespoon vinegar

Ganache: 

  • 300 grams (12 ounces) dark chocolate
  • 1 cup cream or non-dairy substitute (I use Rich Whip)
  1. Preheat oven to 180 degrees C (350 F).
  2. Grease and dust an 33 x 23 cm (13 x 9 inch) cake pan with cocoa. Actually, I just line it with parchment paper.
  3. Cream the butter and add sugar a little at a time.
  4. Add eggs the eggs one at a time, mixing well after each addition.
  5. Sift the flour, salt, baking soda and cocoa together 3 times.  Sometimes I don’t bother to do this and the cake still bakes beautifully.
  6. Add the coffee to the batter alternatively with the flour mixture.
  7. Mix well after each addition.
  8. Then add vinegar and vanilla.  Mix well again.
  9. Bake for about 30 to 40 minutes, or until your cake tester comes out dry. Leave to cool completely.
  10. To make the ganache, simply melt the chocolate and cream together, either on top of the stove over low heat, or nuked in the microwave for about three minutes.
  11. Pour over the cooled cake and let set.
  12. This cake actually tastes great when kept in the fridge.  You can also decorate it with little silver sprinkles or anything that shows up well against the deep, dark chocolate of the ganache.

Using parchment paper enables you to lift the cake easily out of the pan and serve

 

Today is the 12th of Elul — happy 25th birthday Nomush! 

Today is the 22nd of August — happy 21st birthday Chip!

Ground Control To Major Tom

Don't be insulted on my behalf -- I bought her that shirt

Ben Zoma says:
Who is rich?
The one who is appreciates what he has…

(Talmud—Avot 4:1)

Appearances and actions can be misleading.  My sweet Tinky has drifted though life as if on a cloud with a silver lining.  Nothing phases that child (shouldn’t say child, she just turned 21).  She takes everything at face value, not because she can’t see beyond any facade, it’s just because she’s a happy kid (yes, I know, 21 is not a kid).  There is no pinch of salt in her life. For those of you who don’t know her, watching her go through life with a constant smile on her face, no worries to furrow her brow, it can be disconcerting.  She gives off a certain space cadet demeanor, or, as we say in Israel, you might take her to be an astronaut.

According to urbandictionary.com:

space cadet:  n. A person who tends to space out often. He or she does not respond when directly spoken to. The space cadet is not necessarily a person of low intelligence or a heavy drug user, but rather one who is so easily lost in reverie that he or she loses all awareness of the surrounding physical world.

Reverie.  Yes, my Tinky is lost in reverie.  But that’s as far as it goes. Yes, sometimes we have to pull her down to Earth, but that kid is sharp. She knows what she wants, and she knows how to get it.  Not the most stellar of students (learning disabilities and our family’s own Annus Horribilis may have derailed her), she drifted along on that cloud for a bit, but now she’s on the right track.  Her mission in life?  To make the world more beautiful, one person at a time. She’s got a great sense of humor (I like to think she inherited that from me).  She laughs loudly and loves fiercely.  And just like that astronaut she may seem to be, she’s gravity proof — she can bounce back from anything, with a smile.

Tink is a fan of the simple things in life.  She lives and studies in Jerusalem, and when she comes to visit us for Shabbat (when the boyfriend isn’t home from the army, and her huge circle of friends isn’t getting together, or she just wants her mommy to spoil her) she has a few requests for the menu…

“Mom, when I come, can you make sure we have Ju-Boy’s roast potatoes?  And make sure he makes a lot of dafdafet (Hebrew for loose pages, what she calls leek).  And some of his steamed broccoli… and don’t forget to tell him to make some cabbage the way I like it.”  Wait a minute, I see a pattern here.  Isn’t there anything I make that she likes?  And then she says the magic words, “Mom, can you make me your fudge?”

My recipe for fudge?  It’s so simple, so easy, I’m almost embarrassed to give it to you.  Almost…

Incredibly Simple Fudge

  • 1 can (400 ml or 14 fluid oz) sweetened condensed milk
  • 300 grams (12 oz) dark chocolate
  • 1 dash vanilla extract

  1. Break the chocolate into pieces  (Israeli chocolate is conveniently marked in little squares) and place in a microsafe bowl.  Add the sweetened condensed milk.  There is no need to stir.
  2. Nuke in the microwave for 3 minutes.  If you are micro-wary, you can do this in the top of a double boiler, constantly stirring until smooth.
  3. Add the vanilla and stir until smoothly combined.
  4. Spray an 8″ x 8″ pan (20 cm X 20 cm) with vegetable oil or line with parchment paper (I use parchment paper).  Pour in the fudge while it’s still warm and pour-able.  Tip the pan to make sure the fudge gets into all the corners evenly.
  5. Chill in the refrigerator for about two hours, or even overnight, if you have the willpower.  I have seen kids (and adults) watch the fudge set like some people watch paint dry.
  6. Cut into squares, serve the masses, and smile as the compliments come your way.

Don't forget to lick the bowl!

Sometimes it’s so simple to be so happy.

Lambs to the Daughter

Look at those curls!

 

One of the best things about moving to Ra’anana is that not only did I get reacquainted with friends from the past (for instance, Karen from high school), but the second generation has kicked in, and my kids are now friends with their kids.  Way back in the day, before the second generation was even a twinkle in our eyes, Jonathan was a friend of The X.  He used to come over for Shabbat and abuse our bathroom.  A few years later he married Vicki, one of my favorite yummy mummies.  We didn’t see each other often as a couple, usually just at weddings and other celebrations.  But when I married Ju-boy and moved into his burb, Jonathan and Vicki were just down the street, and the friendship was renewed, and a stronger link was forged.  Jonathan is a loyal friend, and Vicki, well, Vicki is such an amazing cook she actually makes me think I have miles to go before I can keep up with her in the kitchen.  Her petite frame has some wonderful shoulders and she’s a great friend, always willing to let me rant and set me straight about life. 

Leah and Didi hanging at the mall

 

Jonathan and Vicki’s son Shim-boy is friendly with my Tinky, but the closest bond is between my Didi and Leah.  They started out in high school together, went on to do their bagruyot (matric) studies together, and now that both are in National Service (Didi in Afula, Leah in Jerusalem), they try to meet up when both manage to get home on the same weekends.  They laugh together, fight, make up, go out for sushi and ice coffees (I hope not at the same time), and each one likes to raid the other one’s kitchen.  Didi, picky thing that she is, will willingly eat anything Vicki puts in front of her, and Leah is always ready to sample my baking experiments. 

With such devotion to kitchen quality assurance, how could I not play around with some of Leah’s favorite ingredients and make a brownie in her honor.  Well, not exactly a brownie, with Leah’s tightly curled flaxen locks, it’s more of a blondie.  A lambie blondie.   A luscious lambie blondie.  A Luscious Lambie Leah (always alliterative, actually). 

Shy-boy flattens the toffee

 

White chocolate, check.  Gooey caramel toffees, check.  Light brown sugar, check.  These luscious lambies are a combination of various ideas.  The blondies are based on the Butterscotch Blondies found in Bruce Weinstein’s The Ultimate Brownie Book.  The idea for the toffee filling comes from Carine Goren, my dessert diva.  You need to flatten the toffees (or caramel squares).  I made good use of Shy-boy.  I highly suggest everyone acquire a step-son interested in cooking for this task, a valuable piece of kitchen equipment.  

Luscious Lambies 

20 milk toffee candies (or caramel squares), unwrapped 

1 2/3 cup white chocolate chips (divided) 

3/4 stick unsalted butter (150 grams) 

2 cups flour 

1 teaspoon baking powder 

1 teaspoon salt 

1/4 teaspoon baking soda 

1 cup white sugar 

1 cup light brown sugar (I used golden) 

3 large eggs 

2 teaspoons vanilla extract 

  • Flatten the toffees/caramels and set aside.
  • Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F (180 C).  Line a 9×13 inch (23×33 cm) baking pan with parchment paper.  Set aside.
  • Place 2/3 cup of the white chocolate chips and the butter together.  Melt either on top of a double boiler or in the microwave.  Stir until well combined and set aside to cool for 10 minutes.
  • Meanwhile, whisk the flour, baking powder, salt and baking soda together until well combined, set aside.
  • In a large mixing bowl beat the white sugar, light brown sugar and eggs at medium speed, for about 5 minutes, until all the sugar has dissolved and the mixture is light and creamy.  Beat in the white chocolate mixture and the vanilla, 2 minutes or so, until everything is smooth and uniform.
  • With a wooden spoon (I used a spatula), stir in the remaining 1 cup of white chocolate chips and the flour mixture.  Do this until everything is just incorporated, do not beat, do not overmix!  The batter will be very thick. 
  • Pour half of the blondie batter into the prepared pan.  Then evenly place the flattened toffees/caramels over the surface of the batter.  The gently pour the second half of the blondie batter over the flattened toffee/caramel layer, and smooth with your spoon/spatula until everything is covered.  Do this gently.
  • Bake for 35 minutes or until the top is light brown.  You can’t do the toothpick test here because of the goopiness of the filling.
  • Chill well before cutting into squares.

Shy-boy is also my guinea pig, urm, I mean, taste tester -- verdict: yummy!

 

Step To The Third

The Crown Prince on his first birthday

A classy lady even in her nineties

When I was a little girl I had conflicting views on what a grandmother should be.  There was the storybook grandmother, the one you saw on the cartoons on television, who sat in a rocking chair, knit you sweaters for your birthday and baked you oatmeal cookies.  And then there was my grandmother.  She couldn’t knit, she couldn’t cook.  She didn’t even own a rocking chair.  She had a makeup collection to rival the cosmetics department of Saks Fifth Avenue.  That’s where she worked, the cosmetics department of Saks Fifth Avenue.  In my eyes that trumped any cookie-baking, sweater-knitting grandmother any day.  Her claim to fame was that she was Jackie Onassis’s favorite saleslady.  When I was little and came over to visit, she used to let me play with her powders and creams.  She would let me have tea parties with the 100 year old samovar she had brought over from Sweden.  She didn’t bake me any cookies, but always had my favorite black and whites from the bakery waiting for me in her kitchen.  She didn’t knit me any sweaters but took me shopping for my first handbag when I became Bat Mitzvah, because “every young lady is never properly dressed without a handbag.”

My grandmother was my mother’s step-mother.  That made her officially my step-grandmother, but in my eyes, she was always just my grandmother.  She was my grandma.  I have something in common with her.  I am also a step-grandmother.  In fact, I am a third generation step-granny.  There’s my grandmother, the original.  My mother was step-granny to my step-children (even though they never met), and now there’s me, step-granny to the Crown Prince.  Crown Prince is the son of Ju-boy’s eldest, Optimus Prime, and his bride, The Rani.  Last year they added the next generation to Ju-boy’s dynasty, and yesterday he turned one.

I am the sweater-knitting, cookie-baking grandmother.  When Crown Prince was 10 hours old I gave him his first pair of booties, knit that morning.  And for his first birthday I offered to bake him his birthday cake.  But there was a few provisos…  The Rani declared that the cake must be healthy.  The cake must be low fat.  The cake must be low sugar.  In my opinion, this meant the cake must be low taste.  But The Rani is the Crown Prince’s mother, and in her house, The Rani reigns.  I’ll shtup the kid some sugar next time he’s in my house and his parents aren’t looking (kidding, Optimus, kidding….).

I don’t really do low fat, low sugar low taste cakes, so I went off and did a little research.  I didn’t have to go far, just a few clicks away to the Recipe Sifter on Recipezaar and within minutes I had the perfect cake to make all parties happy.  You can find the original recipe here, but of course, I played around with it a little.  I changed the ingredients just a bit, and instead of one large cake I made little cupcakes.  I thought that with the lack of fat the cake would be dry, but it was chocolate-laden, moist and delicious.  I’m pleasantly surprised, and actually plan to make these again.

Happy Birthday Crown Prince!

Chocolate Apple Birthday Cupcakes

1 1/2 cups whole wheat flour (or half white, half whole wheat)

1 teaspoon baking soda

1/4 cup cocoa

1/2 teaspoon salt

3/4 cup brown sugar (as per recipe reviews that stated the original 1/2 cup did not work)

1/2 teaspoon cinnamon

1 cup water

1/4 cup applesauce (I used no sugar added applesauce)

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 teaspoon lemon juice

1 apple, peeled and chopped 

  •  Preheat the oven to 350° F (180 C).
  • Line a muffin pan with cupcake liners.
  • Combine the dry ingredients your mixer bowl.
  • In another bowl, combine the liquid ingredients. Add to dry ingredients, stir until just combined.
  • Toss in the apples and fold into the batter.
  • Pour into the prepared muffin pan.
  • Bake for 20-25 minutes or until done. These are really moist so a little bit of wet crumb might stick to your tester.

Ju-boy and I bought Crown Prince some great presents, lots of wooden blocks to gnaw on and throw, but Optimus Prime seemed to be more excited than his son.  In fact, both grandfather and father didn’t let the birthday boy play with his presents, they were having too much fun.

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