Chocolate Matzo Toffee

matzo chocolate toffee with almonds

Jeff hates matzo. Not surprising, really, since there isn’t much to like about matzo. Dry and bland, matzo isn’t meant to be tasty. And yet, we do just about everything we can to make it palatable. Never mind that enjoying it really sort of defeats the purpose, we’re pretty determined to make matzo delicious. And frankly, with enough butter, sugar and chocolate, just about anything is delicious – even matzo.
matzo candy with sea salt

There are some clever things done with matzo this time of year. There’s matzo ball soup, of course. And matzo kugel. Matzo brie is a personal favorite, along with matzo pizza. Some more creative folks make matzo lasagna or matzo sliders or matzo granola. Pretty fancy stuff when you’re starting with a humble cracker, and pretty tasty too. But Jeff won’t touch any of it. All I have to do is mention matzo and he leaves the kitchen.

So when I set out to make a lovely batch of chocolate matzo toffee, Jeff turned up his nose. But the smell of bubbling butter and sugar and the sweet scent of melted chocolate piqued his curiosity. When I handed him a nice big chocolatey piece he took a tiny, tentative, reluctant bite. And then he smiled.
chocolate matza

Yes, even Jeff, the ultimate matzo-hater, approves of chocolate matzo toffee. It’s that good. Sweet, buttery, and crunchy, it’s pretty much everything you could want in a treat. I topped half of my batch with toasted sliced almonds, and the other half with pretty pink Hawaiian salt. I happen to be partial to the combination of salt and chocolate, but you can feel free to use any toppings you like. Chopped dried fruit might be nice, or walnuts. But for the chocolate, I really do like to use the mini chocolate chips – they melt faster.

Happy Passover!

Chocolate Matzo Toffee

5 pieces whole wheat matzo
1/2 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter
1/2 cup brown sugar
2 cups mini semi-sweet chocolate chips
toasted nuts, flakey salt, or chopped dried fruit for toppings

Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. On a large rimmed baking sheet, arrange the matzo pieces, breaking as needed to fit. In a saucepan, melt the butter and brown sugar together. Pour the butter and sugar mixture evenly over the matzo. Bake until the brown sugar mixture bubbles and darkens slightly, about 10 minutes. Remove the matzo from the oven and sprinkle evenly with the chocolate chips. Allow the chocolate to melt, about 5 minutes, and then use a spatula to spread the melted chocolate evenly over the matzo. Sprinkle with the toppings, and allow to cool at room temperature for 10 minutes, then transfer to the refrigerator and chill until very firm, about 2 hours. Once firm, break the chocolate matzo toffee into pieces and serve.

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Published in: on March 27, 2013 at 6:34 pm  Comments (5)  
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Snickerdoodle Cookies

snickerdoodles

Sweet, cinnamon-coated snickerdoodles are hands-down my favorite holiday cookie.  There is nothing fancy about these rich little cookies.  Just simple, buttery goodness.

You probably already have an identical snickerdoodle recipe in your recipe box. But when was the last time you used it?  In our house, it had been a while.  For years, I had overlooked my beloved snickerdoodles in favor of more trendy holiday cookies. But trendy doesn’t necessarily trump delicious. So, I just wanted to remind you about the humble snickerdoodle.

christmas cookieThe best thing about snickerdoodles is the warm cookie smell.  Something about the combination of cinnamon and butter is both homey and festive.  I don’t actually remember my grandmother ever baking snickerdoodles. She was always way more into brownies than cookies. Even so, the snickerdoodle aroma takes me back to her cozy kitchen anyway.

I also love that snickerdoodles keep very well.  Plop them in a parchment-lined cookie tin, and they will be soft and chewy for at least a week, maybe longer. I don’t really know how much longer – we always eat them all within a week. If you want to ensure that they last for a few weeks, or even a few months, you can freeze the baked cookies, and simply leave them on the kitchen counter to thaw when you want to enjoy them.

Happy Holidays!

christmas cookie

Snickerdoodle Cookies

makes about 5 dozen cookies

11/2 cups sugar, plus 1/4 cup for topping

1 cup unsalted butter, softened

2 eggs

3 cups flour

2 teaspoon cream of tartar

1 teaspoon baking soda

11/2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

pinch of salt

1 tablespoon cinnamon

Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. Beat  together the butter and 1 1/2 cups of sugar until fluffy.  Add the eggs and beat to combine.  Add the flour, cream of tartar, baking soda, vanilla, nutmeg and salt.  Beat well until all ingredients are well mixed.  In a small bowl, combine the remaining sugar and the cinnamon.

Shape the dough into 1-inch balls and roll the balls in the cinnamon sugar mixture. Place the dough balls 2 inches apart on ungreased cookie sheets (place the remaining dough in the fridge in between baking batches of cookies, as this will make it easier to roll the next batch into balls). Bake for 8-10 minutes, until the edges just begin to brown.  Avoid over-baking.  Allow to cool slightly on the cookie sheet before removing to a wire rack to cook fully.

Published in: on December 16, 2012 at 4:24 pm  Comments (5)  
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Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Jewish Apple Cake

Last week, I promised you an apple cake recipe. And I’m following through on that promise – sort of.  Technically, I promised you my grandmother’s apple cake recipe.  This is not it.

But it turns out that Nannie’s apple cake recipe is actually a major family mystery.

I was pretty sure that I had the recipe for Nannie’s cake, along with half a dozen other Jewish apple cake recipes, in my recipe file.  But as it turns out, the recipe I had thought was my grandmother’s was virtually identical to a recipe from my aunt, which she apparently got from a woman at her synagogue. The only difference between the two recipes was the type of baking pan to be used. And when I questioned my aunt further, she revealed that she had always believed Nannie’s apple cake to have been straight from a boxed mix, with the addition of a few chopped fresh apples.  So I called my mother, and then my brother, and despite all of our combined memories of Nannie’s apple cake, we are frankly still confused.  My mother swears that while Nannie was fascinated by boxed cake mixes, her apple cake was 100% from scratch.  My brother thinks she baked it in a bundt pan, I’m certain she did not.  My mom thinks there was cinnamon in the cake batter itself, but not one of the recipes in my file has cinnamon appearing anywhere but in the apple mixture.  And the question of whether or not she peeled the apples opened a whole new round of arguments.

All I can tell you for certain is that this recipe here is decidedly not Nannie’s.  She would never have used whole wheat flour, or egg whites.  Nope – Nannie was a full-on butter and sugar kind of lady. But since uncovering the truth about the real deal would have required more recipe testing than I had time for this week, I just winged it.

jewish apple cakeAnd I think Nannie would be proud.  She would have liked the way the whole wheat flour adds a little bit of heartiness to the crumb of this cake. Nannie’s apple cake was always more like a huge, round muffin than a fluffy cake, and the whole wheat flour only enhances that lovely, dense texture. This cake is chock full of apples, which as my mom pointed out, is the whole point.  My mom is famous for having spent her youth creeping into Nannie’s kitchen to sneak slices of apple out of this cake (or pilfer raisins from a pan of cooling bran muffins, or snag bits of apricot from a cookie filling). But most of all, Nannie would have loved how easy this cake is to make.  It comes together in minutes, bakes up beautifully, and is basically fool-proof.  Nannie was not a fussy lady, and this is not a fussy cake.

This cake is wonderful with a dollop of whipped cream, and I think it would be equally tasty as a sweet breakfast treat with a big cup of coffee.  It would make a great addition to a Yom Kippur break-the-fast buffet, too.

And as for the to-peel or not-to-peel debate, I vote don’t peel.  It’s just too fussy (and I’m just too lazy).

jewish apple cake recipe

Whole Wheat Apple Cake

Serves 8

1 egg

3 egg whites

1/2 cup sugar, plus 3 tablespoons

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

1/4 cup vegetable oil

1/3 cup orange juice

1 cup whole wheat flour

1/2 cup all-purpose flour

1 teaspoon baking powder

1/4 teaspoon salt

2 medium apples, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons cinnamon

Powdered sugar for dusting (optional)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees.  Grease an 8″ round baking pan.  In a large bowl, beat the egg, egg whites, 1/2 cup of sugar, vanilla extract, oil, and juice together until well mixed. In a separate bowl, sift together the flours, baking powder, and salt.  Add the flour mixture to the egg mixture, and stir to combine. Toss the sliced apples with the remaining sugar and the cinnamon. Spread half of the cake batter into the bottom of the prepared baking pan.  Add the apples, and spread them as evenly as you can.  Top with the remaining batter, doing your best to spread evenly (as I mentioned, this is not a fussy cake, so don’t worry if you don’t get the batter all the way to the edges of the pan, it will spread itself as it bakes).  Bake for 50-60 minutes, until the top of the cake is a dark golden color and the edges pull away from the pan.  Cool  before serving. Dust with powdered sugar, if desired.

Published in: on September 24, 2012 at 5:08 pm  Comments (15)  
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Rosh Hashanah Recipes

We went apple picking last weekend, and I had grand plans to make my Nannie’s Jewish apple cake to share with you.

But then my boss sent me to Florida.  Where it was hot and rainy and my hair frizzed (which probably shouldn’t have bothered me since I was wearing a hard hat the whole time, but I’m kind of vain about my hair, so it did). Not that you care about my hair.  You care about apple cake.  Which I didn’t make, because I was busy flying to and from Florida and attempting to tame my frizz.

I have faith that my aunt will be making Nannie’s apple cake on Monday, so don’t worry, I will not be apple cake deprived. But I still owe you all an apple cake, and I promise it will happen – eventually.  Trust me, Nannie’s apple cake is worth waiting for.  But in the meantime, Rosh Hashanah (Jewish New Year) is upon us and we need to make some plans to stuff the bellies of our friends and families with apple and honey and challah and all sorts of other yummy treats.

So, below are some of my favorite Rosh Hashanah recipe ideas.  Happy New Year!

rosh hashanah apple chestnut savory tart

This Chestnut, Gorgonzola and Apple Tart makes a really beautiful side dish.

holiday noodle kugel

Noodle Kugel is, of course, a holiday tradition. And New England Noodle Kugel with drunken cranberries is even more awesome.

salad for rosh hashanah

This Fennel Apple Salad is a great Rosh Hashanah side, but also works as a quick lunch along with a big loaf of crusty bread.

apples and honey pancakes

These lovely Apples ‘N Honey Pancakes are a yummy Rosh Hashanah brunch.

Published in: on September 14, 2012 at 2:44 pm  Comments (4)  
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Chai Concentrate: Super Last Minute Gift Recipe

chai latte recipe

Christmas still baffles me.  Don’t get me wrong, I love Christmas.  Decorating the tree, munching on sugar cookies, hanging out with the family. But not having grown up celebrating Christmas, I will never understand why a day-long holiday manages to last a whole season.  Or why perfectly normal radio stations play painfully festive music nonstop.  Or why some people wait until December 24th to shop for presents.

Elbowing and shoving my way through the mall does not sound like fun to me.  I’d much rather make chai. 

chai tea recipe

I saw this idea last week at The Kitchn and have been playing with spice variations since.  This recipe is quite flexible, so you can adjust it to your taste. The recipe below is the version I’m enjoying now, but it would be nice with a bit of ground ginger, or some cloves too. The basic idea is so simple, and the ingredients are so common you may even have them in your kitchen right now. Just stir together sweetened condensed milk and spices, and you have chai concentrate.  I was surprised at how a spoonful of this concentrate can transform an ordinary cup of tea into something creamy and fragrant.  Just spoon into a jar, tie with a ribbon, and you have an instant holiday gift.

There is really nothing authentic about this recipe, but it certainly is innovative.  And delicious.  I’ve always been a chai tea fan, but being able to enjoy a decadent, cozy cup of spiced tea anytime is fantastic.  I even brought a little jar of chai concentrate to work this week to stir into my black tea.  I like Darjeeling tea best, but use what you enjoy.  And it’s actually pretty wonderful stirred into coffee too!

chai tea recipe

Chai Concentrate

14 oz sweetened condensed milk

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1/2 teaspoon ground allspice

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Stir all ingredients together and transfer to an attractive jar.  Store in the refrigerator (it will last a few months).  To serve, stir a spoonful (or more to taste) into a cup of brewed black tea.

Published in: on December 22, 2011 at 9:09 pm  Comments (8)  
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Meyer Lemon Marmalade

marmalade

I did a little happy dance this week when I found meyer lemons on sale at Whole Foods.  I’m not kidding, I really did jump around and wiggle a bit – until I realized that my husband was pretending not to know me. 

When I got home with a few dozen meyer lemons, it occurred to me that I had no plan for what to DO with them.  I made a lovely, simple arugula and pine nut salad dressed with meyer lemon juice and olive oil.  I added a hefty sprinkle of meyer lemon zest to a bowl of wild rice. Then I thought about making sorbet, but realized I had no room in my freezer. And yesterday, I suggested lemon chiffon pie, to which my husband turned up his nose.  

citrus

So this afternoon, with a pile of meyer lemons, and a desperate desire to avoid the mall, I decided to experiment with making meyer lemon marmalade as a Hanukkah gift for my step-dad.  My step-dad has a thing for lemons in any form, and at any given time may have three or four open jars of marmalade in the fridge.   A match made in heaven! 

I’ve never had much luck with marmalade before.  Typically, marmalade requires boiling the peel of the fruit and discarding the boiling liquid multiple times before combining the pre-boiled peel with the juice, pulp, water and sugar to cook.  This process is, frankly, a pain in the butt.  I get impatient.  I skip a boiling step.  My marmalade tastes so bitter you may as well spread some soap on your toast.

But meyer lemons are different.  These bright yellow beauties are sweeter and have a thinner peel than your typical grocery store lemons, thinner, in fact, than most citrus fruits.  With minimal pith, the meyer lemon as a whole is less bitter.  Plus, that thin peel cooks quickly, making the extra boiling steps unnecessary in this marmalade.  That’s not to say that this marmalade is all sweetness and no bitterness.  Not at all.  I think the balance here is quite lovely.  But be warned; this is a true marmalade, as bitter as it is sweet.

meyer lemons

This marmalade makes a pretty gift for the lemon-lovers in your life.  It’s a great holiday hostess gift, and would be a wonderful addition to a holiday brunch spread.  I happen to like it best with whipped cream cheese on pumpernickel toast.  It would also be nice as a topping for buttermilk pancakes, or stirred into oatmeal along with some sweetened dried cranberries.  Or, if you want to get all fancy, serve it with clotted cream and fresh baked scones.

marmalade

Meyer Lemon Marmalade

Makes about 2 cups

6 meyer lemons

2 cups water

1 1/2  cups sugar

Rinse the lemons.  Slice them very thinly with a sharp knife, and discard any seeds.  Very thinly slice the 12 end pieces and then quarter each of the center slices. Transfer the sliced lemons and any accumulated juices to a medium saucepan.  Add the water and bring to a boil. Boil for five minutes. Stir in the sugar and continue to stir until the sugar dissolves, about a minute.  Then reduce the heat to medium low and simmer, stirring every so often, for about 30 minutes.  Toward the end of the cooking time, keep a close watch on the marmalade.  It is done when a dollop placed on a very cold plate (stick a plate in the freezer for this) gels and holds its shape.  If it is runny, continue to cook for a minute or two more and try the cold plate test again.  Spoon the marmalade into jars and either refrigerate or process in boiling water for 10 minutes to preserve.

Published in: on December 18, 2011 at 4:36 pm  Comments (12)  
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New Year’s Day Brunch

There are a number of things I miss about living in Manhattan. High up on that list is brunch.

Brunch is served here in Boston, but it’s just not the same.  New Yorkers really know how to brunch.  In New York, brunch is not a meal eaten between breakfast and lunch, but in place of both.  Meaning that nobody in New York eats brunch at 10:00am.  I don’t even think restaurants open for brunch that early.  Brunch reservations are hardest to come by around 1:00pm, once the city has awoken and everyone has had time to make themselves presentable.  Which is another thing I love about brunch in the city.  It’s an occasion to be seen.  Here in Boston, I throw on sweat pants and stumble down the street for pancakes.  In New York, I wouldn’t have dreamed of brunching without blow drying my hair and smearing on lip gloss.  There’s something about drinking cocktails with your eggs that makes you feel like you should wear make-up, and since no New York brunch menu is complete without a cocktail, mascera is a must.

In the spirit of the New York brunch, I give you a few ideas to choose from for your New Year’s Day festivities.  Sleep in, pour plenty of Champagne, and treat yourself to a decadent meal before those New Year’s Resolutions sink in.

New England Noodle Kugel

cranberry nrunch kugel

Noodle kugel makes for a wonderful brunch dish.  Serve with a salad of orange and grapefruit wedges

Blueberry Cornmeal Waffles

blueberry cornmeal waffles

Go ahead and use frozen blueberries in place of fresh.  No need to thaw before adding them to the waffle batter.

Chilaquiles

mexican breakfast

I top my chilaquilles with a fried egg, but tossing some shredded chicken in the pan when you add the tortillas to the bubbling salsa would be even more authentic. Of course, you could always go for both!

Peach Oat Muffins

healthy peach muffins

I love these moist and chewy muffins with a liberal schmear of strawberry jam.  Something about the peach and strawberry combo does it for me! Frozen peaches work great in this recipe.

Italian Chicken Sausage Hash and Eggs

hash and eggs

Crisp, hearty sausage hash is fantastic for feeding a crowd.  I love this version with Italian sausage, but for extra kick you could substitute fresh Mexican chorizo instead, and garnish with a bit of chopped cilantro.

Apples ‘N Honey Pancakes

brunch pancakes

Pretty apple slices, sweet honey drizzle, what more could you want? Oh yeah… a glass of Champagne.

Published in: on December 27, 2010 at 8:30 pm  Comments (14)  
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