Desserts

Simply Perfect and Healthier Cheesecake

simply perfect cheesecake with fruitWe are counting the days until Shavuos (lit: weeks).

Yes.  Shavuos is the holiday that we literally count the days toward its arrival. We count 49 days (seven weeks) from Pesach (Passover) to Shavuos, blessing the sefira (counting) every evening from the second night of Pesach until Shavuos begins.

From a culinary perspective, many of us count the days until we can enjoy the delicious dairy foods that have become associated with Shavuos. We are commanded to eat dairy foods at our festive meals (Countdown to Shavuos: Floral Inspirations and Dairy Recipes) on Shavuos and cheesecake has become one of the iconic desserts associated with Shavuos.

Shavuos commemorates the receiving of the Torah by the Jewish nation. It also is the time that the wheat is harvested and the bikurim (first fruits) were brought to the Holy Temple in a lavish ceremony (Bekurim: First Fruits from Hollister).  So, this year’s cheesecake is decorated with fruits, so symbolic of the bikurim ceremony.

I have kept the preparation simple and have incorporated greek yogurt and light cream cheese into the recipe to make for a healthier cheescake.   The flavor and texture is still impeccably delicious.

Just like last year’s mini cheesecake recipe, this recipe does not require a springform pan or a water bath for baking.  It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature just before preparation.   Preparation takes a few minutes and the baking is simple. It can be prepared as one round or rectangular cheesecake or in 12-16 mini ramekins.

simply perfect individual cheescake

SUPPLIES

spatula

food processor

mixer

INGREDIENTS

2 pound light or regular cream cheese
2/3 cup sugar
8 ounce container of plain Greek yogurt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
4 large eggs

2 cups cookies or graham crackers, crushed

4 tablespoons butter

cooking spray

DIRECTIONS

It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature before baking to prevent cracking, although I have made this recipe effectively with ingredients right out of the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Prepare cake pan or ramekins by generously spraying with cooking spray and/ or lining with parchment paper .

In food processor fitted with an S-blade, crush cookies and add butter, pulsing until mixture is fully incorporated.  You can also place cookies in a zipper bag and crush using a mallet or rolling pin, adding butter to the bag and kneading gently.  Gently press cookie-butter mixture into pan or ramekins.

Beat cream cheese, yogurt, sugar, eggs and vanilla in a food processor or with a mixer, just until smooth and creamy.  You can also use a whisk to incorporate and beat all these ingredients.  You will have to scrape sides of bowl to incorporate everything well until combined, smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into pans or ramekins, filling 2/3 of the way to the top.  I find it easiest to pour the mixture from a glass measuring cup with a spout..

Bake mini ramekins for 15 minutes, 3-4″ ramekins for about 18-20 minutes and larger pan for 30 minutes.  Turn oven off and leave in oven to another hour.

Remove from the oven and cool completely.  Chill the ramekin cheesecakes for at least 2 hours and the larger cheesecake for at least 4 hours.  Gently remove cheesecake(s) from pan(s).

Garnish with fruit, berries, edible leaves and flowers. Dust with powdered sugar right before serving.

 

Charoset Ices

charoset ices

Last year in Israel, we discovered that Ben and Jerry’s manufactures Charoset ice cream for Pesach (Passover).  We bought it at the Israel supermarket for its Passover-themed value but we devoured it for its delicious taste.

charoset ice cream.png

After all,  charoset is a traditional dip consumed at the Passover Seder. It is typically prepared with chopped apples, nuts, cinnamon and red wine or grape juice.   The charoset is a  gritty dip for the Maror (bitter herbs) that symbolizes the mortar used by the Jews to fashion bricks while they were enslaved in Egypt.

The apples and grape juice or wine lend a sweet taste to this dish and make for the perfect combination of ingredients to prepare charoset ices.  This will make the perfect dessert for your Pesach meal.

 

INGREDIENTS

3-4 apples, cut into large chunks
1 cup wine or grape juice
dash of cinnamon
1/4 cup nuts
1 cup frozen grapes
small romaine heart (optional, for garnish)

DIRECTIONS

Using the s-blade of the food processor, puree all ingredients except romaine heart until just combined.

Freeze until solid or overnight.

Once frozen, remove from freezer and defrost just enough to scoop back into the food processor fitted with the s-blade.

Pulse sorbet in food processor just until smooth.  Refreeze.

To allow for simple entertaining, I usually defrost for 20-30 minutes before scooping.

Garnish with a small piece of romaine lettuce.

SUBSTITUTIONS

Any frozen fruit may be substituted for the frozen grapes.  Just make sure to taste puree and blend with enough wine or  juice for optimal sweetness.  Honey may be added as well to sweeten the sorbet.

TIPS

I scoop the sorbet into small cups in advance and freeze in the cups until ready to serve. That speeds up the serving of a frozen dessert and keeps everything tidy.    I add the garnish at the end so that the leaves stay fresh and green.charoset ices.jpg

Pomegranate Truffles

pomegranate-truffles

There is something about pomegranate seeds that are oh, so delicious and create such a taste and texture sensation.  The soft outside and the pop in your mouth juiciness is something so unique and so wonderful.  The bright red color is reminiscent of a red heart and what better ingredient to pair with pomegranate seeds than chocolate?

As we just celebrated Tu Beshvat over the past weekend, we took time to pause and reflect on the vast assortments of fruit that grace our world.  The pomegranate, whose seed bursts are the only edible part of the fruit truly symbolize the dormant and vast potential in each one of us.

This simple recipe is quite a palate sensation.  It combines the decadence of chocolate with the juiciness of pomegranate.  It takes moments to prepare and will simply wow you.

INGREDIENTS
seeds of one pomegranate
6 ounces of good chocolate
sea salt (optional)

INSTRUCTIONS

Line a baking sheet with parchment paper.  Melt chocolate and with a spoon or spatula, place mounds of chocolate on the parchment paper, reserving a small amount of melted chocolate.  Place a small mound of pomegranate seeds atop each chocolate mound.  Drizzle the rest of the chocolate over the truffles using a fork or a piping bag.

Optionally, garnish each pomegranate truffle with a few sea salt crystals.

These may be prepared a day in advance, but should be stored in the refrigerator.

The Blessing and Renewal of Tu Beshvat

 

tu beshvat fruit salad with kiwi garnish.jpg

 

Tomorrow is Tu B’Shevat , ט״ו בשבט‎‎, the 15th day of the Hebrew month of Shevat.   This special Jewish day commemorates the New Year of the Trees.

We are  taught that the trees are judged on this date for the fruit that will be produced in the next growing year.  In Israel, this is the beginning of fruit trees emerging from winter dormancy to begin a new fruit-bearing season.

To commemorate this special day, we enjoy fruit, especially fruits synonymous with the Land of Israel.  In the Torah, certain fruits are praised as the bounty of Israel and we make certain to enjoy these fruits on this day.  These fruits of mention are olives, dates, grapes, figs and pomegranates.

Tu B’Shevat reminds us of the dormant potential in the trees and in each one of us.  Just as the trees and their seeds lie dormant during the harsh and cold winter months, often we have times of dormancy.  Our hope is that we recognize the potential in ourselves, our children and those around us, even in the harshest and most challenging of times. Precisely at this time, while it is still cold and unforgiving outside, the trees celebrate their New Year.

May each one of us celebrate this festival of potential, growth and blossoming in our gardens, our families and our hearts.

This fruit salad incorporates some new fruits and some of the fabulous fruits of Israel. We thank G-d when enjoying the vibrant colors, textures and flavors of fruit by reciting this blessing:

Hebrew:

Transliteration
Baruch atah A-donai Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam Borei Pri Ha-aitz.

Translation
Blessed are You, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe, who creates the fruit of the tree.

When we eat new fruits that we have not eaten for an entire season, we also bless G-d with this special blessing:

Hebrew:Baruch atah Adonai, Eloheinu Melech haolam, shehecheyanu, v'kiy'manu, v'higianu laz'man hazeh.

Transliteration
Baruch atah A-donai, Elo-heinu Melech Ha’Olam shehecheyanu v’kiyimanu v’higi’anu laz’man hazeh

Translation
Blessed are you, L-rd our G-d, King of the universe who has kept us alive, sustained us, and enabled us to reach this season

This fruit salad incorporates so many of the fruits that I love to purchase at the Machene Yehuda Shuk (Jerusalem open-air market) while we are in Israel.  I hope that it connects you to The Land, to G-d and to the potential that is Tu Beshvat, too.

Happy Tu Beshvat!

INGREDIENTS
dragon fruit
kiwi (see tips)
star fruit
watermelon
persimmon
Asian pears (see tips)
strawberries
dates
pomegranates

SPECIAL SUPPLIES
melon baller
scallop knife
peeler

DIRECTIONS
Was, dice, scoop and cut fruit into small pieces.  Gently toss and optionally garnish with Simple Kiwi Flower Garnish.

 

TIPS 

To keep fruits like Asian pears from oxidizing, place cut pieces in a solution of 4 parts water to 1 part of lemon juice r pineapple juice.

Peel kiwi with a vegetable peeler.  You will preserve more of the fruit.

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Don’s Birthday Ice Cream Cake

dons birthday cake sliced.jpg

For Don’s birthday every year, I prepare a birthday cake for him. It doesn’t need to be fancy or fussy.  It just needs to contain lots and lots of his favorite ice cream….Baskin Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge.

To Don, there is nothing quite like this flavor.  Because…Don knows what he likes in ice cream.

In Haagen Dazs, it is coffee.

In Breyers, it is Butter Almond (not butter pecan-I’ve made that mistake more than once).

In Friendly’s, it is chocolate almond chip.

But his most favorite,  most beloved food he’d take if he was stranded on a dessert island really is Baskin Robbins Jamoca Almond Fudge.

So, I’ve learned to not mess with that favorite ice cream flavor choice. And, most years, I just buy cartons of this cherished ice cream and mold it as is with no other ingredients.

This year, I thought that I would be a bit more creative.  I made a simple ganache with coffee and chocolate and crushed some coffee-flavored wafers to place between the ice cream layers.  I was careful not to detract too much from the star of the cake, the Jamoca Almond Fudge ice cream.

Happy Birthday, Don!

 

 

INGREDIENTS

2-4 quarts of ice cream
milk
chocolate wafers
chocolate chips
chocolate for garnish
sprinkles (optional)
whipped cream

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Freeze ice cream in layers until firm.  I used disposable round pans.

Prepare crumb layers by crushing wafers and adding just enough milk for the crumbs to hold together.

Use a large disposable plate or parchment-covered base to create ice cream cake:  Starting and ending with ice cream layer, layer ice cream layers and crumb layers. Freeze until firm.

Prepare ganache by melting 1-2 cups of chocolate or chocolate chips, 2 tablespoons of milk and 1 teaspoon of coffee.  Melt over low heat until smooth and creamy.

Remove ice cream cake from freezer and carefully pour ganache over cake, allowing some of the ganache to puddle at the bottom.

Freeze until firm.  Using a spatula, reapply puddled ganache to the sides of the cake. Optionally, press sprinkles into sides of cake.

Garnish top of cake with whipped cream and favorite chocolate garnish.

Leah’s Awesome Pareve Chocolate Chip Cookies

Leah’s reputation in our kitchen as a salad maker is legendary. She is known for her creative and unique salad ingredient combinations. For years, we have referred to Leah as our salad queen and we still often append “primavera” to her name just for fun.

So, we were all a bit surprised when Leah decided to bake cookies with Avigail and JuJu this past weekend.

leahs-chocolate-chip-cookies

Michelle and Davida are our cookie bakers. Leah is our salad maker. It is an awkward moment when the salad maker tries to become a cookie baker.

We all found it entertaining that Leah wanted to bake. Avigail and Juju were on board and ready to roll up their sleeves. I couldn’t wait to see how this would play out.

I sat back and watched this unfold.

Leah asked questions like, “how does the Kitchen Aid mixer work?” “where do we have a cookie sheet?” and “what is a cookie scoop?”

The questions were mostly answered quite competently by three-year old Avigail.

And, I couldn’t help but chuckle.

But, Leah really had the last laugh. Because, these chocolate chip cookies were the best chocolate chip cookies, ever.

Leah started with Betty Crocker’s Ultimate Chocolate Chip Cookie recipe and made a few modifications. Here is Leah’s recipe:

INGREDIENTS

1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
1 1/2 tablespoons honey , corn or maple syrup
2/3 cup margarine, softened
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 egg
2 1/4 cups flour
1 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 teaspoon salt
1 cup slivered almonds
12 oz package real chocolate chips

DIRECTIONS

Preheat oven to 375ºF. Line baking sheet with parchment paper.

Using paddle attachment on mixer, combine sugar, honey or syrup, margarine, vanilla and egg. Stir in flour, baking soda and salt and then gently add almonds and chocolate chips. The dough will be stiff.

Drop dough by small rounded tablespoonfuls or small cookie scoop onto parchment-lined cookie sheet.

Bake 8 to 10 minutes or until light brown. Centers will be soft when removed from oven. Allow to cool on parchment paper.

Enjoy!

Please Note:  This post contains affiliate links from Amazon, which means I earn a small commission if you click and make a purchase.

Strawberry and Brownie Mini Trifles

 

INGREDIENTS

oneFlourless Chocolate Cake or brownie recipe, cut into small cubes

whipped cream

1 tablespoon vanilla sugar

strawberries, diced

decorative cookie (optional)

 

DIRECTIONS

Soak, wash and dry strawberries well.

Using a paring knife, create one strawberry rose for each mini trifle.  For each rose, slice thin petals from close to the top of the strawberry from  to close to bottom of the strawberry. Gently curl each petal toward the outside.   Continue to slice petals all around the perimeter of the strawberry, overlapping slightly and curling them outward.

Dice the rest of the strawberries.

Whip the cream with vanilla sugar.

In clear glass or plastic cup, alternate layers of brownie cubes, strawberries and whipped cream.  Dry to drop the cream into the cup without touching the sides.  Gently shake the cup on the counter to settle the whipped cream.

Garnish the top of each mini trifle with a strawberry rose and/or a decorative cookie.

individual-bownie-and-strawberry-trifles-feauture-photo

 

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore strawberries require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing. Kashrut authorities differ somewhat on the proper checking of strawberries and some disallow the eating of strawberries, altogether. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding the use of strawberries.

Simply Perfect Sufganiot in a Zipper Bag

I like to stay close to the latest trends in cooking and design.  One trendy and helpful technique in preparing dough is to use a zipper bag for preparing and kneading the dough.  It is a great idea for most dough and really reduces the cleanup.  Best of all, since the zipper bag can be discarded after use, this simple dough technique virtually eliminates those nasty dough-covered utensils and sponges that are so difficult to clean.

The ziploc bag eliminates the dusty mess of flour and allows all the dough crumbles to remain in the disposable ziploc bags.  Since the sufganiot in this recipe are amorphous and just dropped into oil, the ziploc bag can even be used  to dispense the doughnuts right into the frying pan.

I have adapted my favorite sufganiot recipe to use the ziploc bag.  I have tried it and it is just perfect!

sufganiot-in-a-bag-in-oil

INGREDIENTS
1/2 cup warm water
2 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon dry active yeast

1 cup flour

1/3 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup warm water
Olive oil, for frying

Powdered sugar (optional)

large zipper bag (1-2 gallon)

 

DIRECTIONS

In a ziploc bag, dissolve yeast and sugar in warm water.  To do this easily, I fold top of zipper bag over a small pan so that bottom of zipper bag is at bottom of pan and top of bag is folded over sides of the pan.    This ensures that the liquid contents do not spill over.

sufganiot zipper bag in pan.jpg

Wait until yeast mixture becomes bubbly or foamy.  If the yeast mixture does not bubble and foam, the yeast is not active and you will have to redo this step, making sure that the water used is warm but not too hot to touch.

 

Carefully add salt and flour to the yeast mixture, kneading the bag until all the flour has been incorporated, for several minutes.   The dough should resemble a thick, sticky cake batter.

sufganiot-in-a-bag-yeast-dough-before-rising-2

 

Spray your hands with oil spray or rub oil on your hands.  With your oiled hands, carefully rub the oil all over the dough. making sure to coat all sides of the dough.  Rub or spray oil on the entire inside of the zipper bag, too.

Allow dough to rise for 3-4 hours in the bag.  Open zipper and gently let the excess air out of the bag.  Gently push down the dough by pressing on the outside of the bag.

In a pot or sauce pan with a large opening, over medium heat, heat 1-2 inches of olive oil until sizzling.

Cut a corner into the side of the zipper bag to allow dispensing of the dough directly from the zipper bag corner.

sufganiot-in-a-bag-after-risen

Squeeze donuts into the oil by pushing dough into corner of bag and squeezing out small pieces of odd-shaped dough out of the zipper bag.  You may have to coax and pull donuts out of the bag into the oil using oiled hands.

Repeat until you have filled the oil with donuts without crowding, as the sufganiot will puff up during the ferrying process.

 

sufganiot-in-a-bag-in-oil

 

Turn them over once the bottom is golden brown.

Using a slotted spoon, carefully remove each doughnut from the oil and place on a plate lined with paper towels.

Sprinkle powdered sugar over the doughnuts and enjoy!

Happy Chanukah!

That Turkey! Baked Apple

turkey-baked-apple-on-glass-plate

 

I love warm baked apples.  There is something simple about the flavor and preparation, yet it is one of those recipes that never seems to get old.

For Thanksgiving, I decided to dress up my Simply Delicious Baked Apples and create a Thanksgiving-inspired baked apple turkey.

It really was simple.  Oh, and whimsical.  And, of course, delicious! (more…)

..In the Honey: Rosh Hoshana Honeycomb Cupcakes

 

beehive-cupcake

Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year) is coming and our friend (and Davida’s superMom), Staci Segal, is sponsoring a pre-Rosh Hashana bake sale to benefit benefit Ohr Meir U’Bracha, The Terror Victims Support Center of Israel.

Last year, Davida baked delicious muffins for this bake sale.  This year Davida and Staci’s daughter, Chava, are  studying in Israel, so I offered to bake and send over some cupcakes for this important event.  Although Davida and Chava are the true masters in my kitchen, I felt that I needed to prove that I still had some kitchen prowess.

I decided to bake two sets of cupcakes to represent the important and symbolic tradition of dipping an apple in honey on Rosh Hashana.  The first set of cupcakes were Dip the Apple… Rosh Hashana Cupcakes.

 

Now, all we needed were the honey cupcakes.  For these, I decided to prepare cupcakes shaped like beehives, with edible chocolate honeycombs and adorable jelly bean bees.

We dip an apple into honey at our festive evening meals on Rosh Hashana to symbolize our hope and prayer for a “sweet” New Year.   Honey is one of the symbols for the Land of Israel as the Torah describes Israel as a land “flowing with milk and honey.”  It symbolizes the connection between G-d, the Jewish nation and the Land of Israel.

The honey referred to in the Torah is date honey.  Today,  date honey is sold in Israel, but most of the honey found is bee honey.  These cupcakes were shaped liked beehives to represent this sweet symbol.

 

These cupcakes are available for sale among other delicious desserts at the Segal Home this Sunday, September 25th, 2016 from 2-8 PM.  Their address is 475 FDR Drive #301 on the Lower East Side. For more information, please contact Staci at 917-295-7295 or stacisegal@aol.com

 

SUPPLIES

Cupcakes

Melting wafers (for honeycomb pieces)

Parchment or wax paper

Clean bubble wrap

White frosting

Chocolate frosting

Mini cup cones

Black and yellow jelly beans

Slivered almonds

 

 

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Bake your favorite cupcakes.

Melt chocolate wafers or chips.  I use the defrost feature on the microwave.  I spread the chocolate out on a microwave-safe dinner plate and place it on defrost for 6-8 minutes.

Spread the chocolate out on a piece of parchment or wax paper, keeping the chocolate thin but not translucent.    Press clean bubble wrap with bubble side down onto melted chocolate.

beehive-chocolate-with-bubble-wrap

Keep bubble wrap until chocolate has hardened and carefully peel off.  Break the chocolate into chards that resemble pieces of honeycombs.

beehive-shards

 

Place a mini cup cone upside down in the center of each cupcake, pressing down until it is set into place.

Fill a ziploc or piping bag with white or yellow frosting.  To do this neatly, place a bag in a tall glass and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass like a collar.  Using a spatula, fill the bag.  Cut corner of bag with an opening big enough to pipe thick frosting.  Squeeze frosting to corner carefully.

beehive-cupcakes-in-progress

Pipe frosting on each cupcake, surrounding upside down cone and piping to top of cone.

Place a chocolate honeycomb chard on the side of each cupcake.  Place one or two jellybeans on each cupcake.   Place slivered almonds on either side of each jellybean.

Fill two small ziploc or piping bags with chocolate and white frosting.  To do this neatly, place the bag in a tall glass and fold the top of the bag over the edge of the glass like a collar and fill with frosting.  Cut corner of bag with a tiny opening to pipe thin stripes on the jellybean bees.   Carefully squeeze frosting to corner.

beehive-cupcakes-decorating-ingredients-and-bags

Pipe stripes of white frosting on black jellybeans.  Pipe stripes of chocolate frosting on yellow jellybeans.

beehive-cupcakes-in-carrier

 

 

Wishing you all a Kesiva Ve’Chasma Tova (a positive inscription and seal for the upcoming year).

Dip the Apple… Rosh Hashana Cupcakes

Rosh Hashana is coming and our friend (and Davida’s superMom), Staci Segal, is sponsoring a pre-Rosh Hashana bake sale to benefit benefit Ohr Meir U’Bracha, The Terror Victims Support Center of Israel.

Last year, Davida baked glazed carrot muffins for this bake sale.  This year Davida and Staci’s daughter, Chava, are spending the year studying in Israel, so I offered to bake and send over some cupcakes for this important event.  I wanted to make sure that the Segal bake sale would have adequate Respler representation.

I sat down to think about what I could bake that would be unique and delicious.  It needed to be something easy to transport,  interesting and something appropriate for Rosh Hashanah.

The first thing that came to mind was an apple dessert.  The apple is such a strong symbol of Rosh Hashana.

During Rosh Hashana (Jewish New Year), we eat apples dipped in honey as a symbol for a sweet new year.   It is interesting that an apple is chosen as the fruit to dip.

One reason is that in King Solomon’s Shir Hashirim (Song of Songs), the nation of Israel is compared to an apple.  “As the apple is rare and unique among the trees of the forest, so is my beloved (Israel) amongst the maidens (nations) of the world.”  Furthernore, an apple is symbolic of the love between the nation of Israel and G-d as we read in Shir Hashirim , “Beneath the apple tree I aroused you.”

We are taught that an apple tree sprouts the tiny core of each apple before the leaves surround and protect the young fruit.  In the same way, the young Jewish nation accepted the Torah before understanding the myriad of details within.  The famous acceptance of our nation was verbalized as “we will do and we will understand”.  We committed to the holy observance of Torah commandments even before we understood the full extent of what this commitment entailed.  Therefore, the apple has become a symbol and remembrance of the commitment to our faith and acceptance of Torah at Mount Sinai.  We recall this on Rosh Hashana when our mission is to proclaim G-d as our King.

I decided to prepare cupcakes designed to look like red apples.  I baked vanilla cupcakes for this recipe.  Perhaps, next time, I will prepare honey cupcakes to fully represent the Rosh Hashana tradition of “dipping the apple in the honey”.

apple-cupcakes-in-carrier

These cupcakes are available for sale among other delicious desserts at the Segal Home this Sunday, September 25th, 2016 from 2-8 PM.  Their address is 475 FDR Drive #301 on the Lower East Side. For more information, please contact Staci at 917-295-7295 or stacisegal@aol.com

apple-cupcakes

SUPPLIES

Cupcakes

White frosting

Red sanding sugar or sugar and red food coloring

Brown licorice, brown taffy or small pretzel nub

Green taffy or gum

 

INSTRUCTIONS

Bake your favorite cupcakes.

Cut pieces of brown licorice, taffy or pretzels to resemble stems.

spple-cupcake-embellishments

Flatten green gum or taffy and use knife to cut out leaf shapes.  Use blunt knife to form leaf veins.

apple-cupcakes-leaves

To make red sanding sugar, combine 1 cup of sugar with red food coloring, adding food coloring until the desired depth of color is reached.  I pulsed this in my food processor.  Alternatively, you can combine the sugar and color in a ziploc bag or in your mixer.

apple-cupcakes-sanding-sugar-ingredients

apple-cupcakes-sanding-sugar

 

Frost cupcakes generously with a small knife or spatula, heaping frosting to form a mounded top for each cupcake.

Using spoon, sprinkle sanding sugar on top of each cupcake until well coated.  Gently shake off excess sanding sugar.

apple-cupcakes-in-sugar

Insert brown stem and green leaf.

apple-cupcake

apple cupcakes in carrier.jpg

Wishing you all a Kesiva Ve’Chasma Tova (a positive inscription and seal for the upcoming year).

 

 

Simple Kiwi Flower Garnish

kiwi garnish with single golden kiwi 2

A simple, yet beautiful garnish adds elegance and whimsy.  This one is so simple and only takes 30 seconds to prepare.  It uses the whole kiwi with no waste and needs only a small paring knife as a kitchen tool.

It would make a gorgeous centerpiece for a fruit platter, fruit pie or as a kiwi garnish accompaniment to a plated dessert.  With green and golden kiwis available right now, this garnish can be easily prepared in either color.  Just take care to use kiwis that are firm .

This kiwi garnish resembles a water lily lotus flower.  It would look gorgeous on an edible leaf like a lemon leaf with just a few chocolate truffles as an accompaniment. (more…)

Fruit Salad: It’s All About that Boat

I recently sent over fruit salad for a refreshing summer dessert in honor of our friends’ simcha (happy occasion).  The fruit salad was so simple to prepare.  I just sliced the pineapple, using an  all-metal pineapple corer and slicer and I used a melon baller to create uniform spheres of watermelon, cantaloupe and honeydew.

For a contemporary twist, I often opt to serve festive food on long and narrow platters that are lightweight and unique.  For fruit, I usually opt for a serving dish that has some depth to catch any dripping juices.  I found just the right serving dish.

It was a hammered bronze metal elongated bowl with a jagged edge, just big enough to make a statement and just small enough to fit in my friend’s refrigerator until time to serve.

I added a few interesting 4″ bamboo toothpicks and voila!

fruit salad in metal bowl

 

Patriotic Chocolate Bark: Simple and Pareve

Chocolate bark is one of the easiest dessert creations.  It takes moments to prepare, is a canvas for creativity and can be served in a myriad of different ways.  This one is perfect for a patriotic July 4th celebration.

It is a combination of chocolate, nuts, sprinkles and colorful fruit.  It can be served whole to resemble a brushed version of the American flag.  It can be cut into squares or can be broken into chards to garnish desserts.  Either way, this simple dessert will delight you  with the red, white and blue colors that are so patriotic and oh, so sweet!

INGREDIENTS

1 bag of chocolate chips or chocolate pieces

blueberries or black grapes sliced in half, carefully soaked and rinsed or confectionery stars
strawberries, carefully soaked and rinsed (see kosher notes), freeze-dried strawberries or craisins
almonds, candied ginger or white marshmallows, mini or  cut into strips

patriotic chocolate bark 2

DIRECTIONS

Melt chocolate in microwave or over a double boiler until smooth.   I used the microwave to melt chocolate  on a flat microwave-proof plate for 6-8 minutes on the timed defrost cycle.

Pour chocolate over a parchment paper-lined baking sheet or wax paper, spreading with a rubber or silicone spatula to about 1/8 or 1/4-inch thick.  I like to spread the chocolate as thin as possible without being translucent.

While still hot, decorate the chocolate with the fruit and nuts for a creative rendition of the American flag.  Place blueberries, grapes or stars in a grid fashion on the left corner of the chocolate to represent the stars.   Create rows of sliced strawberries or craisins and almonds, ginger or marshmallows to create the stripes of the flag . Carefully set each piece of fruit and nut into place by gently pushing into the warm chocolate.

Allow bark to cool on counter or in refrigerator, until chocolate hardens.

If serving in squares, score with a knife before chocolate hardens,  If breaking into chards, wait until chocolate has cooled and hardened.

patriotic chards

Store in ziploc bag or wrap individual pieces in plastic bags.

patriotic chocolate bark with blue white stars

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore strawberries require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing. Kashrut authorities differ somewhat on the proper checking of strawberries and some disallow the eating of strawberries, altogether. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding the use of strawberries.

 

SERVING SUGGESTIONS

Place chards or squares atop cheesecake,  brownies or ice cream.

patriotic chard over brownie

Delicious Banana Muffins: Approved by Leah

As a Shabbos gift, one of my friends recently sent over some delicious banana muffins.

banana muffins

They were so banana-ey, moist and delicious, that my daughter, Leah, asked me to get the recipe. Leah rarely eats baked goods, so I knew that these muffins were special. I vividly remember that as a two-year old toddler, Leah took a swipe of the frosting on her birthday cake and then exclaimed, “Now may I have a clementine?”

At Leah’s urging, I asked my friend, Michal, for the recipe and she was more than willing to share it.  It is simple and filled with banana deliciousness.

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Simple and Chewy Chocolate Chunk Cookies

For Shabbos and Yom Tov, I always like to have some delicious and beautiful baked goods sitting under the dome of my pastry platters on my kitchen counter. Since I am still on the low-carb diet, I must discipline myself to enjoy my tea without the sweets.

Davida is our resident baker.  She has an extensive repertoire of cookie recipes that never fails to impress us.  She baked a delicious batch of fat chocolate chunk cookies tonight that made our mouths water.  Don and I had to enjoy them with our eyes (although I sometimes wonder if Don cheats and enjoys them by mouth when no one is looking).

chewy chocolate chunk cookies (more…)

Simple Chocolate Bark with Flowers and Dried Fruit

Chocolate bark has become one of my favorite simple and beautiful dessert embellishments.  This week, I created a sweet and delicious bark that was sweet, bright and beautiful with some surprisingly savory ingredients, as well.  I melted a combination of white and milk chocolate and added fresh pansies from my flowerpots, mint and rosemary from my garden and an assortment of salted nuts and craisins.  I served this bark as the perfect accompaniment to small squares of Simply the Best Flourless Chocolate Cake.  I plan to also served this as a wow garnish for simple pieces of cheese cake for Shavuos.

chocolate bark with nut mint and pansies up close with logo

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Simple Mini Cheesecakes with Gorgeous Garnishes

Shavuos is on its way!  Cheesecake is one of the staples of the upcoming holiday of Shavuos, since we are commanded to eat dairy foods at our festive meals (Countdown to Shavuos: Floral Inspirations and Dairy Recipes) on Shavuos.

This year, Don and I are still on a low-carb diet.    We didn’t want to forego cheesecake, but I wanted to make sure to use a minimum of carbs in my cheesecake preparation.  I decided to create portion-size cheesecakes to keep the portion size well-controlled.  This will allow us to enjoy a taste of heaven without feeling deprived, but keeping our diet “cheating” to a minimum.

Best of all, I skipped the carb-heavy crust and created some beautiful and tasty garnishes to embellish these simple and delicious mini cheesecakes.  They are light, delicious, fresh-tasting, gluten-free and simply divine.

This recipe does not require a springform pan or a water bath for baking.  It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature just before preparation.  Preparation takes a few minutes and the baking takes less than 20 minutes.  It is best made in disposable or porcelain ramekins.  It makes 6 medium size or 12 mini ramekins.

 

Supplies

3-4 inch ramekins Set of 6 three ounce ramekins or aluminum disposable mini ramekins 39mm

 

Ingredients

1 pound cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
Pinch of salt
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 large eggs
1/3 cup sour cream
1/3 cup heavy whipping cream

mini cheese cakemini cheese cake with strawberry and chocolate garnishmini cheese cake with chocolate barkmini cheese cake with chocolate bark only

Directions

It is best to bring the ingredients to room temperature before baking to prevent cracking, although I have made this recipe effectively with ingredients right out of the refrigerator.

Preheat oven to 325°F.

Spray ramekins with cooking spray.

Beat  cream cheese with eggs with a whisk, in a food processor or with a mixer, just until smooth and creamy.  Add rest of ingredients, beating and incorporating well.  You may have to scrape sides of bowl to incorporate everything well until combined, smooth and creamy.

Pour mixture into ramekins, filling 2/3 of the way to the top.  I find it easiest to pour the mixture from a glass measuring cup with a spout..

Bake mini ramekins for 15 minutes, 3-4″ ramekins for about 18-20 minutes.  Cheesecake will rise slightly.  Centers should be set, although the cheese cake will appear to be slightly jiggly.

Remove from the oven and  cool completely.  Chill the cheesecakes in the ramekins for at least 2 hours or overnight.

The cheese cakes can be served directly  in the ramekins or can be removed from the ramekins and served upside side.  If removing from the ramekins, carefully turn over on a serving plate.  Allow cheese cake to rest for a few minutes before garnishing.

Garnish with fruit, berries, edible leaves and flowers, chocolate bark (Chards of Colorful Chocolate Bark: Whimsical and Delicious)or whole or crumbled cookies.

 

Variations

This recipe can be made as a small single cheesecake.  Generously grease a round baking pan.  Prepare ingredients as above and pour ingredients into greased round pan.  Increase baking time to 30 minutes or until center is set.  Garnish as above.

 

Prepare a crust by crumbling 1 cup of  your favorite cookies with 3 tablespoons of melted butter or coconut oil.  Press into the bottom of each ramekin and bake in a preheated 350 degrees F oven for 10 minutes.  Allow to cool before pouring cheesecake batter over the crust.  Continue to bake as above.  You may have to gently coax cheesecake out of ramekin or pan using a smooth knife to unseat the edges of the crust.

mini cheese cake with crust and edible pansies

Simple Chocolate Bark with Flowers and Dried Fruit

I love thin and delicious chocolate bark embellished with all my favorites.  It is a simple dessert and also makes a perfect garnish for a simple cake or mousse.  It is the perfect accompaniment to Simply the Best Flourless Chocolate Cake

chocoalte bark cut into sections on cake

As your bark background, you can use your favorite chocolate: white, milk or dark.  The embellishments can be any combination of edible flowers, dried fruit, candied fruit or ginger and/or all types of nuts and seeds.

For this chocolate bark, I used semisweet chocolate chips and white chocolate chips. I added raisins, craisins, candied pineapple bits and fresh pansy petals.

chocolate bark with pansies and raisins (more…)

Simple and Wow! Lady Finger Strawberry Shortcake

Pesach (Passover) is a springtime holiday that falls out in the Hebrew month of Nissan.  Our Jewish lunar calendar has a leap month designed to make sure that Pesach always falls out in the spring. This year was a Jewish leap year and therefore Pesach falls out in late April, a full month later on the solar calendar than last year.

Pesach desserts, therefore, should be reminiscent of spring and use seasonal ingredients. Strawberries is one of those wonderfully fresh and springtime dessert favorites.

One of the simplest Pesach recipes are ones that can be assembled right on Yom Tov and served in a variety of different ways. This one is just that type of dessert. Simple.  Fresh. Oh, and Beautiful.

strawberry shortcake ingredients

 

INGREDIENTS

one package of lady fingers
whipped cream
fresh strawberries (see kosher notes)

DIRECTIONS

Whip up a container of whipped cream and refrigerate. Clean and slice fresh strawberries. Layer lady fingers, whipped cream and strawberries in a large bowl or a glass trifle bowl. Top with strawberries and lady finger crumbs. Enjoy!

 

strawberry shortcake for passover

VARIATIONS

You can substitute berries and fruit of your choice. Try blueberries, peaches and mango.

Layer a single lady finger with whipped cream and strawberries for an individual strawberry shortcake. Serve on a plate or in a martini glass.

Drizzle a bit of strawberry, chocolate or raspberry sauce on top.

 

strawberry shortcake for passover 3

KOSHER NOTES

Kosher laws disallow the eating of any whole insects and therefore strawberries require a process of soaking, rinsing and in some cases, pureeing. Kashrut authorities differ somewhat on the proper checking of strawberries and some disallow the eating of strawberries, altogether. This blog was not designed to be your kosher authority, so please consult your local rabbinic authority regarding the use of strawberries.

Simply the Best Flourless Chocolate Cake

This cake is so simple and decadent.  It requires no separating eggs and is delicious.  The original recipe was given to me by my dear friend, Rose Feldman a’H, who made this cake for our first Thanksgiving dinner as a married couple, circa 1987. She made it with a glaze and decorated it with chocolate-dipped nuts.

Rose’s flourless chocolate cake was a shop-stopper on that autumn day in Pittsburgh. The crackly texture of the the flourless cake crust along with the decadence of its not-too-sweet interior is exceptional.  It has become a important part of my Pesach dessert repertoire and is so good that I often prepare it during the year, as well.

I rarely make the chocolate glaze topping with the dipped nuts. Instead, I serve the cake with a dusting of confectioner’s sugar or my own simple decorations. As an ode to spring, I have photographed this cake with fresh springtime pansies.

 

flourless chcoalte cake with pansies on whole cake

Pansies are edible and can even be crystallized (stay tuned to the blog for instructions).

flourless chocolate cake with pansies

To update this flourless chocolate cake, I often replace the margarine with coconut oil.  To add a contemporary wow to the chocolate decadence of this cake, I sometimes sprinkle a bit of sea salt and/or a touch of cayenne pepper right atop the cake. The combination of spicy, savory and sweet is sensational.

flourless chcoclake cake side by side with salt and cayenne

I have reduced the amount of sugar from the original recipe. To trick the palate, I usually dust the cake with confectioner’s sugar. The powdered sugar hits the palate first, making the cake taste sweeter than it actually is.

Since this cake is decadent, a small cake can serve many guests. The cake can be cut into very tiny slices, dusted with confectioners sugar and embellished with whipped cream, some chocolate nuts or edible flowers.

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A Simple, Delicious and Beautiful Flourless Fruit Tart

When I entertain, I love to serve a fruity dessert. Few can resist a dessert topped with fresh fruit. Berries are in season and this Pesach (Passover) fruit tart can be made with your favorite assortment of berries and fruit.

I made mine using a combination of frozen blueberries, strawberries and cranberries.  I topped mine with a mango rose.  This tart is simple to prepare and is a show-stopper.

It is simple, delicious and gorgeous.

mango rose tart complete (more…)

Wow Waffles: A Recipe Simple Enough for Papa

Avigail (age 2) and JuJu (age 11 months) are here to visit.  Avigail announced that she would like “eggies” for dinner and that JuJu would like waffles.

We all know that JuJu enjoys anything that Avigail decides for him and will even finish Avigail’s omelet, if given the chance.  JuJu loves to eat, especially when his sister has been involved in the food decision.

Sure enough, Avigail ate most of her omelet and then fed the rest to JuJu.  Once finished, she announced,”so when are we making the waffles for JuJu?”.  I was thinking that she was ready for bedtime, but my husband, Don (“Papa” to the grandchildren), took the request as the opportunity to start a cooking adventure with his two year-old granddaughter, Avigail (at close to 9 P.M.!).

Don asked questions like “where do I find your waffle recipe?”, “what does vanilla look like?” and “where do you store the waffle iron?”

I was scared.  Avigail and  “Papa” were delighted. (more…)

Kaitlyn’s Berry “Fresh” Muffins

Last week, Kaitlyn sent two-year old Avigail to playgroup with a muffin in her lunch bag. The muffin looked and smelled so delicious that Avigail’s teacher asked Kaitlyn for the recipe.

After school that afternoon, Kaitlyn and Avigail made another batch of muffins, wrapped a couple of them for the teacher along with the recipe.  Avigail arrived to playgroup the next morning and before anything else, she announced to her teacher.  “We made these fresh for you!”

Well, here is Avigail and Kaitlyn’s “fresh” recipe: (more…)