Mystery Solved

Last week I posted about my epic failure with Passover Lemon Pistachio Bars . I made a nut crust for my lemon squares because flour is not permitted on Passover. When I baked the lemon squares, the crust floated to the top and the lemon filling sunk to the bottom – sort of upside down lemon squares!

I put out a call for assistance in helping me figure out where I went wrong. I got lots of feedback and suggestions. Thanks. You guys are the best! The mystery is solved. I received a comment from my neighbour Jackie.  If like me, you geek out over the science of baking, reading her explanation will fascinate you.

Here’s what she wrote:
I may have the answer. It has to do with the specific gravity of the ingredients. Nuts are lighter than water, so will float. Ground nuts remain as little pieces of nuts after baking. So, a crust mixture with a high proportion of nuts will be far less dense than the filling. The situation was exacerbated by the lack of flour to form a cake/pastry matrix which may have locked in the nuts pieces.

To confirm my suspicion, I looked up the FAO Density Database (2012). Water of course has a specific gravity of approximately 1 gram /mL, depending on temperature. (I love that there’s a Density Database!!)

almonds 0.46 grams/mL
pistachios, out of shell, 0.65 grams/mL

fruit juice 1.06 g/mL
butter 0.91 g/mL

So, given that the gravity of nuts is less than the gravity of the lemon filling (fruit juice and butter), it makes sense that the nuts floated to the top. I can go to bed happy tonight. Thanks Jackie!

In other good news, I no longer have to feel guilty about the 10 pounds of butter I keep in my freezer for when the urge to bake hits. Check it out  in this article: Pass the butter!

 

 

Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch

4 squares 625 sqI read in the Globe and Mail Food section this week that God gave us cardboard so that we could describe the taste of matzoh. Not this matzoh treat!!

I made this for my sister Bonnie. I slightly adapted the recipe from the April 2015 issue of Bon Appetit. This matzoh crunch is kicked up with a pinch of hot pepper. I wanted to make it with Aleppo pepper because she puts that sh#t on everything! Sadly, if you have been following the news, you will know that Aleppo pepper is almost impossible to get now. The civil war in Syria has virtually destroyed the Aleppo pepper production. (Although the scarcity of Aleppo pepper is the least of their problems.) The citizens of Syria are in my thoughts and prayers.

Aleppo is a dried crushed red pepper. It is slightly fruity, with a whiff of smoke and only moderately spicy. I actually found a forgotten tin of it at the back of my cupboard. Not sure how long it’s been there but it has lost most of it’s potency.

I decided to make a few batches of this treat using a variety of peppers and compare the results.
peppers
Maras pepper (sometimes spelled Marash), from Turkey, is a good substitute for Aleppo. It is slightly smokier and hotter. I made a third batch with supermarket red pepper flakes and one final batch with chipotle powder, because that’s my jam!what you'll needBrown sugar, butter and your chill pepper of choice get whisked together over moderate heat until hot and bubbly. Pour over matzoh and spread into an even layer. spreading toffee Bake toffee covered matzoh for about 10 minutes. Top hot matzoh with bittersweet or semi sweet chocolate chips and let sit until they melt. Spread chocolate until smooth.waiting for chocolate to meltTop with toasted chopped pistachios, dried cherries, toasted coconut flakes, coarse salt and cocoa nibs.ready to chillChill and cut into squares.stacked squares 625 sqOr cut into wedges. Any way you slice it, it’s delicious.wedges of crunchThe batches I made with the Aleppo and Maras were not very spicy. The heat was barely noticeable even though I doubled the amount of pepper recomended in the Bon Appetit recipe (I used 1 teaspoon instead of 1/2 teaspoon). The red pepper flakes batch had obvious but not burning heat. It was my favourite. The chipotle was too smoky for my liking. This matzoh crunch is a flavour bomb in your mouth. Sweet (chocolate), salty (coarse salt and pistachios), sour (cherries), bitter (cocoa nibs), spicy and crunchy.

Click here to print recipe for Kicked Up Matzoh Crunch.

Magic Passover Pistachio Lemon Bars

lime bars 2Spoiler alert! These were an epic fail. My husband encouraged me to blog about them, even though I would never serve them or make them again. He said that publicly acknowledging my failure would make me more likeable and relatable to my readers. My daughter urged me not to blog about them because no one wants to read about bungled pastry.

In the end, I decided to share with you , if only to see if anyone can solve the mystery of what happened to these bars. More about that in a minute.

If you had come into my house at the beginning of this week, you would have inhaled deeply and said, “It smells heavenly in here.” The air was intoxicatingly scented with coconut, butter, brown sugar and chocolate and almonds. Every year, I am in charge of baking desserts for our family seders. (40 plus on my husband’s side the first night, and 35 plus on my side the second night)

And yes, I would have agreed with you that it was smelling quite delicious in my kitchen on that first day of baking. However, by day 3 of my bake-a-thon, the ambrosial scent suddenly turned  cloying and I could no longer stomach the stench of coconut, sugar and chocolate. I needed a break and thought that some citrus would help clear the air.

I was inspired by these pistachio-lemon bars from Molly O’Neill over at NYT Cooking. Since flour is not used during Passover, I replaced the all-purpose flour in the recipe with ground almonds.crust in food processor 1pat crust into pan A very strange thing happened when I baked them. The crust rose to the top and the lemon filling sunk to the bottom, and stuck horribly to the parchment paper lining.

I scraped them out of the pan and tried again, with this recipe from Joy of Kosher. I used pistachios instead of walnuts in the crust and ground almonds instead of matzoh meal in the filling. Same thing happened when I baked them. The crust magically rose to the top and the filling sunk and stuck.

I am nothing if not persistent, so I tried once more, figuring maybe third time’s the charm.  I used  Anna Olsen’s lemon squares recipe filling and doubled the amount of the first crust I tried, figuring, if it was heavier, it would stay put. I had run out of lemons, so I used limes this time.Lime fillingThe filling sunk to the bottom again, but this time it did not stick too terribly to the parchment so I was able to get them out of the pan, flip them over and slice them into squares. While they had a nice lemon tang, the crust became soggy after a few minutes. Within an hour they were a stodgy gluey mess.lime bars 1If anyone reading this knows the reason for the sinking filling, I’d love an explanation. Hope your baking is going better than mine!!

 

 

Cookie Butter Rugelach

If the title of this post has left you shaking your head, wondering what the heck I am writing about, let me enlighten you.coffee and rugelach 625 sqI wrote about cookie butter last year. It is also known as Speculoos or Biscoff spread. Basically, we are talking about ground up spicy gingerbread cookies, mixed with additional sugar and oil, to create, a somewhat addictive spread, in the vein of peanut butter and Nutella.

Rugelach is a small Jewish pastry, of Eastern European origin. Traditionally they are made in the form of a crescent by rolling a triangle of dough around a filling. The origin of the name comes from the Polish word “Rog” which is the prefix for horn, (croissant shaped pastries kind of look like horns). “El” is used as a diminutive and the “Ach” ending indicates plural. So put together we have horn shaped little pastries –Rugelach.hazelnutsHow this little cookie came to be made in a crescent shape is an interesting story. I have read several versions, but this is my favourite. In the 16th Century, the Jews were living under the rule of the brutal Ottoman Empire. Life was not easy for them. A baker with a warped sense of humour, decided to create little pastries, shaped like the crescent that decorated the Ottoman war flags. With every bite of these delicious little noshes, the Jews imagined that they were “chewing out” their merciless oppressors.

Back in Europe, the dough for rugelach is light, airy and yeast raised. Somehow, when it arrived in North America, it transformed into a dense cream cheese based dough. This is the rugelach I grew up with and love. Rich and flaky, but not too sweet, the best rugelach let the dough be the star and the fillings play a supporting role.

Most often they are filled with jam, cinnamon-sugar, raisins and nuts. Often chocolate is thrown into the mix. Screwing with a 500 year old cookie could be a dangerous thing, but I like to live on the edge, so I played around with the traditional recipe and spread mine with Cookie Butter instead of jam.

The dough is simple to put together. I used the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated for the dough, with the addition of some cinnamon and ground ginger to mimic the gingerbread flavour of the cookie butter. The butter and cream cheese must be very cold.dough ingredientsmaking dough 1Only process the dough until it resembles small curd cottage cheese. Don’t let the processor form the dough into a ball, or you will have tough rugelach. pulsed doughdivide dough into 48.5 inch circleI decided to make two varieties. The first, shaped in the traditional crescent, featured Cookie Butter and toasted chopped hazelnuts.spreading cookie butter on circlesprinkling hazelnutscutting into wedgesrolling crescentsbrushing with eggThese got treated to a shower of cinnamon sugar as soon as they came out of the oven. dust with cinnamon sugarFor the second variation I created little roulades. The dough was rolled into a rectangle, filled with cookie butter and chopped chocolate, and rolled and sliced, before baking. 11 x 7 inch rectanglespreading cookie butter on rectanglesprinkling chocolaterolling rouladeslicing roulades

brushing roulades with eggCB and chocolate roulades

Click here to print recipe for Cookie Butter and Hazelnut Rugelach.

3 rugelach

Click here to print recipe for Cookie Butter and Chocolate Rugelach Roulades.

Roulades

Sweet Potato and Turkey Sausage Hash

brunch for 2Although I write a food blog, I seem to struggle when it comes to deciding what to make when I have company for brunch. Smoked Salmon, cream cheese and bagels (unless I bake my own), feels like I phoned it in. Just not enough effort. Sort of like serving jarred salsa and bagged tortilla chips when friends come over. Pancakes and waffles are a challenge because they really are best served as soon as they are made and I don’t love cooking when I have people over. I prefer to have as much done in advance if possible. Plus, so many people are avoiding gluten and/or carbs these days.

My go-to brunch standard is a fritatta. My favourite is studded with sautéed leeks, cauliflower, corn and Gruyere cheese. It can be made ahead of time and is delicious served warm or at room temperature. But I get easily bored with food and always want to try something new.

Clinton Kelly made a variation of this hash on The Chew a few weeks ago. It seemed like a perfect brunch dish. He used ready made chicken sausage, but I keep Kosher, and couldn’t find any at my butcher. I decided to make my own. Since I wasn’t putting  the sausage in casing, it really is quite simple to do. It’s just a matter of picking the right seasonings.making sausageI decided to use ground turkey and seasoned it with paprika, fennel seed, allspice, salt and red pepper flakes. Ground turkey tends to be dry, so to add moisture, without adding extra fat, I added some finely grated apple and onion. I learned that trick from Rachel Ray.

Once the ground turkey is browned up, it’s time to make hash. I used a combo of sweet potatoes and Yukon golds. I added some corn, sweet red peppers, and jalapeños for a bit of zing. ready to make hashOnce all the veggies are cooked, the ground turkey is mixed in and it’s time to add the eggs. before baking12 minutes in a hot oven and brunch is ready. A big (12 inch) cast iron skillet is perfect for this dish, but any large skillet will work. It can be brought right to the table and served from the pan.hash for 4brunch for 1 625 sqIf you want to get really cute, make the hash in a big pan, and then transfer it to 4 mini cast iron pans. Top each with an egg and bake. Serve each person their own little pan. I found the mini pans at World Market for $7.99 each. I couldn’t resist. hash in mini pan 625 sq

 

Click here to print recipe for Sweet Potato and Turkey Sausage Hash.