Friday, May 26, 2017

Sometimes, things don’t work out as planned (video)

image

Here’s something you don’t see all the time on today’s ultra-slick cooking blogs.  A confession:  sometimes, things don’t work out as planned.

For Yom Yerushalayim (Jerusalem Day) this year, I decided to make one of those fabulous checkerboard cakes I’ve seen all over the Internet.  Sure, they sell special cake pans to make them, but that’s just kitsch, right?

image

Special pans:  Who needs ‘em, amIright?

Anyway, all the pans do is let you mix and match the bits and pieces a little more easily.  Surely, I can do that on my own, at home, with nothing more than my own ingenuity?

Nope.

image

You can’t really see from this picture how wonky and falling-aparty these cakes really were.  But don’t take my word for it… you can see the whole thing coming together (and/or falling apart) in this delightful real-life video

Tuesday, May 9, 2017

I made the hot viral muffins! Flourless, pareve, practically instant… but are they tasty???

image

I did it – I couldn’t resist even a second longer:  I made the hot viral muffins!

Don’t you love the way eye-catching food has gone viral lately?  If you’re like me, you’ve got videos all over your Facebook feed of recipes assembled in seconds using healthy, colourful ingredients.  Just drizzle stuff in olive oil, into the oven it goes, and thirty seconds later, you’ve got the World’s Best Popsicles – or something.

(I’m sure this is a product of my demographic – if I was a teenage boy, no doubt I wouldn’t get quite so many recipes, and quite a few more brightly animated game images or whatever.)

From starters to entrees, from soups and salads to stews and desserts, I’m sure seen these videos and sat there drooling like me, wondering if it could possibly be THAT easy and taste as good as they say. 

Today’s gorgeous post, the one which caught my eye, at least, came from a site called Averie Cooks, promised Flourless Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip Mini Blender Muffins. Which has got to be a record for number of adjectives used to describe a food product (click the link to see the original post).

clip_image002

I was intrigued, and after watching the video, I clicked through to Averie’s site to see what was involved.

I discovered that basically, they’re muffins (the noun at the end gives it away!) with nothing in them except a few things.

  • · Bananas
  • · Peanut butter
  • · Honey
  • · Vanilla
  • · Baking soda
  • · Chocolate chips

This is a pretty typical recipe, in that there are many “variations” of this recipe online, most of which are identical.  So if you can’t find the original, just hunt around until you see one with this combination.  Anyway, it all sounded simple enough, and I happened to have some almost-overdue bananas sitting around waiting to discover their purpose in life.

You’re supposed to just whip everything together in the blender, but

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Too salty? Not enough? Quick n’ Tasty Kugel-Making Tip

image

If you’re like me and cook by intuition, it can be hard to know when a kugel is just right to go into the oven.  How do you know you’ve added enough salt and other seasonings?  You don’t want to accidentally go overboard, but how much is enough?  And you certainly don’t want to invest all that effort and bake the thing for an hour or whatever only to discover that it tastes bland as paste.

Of course, you could just take a taste of the raw mixture, but somehow, that option has never seemed appealing to me.

So what can you do?

This isn’t a fancy tip, but it’s one has helped me so much over the years.  I think it will come in handy for you in all sorts of ways – not just with kugels, but also with gefilte fish, cakes, cookies, breads; anything you don’t want to sample raw for whatever reason.

(Lots of real bakers eat raw bread dough, even sourdough, and claim to love it… I am not one of them, and the thought of eating raw flour products seems just icky to me.  My 9-year-old son GZ, on the other hand, has been known to make himself raw pasta out of flour and water just so he can eat it raw.)

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Making Kosher (dairy!) Croissants – A baking dream come true

image

Most of the baking I do is pareve, and usually, I don’t mind.  But sometimes, I come across a baking or bread idea that absolutely must use dairy.  Must must must.  No substitutions. 

Naomi Rivka is taking a baking course right now and she bakes a lot of dairy.  She’ll bring home the recipe and excitedly ask, “Can we make this for Shabbos?”  And I look at the kilo of butter or whatever in the ingredients and say, “Not this week, we’re having fleishiks…”  She keeps saying we can use margarine instead, and my standard line for this is:

“Margarine is NOT pareve butter.”

I think you’ll agree.  Margarine can be USEFUL in kosher baking, but it most definitely isn’t butter.  And when what you want is the flavour of butter – there’s nothing like it in the world – then what you need to start with is… butter.

Like croissants.  I read about making croissants years and years ago.  You take a super-thin layer of butter, sandwich it between super-thin layers of dough, and then fold and fold and fold until you have about a million layers of dough-butter-dough-butter-dough (you need dough on the outsides or you just end up with a buttery, sticky glob).

Baking croissants not only takes genuine DAIRY, it also takes a second ingredient I don’t usually have:  PATIENCE.

So you can see why I let it slide for like 20 years, right?  But today, falling as it does during the mysterious period between Purim and Pesach when people are Thinking About Bread Products, I decided to go for it at last.

I didn’t use a recipe, video, article, cookbook… anything.  Just made a quick eggless, sugarless, oil-less dough, rolled out a block of butter, and before I could lose my nerve, combined them into a thousand layers of dairy-baking goodness.

I may have been in some kind of butter-induced trance, because I didn’t even take any pictures until I had gotten well into the process.  I had already rolled the “sandwich” out and cut it twice, I think, stacking up the layers, before I thought to immortalize my creation:

image

Looks sort of like a butter sandwich.

Essentially, from this point, I rolled the layers out thin (between parchment), then cut it in 3 and stacked up the thirds.  You can fold it, but I didn’t.  As per my usual, I wasn’t too careful about what shape things turned out in:

image

Pretty ugly, right?  You can fix anything with a rolling pin!  Also, it all looks disgusting mushed up together in your stomach anyway, so why even bother, amIright…?

Here’s the next “sandwich.”  You can

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Want to make homemade bread but can’t stand touching flour? Perfect tool for sensory issues (yours or kids’)

image

I keep forgetting to write about this and I SHOULDN'T, because this is a very cool product that I’m excited to tell you about.

I actually bought this on impulse and didn't expect to like it so much, but I really believe it offers an interesting solution for some people (not everybody).

Do you adore getting your hands into a fresh, powdery batch of dough?  If so, maybe this post isn't for you.  This post is for people who LOVE fresh bread, but HATE getting flour on their hands. 

You know – like this:

image

(if that picture, with all those floury fingers, makes you uncomfortable, you NEED to read on!)

Powdery textures usually make me nuts (sand!!!), although for some reason, I'm okay with flour and bread-making.  But I have known a few people who are totally NOT okay with it, and for them, this product might be ideal.

So… what is it?

It's a silicone dough bag!  I saw these a while ago, first on Amazon and then on AliExpress, my preferred get-things-cheap-from-China site.  AliExpress is great if you don't mind waiting 2 months and even then maybe never getting whatever it is that you ordered at all.  (so, yeah, a pretty limited market)

As it happens, I buy lots of cooking stuff on AliExpress.  It saves me having to figure out what it's called in Hebrew, and the prices are waaay better.  Stuff like my cooking scale, thermometers, even spatulas.  As long as you're willing to wait what seems like an eternity.  No impulse purchases, that’s for sure.

So what is this BAG all about?

It’s made of translucent whitish silicone, but I believe you can get them in a variety of colours.

image

It works pretty much how you’d assume it works once you hear the words “dough” and “bag” together.  You add your regular bread ingredients, including yeast, flour, water, and whatever else, to the bag.  Then, you knead as you normally would, except you’re touching soft, velvety-textured silicone instead of dry, powdery flour.

Here’s what the process looks like, the “new-fashioned” way!

image

The difference between the silicone dough bag and doing this in a regular plastic bag is that the dough bag is strong enough that you really can give it a thorough kneading.  I did a batch of pizza dough earlier in the week and Naomi Rivka said, after a couple of minutes, “It’s not really mixed.”

I let her peek inside and indeed,

Saturday, May 7, 2016

Sweet, tangy Strawberry (or any flavour) Jello in Israel!

image

One of the things I missed most when I started keep kosher was JELLO.  Ooey, gooey, jiggly jello.  Mmm, mmm, good.  And totally, totally not kosher.

A few years later, I discovered a REAL and delicious brand of kosher gelatin, which we used to buy often enough in Toronto to keep me happy.

image

However, here in Israel, there’s no such thing, just the insipid brands of kosher jello, which are based on vegetable gel and don’t – in my limited experience – set up properly to a shiny crystal-clear texture.

So I’ve started playing with real gelatin since we’ve been here, because it’s cheap and plentifully available – and, as I think I’ve commented before, mysteriously pareve.  There are two kinds; the red package is meat-source and the blue is fish-source.  From bad experience in Toronto, I’ve found that fish gelatin gives a weird tangy taste to everything you use it in.  This would probably be fine in a citrus-themed dessert (as shown on the box), but definitely not fine in a chocolaty dessert, or, perhaps, a strawberry one.

For me, the only real flavour of Jello is strawberry.  Happily, I have discovered a not-too-hard way to make authentic-tasting strawberry jello right here in Israel using an all-important Secret Ingredient…

Kool-Aid!!!

Okay, sure, you can’t buy Kool-Aid locally here in Israel, at least, that I know of.  In Canada either, for that matter; I searched in vain when I was there in March, but they’ve gone over to those “water-flavour” drops which are pre-sweetened artificially.  Ugh.

Speaking of “artificially” – you can use this method to make delicious all-natural jello as well.  I have made jello before using ONLY strawberries, when they’re in season (you can’t get fresh strawberries out of season here).  I boil them in a heavy-bottom dutch oven with a little sugar until they are completely soft and surrounded by delicious, bright-red strawberry liquid.  Yum!

But this time, I really, really wanted the artificial strawberry taste I know and love so much.

A few other Blogs we Might Like Together