Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Cherry-Cheese Knish

 Every pizza store in my neighborhood growing up sold cherry-cheese knishes along with the requisite potato and kasha, but cherry-cheese were the ones that were most often in my house because they were my fathers favorite. Every Saturday night my father would request one from the pizza store and we had to wait to see which one of us would be the lucky (read: annoyed) one chosen to get it. Often, one of us would have one foot out the door and think we were safe when we would get the missive "one cherry cheese knish please when you get back." You could never escape the cherry- cheese knish run. I have been searching for YEARS for a recipe for these famous cherry-cheese knishes of my youth but to no avail and so I finally had to come up with one on my own. I have to say, they come pretty darn close. The filling has the same not too sweet but bursting with cherry flavor that I remember. The crust though is a little different, not the soft almost soggy crust of yore but slightly crispy and I think the crispiness is a good contrast to the creamy center though after refrigeration they get a similar soft texture to the standard knish. I used a very high quality cherry filling made with 70% percent cherries that I happened to have from a gourmet baking store but you can use any cherry filling or easily make your own from canned or jarred cherries. A bite of these takes me right back to JII pizza on Ave J. Great memories of a great knish. Enjoy!

For the crust:  ( from Smitten Kitchen)
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 large egg
1 tsp vinegar
1/2 cup canola oil
1/2 cup water

In the bottom of your mixer bowl fitted with a dough hook mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. In a separate bowl whisk together the egg, vinegar, oil and water till combined. Add to the mixer and mix on low until a dough is formed. Once the dough is formed let the mixer knead the dough until smooth. Alternatively you can do this by hand in a large bowl. Refrigerate the dough for about an hour. Some oil may seep out as it is resting but re-kneading it a little will fix that.

For the filling:
2 1/4 cups farmer's cheese or  500 grams/ 2 packages of Tuv Taam cheese in Israel
1/2 cup cream cheese
1/2 cup sugar
1 large egg
1 tsp vanilla
3 Tbl flour + extra for rolling the dough
1 cup cherry filling (homemade or store bought)

1 beaten egg for egg washing the dough

Mix together (either by hand or with a mixer) the farmer's cheese, cream cheese, sugar, egg and vanilla till combined. Add in the flour and mix until incorporated. Swirl the cherry filling into the mixture. You don't want it to be totally combined, you want to see the contrast of pink and white.

To assemble:
Preheat your oven to 375 degrees (190C)
Flour a rolling pin and board and roll the dough to form a long rectangle. You want the dough to be pretty thin, just thick enough that it will hold the filling without breaking. Place the mixture along the long side of the rectangle and then roll up the rectangle jellyroll style. Place on a sheet pan lined with parchment paper and brush the beaten egg over the dough. Bake for about 40-45 minutes until golden brown.

Thursday, January 23, 2014

Cheesy Cheddar Zucchini Bread

To me, zucchini bread has always been synonymous with sweet. Blueberry Zucchini bread- yum! Chocolate zucchini bread- double yum! Sweet zucchini corn muffins? I'll take two to go! But savory zucchini bread just never had the same appeal to me. Until I happened on this delightful loaf. It's buttery, it's cheesy (just look at those cheesy bits in that picture and tell me you don't want to eat the screen), it's garlicky, it slices like a dream and it makes a perfect accompaniment to any dairy meal. Heck, a nice steaming bowl of soup with some cheesy zucchini bread on the side sounds like a little bit of heaven to me. I made this bread and heated it on a hot plate for a Shabbat meal and the whole house smelled like Frico, those amazing melted Parmesan crisps. As with any quick bread just make sure not to over mix the batter so that the loaf stays tender. Enjoy!

3 cups flour
4 tsp baking powder
1 tsp salt
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 1/2 tsp granulated garlic powder
1 1/4 cup shredded zucchini
1/2 cup shredded Parmesan cheese
3/4 cup shredded Cheddar cheese
1/3 cup chopped scallions
1 Tablespoon chopped parsley
2 large eggs
1 cup butter milk
1/2 stick of melted butter (1/4 cup or 50 grams) or Canola oil

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Whisk together the flour, baking powder, salt, baking soda and garlic powder. Add in the zucchini, cheeses, scallions and parsley and mix well (mixture will be crumbly). In a separate bowl whisk together the eggs, buttermilk and butter or oil. Mix the wet into the dry and mix until JUST moistened, do not over mix. Spread the mixture into a greased loaf pan and bake for about 50-55 minutes or until a toothpick comes out with moistened crumbs.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Toasted Coconut Pound Cake

It's Tu B'Shevat this week and that means overloading on dried fruit in celebration of the New Year of the trees. I have way too many unpleasant memories involving dried fruit- practically choking on unchewable dried apple rings,  remembering to check a dried apricot at the last minute only to find a big crawling worm inside, and too many Pesach holidays ingesting prunes for, well you know what for. What is my favorite dried fruit on Tu' B'shevat? Coconut! You can't go wrong with coconut. You can use it for sweet or savory, it gives everything that tropical exotic flair and it tastes amazing. So, in honor of the upcoming holiday I present you with this Toasted Coconut Pound Cake  a.k.a  a slice of buttery, moist,bursting with coconut heaven. And not just plain old coconut, but toasted coconut, lovingly heated over a gentle flame to extract the deepest coconut flavor. You are definitely going to want to try this one. Enjoy!

3/4 cup of butter
1 cup sugar
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp good quality coconut extract (optional)
3 eggs
2 cups flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
3/4 tsp salt
1 cup buttermilk (or 1 cup milk mixed with 1 TBl white vinegar and let it sit for 10 minutes)
1 3/4 cup coconut, toasted, divided

For the Glaze-
3 Tbl buttermilk
1 1/4 cup sifted Confectioner's sugar
1/2 tsp coconut extract
1/2 cup reserved toasted coconut

Preheat the oven to 350.
To toast the coconut, heat a frying pan over medium-high heat and add the coconut stirring frequently until the coconut becomes light brown. It can burn easily so keep an eye on it.

In a mixer cream the butter and sugar together and then add the vanilla and coconut extract and mix well. Add the eggs one at a time and mix well. In a bowl mix together the flour, baking powder and salt. Add half the flour mixture into the mixture, mix, then half the buttermilk, mix then the rest of the flour, mix, and then the rest of the buttermilk. Fold in 1 1/4 cups of the coconut reserving 1/2 cup for the icing.
Spread the mixture into a greased loaf pan and bake for 55-60 minutes or until a toothpick inserted in the center comes out with just moist crumbs. Remove from oven and let cool.

Whisk together the buttermilk, confectioner's sugar, and coconut extract. Pour over the cake and sprinkle with the remaining coconut.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014


Go into any cafe in Israel for breakfast and there will be two givens- a two egg special with bread and spreads and shakshuka. Me, I always go for the breads and spreads mostly because I love bread but also because I could never fathom what was so great about eggs in tomato sauce.  The concept was always a big turn off for me. And so, though I have lived in the Middle East for more than 10 years I have never, not once, ever tasted or made shakshuka. GASP! Well, all I have to say is, the things you do for love. The hubby asked for some shakshuka for brunch and I obliged. Of course, for all things Middle Eastern I turned to the master, the one and only Yotam Ottolenghi and his fabulous book, Jerusalem.  As I was making the sauce I had to of course taste for seasoning so I dunked my spoon in and tasted. Wowzers. That sauce was goooood. Spicy, rich, peppery and so full of flavor thanks to the Harissa that Ottolenghi suggests that I found myself standing over the pot and devouring the sauce. Once the eggs were in I thought it wouldn't appeal to me anymore but I just couldn't resist the sauce and so I set out the pot with a hunk of a fresh baguette and we dug in. The egg really isn't the star here and so covered with the spicy sauce and slathered on some fresh bread it was an extraordinary brunch meal. Enjoy!

(adapted from Ottolenghi's Jerusalem)

2 Tablespoons olive oil
1 large red pepper, cut into medium sized chunks
1 large green pepper, cut into medium sized chunks
1- 2 Tablespoons Harissa ( a spicy Morrocan condiment readily available in Israel near the Chummus section- substitute a finely diced red chili pepper instead if you cannot find it)
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 Tablespoon tomato paste
1 1/2 teaspoons ground cumin
1 800 gram can (28 oz) of crushed tomatoes
1/2 cup chopped cilantro, divided
pinch of sugar
4 eggs
salt and pepper to taste

Heat the olive oil in a deep frying pan or cast iron skillet. Add the peppers, harissa, garlic, tomato paste and cumin and season with salt and pepper. Saute for 6-7 minutes until the peppers soften and then add the crushed tomatoes , 1/4 cup of cilantro and a pinch of sugar. Let the sauce simmer for about 10 minutes, it should thicken slightly and taste for seasoning.  With a spoon make for indentations in the sauce and carefully break each egg into each indentation. Swirl the white of the egg a little into the sauce making sure you don't break the yolk and cook for another 5 minutes until the whites are set. Sprinkle with the rest of the cilantro and serve.