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The taste of s’mores in Israel

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Quit kvetching.  At least, that’s what everybody says when I blog about the problems I’ve had baking here in Israel. 

Which, just to recap, range from teeny tiny oven in small, hellishly-hot kitchen, to weird fake ingredients (tzimkao, vanillin sugar), to things that are missing altogether or wildly expensive (maple anything, corn syrup).

Fair enough; you’re more likely to be successful in your aliyah if you adapt quickly and learn to savour the wonderful foods that can be found here, rather than moping about what you miss from “back home.”  In truth, I don’t even say the words “back home” because this IS home.

But one thing I’ve found myself missing – heaven help me! - is the taste of s’mores.  Particularly the delectable S’mores Bars in this pareve recipe.  Cleverly, these bars recreate the gooey goodness of s’mores in a versatile dessert-bar form.  After searching for a perfect “s’mores dessert” for a whle, I finally discovered this recipe and have now made it many times over the last few years… (you can peek at them in this post if you scroll down)

Almost everything about the recipe was perfectly do-able in an Israeli kitchen… except the graham cracker crumbs which make up a large percentage of the dry ingredients (by replacing some of the flour with graham cracker crumbs, you recreate the taste of the cracker part of the s’mores without compromising the delectable cookie dough texture).

Happily, although graham crackers are nowhere to be seen, my husband brought home two hard-to-find imported American pie crusts before Shavuos.  I let him bake his cheesecake in one, but I already knew what I would do with mine… S’mores Dessert Bars.  Especially because he brought home two jars of real American-style marshmallow fluff in the same haul.

Mmm… graham.  Mmm… marshmallow.

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Goodbye, crust!

There’s not even a WORD for Graham Cracker in Hebrew.  Or, for that matter, pie.  (The closest I’ve found is Pashtida, which is not at all the same.) 

This imported crust, bought specially from our local “trayfe” supermarket (so-called because they have many trayfe products, so you have to look carefully for a hechsher) is labelled:  Baked Tachtit (bottom) for “Pie.”  (in Hebrew, פאי).

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So after all the effort of importing the crust, sourcing it, buying it, and (for my husband) shlepping it home intact… it felt more than a little sacrilegious smashing it up into little teeny morsels.

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But smash it up I did – and I’m glad I did.  It was delicious!

Recipe: Old cake, new cake… on Shavuos, we have two cakes!

IMG_00004735 And no, they’re not both cheesecakes… although one is; a special all-Israeli cheesecake for which you can find the recipe a bit further down.  And okay, both are dairy-based; sorry to anyone who can’t have dairy at this very milky time of year…

(In fact, since I started to write this, my husband decided to make a classic North American lemony cheesecake, deapite my predictions of doom that it wouldn’t work with Israeli cheese… so we may end up with three cakes.)

With all of my dooming and glooming about baking in Israel, I was happy to receive a recipe from my ulpan teacher on Sunday night which she guaranteed would work with Israeli ingredients – given that she’s never baked it anywhere else.  I figure as an old dog making aliyah, it’s time for a new trick… with cheesecake.

Except, except, except… her cheesecake doesn’t have a crust.  Heresy!  I couldn’t bake a crustless cheesecake.  Honestly, I was about to pour it into the pan (#26, according to her instructions, which took some measuring, because I’d never heard of this size before), when I broke down and decided I simply couldn’t do it.

Hence, a last-minute, Lotus biscuit crust.  If you have never had Lotus / Biscoff / Speculoos biscuits before, you must.  I was already dreaming of them before we got here, having read on several baking sites that they are simply delicious.  Indeed, I found a copycat recipe a number of years ago and tried to recreate them, but really, they were nothing like the real thing. 

(imageTrust me, this is a cookie people love so much that they made it into a spread.  So if you’re eating a biscuit that isn’t a Lotus, you can “convert” it with a dab of spread!)

Anyway, we had a bunch here, but the catch is that they’re individually wrapped… which meant individually unwrapping about four dozen of the things to make a crust in my #26 pan.

Crumble, crumble, crumble…

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…Crust!

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As you can see in the picture above, the cake was already completely mixed.  Like I said, I was about to pour it into the naked tinfoil pan, but simply couldn’t do it.  So the cheese part waited while the crust baked.

… Baked crust!

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At last… time to pour the cheesecake stuff in.  Waah!  Even without a crust, this would barely have fit in the pan.  Maybe I did something wrong…?  But I sampled a bit to make sure it was yummy before slipping it into the oven, so I think it’s okay.

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Here’s the recipe. 

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Lucky for you, I have transcribed it below so you can try it out yourself without needing to squint through my Hebrew handwriting.

But what about the second cake? 

It wouldn’t be Shavuos without an old cake, a familiar family friend.  And the most familiar of all is my Grama’s Neapolitan Cake.  Which sounds all hoity-toity, unless you think of it (as I do) as “pudding-cookie cake.”  Really – it’s just pudding and cookies; it really is that simple.

STEP 1:  Take four HUGE cookies:

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STEP 2:  Slop some pudding onto them… and sprinkle with toasty almonds so it doesn’t look like so much something a child made:

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Wah-la!

For the full Grama’s Neapolitan Cake recipe, click here.

And for the “new” cheesecake recipe from my ulpan teacher Galya… well, read on.

ALL-ISRAELI CHEESY CHEESECAKE FROM MY ULPAN TEACHER GALYA

(if you try to make this outside of Israel, your results may vary)

Cheesecake Ingredients:

  • 750g gevina levana / white cheese (I used 2 tubs, 1 500g and 1 250g)
  • 6 large eggs, separated
  • 200ml (1 regular tub) 15% shamenet chamutza / sour shamenet = roughly like sour cream
  • 1 1/2 cups white sugar, divided
  • 4 tbsp korenflor / cornflour = corn starch (not corn meal!)
  • 3 tbsp instant vanilla pudding mix (the Hebrew term for this: “eenstant pooooodeeeeeng vaneeeel”)
  • 1 packet vanilla sugar OR real vanilla extract (that’s what I used)

How to make it:

  1. Preheat oven to 160 degrees.
  2. Mix well the egg yolks, shamenet, corn flour, pudding mix, gevina levana, vanilla sugar / extract, half cup white sugar
  3. Beat egg whites with one cup sugar until they form peaks
  4. Gently but thoroughly combine egg whites with other ingredients (which you mixed in Step 2).
  5. Place in a greased round #26 pan (= 26 cm)
  6. Bake around one hour until golden-brown (I generally bake cheesecake a little less than it feels like you ought to so it doesn’t dry out and crack!)
  7. For best results, leave in oven to cool at least 1 hour after baking.
  8. Ice with “krem” if desired (see below).

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(one HUGE cheesecake, as demonstrated by my husband)

“Krem” (frosting) ingredients:

  • 1 small container of sweet whipping cream
  • the rest of the vanilla instant pudding from the cheesecake
  • 3/4 cup milk

How to make it:

  1. Beat all “krem” ingredients together.
  2. Spread on cheesecake when cool.

NOTE:  I haven’t made the “krem” yet and can’t vouch for its yumminess!

For more information about Shavuos, please check out:  Shavuos Adventures from Adventures in MamaLand.  The adventures you’ll find there include…

Good Yom Tov / Chag Sameach / Happy Shavooooooo-ot from the holy land!

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