Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake

Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake

I was guilty of irrational exuberance when it came to ordering rye flour. I had thought that I would be baking LOTS of rye bread. Unfortunately this decision was made before reading the recipes and realizing what making a great rye bread entailed. Consider me chastened. But now what to do with all of this wonderful dark rye flour? So I have been scouring the internet and found this Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake for starters. I also found some rye chocolate cookies that I want to try – another time.

Really, how outlandish is the idea of using rye flour with chocolate? The best dark breads or pumpernickel recipes that I have all use cocoa as a counterpoint to the rye flour. But as a dessert? I was intrigued.

Not being into sickeningly sweet desserts, I liked this recipe immediately. And while normally I shy away from any recipe that requires the use of multiple bowls, I made an exception here. Am I glad that I did. While the initial recipe gave espresso powder as an optional ingredient, I would make it essential. In fact, I would probably use more than the suggested amounts next time. A long time ago, I learned that adding coffee to any chocolate recipe enhances the dark chocolatiness. The rye flour lends a deep malted flavor to the chocolate. And the flavors only intensified over time.

This Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake does not have a fancy presentation. It’s meant to be served straight out of the pan. But give me deliciousness over fancy presentations any day of the week. And honestly, isn’t there a certain homely beauty to the simplicity of this cake? The French even have a term for this – jolie laide. Beautiful ugly – character. The bumpy chocolatey, malty crumb on top of a moist chocolate cake – yummmmmmmmmmmmmmmm. That to me is jolie laide at its best!

Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake

And yes, I did use a number of bowls but clean-up was very fast even without using a dishwasher. This lovely, moist, densely malted chocolate cake will keep for several days stored at room temperature. Assuming, of course, that it manages to last that long. While this is technically a coffee cake, I am happy to serve it as a delicious dessert anytime. Or for breakfast. Why not?

Rye flour comes in different degrees – light, medium and dark. Whenever given options like that e.g. dark brown vs. light brown sugar; dark, full-flavored molasses vs. light, I invariably go for the darker variety. And so I did here. I only bought dark rye and so that is what I used. The original recipe called for medium rye. Go with what you have.

Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake

I used sour cream because I had it and it makes for a lovely, moist cake, but you could substitute yogurt (whole milk or 2%) if that is what you have on hand instead. Whatever you do, do not cheap out on the cocoa. In fact NEVER EVER buy anything but top quality Dutch-process cocoa. Just don’t.

Serve this Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake as is or with a dollop of good vanilla ice cream or homemade whipped cream. You simply can’t go wrong.

NOTE: I give both weights and measurements. In the past year, I have become accustomed to weighing out my ingredients when given that choice in the recipe. I find that it is more accurate and once you get used to doing it, you will find it quite simple. However, knowing that Americans in particular use measurements, I have included those as well. When weighing flour, spoon the flour without packing it and sweep off any excess.

For other Coffee Cake Recipes:

Moravian Coffee Cake

Italian Walnut and Raisin Coffee Cake

Sour Cream Coffee Cake

Apricot Almond Cake

Recipe

Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake

Yield: 6 to 9 pieces

Ingredients

Topping

1/4 cup (27g) rye flour (I used dark but medium is fine too)

1/2 cup (60g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/3 cup (66g) granulated sugar

3 T (16g) Dutch-process cocoa

1/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1/4 teaspoon espresso powder (or instant espresso)

4 T (57g) unsalted butter, melted

Cake

1 cup (106g) rye flour

1/2 cup (60g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/2 cup (42g) Dutch-process cocoa

3/4 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1/2 to 3/4 teaspoon espresso powder (or instant espresso)

4 T (57g) unsalted butter, at room temperature

1/4 cup (50g) neutral vegetable oil (I used Canola)

1 cup (198g) granulated sugar

1 T pure vanilla extract

2 large eggs at room temperature

3/4 cup (170g) full-fat sour cream or Greek-style yogurt

Directions

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Lightly grease an 8-inch square pan

For the topping

Whisk together the flours in a small bowl. In a separate bowl, whisk together the sugar, cocoa, salt and espresso powder. Pour the melted butter over the sugar mixture and stir until smooth. Add the flour to this mixture and stir until uniformly moist. (In full disclosure, I had added my cocoa into my flour mixture instead of with the sugar. As far as I can tell, it made no difference.) Set aside until ready to use.

For the cake

Whisk together the flours, cocoa, salt, baking powder, baking soda and espresso powder and set aside.

In the bowl of a standing mixer (you could use a hand mixer as well), beat the butter, oil, sugar and vanilla until smooth, light colored and fluffy on medium speed. This takes about 5 minutes.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating well and scraping down the sides of the bowl.

Add one-third of the flour mixture and beat gently to combine. Mix in 1/2 of the sour cream. Then add the next third of the dry mixture and combine. Add the final 1/2 of the sour cream and mix through. Then add the remaining third of the dry ingredients. Scrape down the bowl and beat until the batter is smooth and everything is fully incoporated.

Spread the batter into the prepared pan and crumble the topping all over. Gently press the topping into the batter.

Bake 36 to 46 minutes (all ovens vary but it is ready when a toothpick just comes out clean). Do not over-bake the cake.

Allow to cool completely and then dust the top with confectioner’s (icing) sugar. Serve from the pan.

Rye Chocolate Crumb Cake

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.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie is dark, seductive, rich – an adult chocolate pie that we all need now. Just the other day my husband was enjoying a perfectly delicious dessert, but he said “This is great, but you know, it isn’t chocolate.” And sometimes nothing else quite will do. Chocolate Midnight Pie is for those times. It actually comes together quite easily. While it may not be the most visually stunning pie you will ever see, I have found that pies and cakes that have amazing decorations rarely taste as good as they look. Form over substance.

My father was in the candy business, so I grew up early on knowing good chocolate from bad. And I developed a taste for quality dark Dutch-process cocoa as well. Don’t cheap out on these ingredients. Make something else if you don’t want to pay for quality bittersweet chocolate or cocoa. My father also taught me (long before celebrity chefs were touting it on TV) that adding coffee to chocolate enhanced the dark, earthy, rich flavors. This Chocolate Midnight Pie hits all of the right notes.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Some have called it a chocolate chess pie and I think that may have been what initially caught my eye. I do love a great chess pie – chocolate or otherwise. This pie forms a crackly, crispy almost meringue-like chocolate crust. The filling is a deep chocolate truffle with coffee notes and the not too-sweet crust is a lovely counterpoint that melts as soon as it hits your tongue.

You can, of course, use any pie dough that you prefer, but I will say that the one in the recipe is very easy to handle. I made mine in a food processor and it probably took longer to clean the machine than it took to make the dough. It rolled out like a dream and I don’t often say that.

Orange and chocolate are a favorite combo of mine so I went with the Grand Marnier as the liqueur. When grinding chocolate, I always find that adding about a teaspoon of granulated sugar helps the process by adding just the right amount of friction, while preventing the blades from over-heating. Also be sure to pulse the blades rather than letting them run on. You don’t want to end up with chocolate paste although obviously the chocolate will melt in the end product.

If, however, for some reason you are not a chocolate lover (How is that possible? I can’t quite trust people who don’t like chocolate.) or you just want a non-chocolate dessert, try these wonderful chess pie recipes:

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Thomas Jefferson’s Chess Pie

Amish Bob Andy Pie

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Now while it’s true that I do love a great chocolate dessert, we are now in apple season. And the smell of apples, sugar, cinnamon and other warm winter spices makes me happy that fall is here and winter is coming. The house always smells so inviting. So in the coming weeks, expect to see lots of apple breads and cakes coming your way.

Recipe

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Yield: 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

Crust

1 1/4 cups (149g) unbleached all-purpose flour

1/4 cup (28g) confectioners’ or icing sugar

rounded 1/4 teaspoon kosher or fine sea salt

6 tablespoons (85g) unsalted butter, cold, cut into pats

1/4 teaspoon instant espresso powder

3 to 5 tablespoons (43g to 71g) milk or cream (half & half, light, heavy, or whipping)

Filling

4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, room temperature

1 1/2 cups (298g) granulated sugar

1/4 teaspoon salt

4 large eggs

1/4 cup (21g) Dutch-process cocoa

2 tablespoons (28g) coffee liqueur* (e.g., Kahlua), or substitute strong brewed coffee

1 tablespoon (14g) cold milk or cream (half-and-half, light, heavy, or whipping)

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon instant espresso powder,

2 tablespoons (18g) yellow or white cornmeal (Try to find one that is finely ground if you can.)

2/3 cup (113g) bittersweet chocolate chips

*Frangelico (hazelnut), Amaretto (almond), Grand Marnier (orange), Sabra or Framboise (raspberry) are all wonderful, in place of the coffee liqueur.

Chocolate Midnight Pie

Directions

To make the crust

Stir together the flour, sugar, and salt.

Work the butter into the dry ingredients (using your fingers, a pastry blender or fork, or a mixer) until the dough is unevenly crumbly.

Dissolve the espresso powder in 1 tablespoon of the milk/cream. Sprinkle up to 5 tablespoons (I only needed 4 Tablespoons) of the milk into the dry ingredients (beginning with the tablespoon of espresso milk), continuing to mix until the dough is cohesive. Grab a handful; if it holds together willingly, and doesn’t seem at all dry or crumbly, you’ve added enough liquid. (If you are using a food processor, stop the machine as soon as the dough starts to come together. Don’t allow it to form a ball.)

Shape the dough into a disk. Roll its edges along a floured work surface (as though the disk were a wheel), in order to smooth them out. Pat the disk until it’s about 1″ thick, wrap it in plastic wrap, and refrigerate for at least 1 hour, or overnight.

To make the filling

Preheat the oven to 350°F. Remove the dough from the refrigerator. Allow it to warm a bit and become flexible, 15 to 30 minutes

Flour your work surface, and roll the dough into a 12″ circle. Transfer the dough to a regular (not deep-dish) 9″ pie pan that’s at least 1 1/4″ deep. Trim and crimp the edges. Place the crust in the refrigerator to chill, while you’re preparing the filling.

Beat together the butter, sugar, and salt until smooth.

Add the eggs one at a time, beating slowly but thoroughly after each addition; you want to combine them with the butter and sugar, but not beat in a lot of air.

Stir in the cocoa, liqueur, milk, and vanilla.

Use a food processor (mini, if you have one) to grind together the espresso powder, cornmeal, and chocolate chips. Add to the batter. Pour the batter into the crust.

Bake the pie for 45 minutes, adding a crust shield after 20 minutes. The middle should just wobble as in a pumpkin or good custard. The pie does form a kind of crust on top. You want that.

If the temperature has reached 165°F right in the center, the pie is done. (I don’t use that method but feel free.) Note: If you’re baking in a stoneware or glass pan, the baking time will almost certainly be a bit longer. Go by how the pie looks, not by your timer, especially since all ovens are different. I like to allow the pie to sit in the oven with the temperature turned off and the door cracked open for 10 to 15 minutes before removing it to a cooling rack. It helps to cut down on cracks and will continue to solidify the center.

Remove the pie from the oven, cool to room temperature, then cover and refrigerate overnight before serving.

Serve each slice topped with a layer of whipped cream and a sprinkle of chocolate curls, if desired. It’s nice, but you don’t have to get crazy to enjoy this pie.

Note

Even if the pie is somewhat wobbly when you pull it out of the oven, don’t panic; an overnight rest in the refrigerator solidifies it and gives all the flavors a chance to mellow.

Rosh HaShanah 5781

Rosh hashanah -traditional symbols: honey jar and fresh apples with  pomegranate and shofar- horn on white wooden. | Premium Photo

Rosh HaShanah 5781 begins at sundown on Friday, September 18th this year. Wherever Jews live, we will be celebrating the New Year. The Jewish People – my People – have survived intact for 5,781 years. Despite wars, the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the Holocaust and the denial of Israel’s right to exist, we have survived. Its pretty remarkable by any measure. But this year with the Covid Pandemic, we will face another challenge.

While it is true that much of our rituals are home-based, we also require a community. We do not live in isolation from one another no matter how that community is counted by different streams of our religion or where our family originated. My husband and I had looked forward to sharing these High Holidays with our son, daughter-in-law and first grandchild. But alas that is not to be. They are in San Francisco and we are in Chicago.

The Days of Awe are a time for deep personal reflection and repentance. It is a time to review how we conducted ourselves during the past year and our goals for the coming year. This year, instead of taking part in our community services, we will be at home – just the two of us. I will miss the beloved liturgy and melodies that provide so much comfort each year. And I will miss the sense of community and the affirmation of our People.

Cooking has always been a way for me to connect with others and to express my love. I enjoy searching for recipes that reflect our People’s different traditions since we come from all across the globe. And I love to read the stories that go along with them.

So even though nothing is quite as it should be this year, I am still planning a special meal for Rosh HaShanah. Below are some recipe ideas for the holiday. And remember, it won’t just be a meal that you are sharing, but our heritage.

I wish all of you a Shana Tova U’Metuka – a sweet New Year! A year of good health and peace.

Rosh HaShanah Menu Ideas

Yemenite Chicken Soup

Aromatic Chicken and Vegetable Soup (Koli)

Lisa’s Challah Revisited

Lisa’s Vegan Challah

Gefilte Fish Loaf

Garlicky Beet Spread

Moroccan Beet and Orange Salad with Pistachios

Moroccan Beet Salad (Barba)

Moroccan Carrot Salad

Fruit and Vegetable Tzimmes – a perfect introduction to autumn

Another Brisket

Apple Cinnamon Noodle Kugel

Apple Cake – Take 2

Lisa’s Vegan “Honey” Cake

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Apple Pecan Bourbon Bundt Cake

Vegan Apple Raisin Cake with Applejack Sauce

Plum Kuchen (Butter cake)

Italian Prune Plums Take Two

Bakewell Tart

I am a sucker for frangipane. So when I saw this recipe I knew that I had to try it. Bakewell Tart with its custardy frangipane and jam filling topped with flaked almonds is my idea of heaven. It uses a short-crust pastry or pasta frolla which just melts in your mouth. And while this could be made in a springform pan, it is so much prettier if made in a fluted tart pan with a removable bottom. Just be sure to use a deep pan that will accommodate all of that luscious frangipane.

There is no one single recipe for a Bakewell Tart and I did have to tweak the instructions somewhat to make them easier to follow. Whenever choosing a recipe to make for the first time, I check out several variations to see which ones are well-written and whenever possible have photos and comments. Some recipes had fancy glazes on top and others (like this one) used only flaked almonds. The dessert only dates back to the 20th century and is associated with the town of Bakewell in Derbyshire, England.

Butter is a significant ingredient to this dessert, so please don’t skimp on a cheap butter and do not use salted butter. Salted butter may be fine for cooking but I never use it in my baking. While not above using substitutions in some recipes, there are also times when only the real thing works. People always used to ask me for recipes and then would tell me later that it didn’t taste the same as when I made it. The implication was that somehow I had deliberately left out my “secret” ingredient. However, with a little detective work, I found that it was simply a case of poor substitutions being used or things left out.

And while butter is a primary ingredient, so are almonds in several forms. Please do not use artificial extracts. They spoil the end result. One substitution you can make is in the kind of preserves you use. If you don’t make your own jam (and I don’t) just use a quality brand that lists the fruit as the first ingredient. I made this with strawberry jam this time because that is what I had on hand, but I want to try it with raspberry curd the next time I make my Bakewell Tart. And there will be a next time!

Bakewell Tart is a rich dessert so is the perfect end to a lighter meal when a little decadence is called for. Stored properly, it will last for several days. Unless your house is quite warm, it does not need to be refrigerated. Just enjoy this deceptively simple dessert, redolent with almonds and butter.

A Note:

This is an English recipe and the ingredients were given by weight. I have been using weights vs. measure lately when it is called for and find that it is more accurate. No matter how you fill or pack a measuring cup, 200 gr will always be 200 gr.

And while I don’t use store-bought pastry dough (other than puff pastry) you can use it if you really want. It won’t melt in your mouth the way homemade will, but I get that not everyone wants to fuss with dough.

For other delicious frangipane dessert ideas:

Apricot Frangipane Tart

Rhubarb Frangipane Galette

Vegan Dessert to die for – Apple Frangipane Tart

Recipe

Yield: 8 servings

Ingredients

For the pastry

200 gr. unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 Tablespoon confectioner’s or icing sugar plus more for garnish

125 gr. cold unsalted butter

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

1 large egg yolk

For the filling

180 gr. unsalted butter, at room temperature

100 gr. granulated or caster sugar

1/4 teaspoon kosher salt

3 large eggs

180 gr. finely ground almonds

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

226 to 283 gr. good quality preserves (raspberry, strawberry, cherry etc.) [I used 8.5 oz. but would be happy to use 10 oz. next time.]

25 gr. sliced (flaked) almonds

Directions

For the pastry

Sieve the flour and confectioner’s sugar into the bowl of a food processor (this can also be done by hand). Cut the butter into small cubes and add to the flour. Pulse a couple of times to coat the butter. The pieces should be about the size of English peas. Add the egg yolk and 2 tsp. of cold water. Mix until the dough just begins to form a ball.

Press the dough into the pan, being sure to go about 2/3 of the way up the sides of a 9-inch (23 cm.) fluted tart pan (measured across the top) which is at least 2.5 inches deep. Chill for 30 minutes.

Heat the oven to 350 degrees F. (180oC, fan 160oC). Dock the pastry (prick it all over with a fork) and line the shell with foil. Use either dried beans or pie weights to fill the pastry shell on top of the foil. Bake for 15 minutes. Then carefully remove the foil and beans (the beans can be used again and again) and bake for an additional 10 minutes. Do not turn off your oven but remove the partially baked pastry shell to a wire rack to cool for about 20 minutes.

While the pastry is cooling, make the filling.

For the filling

Using the food processor cream the butter and sugar. Add in the eggs one at a time, scraping down the bowl as necessary. Add the salt, ground almonds and almond extract. Pulse until fluffy and smooth.

Once the pastry is mostly cool, spread the preserves evenly on the bottom of the pastry shell. Then carefully dollop the frangipane on top so as not to disturb the preserves. Smooth the frangipane with the back of a spatula or spoon. Scatter the sliced almonds over the top.

Baking times can vary, but you want the frangipane to just set. Start checking it after 35 minutes. Mine took about 45 minutes. It was still a bit more jiggly than I wanted so I turned off my oven, slightly opened the door and left the tart in the oven for another 8 minutes. It was beautifully browned and just set. The tart will continue to set as it cools.

Cool completely on a wire rack before you try to remove it from the pan. Once it is thoroughly cool you can decorate it with a bit of sifted powdered (confectioner’s or icing) sugar.

French Walnut Tart

While travel to France may not be in the offing anytime soon, try this French Walnut Tart with a glass of Montbazillac for a taste of the Perigord. This region of France in the Dordogne is known for its truffles, foie gras, Montbazillac and walnut tarts. While I have never visited this region of France, I have become an armchair traveler there though the books of Martin Walker. I love the Chef Bruno, Chief of Police books because they spend as much time on food as they do on the mysteries to be solved.

While I have eaten both foie gras and wild boar on a trip to Alsace during my college years, I have yet to experience Montbazillac or a French Walnut Tart. I decided to correct at least part of that omission. There are a number of recipes out there for this tart but I chose one on offer from the Boston Public Television station.

The recipe called for crème fraîche which I didn’t have on hand. However, I did have heavy (double) cream and buttermilk and was able to create my own creme fraiche. I had made crème fraîche this way in the past but had forgotten how easy it was to produce. All that was required was a glass container, 1 cup of cream and 2 Tablespoons of buttermilk. Mixed together and left covered in a warm place for 24 hours and Voila!

Normally I would have made the pastry that was in the recipe, but I had some dough in my freezer that I didn’t want to go to waste so used that. The dough that is listed below is somewhat richer than the dough that I used. It uses an egg yolk in the dough. However, if you have a favorite pastry dough or wish to use store-bought, feel free.

The French Walnut Tart is a more subtle and sophisticated cousin of my beloved Bourbon Pecan Pie and is quite a lovely dessert. The ratio of nuts to filling is very high and the tart is not overly sweet. It manages to be both sophisticated and earthy. I served it with a dollop of crème fraîche flavored with a bit of vanilla bean paste and a small amount of confectioner’s sugar. Yummy!

Since all of my traveling is via armchair for the foreseeable future, it’s fun to try some new culinary endeavors. While I may not get to mingle with the locals or smell the unique smells that every town and country village has, my armchair travels require no long lines at TSA or cramped plane rides. So don’t wait for the pandemic to be over. Visit this delicious corner of France from the comfort of your own home.

Recipe

Yield: One 9-inch tart; 8 to 10 servings

Ingredients

For the tart shell

87 grams (2⁄3 cup) all-purpose flour

46 grams (1⁄3 cup) whole-wheat flour

40 grams (3 tablespoons) white sugar

1⁄2 teaspoon kosher salt

6 tablespoons (3⁄4 stick) salted butter, cut into 1⁄2-inch cubes

1 large egg yolk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

For the filling

107 grams (1⁄2 cup) white sugar

1⁄4 cup honey

1⁄3 cup crème fraîche

4 tablespoons (1⁄2 stick) salted butter

1 tablespoon cider vinegar

1⁄4 teaspoon kosher salt

2 large egg yolks [You can save the whites for a meringue or to add to an omelette.]

230 grams (21⁄2 cups) walnuts, roughly chopped and lightly toasted

Directions

Heat the oven to 325°F with a rack in the lower-middle position. Mist a 9- inch tart pan with removable bottom with cooking spray. Line a rimmed baking sheet with kitchen parchment or a silicon pad.

To make the tart shell, in a food processor, process until combined both flours, the sugar and salt, about 5 seconds. Scatter the butter over the mixture and pulse until it resembles coarse sand, 10 to 12 pulses. Add the egg yolk and vanilla, then process until the mixture is evenly moistened and cohesive, 20 to 30 seconds; the mixture may not form a single mass.

Crumble the dough into the prepared tart pan, evenly covering the surface. Using the bottom of a dry measuring cup, press into an even layer over the bottom and up the sides; the edge of the dough should be flush with the rim. Use a fork to prick all over the bottom, then freeze until the dough is firm, 15 to 30 minutes.

While the dough chills, make the filling. Pour 1⁄4 cup water into a medium saucepan. Add the sugar and honey into the center, avoiding contact with the sides. Cook over medium, swirling the pan frequently, until the mixture is amber in color, about 8 to 10 minutes. Off heat, add the crème fraîche, butter, vinegar and salt, then whisk until the butter is melted and the mixture is well combined. Let cool until just warm, about 30 minutes.

While the caramel cools, set the dough-lined tart pan on the prepared baking sheet. You want to blind bake the dough before adding the filling. Line the dough with parchment or foil and weight it with dried beans or pie weights. Bake for 15 minutes and then carefully remove the foil and weights. Return the tart shell to the oven for another 15 minutes until the crust is a light brown. Remove from the oven and allow to cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 5 minutes. Increase the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

Whisk the yolks into the warm honey filling, then add the nuts and stir until evenly coated. Pour the filling into the warm tart shell, then gently spread in an even layer. Bake until the edges of the filling begin to puff and the center jiggles only slightly when gently shaken, 25 to 35 minutes. Then turn off the heat, open the oven door slightly and leave the tart in the oven for 10 more minutes.

Let the tart cool on the baking sheet on a wire rack for about 1 hour. Remove the pan sides. Serve warm or at room temperature. The tart is superb accompanied by lightly sweetened crème fraîche or whipped cream.

Notes: Don’t overcook the caramel. Aim for an amber hue; if it gets much darker than that, the finished tart will taste bitter.

Whole-wheat flour in the crust plays up the earthiness of the walnuts. To toast the walnuts, spread them in an even layer on a rimmed baking sheet and bake at 325°F until fragrant and just starting to brown, about 8 minutes, stirring just once or twice; do not over toast them or they will taste bitter. The dough-lined tart pan can be prepared in advance; after the dough is firm, wrap tightly in plastic and freeze for up to two weeks.

Orange Semolina Cake

All over the Middle East you will find recipes for semolina cakes. This Orange Semolina Cake is exceptionally moist and the perfect end to a well-spiced meal. The recipe is from Paul Hollywood’s visit to Nicosia,Cyprus on his show City Bakes. As with most semolina cakes, this one is soaked with a delicious sugar syrup. But unlike other semolina cakes that I have eaten, the ingredients call for mastic.

My only familiarity with mastic is as chewing gum, so I was skeptical at first. But I have come to trust Paul Hollywood. He has the joie de vivre and puckishness of Julia Child and is fastidious in his baking. So if he said to use mastic…. Apparently, it is not uncommon in Greek and Cypriot cooking. Also known as the “Tears of Chios,” which sounds much more poetic than “gum,” it is a tree resin with a unique, refreshing flavor. While I am willing to adapt recipes to my own tastes and preferences, when I can, I try respecting the traditions and cultures that I am mimicking as long as they don’t conflict with mine. This Cypriot Shamali cake (known as Basbousa in other parts of the Middle East) is an example.

If you don’t wish to purchase mastic (mine came from Amazon) the cake should still be delicious without it, although you might want to increase the amount of orange zest. The flavor of the mastic was quite subtle and not like anything I could easily identify. It was definitely there, however, and quite nice. And since travel seems unlikely anytime in the near future, I was willing to spring for this (for me) unusual ingredient. As an armchair traveler, it seemed a relatively cheap investment.

Because semolina cakes are soaked in syrup, they hold up well and are even better the next day when everything has melded. You need to pour the syrup over the cake while the cake is hot from the oven. This will help the cake absorb all of the delicious orange-scented syrup. And you don’t want to miss a drop. It will seem like an enormous amount of syrup, but don’t get scared off. The cake will absorb all of it. And surprisingly, for all of the sugar, the cake is not extremely sweet.

The measurements are as I found them. I own a small, relatively inexpensive kitchen scale and have learned that conversions from weight to measures is not always accurate. No matter how you pack your measuring cup, however, 200 grams will always be 200 grams.

This cake is lovely and easy to make. Try it soon. You won’t be disappointed.

For other delicious semolina cake recipes:

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Basbousa (Semolina, Coconut and Pistachio Cake

Recipe

Yield: 8 very generous servings

Ingredients

For the cake

190g caster (granulated) sugar

400g semolina flour

2 tsp baking powder

1 tsp mastic, crushed to a powder

Zest of a large orange (I used a navel)

170g natural yoghurt

2 medium eggs (I used large eggs and it was fine)

120ml sunflower or Canola oil

For the syrup

250g caster (granulated) sugar

300ml water

Juice of an orange

Garnish

25g chopped raw pistachio nuts

Directions

1. Line the base of a 20 cm. spring form cake tin (I used an 8-inch spring form tin which is just slightly larger) with baking parchment. There is no need to grease the tin.

2. Heat your oven to 190°C/Gas Mark 5. (375 degrees F.) Place all the cake ingredients into a mixing bowl and beat with a wooden spoon until you have a smooth thick mixture. You could use a mixer if you like. Transfer the batter into the prepared tin, smooth the top to level. Bake for about 40 minutes until the cake is risen and when a skewer is inserted it comes out clean.

3. To make the syrup heat the sugar, water and orange juice. Bring to the boil then lower the heat and simmer for 3 minutes.

4. Remove the cake from the oven and place on a cooling rack on top of a pan with sides (to catch the drips.) Score the cake into 8 serving pieces. Pour over the hot syrup. It will look as if the cake is drowning but almost all of the syrup will be absorbed within 10 minutes. Once most of the syrup has been absorbed, scatter the chopped pistachio nuts over the top. Leave to cool completely before serving.

Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies

Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies are rich, moist and citrusy bright. These perfect cookies are easy to make and even better to eat. As anyone who reads my blog knows, I LOVE lemons. And for me, there is no better finale to a delicious (or even not so wonderful) meal than a good dessert. Of course, these cookies would also be a wonderful accompaniment to afternoon tea. These lovely morsels are really mini-cakes and oh, so satisfying.

One bite and you get the sweet, moistness of the cake with a burst of fresh lemon. If you look back on recent posts of mine, you might detect a trend. That’s right – ricotta! It’s a lovely, creamy cheese along the lines of a farmer’s cheese. While it comes in low-fat versions, I only like to use whole milk ricotta in desserts. If you are lucky enough to live where hand-packed ricotta is available, that only needs a little vanilla extract, honey and cinnamon to make a delicious and quick dessert. Add some fresh berries and/or drizzle with some melted chocolate to make it a bit more decadent and a perfect no-bake dessert.

This cookie comes together quickly and there is no chilling of dough. You simply make the batter and bake it up. The recipe comes from Giada De Laurentiis. I am not generally a fan of hers but after a couple of tweaks, I have made a few things that have turned out well. And this is one recipe that you definitely should give a try.

For more delicious lemony desserts, try these:

Tarte Citron Mama

Lemon Semolina Almond Cake

Lemon Poppy Seed Cake

Perfect Lemon Chess Pie

Recipe

Yield: About 3 dozen cookies

Ingredients

For the Cookies

2.5 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher or sea salt

1 stick (8 Tablespoons) unsalted butter, at room temperature

2 cups granulated sugar

2 large eggs

15 oz. whole milk ricotta

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 large lemon

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

For the Glaze

1.5 cups of powdered or icing (Confectioner’s) sugar

3 Tablespoons fresh lemon juice

Zest of 1 large lemon

Directions

For the Cookie

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F.

Combine the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl and set aside.

Using a large bowl, combine the butter and granulated sugar. Using a hand mixer, cream the butter and sugar until light and fluffy. (This can be done by hand as well.) Add the eggs, one at a time and beat well. Now add the ricotta, vanilla, lemon juice and zest and beat well to combine.

Stir in the dry ingredients. Do not over beat. Mix until everything is incorporated.

Line 2 to 3 baking sheets with parchment or silicone mats. Spoon about 2 Tablespoons of batter for each cookie. The cookies will spread some so leave about 2 inches of space between. Bake until the cookies are just becoming golden at the edges. The original recipe said 15 minutes, but mine were a bit bigger than Giada’s and all ovens are different. My cookies ultimately took about 23 minutes. So keep an eye on them after about 18 minutes. They are so moist that it is difficult to over bake them. You do want the bottom to be golden and just barely dry.

Allow the cookies to cool on wire racks. After they are cool, you can glaze the cookies.

For the Glaze

Combine the powdered sugar, lemon juice, and lemon zest in a small bowl and stir until smooth. Spoon about 1/2-teaspoon onto each cookie and use the back of the spoon or spatula to gently spread.

While the cookies can be eaten almost immediately after glazing, I would not pack them away until the glaze is truly dry which takes about 2 hours. It’s best to pack them with waxed or parchment paper between layers. The cookie cakes will continue to get moister and you don’t want them to stick to one another.