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Kanafe כנאפה Knafe Kunafe Knaffe Kanafa كنافة - A sweet bonus for Rosh Hashanah (with video)

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Sick of pareve desserts for yom tov?  Ready for something a little less ho-hum? 

I love my classic Second Helpings cookbook honey cake to death and look forward to it almost all year (it has a cup of sugar, 1 1/4 cups of honey, and a cup of coffee – what’s NOT to love????).  But sometimes… you just want something creamy.  Usually, my grandmother’s Neapolitan Cake fits the bill very, very nicely, and I totally recommend it if you haven’t tried it already.

Usually, a few of our Rosh Hashanah meals are dairy, because especially when it’s bumped right up against Shabbos like it is this year, it’s just TOO MUCH MEAT.  The fact that we can have dairy desserts is a totally wonderful bonus.  While there are a couple of specialized ingredients in this dish (kadaif noodles – see below; rose water) but beyond that, this super-special Israeli dairy dessert is also super-easy to throw together.

Here’s a dessert that was new to me before we came to Israel which plays on this region’s love of filo (phyllo)-pastry desserts (and its disdain for cakey European desserts).  It uses kadaif noodles, which are finely-shredded angel-hair phyllo (Wikipedia says they’re actually made of threads drizzled onto very hot baking sheets…).

Here’s knaffeh in its native habitat in the shuk:

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Photo credit © Tracy Hunter via Flickr

Here’s a video

Easy, tender, and affordable roast in Israel… yes, it IS possible!

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I wasn’t a big meat cook in Canada.  We ate a lot of chicken, but I was kind of shy about beef.  Still, I managed to make some acceptable roasts from time to time – meat that was tender enough and tasty enough that we could enjoy it together on special occasions.

All that changed when we moved to Israel, where all the meat cuts are different from what I was used to and nothing, it seemed, was tender and tasty except the most expensive bits, like steak (which always seems to turn out tough when we make it at home, but we don’t mind because it’s delicious).

But some of the English speakers here were chatting on our WhatsApp group last week about roasting beef, and it made me really want to try it again –even after having been burned numerous times. 

So on Thursday evening, we bought a nice little #6 roast, which according to this indispensible meat chart is called Fillet Medumeh (פילה מדומה), petit tender, or foreshank.  The page's owner, Marc Gottlieb, says it’s good for “Grilling, stovetop, quick roast,” but horrible past experience has taught me that we don’t have enough steak knives for anything other than LOW AND SLOW cooking.  I always forget which cuts of meat we’ve had success with in the past, but I picked this one because it seemed like a nice modest size and it wasn’t very expensive.

My plan was to pop the frozen meat hunk in our crock pot overnight and have perfectly “roasted” beef in the morning that I could cool all day until Shabbos.

Then this happened:

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This is the burnt-out mafseik reishi (main circuit breaker) from our electrical panel, which apparently caught fire for no reason at all. (Yes, this scares the bejeepers out of me!!!)

So instead of putting the crock pot on at 11 p.m.,

Awesomely delicious (and EASY!) kosher vegan peanut-butter cookies

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Vegan guests coming for Shabbos dinner?  No problem!  Forget trying to make or buy some kind of special vegan dessert.  Try this adaptation of a classic favourite – your family will probably never notice the difference!  If you’ve got these SIX magic ingredients (not counting water; you do have water, right?), you’ve got what it takes to make these awesomely delicious peanut-butter cookies.  They’re butter-free, margarine-free, and you can control the amount of sugar by choosing a healthier brand than the fancy name-brand sugar-added peanut butter than I have used here. 

Because this recipe is so incredibly simple, it would also be a good one to play around with.  Try adding chocolate chips, if that's your thing (and whose isn't it???), or little jammy thumbprints.  If it comes out great, let me know!

Ready?

Here are these SIX magic ingredients…

Kosher Vegan Peanut-Butter Cookies

(Adapted from Spoon University)

(makes 20 generously-sized cookies)

What you’ll need

The wet stuff:

Combine with a mixer, if you have one, until well-blended:

  • 1 cup Peanut butter (duh)
  • 1 cup Brown sugar – feel free to tweak this up or down depending on the sugar content of your PB
  • 1 Tbsp. Vanilla extract

Have handy, but do not add yet:

  • 1/4 cup water (remember, we’re not counting this in the list of SIX ingredients!)

The dry stuff:

In a separate bowl, combine:

  • 2/3 cup all-purpose flour
  • 1 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp. salt – you may need to tweak this up or down depending on the salt content of your PB

How to make it

  1. Combine first 3 “wet” ingredients with a mixer until creamy and well-blended.

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

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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?

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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.

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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

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

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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).

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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

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

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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.)

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

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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:

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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:

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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

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

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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:

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(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.

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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!

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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,

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