Iraqi Almond Cardamom Cookies

Iraqi Almond Cardamom Cookies

Iraqi Almond Cardamom Cookies are a perfect Passover cookie gem. Every Passover I try to add a new cookie to my repertoire. While I make a delicious chocolate Passover cake, cookies add variety and there is always something that will please even the picky eaters. And somehow when we are all shmoozing around the table picking at fruit, cookies provide just a little decadence without too much guilt or regret.

These Iraqi Almond Cardamom Cookies (Hadji Bada) are quick and easy to make, which is great when you have lots to prepare. And they are so wonderfully chewy and flavorful that you will be glad that you can whip them up whenever you get a craving for them! My husband described them as both rich AND yet very light – sweet but not cloying. The center has a satisfying chew and they will remain moist throughout the holiday – if they last that long.

Iraqi Almond Cardamom Cookies

I have seen several recipes for these cookies and they are all more or less the same. I made a few tweaks of my own which may or may not be authentic. They are, however, absolutely delicious. Kind of a cross between a French macaron and an almond macaroon, but so much easier to make. Normally the almond in the center would be a raw, natural almond with the skin on. Unfortunately, I didn’t happen to have any on hand but I did have lovely whole blanched almonds. The natural almond provides a bit more visual contrast so use it if you have them; however, the taste is delicious either way.

My husband isn’t a fan of rose water and it is easy to use too much with the result tasting like pot pourri. I found that orange blossom water on your hands gave just a slight wonderful hint of the essence that paired beautifully with the cardamom. If you truly don’t like cardamom, several recipes I saw used cinnamon instead.

For Other Passover Cookies:

Passover Sephardic Wine Cookies

Passover Florentine Cookies

Passover Orange Ginger Spice Cookies

Chocolate Chip Vegan Meringue Buttons for Passover

Passover Almond Coconut Macaroons

Recipe

Yield: 2 dozen cookies

Ingredients

Iraqi Almond Cardamom Cookies

2 cups finely ground almond flour (blanched or natural)

1 cup granulated sugar

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon pure almond extract

3/4 teaspoon ground cardamom

2 large egg whites

A few drops of either orange blossom or rose water

24 whole raw or blanched almonds

Directions

Iraqi Almond Cardamom Cookies

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line 2 cookie pans with parchment or Silpat.

In a medium bowl, whisk together the almond flour, cardamom and salt.

In a large bowl, whisk the egg whites, almond extract and sugar until just combined. Stir in the almond flour until you have a smooth consistency.

Mix the rose or orange blossom drop in a shallow bowl of water. Dip your hands in the water and pinch off a tablespoon of dough and roll it into a ball. Place on the parchment or Silpat. Continue with all of the dough. You should have two pans of 12 with the cookies about 2-inches apart. Place a whole almond in the middle of each cookie and very gently press it into the dough.

Bake for 15 to 18 minutes (ovens vary) or until the cookies are just beginning to brown around the edges. Allow to cool for a couple of minutes on the pan before removing to a cooling rack. Et Voila! Store in an airtight container.

Queen Esther Cookies

Queen Esther Cookies

Queen Esther Cookies are a buttery, light poppy seed cookie – perfect for Purim. This year, Purim begins at sundown on February 25. On the Hebrew calendar it is always the 13th of Adar.

Every year I look forward to making and eating these treats. And while I could easily make them anytime, I like that there are certain things I only make for certain holidays, whether it’s Thanksgiving, Purim or Pesach.

Purim, which is also called the Feast of Lots, commemorates saving the Jews of Shushan in ancient Persia, from extermination. While a tale of classic anti-Semitism, it is nevertheless a joyous festival. In non-pandemic years, both adults and children would dress up in costumes and party hard in celebration. A Purim Spiel, which is a humorous skit or play, would often be performed.

We Jews are commanded to eat, drink and be merry and to listen to the reading of the Megillah Esther. Every time the evil Haman’s name is mentioned, we all boo and hiss and wave our noisemakers to show that we are not afraid.

The Book of Esther reminds us of the brave actions of Esther and Mordecai. Mordecai refused to bow down to the evil Haman, advisor to King Ahashuerus. And Esther remained faithful to her religious traditions and the Jewish People while married to the King, who did not know that she was a Jew.

Chag Purim Sameach!

Queen Esther Cookies are named after the woman who spoke to the King on behalf of her People despite the real danger to herself. Esther revealed Haman’s evil plot to destroy the Jews (and that she herself was a Jew). She was able to convince the King to reverse his decree, thereby saving the Jews of Shushan.

It is customary to give out baskets of food and treats to the poor, although over time, it has also become common to make them for friends and family. These cookies are always a welcome addition, along with the more well-known Hamentaschen. Both recipes come from The New Jewish Holiday Cookbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene.

Redolent with vanilla and almond extract, Queen Esther Cookies, also known as Mohn Kichelah, which simply means poppy seed cookie in Yiddish, keep well in an airtight tin or container. So enjoy them even when the holiday is over! And you don’t have to be Jewish to love these little beauties.

Recipe

Yield: Makes about 3 dozen cookies, depending on size

Queen Esther Cookies

Ingredients

1/2 cup butter or margarine, at room temperature

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1 large egg or 1/4 cup egg substitute

1 Tablespoon water

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon pure almond extract

Scant 1/3 cup poppy seeds

1/2 teaspoon baking powder

2 cups unbleached, all-purpose flour

Happy Purim!

Directions

These can be made by hand, but it is much easier to use either a standing mixer or a food processor.

Cream well the butter (margarine) and sugar until they are light and fluffy – about 3 minutes. Mix in the water, egg, vanilla and almond extract. Then pulse in the poppy seeds and baking powder.

Add the flour and mix to form a very stiff dough. These cookies can be made into a dropped cookie or rolled out and cut with a cookie cutter, which is what I do. If you are planning to roll them out, then form the dough into a thick disk, wrap it in plastic wrap and refrigerate it for several hours or overnight. It should be quite firm. If you are making drop cookies, then use the dough immediately.

Queen Esther Cookies

When you are ready to bake, heat the oven to 350 degrees F. Line baking sheets with parchment and coat with non-stick spray. You can also use a Silpat, which doesn’t require any spray.

Roll out the refrigerated dough on a lightly floured surface until it is about 1/8-inch thick. You can cut out the cookies free-hand or use a cookie cutter in any shape that you like. Re-roll scraps and continue cutting out cookies until all of the dough is used up. If the dough begins to get too soft to handle, simply place it in the fridge until it firms up.

Place the cut-out dough onto the baking sheets about 1/2-inch apart. Bake for about 10 to 12 minutes or until they are lightly browned at the edges. Ovens vary and it will also depend on how thinly you actually rolled out the dough etc. Mine ended up taking about 16 minutes this time…. Remove to a wire rack to cool completely.

Queen Esther Cookies

I have never made these as a drop cookie, but the instructions say to drop by teaspoonfuls onto the cookie sheet. Then flatten the mounds slightly with a fork, your fingertips or the bottom of a glass. Bake for about 15 minutes or until lightly browned around the edges. Cool completely on a wire rack.

Queen Esther Cookies

Tahini Swirl Brownies

Tahini Swirl Brownies

Tahini Swirl Brownies – fudgy, rich and deeply decadent. Don’t we all need them now? The temperatures have dropped into the single digits (we’re talking Fahrenheit!) It’s been snowing. And, yes, there is still a pandemic going on. I don’t know about you, but sometimes all you can do is eat chocolate – the extra dark, rich and not overly sweet kind. You know, the one that’s good for depression. Yes, that one.

I’ve been binge watching YouTube cooking shows and I came across one called Milk Street. The host is Christopher Kimball, who I had never heard of before, although he is the co-founder, editor and publisher of America’s Test Kitchen. Not the most dynamic of hosts, if I am being honest. However, I happened to turn on the episode where they were making these brownies. Having made Ottolenghi’s Tahini and Halva Brownie before, which my husband liked more than I did, I was curious what these were like. I was immediately attracted to the simplicity of the ingredients and the process in this recipe. So I decided to try the Milk Street version. And I am very glad that I did! Can you say scrumptious?

By now, no one is surprised to see tahini in dessert recipes. Actually, I’m kind of surprised that I haven’t come across tahini ice cream in the US. It’s ubiquitous in Israel and I’m a fan. Tahini is kind of like peanut butter’s more sophisticated sister. Don’t get me wrong, like most Americans I grew up loving peanut butter. As a child it was Skippy’s or Jif. Now that I’m older, I prefer the kind without any sugar or other additives. But there is a lovely slight bitterness to tahini that cuts through the sweetness and pairs beautifully with chocolate. Tahini enhances the earthiness in the chocolate in much the same way that adding coffee does.

There is nothing terribly tricky about this recipe, but you must use quality ingredients. You want a good bittersweet chocolate, which is no less than 64% cocoa and probably no more than 70%. And a quality Dutch-processed cocoa. I happen to love Valrhona for baking, but there are many fine cocoas available. As important as the chocolate elements are, the tahini you use is equally essential. Some brands are very bitter and taste simply awful. Two brands that I like are Soom and Seed & Mill, both of which are easily available online. (And no, I do not get paid to promote products. I probably should, but I don’t.)

Once your ingredients are assembled, the rest is pretty straight-forward. I did follow the instructions about swirling the tahini on top, but I think next time I might choose to just marble the chocolate through the tahini mixture instead. You probably can’t go wrong either way. Frankly, the only difficult part of this recipe is waiting until the brownies have cooled sufficiently before cutting and eating them. They smell simply wonderful!

You don’t need an excuse to make these, but I think we all probably have several at the ready. It’s been an awful year and we’re still in for a long haul. So treat yourself and your friends and loved ones. Make these tonight. I promise that you’ll thank me.

For other delicious brownie recipes:

Fudgy Brownies with Beets and Walnuts

Tahini and Halva Brownies

Java Brownies (Still my personal favorite)

Recipe

Yield: About 15 Brownies (A little goes a long way)

When I first read that an 8-inch pan yielded 15 brownies, I thought they were crazy. But the fact is that 2-inch brownies are really the right size. These are quite rich. And if you decide to eat two – well, I won’t tell.

Ingredients

4 Tablespoons (1/2 stick) salted butter, plus more for the pan (I don’t generally use salted butter and unsalted seemed to work just fine for me.)

4 ounces bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped or shaved (I used a 70% cocoa. I would not go lower than 64% or higher than 70%.)

3 Tablespoons cocoa powder

3 large eggs

1 cup plus 2 Tablespoons (223 g) granulated white sugar

1 Tablespoon pure vanilla extract

1 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup (180 g) tahini

1/3 cup (47 g) unbleached, all-purpose flour

Sea salt flakes for garnish (Optional – I didn’t use them or feel the lack, but if you really like adding salt to everything, go for it.)

Directions

Heat oven to 350 degrees F. with a rack in the middle position of the oven. Line an 8-inch square baking pan with 2 pieces of foil, leaving about a 2-inch overhang on all sides. Lightly brush with additional butter.

In a medium saucepan over medium heat, just melt the butter. Remove from the heat and whisk in the chocolate and cocoa until smooth.

In a large bowl, whisk the eggs, sugar, vanilla and salt until slightly thickened – about a minute. Whisk in the tahini. Fold in the flour until just incorporated.

Transfer 1/2 cup of the tahini mixture to a small bowl. Add the chocolate mixture to the remaining tahini mixture and fold in until fully combined. Alternatively, do not set aside the tahini, and simply take the chocolate mixture and marble it through the tahini mixture.

Pour the batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly. If you decided to set aside the 1/2 cup of tahini, dollop it over the top into 6 puddles. Using the tip of a sharp knife, drag it through the tahini dollops, first in one direction and then the other. (I admit that I am no expert in this, but it still worked out pretty well.)

Bake just until the edges are set but the center is still slightly moist. Ovens vary, so start checking at 25 minutes. I baked mine for 28 minutes, but even a couple of minutes less would have been okay. Cool on the pan on a wire rack for at least 30 minutes. The longer they cool, the easier they are to cut. Cut into about 2-inch squares. Enjoy.

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies are the spicy, warming cookies we need this winter. I’ve never been a huge fan of overly spicy, hot foods. When something makes the sweat pour out and my eyes stream, all other flavors are subsumed – for days! However, give me something well-seasoned and you have my attention. I love the fiery bite that ginger adds to almost any dish. It could wake the dead but somehow never kills the tastebuds. And hand me a piece of crystallized ginger – spicy and sweet, making my tongue tingle and my tastebuds stand up and cheer – and I’ll be your friend. Make it ginger covered in dark chocolate – and I’ll give you a hug.

As if the taste of ginger alone weren’t sufficient, ginger is a wonderful digestif, the perfect end to any meal that might have proved a bit rich or heavy. It’s been known to be an effective antidote to seasickness and morning sickness or just an iffy tummy. For me – well, I just love the taste and mouth sensation that ginger produces.

So when I saw this recipe on the King Arthur website for Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies, I knew that I just had to try them. And the fact that it also helped me to use up some of that rye flour that I bought way too much of in a moment of madness with visions of rye breads and pumpernickel dancing in my head is an added bonus.

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

It’s another dreary winter Sunday. My husband is making pizza for dinner and while his dough is proofing, I decided to make these cookies for dessert. They take no time at all to put together and thankfully I had all of the ingredients on hand. I learned the trick many years ago about adding freshly cracked black pepper to spice cookies so I was pleased when I saw the pepper already in the recipe.

I followed the recipe exactly; however, I did use a cookie scoop that was a bit larger than the one listed. Is anyone going to complain because their cookie is a little larger? I mean REALLY??! So while the cookie yield is not huge, there are more than enough to satisfy any cravings. All I need is a cold glass of milk. But if your thing is tea or coffee, you won’t be disappointed.

Because these cookies stay soft and chewy, rather than growing hard, they are perfect for using in homemade ice cream sandwiches. Just use a good quality vanilla ice cream in the middle and get ready for a real treat.

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

A couple of notes before getting started. I got into weighing my ingredients over the past year whenever a recipe gave me that option. It really has been a game changer. No matter how you scoop or pack your flour or sugar or ricotta etc., 150 grams is 150 grams if you weigh it out. Now I know that Americans are not used to weighing ingredients and depending on what I am making, I still use cup measures. But whenever possible I now provide both options for you.

This recipe called for “medium” rye flour. Whether you use medium or dark or light, the cookie will be delicious. It also calls for “molasses” but doesn’t specify “light” or “full-flavored” or “robust.” I used full-flavored molasses because I happen to like that full-bodied taste. The only thing I wouldn’t use is “black-strap” molasses. And if you have treacle but no molasses, you could use that instead. They will all work.

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Do make sure that your spices are fresh. This recipe cries out for robust spices and tired cardamom or ginger that has been in your cabinet for years just won’t cut it. When a recipe calls for “vegetable oil” I almost always choose Canola Oil, but you could use corn or safflower oil if that is what you have. I would not use peanut, olive or any oil with a strong flavor for this recipe. They have their place in baking but this isn’t it. Okay, so now – bake!

Recipe

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies

Yield: About 18 cookies

Ingredients

  • 2 cups (212g) medium rye flour
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • 2 teaspoons ginger
  • 3/4 teaspoon black pepper
  • 1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
  • 1/2 teaspoon cardamom
  • 3/4 cup (149g) granulated sugar
  • 1/2 cup (99g) vegetable oil
  • 1 large egg
  • 1/4 cup (85g) molasses

Coating

  • 1/3 cup (76g) coarse sparkling sugar (sanding sugar) or 1/3 cup (66g) granulated sugar

Directions

Rye Molasses Ginger Cookies
  1. Preheat the oven to 325°F. Lightly grease (or line with parchment) two baking sheets.
  2. Weigh your flour; or measure it by gently spooning it into a cup, then sweeping off any excess.
  3. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour, baking soda, salt, and spices. Set aside.
  4. In a large mixing bowl, using either a hand whisk, an electric mixer, or a stand mixer, whisk the sugar and oil until combined.
  5. Add the egg and whisk until smooth. Stir in the molasses. Then add the dry ingredients to the bowl and stir until well combined.
  6. Use a spoon (or a tablespoon cookie scoop) to portion 1 1/4″ balls of dough. (My cookie scoop was 1.5 Tablespoons so I got fewer than the 22 cookies and my resulting cookies were larger.)
  7. Roll the dough balls in granulated or sparkling sugar to coat before placing onto the prepared baking sheets. (The dough will be somewhat sticky, but it’s fine.) Leave 2″ between them on all sides; they’ll spread as they bake.
  8. Bake the cookies for 12 to 15 minutes, until they’re puffed and their edges are set and the tops look crackly.
  9. Remove the cookies from the oven, and cool completely right on the pan.  
  10. Store cookies, well wrapped, at room temperature for several days; freeze for longer storage.

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Normally I wouldn’t make a blueberry recipe in the middle of winter. But with this Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake you can enjoy summer anytime! I don’t know what farmers are doing with blueberries these days, but they have been gorgeous – both beautiful AND delicious. And it is my granddaughter’s favorite food. So I am taking advantage and putting them in everything from my morning oatmeal to Dutch Baby pancakes to coffeecake and yogurt – even salad. But even if you don’t have access to great fresh berries, I have successfully made this with frozen blueberries.

For years, I have been on a quest for the perfect blueberry coffeecake. And I have tried many, many recipes, but while generally okay, they just always disappoint. But I am happy to report that my quest for the perfect blueberry coffeecake with a great streusel topping is finally over! This is it, folks. Perfection – no need to look any further.

I came across this recipe on the King Arthur Baking website and then I “improved” it. By adding lemon zest and doubling the streusel topping (I mean you can’t have enough streusel, right?) my Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake makes a scrumptious treat that can be enjoyed anytime. Have a piece for your morning coffee or tea or as an afternoon pick-me-up. And it’s a lovely addition to any brunch table. But this Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake also makes for a delightful fruity and not heavy dessert when you just want something, but are not sure what. I like to sneak little cubes of it when I think no one is looking. Every bite contains these purply blue beauties that burst in your mouth.

The cake itself is light and yet rich, fragrant with vanilla and lemon and not overly sweet. Just the right amount. And the blueberries just pop! Best of all, it takes no special skills to make. It will come out right the very first time you try it. I think it’s perfect as is, but sprinkling a bit of powdered sugar on top before serving wouldn’t go amiss.

My cake is served straight from the pan. If, however, you wish to take it out for presentation, you will need to grease and line the pan with parchment which you then grease again. This lovely, lovely cake should be a regular in your rotation. It’s that good.

For other delicious berry treats try these:

Maialino’s Olive Oil Cake with Roasted Strawberries

Blueberry Galette

Financier Pastries

Blueberry Muffins

Fresh Blueberry Cobbler

Lemon Berry Bundt Cake

French Toast with Berries (or Challah French Toast)

Mini Berry Tarts

Ricotta Blintzes with Berries

Recipe

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Yield: 9 generous servings

Ingredients

For the Streusel Topping

1/2 cup of granulated sugar

1 cup of unbleached, all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon

Generous pinch of kosher salt

8 Tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature

For the Cake

2 cups of unbleached, all-purpose flour

2 teaspoons of double acting baking powder

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

3/4 cup granulated sugar

4 Tablespoons of unsalted butter at room temperature

1 large egg

Zest of one lemon

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

1/2 cup of milk ( dairy or non-dairy)

2 cups of fresh or frozen blueberries (If fresh, wash and dry them)

Garnish

Powdered, 10X or icing sugar (Optional)

Directions

Preheat the oven to 375 degrees F. Lightly grease and 8-inch or 9-inch square pan. (I prefer to use the 8-inch pan, although I made it with both. Your cake will be a little deeper with the 8-inch, which I prefer.)

Make the streusel topping by combining all of the ingredients and rubbing them together with your fingers or a fork until crumbly. Set aside.

Blend together the flour, baking powder and salt in a medium bowl.

In a larger bowl, beat together the sugar, butter, egg, lemon zest and vanilla. Alternately add the milk and the flour mixture. Do not overmix. Add the blueberries and gently mix through. Don’t worry if there is a little bleeding. (If you are using fresh berries that have been dried, toss them with about 1 Tablespoon of your flour mixture. It will prevent them from sinking to the bottom of the cake. This won’t work as well with the frozen berries, but the cake will still be delicious.)

Spoon the batter into the prepared pan.

Blueberry Streusel Coffeecake

Sprinkle the streusel mixture over the entire top and gently press down towards the batter.

Depending on the size of your pan and your oven, bake for between 40 to 50 minutes. The top will be golden, you will see a bit of berry ooze and the smell will be intoxicating. That’s how you know that it is done.

Cool completely before eating. I know, it will be very hard to wait. So at least allow the cake to cool to just warm before cutting.

Pumpkin Praline Pie

Pumpkin Praline Pie

Thanksgiving is long over, but it doesn’t mean that celebrations are too. I was hesitant to try making a Pumpkin Praline Pie. I don’t normally brag, but I make a killer Bourbon Pecan Pie and a really deeply spicy, amazing pumpkin pie. And I wasn’t sure that I wanted to mess with either where more might actually become less.

However, with so few of us this past thanksgiving, I would only be making one pie instead of my usual three and I simply couldn’t choose. (The third pie is usually an apple.) I am happy to report that this pie is delicious and does combine many elements of a pumpkin and a pecan pie. So for a delicious pie that stands on its own merit, you should try this Pumpkin Praline Pie. The crunchiness of the praline is the perfect counterpoint to the rich, creamy pumpkin pie.

After looking online and YouTube for a couple of weeks, I finally bit the bullet and decided to try a recipe I found on Allrecipes. A few changes were made based on some of the comments and my own preference for a well-spiced pumpkin pie. The result is a delicious, creamy, rich pumpkin pie with a praline-like topping. So if you want a gorgeous dessert that is unique on its own merit, but leaning towards a souped up pumpkin pie, try this. If you are looking to satisfy the Pecan Pie crowd, this won’t quite be the answer – in my opinion.

My version of this Pumpkin Praline Pie has plenty of pecans, but this topping, really delicious though it is, does not give you the ooey gooeyness of a true pecan pie. And I missed the Bourbon that cuts through some of the sweetness to keep it from becoming cloying. Don’t misunderstand. This is a really delicious pie and one that I enjoyed more each time I ate it. Just don’t buy into the hype on the web that it serves as the perfect combo of a pumpkin and pecan pie – it doesn’t. It is it’s own thing.

Now if you don’t enjoy as much spiciness in your pumpkin pie as I do, use a pre-mixed, store-bought pumpkin pie spice and cut back on the quantity. And if you want to make this pie but keep it vegan, use my Vegan Pumpkin Pie for the body and follow the directions for adding the topping. And instead of using butter with the pecans, use a vegan buttery spread or a solid coconut oil. Just remember to use either a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate or a 10-inch regular pie plate!

Recipe

Pumpkin Praline Pie

Yield: One 10-inch OR deep-dish 9-inch pie

Ingredients

1 unbaked pie crust for a deep dish pie (store bought or homemade)

For Pumpkin Portion

2 large eggs

1/2 cup granulated sugar

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1 Tablespoon unbleached, all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon kosher salt

1 teaspoon ground ginger

2 teaspoons ground cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

A couple of grinds of freshly cracked black pepper

15 ounce can (2 cups) pure solid-pack pumpkin puree

For Pecan Topping

4 Tablespoons of softened unsalted butter

Zest of one large navel orange

1/2 cup packed dark brown sugar

1.5 cups of pecans broken into large pieces

Garnish (Optional)

Homemade whipped cream or vanilla ice cream

Directions

Heat your oven to 450 degrees F. Line a deep-dish 9-inch pie plate or a 10-inch pie plate with the pastry and refrigerate while you make the filling. There is no need to blind-bake the pastry in this recipe.

Combine the eggs, sugars, flour, spices and salt in a large bowl. Blend in the pumpkin puree using a wire whisk. Gradually add the condensed milk and mix well.

Pour the pumpkin mixture into the prepared pie shell and place on a baking sheet in the lower third of your oven. Bake for 10 minutes at 450 degrees F. Then without opening the oven, reduce the heat to 350 degrees F. The total baking time will depend on your oven but usually takes about 50 minutes more. After the pie has baked for 30 minutes at 350 degrees F. carefully remove it from the oven. The center should still be fairly wet but the outside should be somewhat set.

At this point take the topping and sprinkle it all over the top. I also used a pie shield on my crust as it was beginning to get more brown than I liked. If you don’t have a pie shield you can use aluminum foil but honestly, that’s kind of a pain. If you intend to continue baking pies, treat yourself to a pie shield. They are inexpensive and really make a difference.

Return the pie to the oven for about 20 minutes more. Then turn off the oven and crack open the door. Leave the pie in the oven to cool down. It will continue to bake some and will prevent cracking.

Cool completely on a wire rack before serving.

German Chocolate Cookies

German Chocolate Cookies

German Chocolate Cookies are gooey dark chocolate, sweet toasted coconut and pecans. ‘Nuf said.

While I may enjoy a good piece of layer cake, it doesn’t make much sense to make one for only two people. And most cakes that I like have a buttercream frosting or a chocolate ganache and require refrigeration. This is TOTALLY unrealistic for me. Unlike TV cooking personalities, I don’t have an empty spare refrigerator only filled with the ingredients for a single dish. I live in the real world.

So when my husband and I are craving a delicious German Chocolate Cake, I will turn to these German Chocolate Cookies instead. I came across this recipe in the New York Times. Interesting piece of cooking trivia – German Chocolate Cake isn’t German at all. It’s named after an American chocolate maker, Samuel German. Okay, German Chocolate Cookies aren’t an exact substitute for the cake, but they are awfully satisfying. And with cookies, there is never any waste.

If I am making something sweet, I like to balance it out with either a tart citrus or a darker chocolate. You could buy a 64% to 70% chocolate and chop it up yourself or you could take the lazy way out like I did and simply use a dark chocolate chip. Once you could only buy semi-sweet chips, but now you can easily find milk chocolate, sugar-free chocolate, flavored chocolate and dark chocolate.

And while you can easily toast your own coconut, I bought already toasted, sweetened coconut from Nuts.com, my go-to store for nuts, dried fruits and all kinds of wonderful ingredients and hard-to-find items. If you want to cut the sweetness even further, swap out unsweetened coconut for the sweetened coconut.

I have never outgrown my love of milk – real dairy milk. To me, NOTHING beats cookies and milk. So you can have yours with coffee, tea or dessert wine, but I’ll be enjoying my German Chocolate Cookies with a cold glass of milk!

These cookies would make a lovely gift over the holidays, packaged in a nice tin.

For other great cookie treats to fill that tin:

Italian Polenta Cookies

Vegan Italian Chocolate Cookies

Lavender Mint Shortbread Cookies

Chewy Molasses Cookies

Tehina Shortbread Cookies

Who doesn’t LOVE cookies?

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Lemoniscious Ricotta Cookies

Ma’Amoul – Moroccan Stuffed Tartlets

Recipe

German Chocolate Cookies

Yield: About 30 cookies

Ingredients

1 cup/128 grams all-purpose flour
½ cup/47 grams Dutch-process cocoa powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
½ teaspoon kosher salt
8 tablespoons/113 grams unsalted butter (1 stick), at room temperature
½ cup/101 grams granulated sugar
½ cup/110 grams packed dark brown sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1 ½ cups/128 grams lightly toasted, sweetened shredded coconut
1 cup/170 grams chopped bittersweet chocolate (or chocolate chips)
1 cup/119 grams chopped pecans

Directions

Step 1
Heat oven to 350 degrees F. In a medium bowl, whisk together the flour,
cocoa powder, baking soda and salt. In a large bowl, beat butter,
granulated sugar and brown sugar together with an electric mixer on
medium speed until fluffy, about 2 minutes. Beat in the egg and vanilla
until smooth.

German Chocolate Cookies


Step 2
Reduce the speed to low and beat in the flour mixture. Add coconut,
chocolate and pecans and mix to just combine.

German Chocolate Cookies


Step 3
Portion the dough in 2 tablespoon scoops and roll them into balls.
Place them on parchment-lined baking sheets, at least 2 inches apart.
Bake the cookies until dry on top but still soft in the center, about 10
minutes, turning once unless you have a convection oven. The cookies will not have spread much, so just go by how the surface looks. Remove from the oven and immediately tap the sheets against a work surface to deflate them slightly. Alternatively you could use a flat spatula to lightly press down on the cookies to flatten some. Allow the cookies to sit on the sheets for 3 minutes, then transfer them to a rack to cool completely.

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.