Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Knishes-Two Varieties (Lamb and Kasha)

I don’t like knishes. The idea of filling soft dough with potatoes seems like overkill to me. Somehow, pierogi seem less pointless on that score.

For the last few weeks, my little boy has been saying “knishes!” instead of “kisses.” I figured I’d better try my hand at the doughy appetisers before he lost interest in finding out what they are. I formulated a couple of fillings that are (I think) a bit more interesting than the traditional mashed potato mush. I also devised a crust that is less cakey and more like a would-be calzone.

The recipe for the kasha (buckwheat groats) filling can easily be adapted to a side dish with bow-tie pasta. The ground lamb filling could also be pressed into balls and sautéed to be served with cous cous or pasta. Both are terribly versatile.

You Will Need:

For the dough:

2 cups flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon salt
¼ cup margarine
¾ cup water (added a small bit at a time)
2 eggs (one beaten into the water, and the other used as a glaze)

In a large bowl, mix the dry ingredients. Cut in the margarine (or use a food processor-works great). Slowly, add the egg and water mixture until the dough comes together into a ball. Knead until smooth (about a minute).

Cover and chill for half an hour.

For the kasha filling:

¼ lb. mushrooms, sliced
1 medium onion, chopped
1 cup kasha, rinsed
2 cups boiling water in which 3 bouillon(beef) cubes have been dissolved
3 egg whites
4 tablespoons margarine

Over medium heat, melt two tablespoons of the margarine in a deep frying pan and cook the onions and mushrooms until soft. In a small bowl, beat the eggs. Rinse and drain the kasha and add to the eggs, stirring to coat evenly. Add remaining butter to pan and push the onions and mushrooms to one side. Add the kasha and stir quickly until dry. Stir in the boiling broth and bring everything back to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 10-15 minutes or until the water has been absorbed. Either toss with cooked bow-tie pasta for a side-dish, or set aside to use as filling for the knish.
*Some people swear by a tin of cream of mushroom soup or potato soup mixed-in at the end. If you do this, omit the bouillon as there will be adequate salt and flavouring in the soup.

For the Ground Lamb filling:

1 lb. ground lamb
1 chopped onion
2 boiled potatoes, mashed with a bit of olive oil
2 tablespoons ground cumin
1 tablespoon dried mint
1 teaspoon salt
pepper to taste
olive oil for sautéing

Sautee the onions in olive oil until soft. Add the lamb and spices and cook until browned. Drain off the oil and in a large bowl, mix with the mashed potatoes. Use as filling for knish. If using ground lamb as a meat-ball type meal, omit the potato and serve over noodles tossed with oil or herbed cous cous. I’ve also had great luck adding a bit of sweet wine to the mixture.

Putting together knishes:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees F.

Roll into small rounds or squares* and place a small mound of filling in the centre. Pinch closed in the manner that looks best to you (traditional knishes are flat-ish squares, though honestly, no one will care if you make triangles or circular puffs. Just make certain to pinch them tightly closed and make a slit for steam to escape. Place them on a lightly oiled tray and then brush with a beaten egg and bake for 35-40 minutes depending on your oven. The knishes should be golden in colour.
* This can also be made as two large knishes that may be sliced into servings.

Friday, February 23, 2007

Shoo-Fly Lenten Cake

Similar to shoo-fly pie, this simple cake is made without butter or eggs and is sweetened only with brown sugar and molasses. Unlike other Lenten cakes that are more like glorified soda breads, this is a rich and flavourful dessert. It is best served slightly warm though I’ve eaten it cold from the refrigerator without complaint.

You Will Need:

2 cups white flour
2 cups whole wheat flour
2 cups brown sugar
1 cup margarine
2 cups boiling water
1 cup mild molasses
2 teaspoons baking soda

Cut margarine into flour and sugar with a pastry cuter (or use the food processor for an even quicker method) until fine crumbs. Set aside 1 ½ cups for the topping.
Mix water, molasses and baking soda together. Add to the crumbs. Mix until batter is thin, but still lumpy. Pour into a greased 9x13 pan and top with remaining crumbs. Bake in pre-heated 350 degree F. oven for 35 minutes (mine took 45 minutes, so check frequently).

Pita Bread

This pita bread recipe comes from Beard on Bread and I find it to be a simple and reliable technique for producing a classic style pita.

You Will Need:

2 packages active dry yeast (one packet equals 2 ¼ teaspoons)
¼ teaspoon granulated sugar
2 cups warm water (100-115 degrees F.)
¼ cup olive oil
1 ½ tablespoons salt
6 cups bread flour (aprox)
cornmeal for dusting pans

Dissolve the yeas in ½ cup of the warm water with the sugar in a large mixing bowl and allow to proof. Add the remaining ingredients mixing in the flour one cup at a time. Knead until no longer sticky (about ten minutes). Shape into a ball and place in an oiled bowl, turning to coat. Cover and let rise 1 ½ -2 hours or until doubled in bulk. Gently de-gas (don’t punch the hell out of your dough as Beard suggests) and let rest on a floured surface for ten minutes. Divide into 8 or 9 pieces and shape into balls. Cover with a cloth and let rise for 30 minutes. Flatten each ball with your palm and then roll to 1/8 thickness. Place 2 on a lightly dusted baking sheet and cover again. Let rise another 30 minutes. Begin pre-heating the oven to 500 degrees F. with one baking sheet on the lowest position and the other at the next to highest. Place a sheet on the lowest shelf and leave in for five minutes. Beard is rather specific about not opening the door until the five minutes are up, but that seems like a bit of superstition to me. After five minutes, move them to a higher shelf and bake another 3-5 minutes until the loaves are puffed and lightly browned (don’t overbake or you’ll have pita chips!). Remove them to cool on towels so they do not develop a crust. The loaves will deflate when cool.

Pumpkin Kibbet

I served this dish with chick-pea salad and pita bread.

You will need:

For the kibbet:
2 cups cracked wheat, soaked and squeezed dry of moisture
2 cups tinned pumpkin
1 cup flour
1 medium onion, grated
2 teaspoons salt
¾ teaspoon cinnamon
¼ teaspoon nutmeg
¼ cup olive oil to spread on top

For the filling:
1 cup slightly mashed chick peas
1 cup cooked spinach
2 tablespoons olive oil
1 small chopped onion (sautéed in the oil)
3 tablespoons lemon juice
1 teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon cinnamon

To prepare the kibbet:

Mix together everything and spread half of the mixture in a lightly greased 9x13 pan. Combine the filling ingredients and spread over it. Spread the rest of kibbet on top. With a sharp knife, score deeply into diamond or square shapes and pour ¼ cup olive oil over it. Bake in a 350 degree oven for about 30 minutes or until golden brown.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Carrot Cake

I was forced to upgrade to the new, allegedly more reliable Blogger. Hrumph. It most certainly is NOT. Things may appear off kilter for a while until I can come up with some code to fix it.

Bet you could tell it was carrot cake by the decorations. What do you mean they don't look like carrots? Well, that must be because the new, allegedly better Blogger won't upload my bloody images. If you could see them, you'd know I made little carrots with a pastry tube. Oh wait, maybe it will...maybe...maybe...come on I don't have all day....hmmm de dum...*taps fingers on desk*... yes, I guess it will (after three attempts).

The recipe is simple and straightforward. I omitted the walnuts as I am allergic, but you could certainly add a cup of chopped nuts.

You will need:

3 eggs
2 cups sifted flour
2 cups sugar
1 1/4 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons baking soda
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla
1 cup shredded coconut
1 cup walnuts, chopped
1 cup crushed pineapple, drained
2 cups raw carrot, shredded

Beat the eggs well and add the next seven ingredients and beat until smooth. Stir in the coconut, nuts, pineapple and acrrots with a mixing spoon. Pour into a greased 9x13 cake pan and bake at 350 degrees F. for 50 minutes (mine took 70 minutes, so be sure to test for doneness with a toothpick).

When cake is still slightly warm, frost with cream cheese frosting

Cream Cheese Frosting:
4 tablespoons butter, softened
3 oz. cream cheese, softened
2 cups confectioner's sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla

Beat together until smooth and spread on still warm cake.

Recipe from:
From Amish and Mennonite Kitchens by, Good and Pellman
(As I often note when preparing recipes from this book, it is a volume worth investing in).

Friday, February 09, 2007

Frosted Lemon Poundcake Filled With Lemon Ice Cream

I never claimed it was health food. The monstrosity is made from a split and hollowed out lemon pound cake filled with tart lemon ice cream and a stiff frosting made from butter, Crisco and confectioner’s sugar. I topped it with parlsocker (pearl sugar) because I was in a hurry to finish and didn’t want to dirty another pastry bag.

I’ll get the component recipe parts posted over the weekend as I’m a bit pressed for time today, but here is the lemon ice cream.

You will need:

¼ cup lemon juice
1 cup superfine sugar
1/8 teaspoon vanilla
1 cup cream ½ cup half and half (what we call “light cream” in the East)

Dissolve the sugar in lemon juice. Add the rest and process according to machine directions. See? I told you it was simple.

Have a great weekend.

I Had To Steal This Graphic

Thanks T-Bogg!

Thursday, February 08, 2007

Almond Toffee

Unlike the brickle type toffees, this recipe produces a candy that had an initial crackle, but then finishes soft and chewy, like a caramel. I included them in my Valentines. Recipe comes from Womens Day Encyclopedia of Cookery.

You Will Need:

1 2/3 cups sugar
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/3 cup light cream
1/4 cup butter or margerine
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/3 cup chopped almonds (or any you prefer)

Combine sugar, syrup and cream in a heavy saucepan (I use an enamel over cast iron pot). Cook over medium heat stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Add butter. Turn heat low and cook, stirring occasionally until 260 degrees registers on a candy thermometer or until hard ball stage. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and nuts. Pour into a buttered 8 inch pan. When almost set (this happens quickly-ten minutes, tops) mark into squares with a knife. When cold, break into squares. Makes about 1 1/3 lbs.

Anisette Biscotti

My elderly neighbour in East Boston used to bake these cookies and then complain that the house "smelled like a distillery." To my mind, that isn't exactly a bad thing-at least not when it smells like Pernod.

I made a few adjustments to the recipe which comes from the New York Times Heritage Cookbook by, Jean Hewitt. Instead of aniseed, I substituted 1/8 teaspoon of concentrated anise oil-available in Italian grocers. I also omitted the rinds and almonds as I wanted a rather intensely anisette cookie. I will post the recipe as it was published and leave it to readers to substitute as they please.

I also turned the cookies at seven minutes rather than fifteen so that they might brown more evenly than the original recipe called for. No mention was made about greasing the sheets or not, so I used silicone pads. Since these bake at a moderate temperature, I'd think parchment paper would work fine. Since they contain so much butter, I would not chose to grease the pans-but that is really just my guess. Butter at your own risk.

You Will Need:

1/2 cup softened butter
3/4 cup granulated sugar
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon aniseed
2 tablespoons grated lemon rind
2 tablespoons grated orange rind
1 cup blanched almonds

1) Preheat oven to 350 degrees F.
2) Cream butter and sugar until fluffy. Add eggs one at a time until well mixed. Add vanilla.
3) Sift together flour, baking powder and salt. Add to batter in small batches. Stir in remaining ingredients and blend well.
4) Divide dough into three parts and shape each into a long roll one and one half inches in diameter.
5) Place each roll on a separate cookie sheet and flatten top slightly. Bake fifteen minutes.
6) Remove from oven and cut into 3/4 inch slices. Lay on side and bake seven minutes. Turn and bake seven more on opposite side.
7) Cool on rack.

Saturday, February 03, 2007

Kichels (puffy egg cookies)

Puffy egg cookies topped with sugar can be slightly dangerous if you're watching your diet. They are deceptively light, and addictive. Still, for an occasional treat (particularly if you have a youngster who is under the weather and hasn't much appetite otherwise) they are fun and somewhat simple to make.

Kichels were always my favourite cookie as a child in Chicago, though my mother would insist on purchasing the "dietetic" ones without any sugar on top. Mind you, with three eggs to one cup of flour, the fat and cholesterol content is a bigger threat than the pinch of sugar on each cookie, but keep in mind, if you're so inclined, the sugar may be omitted. The recipe can also be adjusted to use finely ground matzo meal to make them kosher for pesach.

You Will Need:

-3 eggs
-3 tablespoons sugar
-1/2 cup oil (I used Canola because I want to do my part to support the Albertan canola oil barons of the North...and because it is pretty much tasteless and odourless).
-1 cup sifted all purpose flour
-sugar for topping

Beat eggs, sugar and oil together in a mixing bowl on high speed of either a stand or hand mixer (I used the hand mixer to see how it would work and it was fine). Mix for fifteen minutes. Do go the entire length of time. It may seem pointless, but this is necessary to incorporate enough air into the eggs. Add the sifted flour a bit at a time and keep beating for another five minutes. The mix will seem gummy and rubbery-that is perfect. Drop in small amounts from a spoon (they expand quite a bit in the oven) and place about 2 inches apart on a well greased cookie sheet. Top each cookie with a pinch of sugar. Place in a pre-heated 350 degree F oven for 25-30 minutes or until well browned. Cool on racks. When completely cooled, they may be stored in a plastic bag secured tightly with a twist tie (the ziper-bags don't work as well for this type of cookie.

Thursday, February 01, 2007

Butterscotch Candy

When I was a girl, my favourite candy was butterscotch, and my favourite sort-of relative was my mother's sister's mother-in-law. Mrs. R could be counted on for two things-a silver dollar and little pieces of Callard and Bowser butterscotch wrapped in foil. She never played favourites and was as generous with us as she was with her own grandchildren (my cousins). While the silver dollar was nice, it was the butterscotch candy that really set her apart from the other candy-toting old women in the family. My own grandmother bought those awful yellow cellophane wrapped disks that were a discount version of the ones by Brachs-and she certainly wasn't handing out any silver dollars.

We're into the negative degrees here this week-what better time for candymaking? A word of caution with this recipe-it sets very quickly, particularly in a cold room. As you will need to mark off the squares before it hardens too much, my advice is to sit beside it for ten minutes with a knife, giving it occasional pokes until the candy will hold cuts. If you do become distracted (like that never happens around here with a two year old) it can still be broken into pieces, they will simply be irregular and jagged. Crushed, I suspect this would make an interesting addition to vanilla ice cream.

*a heat-proof spatula is helpful to scrape the sides of the pot. Absent that, a natural bristle pastry brush lightly dampned may be used.

You Will Need:

2 cups granulated sugar
2/3 cup dark corn syrup
1/4 cup water
1/4 cup light cream
1/4 cup butter

Combine everything except butter in a heavy pot and bring to a boil over medium heat. Cook, stirring often until 260 degrees F on a candy thermometer. Add the butter and cook until 280 degrees F. stirring often. Pour into a buttered 8 inch pan. As soon as possible (just as it begins to set) mark out squares with a knife. Break into pieces when cooled. Makes 1 1/4 lbs.