Mixed Nut Tart

If you thought you couldn’t give up your traditional Thanksgiving pecan pie for any other pie, wait until you try this tart. It is impressive and beautiful to look at, and from my experience over the years, it is the first dessert to disappear from the table.

The mixed nut tart doesn’t get soft and saucy like a pecan pie since it doesn’t use as much filling, and that is a big plus in my eyes. The amount of nuts used in the tart exceeds the amount of pecans used in the pecan pie, so the nuts really are the center of attention. The flaky crust is buttery and crumbles in your mouth like a good shortbread. The roasted and salted nuts make the tart crunchy and the variety of the different nuts is like a game of textures and flavors in your mouth. The caramel adds creaminess and sweetness but doesn’t overpower the nuts. It perfectly complements their saltiness. Texture wise, the caramel is more like a coat and a binding agent to the nuts. To sum it up, this mixed nut tart is THE perfect dessert for Thanksgiving or any other festive event (so says my hubby).

Use a 9” tart pan.

For the crust:
2 cups plus 2 tbs (300g) all-purpose flour
½ cup (100g) sugar 
1 teaspoon salt
6.5oz (180g) very cold butter
1 egg, beaten

For the filling:
4oz (100g) butter
1/3 packed cup (80g) dark brown sugar
1/3 cup (100g) honey
¼ cup (60g) heavy cream
350g roasted and salted nuts

Combine the flours, salt, sugar, and butter in a food processor, and process into a crumbly mixture. Add the beaten egg and mix it in, with short pulses, just until the dough is uniform, soft and not sticky. Do not over process or you lose the flakiness in the crust.

Wrap the dough in plastic wrap, flatten it into a disk, and chill in the refrigerator for 2 hours.

Remove from the fridge and let sit for 20 minutes. It makes it easier to roll out. Lightly flour a work surface.

Roll out the dough into a circle about 1/8 inch thick. Roll it around  the rolling pin and place it onto the tart pan. Press the dough gently into the indentations in the sides. Trim the edges. Place the pan with the crust in the freezer for 10 minutes.

Heat the oven to 360F.

Remove the crust from the freezer and place it immediately in the preheated oven. Bake for about 15 minutes, until the crust turns golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.

Lower the oven temperature to 320F.

In a medium saucepan, combine the butter, honey, and brown sugar, and stir constantly until the butter and sugar are completely dissolved. Add the heavy cream, bring to a boil, and remove from the heat. Add the nuts into the pot and mix well.

Top the crust with the nut mixture (including the sauce) and spread it evenly. Bake for 10-15 minutes, until bubbles form in the filling. Remove from the oven.

Carefully, remove the tart from the baking pan when still hot. Once the caramel cools off, it hardens and “glues” the tart to the pan.

Serve at room temperature. You may serve the tart with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream. I love it as is.

May you all be blessed with good health, happiness, peace, and prosperity!

Happy Thanksgiving!

5 Minute Peanut Butter and Chocolate Chip Cookies

It is a very simple and quick recipe that we used to bake at my gluten free bakery. One of the things I most like about this recipe (besides peanut butter) is the fact that I didn’t need to alter it in anyway to make it gluten free. It just happened to be GF by default. Another thing I like is that there are only four simple ingredients in the recipe. Nothing fancy, nothing complicated. This is your go-to recipe when you want to treat yourself or your loved ones but you don’t really feel like putting in the effort.

20oz (560g) peanut butter
2/3 cup (150g) sugar
2 eggs
4oz (100g) choc. chips

Preheat oven to 360F.

Mix all ingredients.

Form 2 inch balls and place on a baking sheet lined with parchment paper. Press the cookies slightly with a fork or a stamp.

Bake for 8-10 min. Cookies should be firm on the edges and soft in the center.

Keep in an airtight container.

Have fun!

Spiced Apple and Orange Bread Pudding

A few days ago, I discovered a forgotten raisin challah deep in my freezer. I looked at it and thought that it could be really good for bread pudding because of the raisins. I don’t usually make bread pudding at home. Not that I don’t like it, but it is not one of these dishes that come to mind when I have leftover bread. We usually use the leftover challah (if we even have anything left) to make French toast or grilled cheese sandwiches.

This time, it was destined to become bread pudding. I looked up some recipes for general guidance, and then I looked in my fridge to see what I wanted to add. I found an orange that had been there forever and needed to be redeemed and a couple of apples that I thought would add some nice autumnal flavor. I also added some spices, to make it interesting. Eventually, I collected more ingredients than I actually ended up using (the butter in the pics never made it in the pudding). I guess my recipe can be considered a leftover dish since I used, in addition to the old challah, an orange that had seen better times, and 3 egg whites that were left over from eggs used for another dish. However you look at it, I think I winged something that came out pretty good, and I hope you like it, too.

1 raisin challah bread, cubed
2 apples, peeled and shredded
1 orange, zested and juiced
½ cup sugar
½ tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground nutmeg
¼ tsp ground clove
¼ tsb ground cardamom
3 egg whites
2 eggs
1 cup milk
1 cup heavy cream
1 tbs butter, for greasing

In a large bowl, combine the cubed challah, shredded apples, zest from the orange, sugar, and spices.

In a separate bowl, mix the eggs with the milk, heavy cream, and orange juice (including the pulp).

Pour the liquid mixture into the bowl with the dry ingredients and, using your hands, mix it all well but gently, to make sure the spices and the orange zest are spread evenly.

Generously grease a 13 x 9 ovenproof baking dish with butter, then pour the contents of the bowl into the baking dish, and spread evenly.

While the bread is soaking the liquids, turn on the oven to 350F.

When the oven is ready, put in the bread pudding and bake for 30 minutes.

Enjoy the smells that come out of the oven!!! And later on the flavors, too!

The pudding can be served warm or at room temperature.

Unorthodox Homemade Preserves Making

My way of making jelly, or more accurately, preserves, does not entirely follow conventional jelly making, as you may find online or in books. I follow my grandmother and my mother’s methods. So far, it worked out for me. So what do I do?

Ingredients: with most fruit I only use two ingredients: fruit and sugar. No pectin, no citric acid and no other flavorings. Sometimes I add 2-3 tablespoons of lemon juice if the fruit in question lacks tartness.
There are some preserves though, such as quince, rose petals, eggplant and other out of the ordinary jellies and chutneys, that require additional ingredients like water or spices. But for most fruits, adding only sugar does the work.

Quantities:  I do not use exact measurements. I cook by eye. Generally, my fruit to sugar ratio is about 3:1, sometimes 4:1, depends on the sweetness of the fruit. I love my preserves not too sweet and with a hint of tartness.

Cooking: I cut the fruit into 1 inch pieces, place in the pot, and cook on medium-low heat. I pour the sugar on top of the fruit without mixing it in. The fruit needs to cook slightly and start extracting some juice before sugar gets to the bottom of the pot. If you have sugar on the bottom while the bottom is still dry, you risk burning the sugar. Once there is enough liquid in the pot (about 1 inch), I stir in the sugar, cook uncovered and stir occasionally. To check for doneness, I spoon out a little bit of jelly, let it cool for one minute and see if it holds its shape. I actually don’t like my jelly on the thick side, but rather only mildly thick. This way, I can also use it to accompany desserts such as cake or ice cream.

Canning: another significant rule I do not follow is the sterilization of the jars before filling them with the preserves. I just never found it necessary. I pour the preserves into clean jars as soon as I turn off the heat, while the preserves are still very hot, and I close the jars with the lid immediately. The heat creates pressure in the jar and seals it. I’ve had sealed jars of preserves in my pantry for months, and they turned out perfectly fine when they were eventually opened. This method is not scientifically proven, but it works for me. You are welcome to try it and let me know how it turned out.

Here are pics of my Italian plum preserves. This is probably one of my all time favorite preserves, and since the season for these plums is so short, I buy a large amount as soon as I spot them, and use them to make these amazing preserves which I store in the pantry, as well as a plum crostata that never lasts more than two days in my house.

Apple Cake with Dates and Pomegranate

Rosh Hashanah, the Jewish new year, will take place in a couple of weeks, bringing with it the autumnal flavors of apples, pomegranate, and dates.  I wanted to try and come up with a cake that will encompass these flavors. I started with a base recipe for apple cake that I received from my sister and added to it chopped dates, pomegranate molasses and a floral decoration for a festive look.

Wow, am I happy with the outcome!!  The cake is moist, rich with flavor, but not overly sweet. The pomegranate molasses is a must! Don’t skip it! It adds fruity tartness that complements the sweetness of the apples and the dates.  And the cake is beautiful, if I may say so myself. Hope you give it a try…and let me know what you think.

1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 red apples unpeeled
3 eggs
¾ cup (150g) sugar
1 cup (200cc) oil
2 cups (280g) flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon salt
1 cup unsweetened applesauce
3 cups (2 large apples) peeled and cubed into ½ inch
1 cup chopped Medjool dates
4 tablespoons pomegranate molasses (found in Middle Eastern stores)

Place one cup sugar and one cup water in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Remove from the heat.

Cut the 2 red apples in half, lengthwise, and remove the seeds. Slice each half into very thin slices using a mandolin, a food processor, or a knife. Place the apple slices in the syrup to soften them.

Preheat oven to 360F.

In a mixer, on medium speed, mix the oil with the sugar and eggs. Add the applesauce.

Reduce speed to low. Add the flour, baking powder, and salt.

Add the apple cubes and the chopped dates and blend them in.

Pour the batter into a greased 9” pound cake pan.

Drizzle on top the pomegranate molasses and using a wooden skewer, swirl it into the batter.

Decorate the top of the cake with the sliced apples. Roll each slice into a flower cone, peel side up, and stick it in the batter. Repeat with the rest of the slices, making sure the slices are placed very close to one another. It’s ok if you have some leftover slices.

Bake in the preheated oven for 50 – 60 minutes, or until a skewer inserted into the cake comes out clean.

Coffee Bean Cookies

A few years ago, I purchased a baking book by one of Israel’s most renowned pastry chefs – Karin Goren. What I loved about her baking is that she took many bakery style classics – cakes, cookies and other desserts and adapted them to the home cook. In addition, she also developed her own creations that I found pretty interesting. One of her creations is this recipe of these decadent coffee bean cookies. The cookies are soft and creamy with rich coffee flavor, and they look cool. These are, by far, my daughter’s favorite cookies.

1 tablespoon instant coffee
2 tablespoon (30ml) warm milk
200g soft butter
200g cream cheese, room temperature
1 cup (240g) brown sugar
10g vanilla sugar
2 ½ cups (350g) flour
3 tablespoon (30g) cocoa powder

Preheat oven to 375F

Dissolve the instant coffee in the warm milk and allow to cool.

In a mixer, beat the butter and cream cheese for a minute on medium speed, using the beater attachment.

Add the sugar, vanilla and coffee, and continue beating for another minute.

Lower the mixer speed to low and incorporate the flour and cocoa. Mix only until you get a cohesive dough.

Using wet hands, form 1 ¼ inch oval shaped balls, and place on a cookie sheet. Press a wooden skewer dipped in water along the ball to create a coffee bean shape.

Bake for 10-12 minutes. Cookies are done when they are stable and look dry. They should be soft on the inside.

If you plan on having one cookie every once in a while, store the cookies in the freezer, and thaw a cookie a few minutes before you want to eat it. In our home, these cookies never make it long enough to be frozen…