Category: jewish

Grandma Dotty’s mini honey cakes.

Each year I do a lot of Easter recipes for you guys. Tons of cute little cupcakes & muffins & stuff. But this year, I wasn’t really feeling it. I know for Sunday’s dinner I’ll probably make little bunny cupcakes or flowery cupcakes or something… but in the weeks leading up to it this year, I didn’t have it in me.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe.

It’s probably because of the passing of Grandma Dotty. Its had us pretty down lately. And we’ve been spending a lot of time looking through her photos, going through her things, and reading those hand-written recipes.

So I figured why not make one of her recipes?

The one that immediately jumped out at me with Passover being here was the honey cake. Honey cake is a very popular & beloved item in Jewish cooking. Usually it’s made for Rosh Hashanah, sometimes Purim. Here’s a little more about the honey cake tradition:

Luckily, honey cake is dripping with tradition. Variations of honey-sweetened desserts have existed for thousands of centuries and in far-flung locales, from Ancient Egypt and Rome to China. Recent archaeological discoveries of beehives in Tel Rehov, Israel, also suggest that biblical Israel was indeed a land of milk and honey. According to Stephen Buchmann’s book, “Letters From the Hive: An Intimate History of Bees, Honey, and Humankind” (Bantam, 2005), German-Christian pilgrims developed a taste for honey cake on their trips to the Holy Land during the Middle Ages. They enjoyed the dish enough to take it home, where it developed over time into its contemporary form.

Not surprisingly, the first Jewish honey cakes (or lekach, which comes from the German word lecke, meaning “lick”) originated in Germany around this time. During this period, the dessert was primarily eaten on Purim and Shavuot and sometimes served as a treat for young yeshiva students. As Gil Marks notes in “The World of Jewish Cooking” (Simon & Schuster, 1996):

“Honey was smeared on a slate containing the letters of the alphabet and the child licked them off so that the ‘words of the Torah may be sweet as honey.’ Afterward, the aspiring scholar was presented with honey cakes, apples and hard-boiled eggs.”

From Germany, the dish traveled to Eastern Europe, where Jews celebrated with honey cakes at simkhot (happy occasions) and holidays alike. According to Marks, the overall use of honey as an ingredient declined in Eastern European cooking during the 17th century but remained popular in Jewish cuisine.

-Source

Now, the fact that it’s leavened & includes wheat flour & confectioner’s sugar (among other “chametz“) would generally rule this cake out for Passover enjoyment. But since I’m not Jewish by birth nor am I (or Jay) religious in any capacity, it doesn’t matter to me. I’m doing this as a tribute to Dotty, not a religious symbol.

Grandma Dotty's honey cake recipe turned into mini cakes.

If you’re Jewish & you’re obeying the laws of Judaism, you know whether or not it’s okay to eat. Maybe wait until after Passover to try it? Or flex your culinary muscles by altering the recipe to use almond flour or matzoh meal? Alternately, they also make delicious little Easter cupcakes. Honestly they’re really great for any occasion. Even just an average Friday.

I used Langnese, an imported German honey in them, but Golden Blossom would taste great too ’cause of the orange. Just be sure to use a REAL honey. A lot of the honey you find in stores today is just high fructose corn syrup mixed with a little honey.

Continue reading

Kosher dills, TAKE TWO!

Retro 1957 Heinz Kosher dill pickle ad.

Uhm, I beg to differ, Heinz. ‘Cause these pickles right here are quite the sensation round my way.

You might remember, if you’re a longtime reader, the Kosher dill pickles I made a few years ago from a recipe by Arthur Schwartz (I guess you realize right about now that “take two” means this is my second time making them, not that I want you to take two of them. Heh.).

I made them the first time two summers ago while Jay was away on tour, and when he came home he flipped. He totally loved them, was obsessed in fact. And yes, he said they were his “favorite pickles” (until he tasted the grilled pickles, the hop pickles, the maple whiskey pickles…etc, etc). I tease him about that a lot. But I do know that despite the fact that he might love all kinds of pickles, Kosher dills are his absolute favorite. The less vinegar, the better. No vinegar at all? Perfect!

Arthur Schwartz's Kosher dill recipe.

They taste just like a deli pickle, apparently. Super crunchy & half-sour, like a “new” dill. He’s been asking me to make them again ever since, & I’ve slacked off.

Yeah, I’m horrible. But he’ll get over it- he gets a lot of treats.

So anyway here’s version two of Arthur’s recipe, adapted for a smaller scale (yields 1 quart as opposed to 3). Pro tip: Make sure you get cucumbers that are all the same size & shape, roughly. They’ll ferment at the same time more than a variety of sizes would. Unless you’re going to cut them into slices or “chips”, that is.

Kosher dill pickle recipe, 3-6 days to ferment.

How to make Kosher dill pickles at home! NO CANNING NEEDED!

This recipe makes some beautiful pickles.

ARTHUR SCHWARTZ’S HOMEMADE KOSHER DILL* PICKLES (Adapted by David Leibovitz from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking)

Makes 1 quart or 2 pints, can be doubled or tripled

Ingredients:

  • 4 cups water
  • 1 tablespoons plus 2 1/2 teaspoons coarse white salt (Kosher, if available)
  • 5-7 Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed
  • 3 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed
  • 1 3/4 teaspoons pickling spice
  • 2 bay leaves
  • 1 small bunch of dill, preferably going to seed, washed

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring 1 1/2 cups water to a boil with the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the remaining water.
  2. Prepare jars (1 quart or 2 pint jars, preferably wide mouth) by running them through the dishwasher or filling them with boiling water, then dumping it out.
  3. Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure they’re tightly-packed. As you fill the jars, divide the garlic, spices, bay leaves, and dill amongst them. You can also slice the cukes into spears or slices, whatever you prefer.
  4. Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with cheesecloth, secured with rubber bands, or loosely with the lids. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days. You’ll probably have leftover brine, so either make another batch or just toss it… yes it’s a little wasteful, but it’s just saltwater!
  5. After 3 days, taste one. The pickles can ferment from 3 to 6 days. The longer the fermentation, the more sour they’ll become, however whole cucumbers that aren’t sliced at all might take longer in general. Once the pickles are to your liking, refrigerate them.

Easy Kosher dill pickle recipe- no canning required.

*Just to clear this Kosher thing up:

A “kosher” dill pickle is not necessarily kosher in the sense that it has been prepared in accordance with Jewish dietary law. Rather, it is a pickle made in the traditional manner of Jewish New York City pickle makers, with generous addition of garlic and dill to a natural salt brine.[3][4][5]

In New York terminology, a “full-sour” kosher dill is one that has fully fermented, while a “half-sour,” given a shorter stay in the brine, is still crisp and bright green.[6]Elsewhere, these pickles may sometimes be termed “old” and “new” dills.

Dill pickles (not necessarily described as “kosher”) have been served in New York City since at least 1899.[7] They are not, however, native to New York; they have been prepared in Russia, Ukraine, Germany and Poland for hundreds of years.[citation needed]

So these are kind of a cross between a refrigerator pickle, a fermented pickle & a shelf-stable pickle, seeing as how you end up refrigerating them & not processing them, yet they do in fact sit out for a while to “ferment.” They’re incredibly easy to make, and they really don’t have any of the somewhat “scary” elements of fermentation/lacto-fermentation (no yeast forms, there’s no mold skimming, etc). It’s sort of an intro to refrigerator pickles, canning & fermenting all at once.

I do prefer to make these kinds of pickles one jar at a time, just because I run out of room & places to hide them during their 3-6 day fermentation period. It has to be a relatively cool, dark area… and there are only so many of those during the summer months. Plus, that cuts down on the amount of “NO NO NO! DON’T EAT THOSE YET!” moments. Which, in a house like mine, there are many. There are jars of things brewing, freezing or sitting just about everywhere; sourdough starters, cold brewed coffee, bacon fat, flax seed, spent grain, fermenting pickles… all of these things somewhere, whether in the fridge, freezer or counter.

Arthur Schwartz's easy Kosher dill pickle recipe.

They will get cloudy after a day or two, that’s perfectly normal. And yes, I recommend wide mouth jars for this particular recipe. Especially if you’re making whole pickles, not sliced. AND DO NOT USE LARGE WAXED CUCUMBERS FOR THIS. It just will not work well. The wax prevents anything from penetrating the cucumber, and even if you slice them the skin will still be waxy & weird. You can quadruple this recipe and make one gallon as well, if you enjoy pickles that much. I actually just invested in some half-gallon Ball® jars (mainly for making cold brewed & sun tea) & I also noticed that my dill is growing like crazy… so perhaps Jay has a full half-gallon of Kosher dills in his future!

I don’t know how often I have to keep saying this, but: ANYONE can make these! They’re insanely simple! There’s no reason why you shouldn’t try making them.

Unless you don’t like pickles. In which case, can I interest you in a cake?

Arthur Schwartz’s Kosher dill pickles, to end the summer.

(7.08.13: Pssst… there’s an updated version of this recipe- click here for it…)

 

I don’t know Arthur Schwartz, but I know my Jason. And in addition to being a world-renowned rock star & life-saver/protector of the masses, Jason is a pickle person. A pickle lover, if I may say so. However, it recently came to light, what with me making so many jars of pickles this summer, that Jason is not a fan of pickles made with vinegar..

*blank stare*

*crickets*

*tumble weeds blow past*

Yeah. No vinegar. He likes old fashioned Kosher dill deli pickles. His favorite pickles, Bubbies, are made without vinegar. So back in July he asked me try and make pickles that way, and the first recipe I came upon was this one. It looked really easy, got good reviews (it’s on David Leibovitz’s website, how could it not) and the photos looked great, so I tried it.

EASIEST PICKLES EVER.

The part about these that’s good for most people is they aren’t canned/jarred, so you don’t need special equipment to make them. Just any old jar will do, even an old spaghetti sauce jar. David says:

Arthur advises making sure the cukes aren’t bitter before pickling them, so be sure to take a bite of one. In the US, at farmer’s markets, they often give samples first. If you live somewhere, like say, in Paris, you can do something similar to My Trader Joe’s Wine Test: Buy a bottle, take it out to the parking lot, open it, and take a swig. If it’s good, go back and buy a case.

I found the recipe made a bit more brine than I needed, but that’s probably because my cucumbers were different than what was advised in the recipe. Just for fun, I did one jar by splitting the cucumbers lengthwise and they worked great. It’s a good tip if you want your pickles in a hurry since that jar was ready after just days of fermenting.

ARTHUR SCHWARTZ’S HOMEMADE KOSHER DILL PICKLES (Adapted by David Leibovitz from Arthur Schwartz’s Jewish Home Cooking)

Ingredients:

  • 4 quarts water
  • 6 tablespoons coarse white salt (Kosher, if available)
  • 18-20 Kirby cucumbers, scrubbed
  • 8 cloves garlic, unpeeled and lightly-crushed
  • 2 tablespoons pickling spice
  • 6 bay leaves*
  • 1 large bunch of dill, preferably going to seed, washed
  • sanitized jars

Directions:

  1. In a large pot, bring 1 qt (1l) water to a boil with the salt, stirring until the salt is dissolved. Remove from heat and add the remaining water.
  2. Prepare three 1 quart (liter) wide mouth jars (or 6 pint jars) by running them through the dishwasher or filling them with boiling water, then dumping it out.
  3. Pack the cucumbers vertically into the jars, making sure they’re tightly-packed. As you fill the jars, divide the garlic, spices, bay leaves, and dill amongst them.
  4. Fill the jars with brine so that the cucumbers are completely covered. Cover the jars with cheesecloth, secured with rubber bands, or loosely with the lids. Store in a cool, dark place for 3 days.
  5. After 3 days, taste one. The pickles can ferment from 3 to 6 days. The longer the fermentation, the more sour they’ll become. Once the pickles are to your liking, refrigerate them.
*I didn’t use this at all. Didn’t see the need.

Please be aware that the recipe as it’s written above makes A LOT OF PICKLES. Be sure to reduce it based on how much you want to make.

What I did, since it was so hot when I first made these back in July, was after 12 hours of sitting in a dark cabinet, I put the pickles in the fridge anyway. I figured the 100+ degree weather wouldn’t help, and there certainly weren’t many “cool” places that I could safely store a jar. I mean, sure, the A/C works well, but the kitchen is always the hottest room & I can’t realistically store pickles in the living room behind the couch or in the bedroom under the bed (that’s where the monsters are, duh). I used a glass jar with a hinge closure that has a rubber seal & they claim it’s 100% airtight, but it really isn’t; I know this because when tilted for a test, a little dribble of brine worked itself out. Either way, I left it open just a bit the first 12 hours. Then I closed it to put it in the fridge because the last thing I want is for it to get knocked over, the cap fly off and waste all the brine, in turn causing my fridge to smell like a deli. Ikea sells some really nice fancy-looking jars that would work well for a refrigerator pickle recipe, but again any jar will do. A Kerr/Ball mason jar, an old spaghetti sauce or pickle jar, etc. And now is the perfect time to make these, because the weather is getting much cooler & you don’t have to stress about where to put them.

I used dill seeds & dill weed, because I had no fresh dill, and it worked just fine. Also, I didn’t tightly pack them. Mainly because I was making other pickles at the time and didn’t want to waste a lot of cucumbers on this recipe that might not pan out. But my fears & worries were for naught; they smelled fantastic after just 12 hours. Jay didn’t try one until almost 4 days of fermenting, and he said they were awesome, and couldn’t stop eating them. Maybe I’ve succeeded in nudging Bubbies out of the way? I think so. And it’s such an easy way to make them; no water bath, no sealing the jars, etc. Not that any of that is difficult, really, ’cause it isn’t. But it was way quicker to make. And he loved them, so they were a huge success in my book. So of course, I had to make another batch. Two, actually. And probably a third before the fresh cukes disappear.

Just be aware that this is not a safe method for keeping the pickles for a long period of time. It’s meant for eating fairly soon, and for storage in a fridge. Check them for funky smells or funky things growing in there, and if you don’t refrigerate it for a few days, even if it’s in a very cool place… keep an eye on it even more. I’ve heard gross things. Horror stories, I tell you. I’m talking about pickles growing hands & feet & walking away… that kind of thing.

So there you have it. Über easy Kosher deli-style pickles, made without vinegar & no “complicated” water baths or canning processes. Don’t say I never gave you anything. Now seriously- bring on the fall!

Ra-ra-rugelach.

Thank you all for your kind words & sympathy. While I’m back posting recipes, they’re recipes I had made and written up last week before my uncle’s passing. So my heart still hurts, and of course none of us are “over it”…  but yes, I’m “back” to posting. My uncle loved to cook and loved desserts, even though he was on a strict diet, so he wouldn’t want me to stop posting or hold off on anything. So here’s a new delicious recipe I want to share with you all, and I also really wanted to share the photos of my friend John’s beautiful little baby girl, Angelina, in her Cupcake Rehab bib. So freakin’ cute!

Look at her, all ready to beat someone with her whisk! Or make cupcakes, whatever!

If you want cuteness like that, and by cuteness I mean the bib not the baby- I don’t think John is willing to share her… then you can go to my Cupcake Rehab webstore and buy stuff. I have an assload of things for sale from hoodies to bibs (duh) to coffee mugs to dog bowls! Seriously. Buy some stuff, take pictures, and send me the pics. I’ll add ‘em to the C.R.my page & you’ll be (quasi-) famous. But I can’t promise it’ll make you as cute as Angelina.

Back to the eats. What’s fair is fair, and while it’s Easter time for Christians, it’s Passover for the Jewish people. Each holiday & religion hold to their own traditional foods & desserts, as do the specific ethnicities and races within each religion, just as they hold to the traditions of the religions themselves. I myself am neither Christian nor Jew, but I certainly don’t discriminate against delicious food items. I embrace them all!

Hamentashen is more traditional around this time of year, but honestly, since when have I been traditional? Actually that’s not true, I’m very old-fashioned. At any rate, I don’t happen to like hamentashen at all, so rugelach it is!

Rugelach is one of my absolute favorite “cookies.” I like the chocolate ones, and I like the filling to have a touch of cinnamon. I also like the cinnamon sugar. I’m not into the fruit filled version. I used to love the ones from the 2nd Avenue Deli… Jay used to work right near it, but that was before the two of us got together (unfortunately). And back when my dad was still working, he’d randomly pick up a bunch in a 2nd Avenue Deli tin and I’d eat all the chocolate. Once he got them as a gift for someone, and I finagled it open, ate two chocolate ones and resealed it. Shh, don’t tell.

Rugelach aren’t difficult to make. It’s similar to rolling a croissant, or a chocolate croissant. This particular dough is made with cream cheese, although there are many different varieties.

Rugelach (Yiddish: רוגעלך) (other spellings: rugelakh, rugulach, rugalach, ruggalach, rogelach (all plural), rugalah, rugala (singular)) is a Jewish pastry of Ashkenazic origin.

Traditional rugelach are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling.[1][2] Some sources state that the rugelach and the French croissant share a common Viennese ancestor, crescent-shaped pastries commemorating the lifting of the Turkish siege in 1793[3] (this could be a reference to the Battle of Vienna in 1683). This appears to be an urban legend however, as both the rugelach and its supposed ancestor (the Kipfel or Kipferl) pre-date the Early Modern era, and the croissant in its modern form did not originate earlier than the 19th century (see viennoiserie).

An alternative form is constructed much like a strudel or nut roll, but unlike those, the rolled dough and filling is cut into slices before baking.[4]

The name is Yiddish, the Jewish language of eastern Europe. The ach ending (ך) indicates plural, while the el (ל) can be a diminutive, as, for example, shtetlekh (שטעטלעך, villages) is the plural of shtetl (שטעטל, village), the diminutive of shtot (שטאָט, town). In this case, the root means something like “twist” so the translation would be “little twists,” a reference to the shape of this cookie.[3] In this context, note that rog (ראָג) means corner in Yiddish,[5] so it is possible that a more accurate translation would be “little corners.”

Alternatively, some assert that the root is rugel, meaning royal, possibly a reference to the taste.[6] This explanation is in conflict with Yiddish usage, where the word keniglich (קעניגליךּ) is the dominant word meaning royal.[7]

Finally, in modern Hebrew, they are known as roglìt (רוֹגְלִית), a postbiblical Hebrew word meaning “trailing vines”.[8] The Yiddish word ruglach probably came first. The modern Hebrew is probably a neologism, chosen for its similarity to the Yiddish and its descriptive meaning.

Rugelach can be made with sour cream or cream cheese[1][2][3] doughs, but there are also pareve variants with no dairy ingredients,[9] so that it can be eaten with or after a meat meal and still be kosher. Cream cheese doughs are the most recent, probably American innovations, while yeast leavened[9][10] and sour cream doughs[11][12] are much older.

The different fillings can include raisins, walnuts, cinnamon, chocolate, marzipan, poppy seed, or fruit preserves which are rolled up inside.

I’ve been wanting to make rugelach for a long time. I sort of combined 4 or 5 recipes I found to make one of my own. I think it turned out fantastic! Except one word of advice: if you don’t have a stand mixer, this dough is not going to happen for you. It’s so thick that it slowed Lola down and she made all kinds of “Rrrrrr” noises. But she can handle it. And there’s no way you can mix it by hand, you need to cream the butter and cream cheese together and even using a hand mixer isn’t gonna work out well for that. You know how cream cheese is… many a mixer has broken under it’s wrath.

Chocolate rugelach

CHOCOLATE RUGELACH

Ingredients:

  • 8 oz. cream cheese, at room temperature
  • 2 sticks (½ pound) unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 2 ¼ cups all-purpose flour
  • ¼ tsp. salt
  • ½ vanilla extract
  • ¼ cup and 2 tablespoons sugar, divided
  • 1 tablespoon cocoa powder
  • 1 tablespoon cinnamon
  • ½ cup melted bittersweet chocolate, cooled but still “liquidy”
  • 1 egg, beaten

Directions:

  1. Beat softened butter and cream cheese in large bowl on medium speed of mixer until blended and smooth. Gradually add flour and ¼ cup sugar and vanilla, beating on low speed until well blended. Divide dough into 3 equal parts; wrap individually in plastic wrap. Refrigerate anywhere from 1 to 4 hours or until firm enough to roll.
  2. Heat oven to 375°F. On lightly floured surface, roll one piece of dough into 9-inch circle (keep remaining dough in refrigerator). Cut circle into 12 wedges. Place about 1 teaspoon melted chocolate at wide end of each wedge; spread about three-fourths of the way up wedge. Stir together 2 tablespoons sugar, cinnamon and cocoa powder; sprinkle over melted chocolate, sprinkle over melted chocolate. Starting at wide end, roll toward the point. Place cookies, point sides down, about 1 inch apart on a sheet of parchment paper covering an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush with beaten egg.
  3. Bake 15 to 20 minutes or until golden. Remove from cookie sheet to wire rack. Cool completely. Repeat procedure with remaining dough and filling.
Cinnamon sugar rugelach

The dough I made is a sweet dough, if you’d like a not-sweet version just remove the sugar and vanilla. If you’d like to add a little something extra, sprinkle with some sugar after brushing the dough with the beaten egg. Other options for fillings are apricot (1 cup apricot preserves plus ¾ cup chopped walnuts), cinnamon sugar (4 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted, ½ cup sugar, 2 teaspoons cinnamon) or raspberry-raisin (1 cup of raspberry jam and ½ cup raisins).  Or you can be totally rebellious and come up with your own filling!

(Psst… wanna know a sweet shortcut to the chocolate filling? Bosco chocolate syrup plus a sprinkling of cinnamon. Trust me, it works and it’s delicious. Just don’t use too much syrup, you’ll end up with a gooey mess.)

To me, they’re perfectly sweet, not too sweet, plus the cream cheese adds a little something special. I devoured way more  in one sitting than I should’ve. A little basket of these is a perfect hostess gift.