Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Ilse's Passover Mocha Nut Cake or more simply Ilse's Cake


I’m not sure how my Papa Alex fell in love with our beloved Ilse, but I believe it had something to do with her cooking. I was young when my Bubby died and I know my Papa was very sad. However it wasn’t too long until he found Ilse and we all discovered that the way to a man and a family’s heart is through their stomachs. Ilse was a tremendous comfort to Papa which made me comfortable too- because if Papa was happy, well, I for one, was happy, too.

I can only guess what she cooked up on their first date but my imagination leads me to believe that it may have been this cake.  It is a special cake not only because it contains love in the purest form, but also because I have never found any like it. So don’t lose this recipe. I guarantee you won’t be able to replicate it. Many years later when I was older I asked Ilse how long she had been making this. As you will see the secret ingredient in the frosting is hot cocoa mix. I had no idea they made hot cocoa mix in the 40’s but she informed me they did. Now something else you must realize-this was before food processors were standard fare in the kitchen, so all those nuts had to be chopped very finely by hand. And the egg whites were mixed with a hand beater. Quite a job and more than I would want to do, but Ilse did it and not just for Passover. (Yes, this is a Passover cake, because it contains no leavening or flour.) She made it often.


Now, let me digress and admit something here. When I was younger, I did not like this cake, but I loved the frosting. I remember trying to eat around the cake and look like I really liked it. But all that does not matter now. One of the first things I wanted when I got married was this recipe. It is true that absence makes the heart grow fonder. It then took me almost 20 years to get the recipe out of her mouth! It was over the phone and well, you can see exactly what I wrote. But now I am writing it up in recipe form so that it can be enjoyed by all.

And one last note. My kids LOVE this cake.  I have twins so I bake two cakes each year. We always do chocolate and we always do Ilse’s cake. And when they came home this year for winter break, it was Ilse’s cake that was waiting for them. It is only fitting that in the month of December when  Ilse would have been 91, that we use this cake to celebrate her. It is comforting to know that my kids will most likely be celebrating with this cake for many years to come. And in doing that Ilse will always be in our hearts and our thoughts. And dare I say- our tummies? Yes, I believe she would be proud AND happy.



Ilse’s Mocha Nut Cake
(I use a 9” springform pan but Ilse used a 10”. I prefer it taller and I also think it stays moister this way. Keep in mind this is my interpretation of what you see on the above paper.)
Serves 8-12
Time to Make:
About 30 minutes
Ingredients:
Egg Yolks
 8 large eggs separated with the whites in your mixing bowl. Yolks in another.
2c finely ground walnuts
1c sugar
3/4t almond extract
1/4t vanilla extract
1/2c matzoh meal
Directions:
Whip egg whites until soft whip and then add 1/2 c sugar to make a very thick bowl of stiffly beaten egg whites.

Stiff Egg Whites
Beat egg yolks with whisk until very thick and lemony. Stir in remaining 1/2c of sugar. Add nuts, vanilla and almond extracts and matzo meal. Fold in egg whites.

Scoop into parchment lined 9” spring form pan. Bake at 375 anywhere from 45 minutes to an hour. Insert skewer to check for doneness. It should be clean or with very few crumbs clinging to it. You do not want it to over bake or it will become dry.  Cake will rise probably above pan. Cool on a rack. It will fall and actually look quite ugly. That is OK because now you get to make this most delicious frosting.








Mocha Frosting
(I do this recipe plus 50% more. You could also double it and then eat the rest with your fingers. Doubled is just a bit too much for this cake!)

2c powdered sugar
1 envelope Swiss Miss or hot cocoa mix
1 stick butter or margarine
2-3T of coffee (from a cup of brewed coffee)

Beat this well in a mixer and make sure to save some for the cake!

When cake is cool, slice through middle horizontally there by creating a layer that you can now fill. Replace top half and frost the entire cake. This is a great birthday cake, not to mention a very special Passover cake.  Apparently it is also a great cake to attract future husbands, too!


P.S. The teacup is also very special. It was given to me by Ilse at my bridal shower and was a cup from my Bubby's china set. I don't know what happened to the china but I have one very special teacup.





Thursday, December 15, 2011

Ziti Al Fresco



Her return meant Ziti Al Fresco. Beautiful, spicy, rich, warm and basily, (it’s a new word) Ziti Al Fresco. The adjectives suit her and also the ziti. Yes, my daughter is home. There is no better feeling. At least until my son gets home. And then that is the best feeling because it means we will all be together at least for a short while until one of them leaves me again. I don’t know if I’ll ever get used to that. But let’s stay in the happy zone and let’s not start thinking about them leaving before we’ve enjoyed each and every moment. So when Zoe is home it means pasta. Lots and lots of pasta. I don’t know how she stays a size two. I didn’t inherit that gene.

A long time ago, which in my world is pre kid, there was a restaurant in Denver named Al Fresco. It was downtown and was a fun and happenin’ place. Until one day it closed. I don’t know why, but it is there no more. It served grandioso Italian food with little garlic rolls that I inhaled and devoured before I could even look at the menu. And the menu included Shrimp Gamberoni that were delish but also included Ziti Al Fresco. It was required that one of us always had to order the Ziti. My, oh my, I have never forgotten the ziti or the rolls which led me to create my own Ziti Al Fresco. I haven’t made it in a very long time and when you look at the ingredients you will see why. Yes, it has horrible heavy cream as one of its prime components. My, oh my. But I knew my Zoe could take it She did and she’s still a size 2! My husband was in heaven as he ate and I don’t know if he was smiling because she was home or because of what he was eating. My, oh my. This ziti is magical.

The garlic rolls are lurking!


Ziti Al Fresco  Serves 4

(I can’t promise that this is The Ziti Al Fresco, but it is mine and it is magical. You will feel all warm and tingly after eating. I promise.)

1 lb penne or zit cooked al dente in salted water

1 lb hot, very good Italian sausage, not in casing (If you need to you can always add some red pepper flakes to the sauce.)
1/2 onion chopped
3 cloves garlic
2T olive oil
3T red wine for deglazing
½ can tomato paste
1c heavy cream
1 pkg fresh basil chopped.
1/3c sun dried tomatoes sliced (in oil, but drained)
Salt and fresh pepper to taste

Heat oil until hot. Add sausage, onions and garlic. Cook until no pink is showing. Use wine to deglaze pan. Turn heat to medium low. Add your tomato paste. Stir it in, then add heavy cream. Let simmer and thicken while blending in the tomato paste. If you need to loosen up the sauce or make it more liquidy add some pasta water or more cream. Your choice. Stir in sun dried tomatoes and let those break up a bit. When almost finished, stir in the chopped basil.

Add sauce to drained ziti. This makes enough for 4, but no hoarding allowed. Sprinkle with parmesan and more basil.

 Now finish that bottle of wine you used to deglaze with and you will understand why you deglaze a pan with wine and why the chefs always say to never use a wine to cook with that you wouldn’t drink on its own. Pour a glass, take a bite and discover that magical warm feeling. Maybe another day I'll give you the garlic rolls.




Sunday, December 11, 2011

The Only Gingerbread Waffles

Gingerbread Waffles
My kids are coming home soon. Truly, I can’t wait. I am even washing the slipcovers in preparation. Yeah, call me crazy. Now if I could just stick the dogs in the washing machine, too. But no, just ain’t gonna happen. In spite of all my frantic cleaning of the house, which yes, I do realize they won’t even notice, I am still cooking and finding good things for you to make.

 Today I asked my husband to get out the waffle maker which is hidden above the dryer cabinet, to which he responded “Didn’t know we had one.” He then proceeded to bring me the George Foreman grill to which he also responded, “Didn’t know we had that either.” So after sorting out the small appliance stuff I got to work on these waffles. They are easy. No, you don’t have to whip the egg whites either. These are all made in one bowl and they are really good. Plus, they make your house smell good, which would seem really fitting in a clean house, which mine is not yet.

But back to the gingerbread waffles. They were a good way to start my cleaning on this wonderful Sunday. No, I didn’t linger reading the newspaper, but we did have the football game on all afternoon. It was especially loud so we could hear it through the whole house. And it was an incredible game-and this is coming from someone who really has never liked football much. But the Broncos are getting very, very interesting.

So we did have enough waffles left over from breakfast that we could have had them for dinner, too. But we didn’t. And I will save that recipe for another day.

Plopping the dough


Gingerbread Waffles

2c flour
1/2t salt
1t ginger
2t cinnamon
1/4t allspice
1 1/2t baking soda
1/2c brown sugar
1/2c butter melted
1 c sour cream
2 eggs
1/4c milk

Preheat your waffle iron. I have an Oster and it only takes a few minutes to heat. It makes 2 standard 4” waffles. This recipe makes about 12.

Golden Waffles
Sift together dry ingredients. Melt butter and stir in brown sugar. Add sour cream and eggs and milk. Stir in dry ingredients. Mixture should be thick. If it seems to thick add a little more milk.

Butter your waffle maker lightly. Use a ¼ c of waffle batter for each waffle. Just plop it on the top. Do not spread. Close it. Waffles take about 2 minutes to bake. Keep warm without stacking in a 300 degree oven.

I served my waffles straight up with butter and real maple syrup. They would also be good with sautéed bananas or cinnamon apples. You could also mix pecans into the batter and candied ginger. And if you want to have these for dessert they would be awesome topped with ice cream and caramel sauce. Oooh, maybe that’s what I’ll do with my leftovers.

Whatever you serve them with, just make sure you serve them to good friends and family. Otherwise you may have your not so good friends nagging you to have them over again soon!

Lookin' Good!

Friday, December 9, 2011

Holiday Spritz Cookies


Spritz Cookies



Spritz Cookies

Spritz cookies are definitely a holiday tradition. It doesn’t matter whether you are making cute little Christmas trees or pretty pink poinsiettias. They are a fun cookie to make. I’ve eaten them for years and not just at the holidays. My third grandmother used to press them out of the little star shaped disc and made long wavy shapes. They were always kept in a shoebox lined with wax paper and they were always available when we dropped by for a visit. So Christmas cookies aren’t just for Christmas anymore! In our case, they were Jewish cookies because no one told us any different.

It is often debated whether Spritz cookies are German or Swedish. I don’t really care! Either way they are delish. However, I did learn that spritz is a German word for squirt and since you “squirt them out” onto a cookie sheet, maybe they really are German. I can also remember a Yiddish word used in such a way that it meant you were sweating or perspiring. Like in, “It’s hot today. I’m really spritzen.” And I also remember my kids fighting and asking each other (when they were really upset), “Now you gonna squirt a little?” I guess they could have just substituted the word spritzen. It has a nicer ring to it don’t you think?

Regardless, these cookies are a way to get your holiday baking started. They keep for a good while in an airtight container and they can also be frozen. This year I tried the star shape that my Ilse used to use. They are fun to do and then I chose to douse them with powdered sugar, though it isn’t necessary. And I will say that her Spritz cookies were always golden.

Ilse would also tell you that there is no need for a mixer to make these. Just put all your ingredients in a bowl and mush everything up with your hands. Since this is what she used to do, I know it works. This seems like a good way to teach your kids about baking! I tried baking them lightly colored and also until they were more golden all over. Personally, since I didn’t dye the dough I like the golden ones better. It really brings out the butter flavor when you bake them longer. And we all know just how good butter is!

Spritz Cookies (unfortunately not Ilse's recipe as I never got it!)

2 sticks butter
1 1/2t vanilla
1/2c sugar
1 egg-extra large or jumbo
2 1/2 c flour

Preheat oven to 400 with rack in the center of oven.

In mixer, cream the butter. Add vanilla and sugar and beat well. Beat in egg. On lowest speed gradually add flour, scraping the bowl and beating until smooth.

Press dough through a cookie press. No, it doesn’t always come out perfect the first time but you can reuse the dough. Do not press onto a warm cookie sheet either. You can dye this dough and decorate it before baking. Or you can do like I did which is just to squirt them out and sprinkle with sugar when warm.

Bake for about 10 minutes, more or less.

Clean up and get ready for the next round!

Camera just ran out of battery!

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Wednesday, December 7, 2011

German Apple Pancake


My morning started out rough. My car didn’t start. I think it felt ignored the last 6 days as I didn’t venture out because of the COLD weather. I am sorry car, but you made me miss the Macy’s morning sale. Now I will probably have to buy you a battery, but I don’t think Macy’s sells those. So instead of being at Macy’s I am now at home writing this blog. It is a good one about German Apple Pancakes and the person that inspired them. Think of this my readers, German Apple Pancakes – 1 - , Macy’s - 0 -.

Many people call German Apple Pancakes Dutch Apple pancakes, but they are the same thing. One article I read said that Dutch had a warmer ring to it than German. What can I say? In my background it was definitely a German pancake made by a very special third grandmother. Now keep in mind that I never tasted this special pancake made by my special grandmother. I have only had the pleasure of hearing about it. And when it was mentioned it was mentioned with awe in the voice. I really believed that this pancake must have been a miracle. So years ago I discovered a recipe about this pancake called a Dutch Baby. I actually make it quite often as it is very simple to make. And it is awe inspiring when you see just how simple it is. You can actually measure everything except the butter in 1 4c measuring cup. So this equates to not as many dishes to wash which to me is a very good thing!

Now I don’t know if this is as good as my Ilse used to make, well actually I do know, because nothing could ever be as good as your Grandma could make; but when you make it just think of her. She would be proud.



A few notes:

I make this in a cast iron skillet.

They have a delicious apple pancake at the Original Pancake House if you are so lucky to have one in your neighborhood.

It can be made with or without fruit. I think pears would be a nice change if I ever had any in the house.

If you don’t make this with fruit, squeeze lemon wedges over the top and serve with preserves.

I make this a full meal and serve it with candied pepper bacon and my favorite hash browns.

If you are watching, “The Next Iron Chef” the last episode featured Chef Zakarias sprinkling powdered sugar on a soufflé. One of the judges who is not my favorite- a stiff old codger from Britain-I won’t name names- thought powdered sugar was passé and not necessary. Well, I say, “Take that Mr. Old Codger, is that all you can complain about? There are more important things to worry about than sprinkling beautiful powdered sugar on a beautiful soufflé.” In that vein, sprinkle all the beautiful powdered sugar you want on top of this most awesome German pancake.


German Apple Pancake (inspired by Ilse)

3/4c unbleached all purpose flour
1T sugar
1/2t salt
Dash of cinnamon
Dash of vanilla
4 large eggs
2/3c whole milk or skim with a dash of cream or just skim (I’m easy)
2T unsalted butter, melted

3 large apples, cored and sliced thin
3T butter
3T dark brown sugar
1/2t cinnamon

Powdered Sugar
Maple Syrup (to gild the lily)

Preheat oven to 450.

Melt 3T butter in skillet. Add apples and sauté until tender, about 10 minutes. Stir in dark brown sugar and cinnamon. This should be nice and syrupy. If you want more cinnamon feel free to add it.

While apples are cooking measure dry ingredients for pancake into your 4c measuring cup. Add the eggs, milk and vanilla and stir or whisk until well combined. Add the melted butter and whisk in well.

Pour over the prepared apples and bake for 15-18 minutes, until puffed and golden. If you would like more sugar and cinnamon on the top, feel free to sprinkle more on top of pancake about 12 minutes into cooking when it has just started to puff.

Cut into 4 big wedges and serve with maple syrup. You may not need it. Oh-don’t forget the powdered sugar.


Ready to Eat!

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard


The Original Recipe in my Mom's handwriting
The holidays are here and that means mustard. It began years ago when a family friend delivered this mustard to our door every year with little Pepperidge Farm Toasts to slather it on. Yummy, yummy. Very yummy. So yummy, that I try to make it also during the holiday season. It is great served with dried sausages or on kosher salami. Super duper on sandwiches and well, I will tell you, just by itself on toast. My mouth is now watering. Now I know for many of you that  mustard is not something you often think about. But once you make THIS mustard you will not forget it. It keeps in your fridge forever, but it will not last that long.

I buy the Colman’s brand dry mustard that comes in a 4 oz tin that is equivalent to about a cup of dry mustard. It is spicy and you can feel your nose burn just a bit when you smell it. I prefer to think of it as a magical tingle. I did go to the Colman’s website-http://www.colmansusa.com/ and read that they use a special mix of white mustard and brown mustard seed. I think this is what makes it so potent. You can use other brands of dry mustard which I think probably cost a bit less. I did see it available online for less than the grocery charges.  (Just a tip). If you make this it will be your easiest, most remembered gift and you will then have to make it for the rest of life. But you won’t mind. The hard part is you have to let it rest for 5 days on your countertop before you refrigerate it. This lets it ripen and mature so that it is ready when you just can’t take it any longer. So, if you can muster the strength, pass the mustard, Please!

Ane one last note that I picked up from the Colmans site-mustard increases your metabolism. So starting January 1 you can bet that a spoonful of mustard will be in my tummy daily! Well, if not before.


This is all you need!

Sweet and Hot Green Onion Mustard 

(I changed the proportions a bit since Colman's comes in a 4oz can and what would you do with leftover dried mustard; though I could think of a few things!)

1 1/4c flour sifted
1/2c plus 1 1/2T sugar
1T plus 3/4t salt
1 c dry mustard
1 1/2c plus 1 1/2T white vinegar
6 green onions minced

Mix flour, sugar, salt and mustard together. Add vinegar and mix until blended. Stir in green onions. Let ripen 5 days on countertop. Then refrigerate.

This makes one quart. Now go buy some cute little jars while it is ripening so you have them ready for gifts!