Cranberry Orange Bread

Cranberry Orange Bread


Cranberry Orange Bread is sweet, tart, citrusy and nutty. Perfect for Thanksgiving! Cranberries are one of nature’s superfoods and they taste great. I love their bright tartness that is only enhanced with the addition of orange. And they are so pretty to look at – little scarlet jewels that add a dash of autumn color to any dish. When they are dried, I actually prefer them to raisins.

This recipe (with a few changes from me) comes from Beard On Bread and makes one large loaf. I have another recipe which I have been making for over 40 years and can be found hand-written in a book that I keep of favorite recipes. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it originated. It is substantially similar to the Beard recipe but fits a more conventional 9 X 5-inch pan. You can’t go wrong with either one.

Cranberry Orange Nut Bread

A Note on Hoarding (Okay, a justification)

As it happens, I have the larger 10 X 5-inch pan called for in the James Beard version, so that is what I made this time. More Cranberry Orange Bread for me! However, I have given the proportions below for the smaller version as well since that is the size pan that most people will have on hand. Honestly, I don’t even know why I have the larger pan. It sat in the back of a cupboard rarely used and I have no recollection of ever buying it. Probably just one of those things I inherited or picked up over the years.

Matthew and Frances will probably hate me when I die because I have collected so much stuff that they will have to sort through. But I’ve been married for over 36 years. So not only did I manage to buy things during that time, but my mother and some of her friends recognized a kindred entertaining spirit in me and gifted things to me.

Don’t get me wrong. There are some real treasures – beautiful silver serving pieces, antique hors d’oevres plates, some antique table linens that I picked up on a trip to Taormina, Italy. Decorations unique to each holiday. Well, you get the idea. It all seems kind of pointless now since there are no more large family gatherings. But the optimist in me hopes that maybe there will be a few more in my lifetime. Who knows? Maybe a grandchild or niece or nephew will want some of it. It could happen.

But I digress. This Cranberry Orange Bread is lovely on the Thanksgiving table but it’s also great anytime for brunch or an afternoon snack. I have even been known to cut a thick slice, lavishly butter it and stick it under the broiler briefly just to toast the top. OMG that is sooooooooooooooo good.

Since it is almost Thanksgiving, whether you are having any friends or family over, you also might look here for some inspiration:

Let’s Talk Turkey

Orange Cranberry Relish

Cranberry Orange Bread

Recipe

Yield: 10 X 5-inch Loaf (See below for 9 X 5-inch loaf)

Ingredients

3 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large eggs

1 cup granulated sugar

1/4 cup melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice plus 1/2 cup milk (non-dairy is fine) (I actually used buttermilk)

Grated orange zest of 2 large navel oranges

1.25 cups fresh or frozen raw cranberries, cut in half (I find that freezing the cranberries first makes them less likely to “bleed” when mixed with the batter.)

3/4 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

1 to 2 Tablespoons of crumbled brown sugar (Optional)

Cranberry Orange Bread

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease and flour (Baking spray with flour works well) a 10 X 5-inch loaf pan.

In a medium bowl, sift the flour with the baking soda, baking powder and salt. Set aside.

Using a standing mixer or hand beater, beat the eggs and sugar until well blended and fluffy. Stir in the melted butter, orange zest, milk and OJ. Add the flour mixture and mix just until blended. Do NOT over-mix.

Gently fold in the cranberries and nuts by hand. Don’t worry if the cranberries “bleed” a little into the dough. Carefully spread the thick batter into the pan so that it is even. If you are using the brown sugar, crumble some over the top and lightly press into the batter.

Bake for about 75 minutes or until the center of the bread springs back when lightly touched or a cake tester comes out clean. If it seems to be browning more than you like but isn’t finished baking, cover it lightly with foil and continue baking. Ovens vary so start checking after one hour and don’t worry if it takes longer.

Allow the bread to cool in the pan for 15 to 20 minutes or until you can just handle the pan with your bare hands before turning the bread out onto a cooling rack. This is best made a day ahead of serving for all of the flavors to fully develop. Wrap it tightly once it is completely cooled.

Note

Because this is a “quick” bread made with baking soda and baking powder, it is normal for a crack down the top to develop during the baking. Why is it called a quick bread? Because it rises without yeast or a long fermentation process. The baking soda and baking powder make the bread rise as soon as it is mixed in and you pop it in the oven.

And because this is a particularly moist bread that will get even moister over time, it is best stored in the fridge or a very cool spot in your house. Bring it to room temperature before serving.

Measurements for 9 X 5-inch Cranberry Orange Bread or 3 Mini-Loaves

2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour

1.5 teaspoons baking powder

1/2 teaspoon double-acting baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg

1/4 melted, unsalted butter

3/4 cup orange juice

Grated zest of 1 large orange

1 cup raw fresh or frozen cranberries, cut in half

1/2 cup chopped walnuts or pecans

Follow Directions as above

The baking time is about an hour for the 9 X 5-inch loaf and about 45 minutes if using the mini-loaf pans. Always check when you begin to really smell the baking since all ovens are different.

Apple Bread Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding

Apple Bread Pudding – three of the most comforting words in the English language. I have always said that I could fairly easily live without meat, but not without bread. In recent years, bread became a symbol of the diet devil incarnate. Of course, the pandemic helped change that somewhat but many people still eschew this most essential of foods. Really good bread – not the stuff that is meant to last on store shelves for weeks and that has neither taste nor structure.

My husband and I bake bread every week and when we don’t bake, we search out great bread, walking or driving miles out of our way, to buy it. And who doesn’t love a good pudding, eggy, fragrant with vanilla, rich, but overall – comforting.

I make this bread pudding with leftover challah, but it could also be made with brioche or other rich, sweetened bread. Since we are now well into autumn, of course I want to add apples and raisins. And while I made this apple bread pudding with real milk and butter, you could use a good non-dairy milk and buttery vegan spread or refined coconut oil.

You can take your fancy desserts and desserts loaded with candy and covered with sprinkles. For me, nothing is more beautiful, yummy and comforting than a delicious bread pudding. It reminds me of childhood when I felt safe and yet appeals to my adult palate.

The genesis of this particular recipe is Classic Home Desserts by Richard Sax. The version I have is out of print, although it can be found on the web. I have made a few modifications to suit our tastes.

Recipe

Apple Bread Pudding

Yield: 6 to 8 portions

Ingredients

3.5 to 4 cups (about 5 to 6 ounces), cubed day-old challah, crusts partially trimmed (I used Raisin Challah, but any would do)

5 large eggs

2 large egg yolks

2/3 cup granulated sugar plus 2 Tablespoons, divided

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3 cups milk (I used 2% because that is what I had)

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract or vanilla bean paste

Grated zest of one small orange (optional)

1/2 cup raisins or currants (optional – soak the raisins for at least 30 minutes in 2 Tablespoons Bourbon, Grand Marnier or Calvados)

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter, divided

1.5 cups (about 1.5 apples) peeled, cored and coarsely chopped (I used a Golden Delicious and Pink Crispin, but almost any good baking apple would do)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the middle. Use 2 Tablespoons of the butter to coat the pan. (I used a large, shallow oval gratin pan that holds 7 to 8 cups.)

Allow the bread cubes to sit out at room temperature to dry out some. Do not use fresh bread!

Whisk the eggs, yolks, sugar, zest and salt in a large bowl. Whisk in the milk and vanilla. Add the bread cubes and the raisins. (I drained the raisins somewhat but you could add the liquid. If you do, I would use vanilla bean paste instead of the vanilla extract to cut down on the amount of liquid.) Use a spatula to gently mix everything through, trying not to break up the bread cubes. Set aside for at least 30 minutes to allow the bread to become saturated.

Apple Bread Pudding

Meanwhile, add the remaining Tablespoon of butter to a large skillet and when it begins to sizzle, add the apple cubes and 2 Tablespoons of sugar. Toss for about 4 minutes, coating the apples well. Allow the apples to cool slightly and then add it to the bread and custard mixture.

Apple Bread Pudding

Pour the pudding mixture into the buttered baking dish and set into a roasting pan. Pour in enough hot tap water to reach about halfway up the sides of the baking dish. This is a bain marie.

Apple Bread Pudding

Bake for about 1 hour or until the center just barely jiggles. Depending on the depth of the baking dish and your oven, the time could vary slightly. Do not overbake. The custard will continue to cook somewhat after you remove it from the oven.

Apple Bread Pudding

Carefully remove the baking dish from the bain marie and allow to cool on a wire rack.

The bread pudding can be served slightly warm (the way my husband likes it), room temperature (the way I like it) or from the refrigerator. Any leftovers should be kept in a very cool spot or refrigerated.

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf is dense, dark, rich and satisfying with autumn flavors. When you bake this loaf, light a crackling fire and snuggle up with some loved ones – furry, children or adults. The house will smell so inviting that you just may have to turn your neighbors away.

I’m looking out on a dreary, rainy, chilly fall day. But inside, my husband and I (with our cat, Zoya) are snug and happy to be at home, waiting for this delicious Guiness Gingerbread Loaf to come out of the oven. I’ve recently started watching Laura in the Kitchen and when I saw this, I knew that I had to make it. It isn’t fancy and that is perfect. While I may enjoy the artistry of a beautifully sculpted and plated confection, generally I want something that is delicious without being precious or too fussy. And please, NO SPRINKLES!

This Guiness Gingerbread Loaf comes together fairly quickly and with easy- to-find ingredients. And even though the recipe uses Stout, the alcohol cooks away in the baking process leaving only that delicious molassesy, caramelly taste. The spicing is just right. My husband and I ate this still warm from the oven and after one bite we just looked at each other with these slightly silly grins. So, so good. There is just a bit of crust and then you sink into this dense, moist cake. Did I say that this was delicious?

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

I wouldn’t hesitate to give this to kids – as is or with a shmear of cream cheese or good butter. When my son was little, I would whip up gingerbread for him to eat when he got home from school. So even though many kids are schooling remotely from home, that doesn’t mean that wonderful treats shouldn’t await them when the school day ends.

There truly isn’t enough comfort in the world that we couldn’t use a bit more. Mix up this wonderfully comforting Gingerbread Loaf and take a breath. Let the autumn leaves fall and bring on the chill!

For other delicious gingerbread recipes try these:

Chocolate Stout Gingerbread Cake

Gingerbread

Recipe

Yield: 8 to 12 slices

Guiness Gingerbread Loaf

Ingredients

  • 2-1/3 cups of unbleached all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1 tsp of baking powder
  • 2 tsp of ground ginger
  • 1 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp of ground cloves
  • 1/2 tsp of kosher salt
  • 1/2 cup of unsalted butter softened at room temperature
  • 1 cup of full flavor (robust) molasses or treacle (I actually used a combination of molasses and treacle since I didn’t have quite enough molasses on hand.)
  • 1 cup of Guiness Stout (or other Stout)
  • 2/3 cup of dark brown sugar
  • 2 large eggs
  • 1 tsp of pure vanilla extract

Directions

Preheat your oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9 x 5-inch loaf pan with nonstick spray and line the bottom with parchment paper. Leave a 2-inch overhang with the parchment. It isn’t essential to do this step but makes getting the loaf out of the pan a little easier, especially if you aren’t using a non-stick pan. Spray the parchment.

Combine the butter, Guiness Stout and molasses in a saucepan. Bring the mixture to a boil, stirring once or twice to make sure that the butter melts. As soon as it comes to a boil, remove the pan from the heat and allow the mixture to cool for about 15 minutes.

Mix the flour baking soda, baking powder, salt and spices together in a medium bowl.

In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs, vanilla nd brown sugar, breaking up any lumps. Add the dry ingredients along with the Guiness mixture and stir until combined.

Pour the mixture into the prepared pan and bake for about 1 hour or until a tester comes out clean. I thought that my loaf was still a bit moist after one hour but didn’t want to overbake it. So I turned off the oven, cracked open the door and left it in for another 10 minutes. I allowed it to cool on a wire rack for about an additional 10 minutes before removing from the pan.

The bread can be cut while it is still slightly warm, but allow it to cool for about an hour first. You can sprinkle with powdered or icing sugar for presentation, if you like.

Strawberry Dutch Baby

I love breakfast – for dinner. In the mornings, I simply can’t eat that much unless I have a day of hiking ahead of me. But my husband Andrew has been treating me to this Strawberry Dutch Baby for the last several weeks and it is soooooooooo yummy. Sometimes it is accompanied by breakfast meat and other times we just eat it on its own. And the great thing about it is that I don’t crave dessert afterwards. So have this Strawberry Dutch Baby for breakfast, brunch or dinner.

I thought that Andrew couldn’t improve on his Caramelized Apple Dutch Baby, but I was wrong. Well, actually I wasn’t. While that was perfection, so is this. And while it’s true that we can now eat strawberries all year long, take advantage of the summer fruit while you can. It will never have more flavor than it does now. And as the strawberries roast in the skillet while the Dutch Baby cooks, the flavor intensifies.

So what is a Dutch Baby? Well, for those of you who don’t know, it’s a cross between a very large popover and a Yorkshire pudding. It’s also called a German pancake. It can be plain or with fruit. And I suppose there is no reason why you couldn’t make a savory Dutch Baby, although I have not had it this way. The name has absolutely nothing to do with the Netherlands and likely is a mangling of the word Deutsch, meaning “German.” However you say it, just enjoy this marvelous creation.

My husband, as guest blogger, will now continue the post.

Hi! It’s me again, Andrew, and today I’m writing about a Strawberry Dutch Baby. It was inspired by a recipe from thekitchn.com (for details about how it was changed, see the Q&A below). Here’s the far superior and delectable result! [Okay, this is actually Lisa giving her critique. Andrew is much more modest.]

Recipe

Yield: 2 for dinner

Ingredients

  For the strawberry filling

    1/3 cup granulated sugar

    Zest of 1 medium lemon

Juice of 1/2 of medium lemon

    1 lb. strawberries, plus a few more for garnish

    3 tbsp unsalted butter

  For the batter

    1 cup all-purpose flour

    1 tsp baking powder

    1/8 tsp baking soda

    1 tbsp granulated sugar

    ½ tsp kosher salt

    ½ tsp ground cardamom

    4 large eggs

    1 cup buttermilk

    1 tsp vanilla extract

  For serving (optional, but recommended):

  Powdered sugar or confectioner’s sugar

Directions

Preheat oven to 400°F

Put a 9” cast iron skillet on the stove on medium heat

Strawberry filling

Place 1/3 cup granulated sugar in a medium bowl. Finely grate the zest of 1 medium lemon onto the sugar. Rub the zest into the sugar with your fingertips until fully combined and gritty. If no one is watching, then by all means, lick your fingers.

Hull and cut 1 lb. of strawberries in half and place them in a large bowl. Cut an additional 3 to 4 strawberries into quarters and set aside. Squeeze the juice of half of the zested lemon onto the strawberries and toss to combine.

Batter

1. Place 1 cup all-purpose flour, 1 tsp baking powder, 1/8 tsp baking soda, 1 tbsp granulated sugar, ½ tsp kosher salt, and ½ tsp ground cardamom in a bowl and whisk to combine.

2. In a different bowl, add 4 large eggs and whisk until frothy. Add 1 cup buttermilk and 1 tsp vanilla extract and whisk to combine. 

3. Gently add the dry ingredients, and then add the quartered strawberries, whisking the batter just enough to get everything moist. Do not over mix.

4. Cut 3 tbsp of unsalted butter into 3 pieces, then put them into the skillet. Once the butter is melted, add most of the lemon sugar mixture to the skillet and stir to combine, then arrange the 1 pound of cut strawberries on top and sprinkle with the remaining lemon sugar mixture. 

5. Working quickly, pour the batter all over the berries. Put the skillet in the oven, baking at 400°F until puffed and golden-brown, about 20 minutes.

6. Remove and let cool for 5 minutes. Garnish with a few sliced strawberries, if desired. Serve dusted with powdered sugar.

——————-

Q. and A.

Q. If I start heating up the skillet at the beginning, by the time I finish making the filling and batter I think it will be way too hot and the butter will heat up too fast!

A. You may be right. Here’s the deal: just after we finish the batter we want to pour it onto the strawberries in the skillet. We don’t want the mixed batter to hang around too long waiting for the strawberries, but we also don’t want to overheat the butter or overcook the strawberries (they’ll become too mushy).

So how about this: while you’re preparing the batter, just before you add the dry ingredients to the wet ingredients, go back to the skillet and melt the butter, heat up the lemon sugar mixture, and add the strawberries, then finish the batter.

It really all depends on how quickly you do the different steps, how quickly your skillet heats up, etc. Play around with the steps and do what works best for you. 

Q. Hypothetically, what if I poured the batter over the strawberries, and only then realized I’d forgotten to stir in the reserved strawberries. What should I do?

A. Funny you should ask. When that happened to me I just sprinkled the strawberries on top of the poured batter and put the skillet into the oven. It turned out fine.

Q. Can I serve this with whipped cream, instead of powdered sugar?

A. Of course! 

Q. What about vanilla ice cream?

A. See previous answer.

Q. What did you mean about this recipe being “inspired by” another recipe?

A. Well, the first time I followed the recipe exactly as it was on thekitchn.com the batter didn’t puff up, the strawberries were mush, and no one liked the result. So Lisa said, why don’t you make it more like our Apple Pancake recipe? So I reduced the amount of butter, added more flour, replaced the milk with buttermilk, removed one egg, and cooked the strawberries in the skillet less. It turned out better, but there was room for improvement. Third time around I added ¾ tsp baking powder and a few quartered strawberries to the batter, and I just barely cooked the strawberries before putting the skillet in the oven. The result was pretty good! Finally I upped the baking powder to a full teaspoon, threw in a bit of baking soda, and arranged to get the strawberries into the oven as quickly as possible. The batter ended up light, puffy, and delicious. That’s what’s printed here.

Q. Do you have to be some sort of cookbook author expert to make those sort of changes to a published recipe?

A. Nah. You just have to be willing to listen to good advice (from Lisa) and also willing to try making it more than once.

Moravian Coffee Cake

If you are looking for the ultimate coffee cake look no further. This Moravian Coffee Cake is moist, fragrant, sweet and utterly scrumptious.

Today I have a guest blogger – my husband and partner of 36+ years. For most of those years Andrew never did ANY cooking or baking. Now that we are retired, he has taken up the measuring spoon and rolling pin! And I am the proud and happy beneficiary of his efforts. This Moravian Coffee Cake is one such very, very delicious example. So while this blog is called Lisa and Frances Cook, I’m thinking of changing the name to Lisa and Andrew Cook!

Hi! I’m Andrew, Lisa’s spouse, and I’m writing today about how I baked a Moravian Coffee Cake. Gosh, that’s such an unlikely sentence! Let’s put aside for now how it was that I finally started to learn how to bake after all these years, and start our story on page 124 of James Beard’s Beard on Bread, where he presents a recipe for Moravian Coffee Cake. It sounds really good, and it yields two loaves, baked in 9 x 5 x 3-inch bread pans. The addition of mashed potatoes makes a uniquely moist cake that holds up beautifully.

But…

Lisa and I have been enjoying the Great British Baking Show: Masterclass. One night we were watching how Paul Hollywood made an apricot couronne and I thought, wouldn’t it be great to make a coffee cake that looked like that? So I tried it and got a large ring, a bit flattened, but it tasted great!

But…

Wouldn’t it be even better if we added some nuts? And if it was baked in a tube pan?

Here’s the result!

For other lovely coffee cake recipes:

Italian Walnut and Raisin Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Apricot Almond Cake

Lisa’s Vegan “Honey” Cake

Gateau Breton – French Shortbread Cake

Recipe

Yield: 10 to 12 servings

Ingredients

    4 to 4½ cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

    2 packages active dry yeast (or 4½ tsp)

    ½ cup lukewarm tap water

    ½ cup granulated sugar

    1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter

    ½ teaspoon kosher salt

    2 large eggs

    ½ cup mashed potatoes (I used a Yukon Gold potato cooked in the microwave)

    1 cup somewhat finely chopped walnuts

    ½ cup dark brown sugar (Light brown sugar is fine too.)

    2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

    ½ cup melted butter

   Confectioner’s sugar icing (Optional – but highly recommended! – see below)

Directions

Put ½ cup warm water in a mixing bowl, then add 2 tsp of the granulated sugar, whoosh it around, then add the yeast. Let the yeast proof for 8 to 10 minutes.

Then stir in 2 cups of the flour, the rest of the granulated sugar, the butter and the salt. Beat until smooth, either 300 strokes by hand OR use a dough hook and stand mixer on low for a few minutes.

Blend in the eggs and mashed potatoes, then add 1 cup flour and beat 150 strokes by hand OR a minute on low in the mixer with a dough hook. Stir in more flour to make a moderately stiff dough. Either turn it onto a lightly floured surface and knead by hand, or run it on low in the stand mixer until the dough is smooth and satiny, about 8 to 10 minutes. Shape it into a ball and place in a lightly buttered bowl, turning to butter all sides. Cover and let rise in a room temperature, draft-free place until doubled, about 1½ hours.

Punch the dough down, divide in half, and let rest 10 minutes. Mix together the nuts, brown sugar and cinnamon.

Roll out each portion of dough into a roughly 13 x 10 in. rectangle. Brush with melted butter, then sprinkle each rectangle with about one third of the nut mixture.

With the long edge facing you, roll the dough up tightly into a log.

Repeat for the other portion. Butter the inside of a 10 to 12 cup tube pan with straight sides and a removable bottom. Scatter some of the remaining nut mixture on the bottom. Place one of the rolls into the pan, starting at the center and spiraling outwards. Brush with some melted butter and sprinkle on some nut mixture. Place the second roll in the pan on top of the first roll, starting at the center and spiraling outward in the opposite direction. Brush with some melted butter and sprinkle with the remaining nut mixture.

Let rise, covered with a cloth at room temperature until doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

Bake in a preheated 350° oven for 45 minutes. If the top seems to be browning too quickly, lightly cover it with some foil and continue baking until a toothpick comes out clean and the cake sounds a bit hollow when tapped with a wooden spoon. Cool in pan five minutes. Remove from pan. When the cake is completely cooled, you can ice it.

Confectioner’s Sugar Icing

2 tbsp milk or water

a pinch salt

1 cup (and a bit) confectioner’s sugar

½ teaspoon vanilla

Put milk and vanilla in bowl. Add 1 cup confectioner’s sugar. Whisk until smooth. The icing should be thick enough to not completely run off the cake, but thin enough to drizzle and cascade down the sides a bit. Add a bit more sugar if too thin or a bit more liquid if too thick. Drizzle over the top and let it run down the sides. It’s best to do this over parchment or waxed paper so that you don’t make a mess. Let your inner Jackson Pollack out! Allow the icing to set before cutting. To store, wrap the cake up well or place under a cake dome. This can also be frozen.

——————-

Q. and A.

Q. Why roll out the dough into two tubes? Can’t I just roll it out into one?

A. Sure. I did the dough in two portions because they’d be easier for me to handle.

Q. Do I have to put the dough into the tube pan in alternating spirals?

A. Nope. You can put it in any way you want. Mine turned out to look like a fossil nautilus shell, but I didn’t know that when I started.

Q. Andrew, would it be OK to not use the tube pan? I want to use this dough to make a couronne like Paul Hollywood did.

A. Absolutely, go for it.

Crostata di Ricotta

Crostata di Ricotta is a prized cheesecake from the Garfagna region of Tuscany. This post was supposed to have been ready ahead of the Festival of Shavuot, which commemorates the spring harvest and the giving of the Torah on Mount Sinai. It is customary to eat dairy meals during the holiday so I thought this wold be perfect. However, I’m afraid that I was only able to actually get it made in time for us to enjoy it for the holiday. So keep this in your pocket for next year.

But who am I kidding? This delicious cheesecake, permeated with raisins soaked in Marsala and redolent of the grated zest of an orange is perfect any time. The recipe comes from Carol Field’s book The Italian Baker. She got the recipe from Joyce Goldstein who was a chef at Cafe Chez Panisse. I know – two Jewish women and not an Italian name in sight!

But when you smell this tart with its buttery melt-in-your-mouth sweet crust and bite into the airy, custardy Marsala-scented filling, you will think you are in Tuscany. I was brought up on and love a really good New York cheesecake – so dense and rich that a fork could stand up in it. This Crostata di Ricotta isn’t that. So rid yourself of any preconceptions and enjoy this ricotta tart for what it is – amazing.

Making the Crostata di Ricotta isn’t difficult and it is one of those things where you can make the pastry the day before. I really urge you not to use bought pastry dough for this recipe. Yes, it’s a little more work but the result is so worth it. And if you have a food processor, it actually comes together in no time.

There are many different pastry doughs that would work here as long as they are a rich, sweet dough. I normally like to use a Pâte Sucrée with eggs, but since I was running low on eggs, I made a Pasta Frolla from The Italian Baker that didn’t require any. That is the recipe below. It was not a recipe like any I had made before, but it did come together easily. And while rolling it out proved to be a bit problematic, I was able to pat it into place with my hands and knuckles. The finished product is beautiful and delicious.

My husband and I LOVED this. The crust is fragrant and incredibly delicate – just melting in your mouth with every bite. It is so delicate that it seems to disappear before you even have time to swallow. Oh and let’s not forget the filling. Ahhhhhhhh, the filling. It’s like eating the most flavorful, custardy cloud you can imagine. I’m really not doing justice to how delicious this is. Many things I think are too fussy and not worth the effort. This is absolutely worth the effort.

Carol Field suggests eating the Crostata when still warm or at least the day it is baked. However, if you make it ahead and refrigerate it, she says that it can be warmed in a 350 degree F oven for 20 to 30 minutes. Truthfully, I’m not sure that I would like it warm, but it was amazing eaten a few hours after it had come out of the oven. And even eating it right from the fridge was still pretty great. But your first bites should be from the fresh tart.

Recipes

Yield: One 9.5-inch cheesecake; 8 to 10 servings

For the Pasta Frolla

Ingredients

1.5 cups (200 grams) all-purpose, unbleached flour

3/4 cup plus 1 Tablespoon (100 grams) potato starch

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

Pinch of kosher or fine sea salt

1.75 sticks (200 grams) unsalted butter, at cool room temperature and just malleable

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Grated zest of 1 lemon

Grated zest of 1/2 navel orange (the other half will be used for the filling)

Directions

Place the flour, potato starch, sugar and salt in the bowl of a food processor fitted with the steel blade. Pulse once to mix.

Cut the butter into small chunks and scatter over the flour. Process with about 6 long pulses until the mixture resembles coarse meal. Add the vanilla and grated zest. Process until the dough just starts to come together but before it forms a ball. Knead the dough by hand very briefly until it comes together in a ball that is no longer sticky. I did not have to add any flour to my surface to do this, but if you must just add a small amount. Form a disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate for at least one hour or up to overnight.

When you are ready to roll out the dough, remove it from the fridge for about 10 minutes so you can work with it.

For the Crostata di Ricotta

You will need a deep-sided tart pan with a removable bottom that measures 9.5 inches across the top. Absent that, you could use a spring-form pan but it won’t be quite as pretty as if you have the fluted sides.

Ingredients

1/2 cup (80 grams) golden or other raisins

4 Tablespoons Marsala (I only had a very fine dry Marsala instead of a sweet Marsala. It worked out fine.)

1 pound (450 grams) whole milk ricotta

1/2 cup (100 grams) granulated sugar

1 Tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

4 large eggs, separated, at room temperature

1/4 cup heavy or whipping cream (I only had half & half so used that)

1/4 cup sour cream (I actually only had creme fraiche which has a higher fat content than sour cream. I figured it made up for not having heavy cream.)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

Zest of 1/2 navel orange

1/4 teaspoon fine sea salt or kosher salt

Directions

Soak the raisins in the Marsala for at least 15 minutes (I did overnight). Drain and reserve the Marsala.

Roll out your dough (Mine kept breaking but it actually was quite malleable and I was able to work it with my hands into the pan with the end result being beautiful!) Refrigerate the pan with the dough until you are ready to fill it. This keeps the dough from shrinking.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F.

Place the ricotta, heavy cream and sour cream (or creme fraiche) in the processor and pulse until smooth. Add the flour and sugar and pulse until mixed. Now add the egg yolks, reserved Marsala and vanilla. Pulse until well combined. Add the raisins and pulse once to mix through. Pour the mixture into a large bowl.

In a clean bowl, whip the egg whites with the salt until stiff peaks form. Stir 1/3 of the whites into the ricotta mixture and then gently fold through the remaining whites. Don’t overdo this. You don’t want to deflate the whites.

Remove the tart pan with the pastry from the fridge. Place the pan on a baking sheet or aluminum foil to catch any butter drips. Fill the pastry with the ricotta mixture and even out the top. Place in the oven and bake for 50 to 60 minutes or until the pastry is golden and the filling just barely wobbles. Turn off the oven and open the door part way. Leave the cake in the oven for 30 minutes to cool down slowly. This prevents too much cracking and allows the cake to fully set. After 30 minutes remove the cake to a wire rack.

Once it is cool enough to easily handle, you can remove the tart from the baking ring. The easiest way is to place the tart pan over a large can. The outer tart ring falls off and the tart remains on the bottom. Be standing by to hold onto the Crostata. Then mangia!

Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka)

This Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka), a delicious twist on Mediterranean Shakshuka, will send your tastebuds spinning. By now, most everyone knows and has eaten some version of shakshuka. And like everyone who has tried it, I love it too. But in an effort to use up (down) my pantry, I recalled a recipe that I had come across years ago but never tried. Months into sheltering-in-place – it was time.

I had just received my grocery delivery which would last me for two weeks. Now I have a minor pet peeve. When I am watching cooking shows – not competitions – that are based in someone’s home, I am always amazed at how totally empty their refrigerator and freezer are and how clean their ovens are. Come on! No one who cooks all of the time as such an empty fridge or an oven that clean! I especially love the one who lives in the middle of nowhere North Dakota on a farm – IN WINTER – with an empty fridge and freezer. THIS is what my fridge looks like after my most recent delivery. Keep in mind that I won’t shop again for two weeks.

But I digress. While I had not ever made the recipe for Mexishuka (Mexican Shakshuka) before, I already saw that I wanted to adjust the recipe and I made some significant seasoning changes. I had everything I wanted on hand, including some cans of vegetarian, fat-free refried beans from – well, I don’t actually know, but since the cans were still okay, I’m using them. I did try to buy some Queso Fresco with this last order but nothing was available. So I will substitute with a shredded mozzarella. A shredded cheddar also will go well with this. This dish is vegetarian so is perfect for a Meatless Monday dinner, although it would also make a delicious Sunday brunch. It is loaded with serious attitude and yet tastes soooooooooooo comforting. My version is very well-seasoned but not crazy hot.

Recipe

Yield: 4 servings

Ingredients

15 oz. can of refried beans of choice ( I used a fat-free, vegetarian version) [Delicious but optional so don’t fret if you don’t have any.]

15 oz. can of pinto or kidney beans, rinsed and drained

About 2 Tablespoons EVOO (Canola oil is fine too)

1 large onion, coarsely chopped

4 garlic cloves, crushed and finely chopped

28 oz. can of whole tomatoes, crushed (or diced)

2 Tablespoons tomato paste

1 large jalapeno chili pepper, finely diced (or a hotter chili if that is how you like things)

1 teaspoon apple cider vinegar

2 teaspoons ground cumin

1.5 teaspoons mild chili powder

1/2 teaspoon ground coriander

1 teaspoon dried oregano leaves

1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/8 teaspoon ground allspice

1 Tablespoon brown sugar

1 teaspoon paprika (preferably Spanish smoked Paprika)

1/4 teaspoon cayenne pepper (optional)

1 teaspoon kosher salt or to taste

4 to 6 large eggs

Large handful of loosely packed greens, coarsely chopped ( kale, Swiss chard, spinach, watercress or a mixture)

Garnish (Optional, so take your pick or use them all)

fresh cilantro

sliced avocado

lime wedges

shredded cheese

salsa of choice

Tortillas, pita or other bread that you have around

Directions

Warm the EVOO on medium heat in a heavy (preferably cast iron) large skillet. Add the onion and jalapeno and stir frequently until the onion begins to turn golden, about 8 to 10 minutes.

Add the garlic and cook for one minute, stirring. Then add the spices and tomato paste and cook for one minute, stirring until the spices release their fragrance and the tomato paste just begins to brown.

Add the tomatoes, pinto beans, apple cider vinegar and greens and stir through. [NOTE: when you add your greens depends on the greens being added. Baby spinach takes almost no time to cook so I would only add that just before adding the eggs. Kale takes longer so I would add it here.] Cover the pan and lower the heat to a gentle simmer. Cook for 15 minutes. Turn off the heat.

Make 4 to 6 indentations (depending on the number of eggs you are using) in the mixture. Carefully crack each egg into an indentation, being careful not to break the yokes. Using a knife or spatula, carefully pull on the egg whites (being careful not to disturb the yolks) to mix them with some of the sauce.

Turn the heat back on to a gentle simmer and cook for about 10 minutes, basting the egg whites with sauce from time to time. Now cover the pan and cook for 3 to 5 minutes, depending on how you like your eggs.

In a separate pan or the microwave, heat the refried beans. For serving, place a good dollop of refried beans on the plate/shallow bowl alongside the Mexishuka. Garnish and enjoy!

Carrot Loaf Cake

Best Laid Plans

Last week I made this truly beautiful spice marble cake that I was going to share with you. It was a little bit of a production, but it didn’t take any special skills. I was so excited because it was so impressive looking and wasn’t the expected chocolate marble cake that I grew up with.

Unfortunately, I just really didn’t like the flavor profile of the light part of the batter. So before I can give you this recipe, it needs some work. But Passover begins next week so don’t look for it any time soon.

Last Pre-Passover Cake

Passover is one of the most important Jewish festivals. It commemorates our liberation from slavery in ancient Egypt by God and our freedom as a nation under the leadership of Moses. During the holiday, we don’t eat any leavened bread or anything that contains grain that has fermented. Since I need to clear my house of all of these products, this carrot cake is my last leavened product before the holiday.

Cooking With Andrew

These days it would be more accurate to call my blog “Lisa and Andrew Cook.” Andrew is my husband of more than 34 years and the man who takes most of my wonderful photographs. Since we are both pretty much retired, we are getting to spend a lot of quality time together.

Andrew has taken up some of the cooking. He now makes brunches and occasionally even is making dinner. This recipe is from the Bon Appétit website and thought that we could have fun making it together. I was right! With a couple of tweaks, it turned out beautifully. Unlike the layered carrot cakes with LOTS of frosting and those marzipan carrots on top, this is an easy, casual loaf cake that anyone can make. The result is a dense, moist, fragrant cake.

Recipe


Ingredients for One 9 x 5 inch Loaf

1 lb. cream cheese (2 8-oz. packages

¾ cup vegetable oil, plus more for pan

2¼ cups all-purpose flour

2 tsp. baking powder

¾ tsp. baking soda

2 tsp. ground ginger

2 tsp. ground cinnamon, plus more for dusting

1 cup chopped walnuts

1¾ tsp. kosher salt, divided

¾ lb. carrots

1¾ cups sugar, divided

2 large eggs

3 tsp. pure vanilla extract, divided

2 teaspoons Bourbon (Optional)

Directions

Do Ahead

First things first, we need to get that 1 lb. cream cheese to room temperature. If you don’t have time to let it sit out on the counter for several hours, cut it into 1″ pieces and place on a heatproof plate on top of your stove. Alternatively, you can microwave the plate of cream cheese in 10-second increments until just softened but not melted, about 30 seconds total. [I left mine out overnight in a cool kitchen and it was perfect.]

Place a rack in middle of oven; preheat to 350°. Lightly grease a 9×5″ loaf pan with vegetable oil or cooking spray. Line pan lengthwise with parchment paper, leaving about a 2″ overhang. This will help you lift the cake up and out of the pan. [Important note! If you are using a smaller pan, you’re going to need to hold back some batter—you’ll need at least a ½” between the batter and the lip of the pan to account for oven rise, otherwise your cake will overflow. You can bake remaining batter in muffin tins if you have them.]

Down to Business

Whisk 2¼ cups all-purpose flour, 2 tsp. baking powder, 2 tsp. ground ginger, ¾ tsp. baking soda, 2 tsp. cinnamon, and 1½ tsp. Diamond Crystal or (1 tsp. Morton) kosher salt in a medium bowl.

Peel ¾ lb. carrots and cut off knobby end. Grate on the large holes of a box grater right into bowl of dry ingredients or use the large-holed grater of a food processor. Use your hands to toss until well coated. Add the chopped walnuts.

Scrape half of cream cheese into a large bowl. (This is for the batter and the other half is for the icing!) Using a spatula or the back of a wooden spoon, spread cream cheese around sides of bowl, working it a few times to help soften. Add 1½ cups sugar and keep working with the spatula to completely incorporate until it’s no longer gritty and all of the sugar is dissolved, about 15 seconds. Crack 2 large eggs into a bowl; then whisk until mixture is very smooth. It might look separated and chunky at first, but whisk vigorously and it will eventually come together. Slowly stream in ¾ cup vegetable oil, whisking constantly to homogenize. Add 2 tsp. vanilla extract and whisk again to combine.

Fold dry ingredients into egg mixture with your spatula until almost no streaks of floury bits remain.

Scrape batter into prepared pan, smoothing top with the back of a spoon or spatula.

Ready to Bake

Bake cake until a tester inserted into the center comes out clean, 80–90 minutes. (I used a 9×5 inch pan and baked it for 80 minutes; then turned off oven and opened the door a little. I left the cake in the oven for an additional 10 minutes and it was perfect.) Let cool 20 minutes, then remove from pan using parchment overhang. If the edges are sticking, slide a butter knife around the edge to help release. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool completely.

Making the Frosting

While cake cools, make your icing. Scrape remaining 8 oz. cream cheese into a medium bowl. Similarly to what you did earlier, use a spatula to work it around sides of bowl. Add remaining ¼ cup sugar, 1 tsp. vanilla, and ¼ tsp. Diamond Crystal (or a pinch of Morton) kosher salt and Bourbon, if using. Mix with spatula to bring everything together, paddling it as necessary, until icing is very smooth and shiny. (This will take some elbow grease, but don’t give up!) Cover and keep chilled until cake has cooled.

Place cooled cake on a platter or board. Dollop cream cheese frosting on top and make swirls and swooshes with the back of a small spoon as you spread it out to make it look cute. Dust lightly with more cinnamon. Slice with a sharp chef’s knife (not a serrated one) to serve.

Store cooled cake in the refrigerator. I used a clean, clear plastic shoe box that I lined with waxed paper. It will keep for several days.

Caramelized Apple Pancake

Handsome Old Dog Learns New Tricks

I have been married for a bit over 34 years.  I think that it is safe to say that the closest my husband came to cooking in 32 of them had been to pour a bowl of cereal and milk. However, since Andrew has retired, he has become interested in learning to do some of the cooking. I know! (Our son seems to be learning somewhat faster, for which I applaud Frances.)

Andrew decided to first tackle brunch, an especially good place to start since I rarely do that meal myself. He has become quite adept at making different kinds of pancakes and waffles and I enjoy them all. it One of my favorites is the Amaretti Mascarpone Pancake. But for the past couple of weeks, he has made this Caramelized Apple Pancake. This just might be the best pancake yet. It is similar to a Dutch Baby.  This is the third or fourth different recipe he has tried and it is clearly the keeper. The original recipe called for skim milk, but the buttermilk we used gave the batter an almost sponge cake-like texture that absorbed the flavors and liquid from the apples. Try it and you may never need to go out for brunch again.

Lessons Learned

Now that Andrew has experienced some successes, he recently tackled a chicken curry and it was delicious. I made the accompanying dal and the rice pilaf since he hasn’t quite figured out how to put an entire dinner together, but that just made the process more fun. He is even talking about meal planning!

I have learned a few things from all of this: 1) never give up hope; 2) don’t give cooking advice unless asked; 3) don’t be in a rush to eat since his efforts so far take a very long time to come to fruition and 4) don’t get upset that every, bowl, spatula, cutting board and knife was used to make one meal!

You do need a heavy-duty cast iron pan for this recipe and flavorful apples such as Honeycrisp, Golden Delicious or one of the heirloom baking apples now more readily available in many grocery stores. I would not use the ubiquitous Granny Smith unless you truly cannot find one of the alternatives.

Caramelized Apple Pancake

JeanMarie BrownsonDinner at Home from Chicago Tribune Food and Dining, 1/06/2019 

Yield: 2-4 portions, depending on your appetite

Ingredients

3 large or 4 medium apples such as Honeycrisp or Yellow Opal, or a mixture

6 Tablespoons granulated sugar

6 Tablespoons packed dark brown sugar

2 generous teaspoons ground cinnamon

1 cup buttermilk 

4 large eggs

1 cup unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/8 teaspoon Kosher salt

3 Tablespoons unsalted butter

Directions

  1. Heat oven to 400 degrees F. Peel, core and slice apples into 1/4-inch thick slices. In a large bowl, mix the apples with the sugars and cinnamon
  2. Put milk and eggs in a blender and mix (You can also do this by hand). Add the flour and salt and mix only enough to incorporate the flour.
  3. Heat one large oven-proof skillet (10-inches measure across the top) over medium heat. Add the butter to the pan and allow it to melt. Add the apples to the melted butter and cook, stirring occasionally until the apples have softened – about 10-12 minutes. 
  4. When the apples have softened, remove them from the heat. Make sure that the apples are evenly arranged to cover the bottom of the pan but don’t obsess over it, please. Slowly pour the batter over the apples. (While my husband has started in the middle of the pan and worked outwards, you may want to try it the other way around. This might allow the pancake to poof more evenly.) 
  5. Transfer the pan immediately to the hot oven. Bake until puffed and golden (about 25 minutes). Serve immediately, flipping the wedges over on the plate so that the apples are on top, if desired. 

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

As we prepare to complete the 10 Days of Awe with the observance of Yom Kippur, the Day of Repentance, Jews everywhere not only each reflect on how they could become a better person in the coming year, but also on what they will eat to break the fast.  I don’t know about you, but if I have been fasting for more than 24 hours, I don’t want to wait while something heats up in order to break my fast. Some people set out an elaborate dairy spread, but I also want something traditional, quick and delicious. So while I likely will have bagels and lox for my husband, I want kugel. People tend to fall into two camps – those who like potato kugel and those who like noodle kugel. Some swing both ways, but I’m not one of them. And while I always say that I never met a potato that I didn’t like, I’m actually not a fan of potato kugel.

This simple and wonderful recipe is perfect for a “break-the-fast” or as a side to the pre-fast meal. It is sweet and flavorful without being cloying and can be eaten hot or at room temperature. I’ve been known to snack on it right from the fridge. Unlike many noodle kugels, especially the kind you find at synagogue functions, this does not contain cheese or vanilla. While those make perfect-looking pieces to serve, I personally find them overly sweet, overly heavy and often with a phony vanilla taste. This kugel doesn’t require any of that. The natural apple flavor is clean, naturally sweet with just a little “bite” from the cinnamon. The pineapple adds a very subtle background note.

The recipe was passed down to me from the actor Mandy Patinkin’s Aunt Ida – a lovely woman who attended my synagogue and was a neighbor for many years. I have made a few small tweaks, but the essential recipe is from the Patinkin family. It pairs beautifully with roast chicken or brisket and is also ideal for a brunch. Left-overs never last long, but it does also freeze well. I make several different noodle kugel recipes throughout the year, but this one is still my favorite. And you don’t have to be Jewish to enjoy it!

May you all be sealed in the Book of Life.

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel Apple Cinnamon Kugel

Yield: About 10 to 12 portions

Ingredients

8 ounces medium/broad egg noodles

1 stick (4 ounces) of unsalted butter (or margarine if you need it to be pareve) melted

1/2 cup of granulated sugar mixed with 2 teaspoons cinnamon or to taste (It will partly depend on how sweet your apples are, but this is generally what I use.) [Reserve about 2-3 Tablespoons for the topping or just make an additional amount which is what I generally do.]

1 lemon cut in half for rubbing on apples to prevent them from turning brown

6 medium flavorful apples peeled, rubbed with a cut lemon and thinly sliced (Macintosh is traditional, but pretty much any good baking apple except for Granny Smith, which I think gets too woody.)

Kosher salt to taste but about 3/4 to 1 teaspoon should be right

2 large eggs, lightly beaten

8.5 ounces of canned, crushed pineapple in juice or syrup (It depends what I can find. Syrup was in the original recipe, but my preference is for pineapple in juice. If it is in syrup, I might go a little lighter on the sugar.)

About 1/4 cup of unsalted butter, melted  for drizzling over the top (Optional)

The original recipe called for crushed cornflakes tossed with cinnamon sugar which was very big in the 1950’s. It goes over the top of the kugel before baking. I don’t use it myself. I simply sprinkle with a bit of cinnamon sugar most of the time, and if I’m getting fancy, I sometimes add chopped nuts or crushed amaretti cookies. 

Apple Cinnamon Kugel1

Directions

  1. Prepare your apples while the water is boiling and the noodles are cooking. Place them in a very large bowl. Squeeze a bit of the lemon juice over the apples to prevent them from browning.
  2. Cook the noodles according to the shortest cooking time on the package directions – usually 8 minutes. Drain the cooked noodles very well.
  3. Heat your oven to 400 degrees F.
  4. Mix in all of the remaining ingredients to the apples, including the drained noodles and melted butter. Save adding the eggs for last. If you forgot to set aside some of the cinnamon sugar, don’t fret. This is a very forgiving recipe and you can just make a little more to add at the end, which is generally what I do. It will look as if the mixture is too much for the pan, but trust me – it fits. Do NOT skimp on the apples!
  5. Pour the mixture into a buttered (margarined or PAM’d) 11 x 9 x 2-inch rectangular pan and spread it evenly. If you are using the cornflakes topping, add it now. Otherwise just sprinkle with the reserved or additional cinnamon sugar. This would be when you add your nuts or amaretti cookies if you are using them. I like to drizzle a bit of additional melted butter on top, but you don’t have to. It’s just better if you do!
  6. Bake for 20 minutes uncovered. Then reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. and continue baking for about another hour or until well-browned. Allow it to cool a bit before cutting in order for the “pudding” to set. If you plan on serving it at room temperature, this won’t be an issue. And no matter how it looks, it tastes AMAZING. My father always used to tell my mother when her incredibly flaky pie crust would crumble when cut that we weren’t making a dress out of it. He would then proceed to eat a huge piece of her apple pie and say that it was a nice sample and cut himself another slice which he also devoured.