Sunday, January 12, 2014

Everything's New But The Recipes

The original draft of this entry had a very long and complicated explanation of what happened after I moved, but I deleted it because a) it was boring and b) it can be summed up in one sentence: my new commute is much longer than my old commute.  It really has taken me 5 months to get my work/life balance sorted out, and even that isn't really done yet.  I will be transferring to a different office that is much closer, hopefully in the spring.  (I have also been procrastinating and have not gotten myself organized, which wastes most of my free time.)

The other thing I'm missing is a potluck group.  Right now I don't bake very often because there isn't anybody to eat the results.  As I meet more people and make some new friends, I will also acquire new guinea pigs.

Because I haven't had that much time to bake, I've been falling back on old recipes that I know like the back of my hand.  I've blogged about some of them before (my mother's hallah), thought I blogged about them but apparently didn't (pavlovas), and blogged about something similar (pumkpin souffle) that I then combined with yet another recipe that I thought I had previously written about but which also doesn't have a post (sufganiyot).  I posted pictures of pavlovas and sufganiyot on facebook but never got around to making blog entries for either one.  Did I mention that I'm disorganized and procrastinate a lot?

So this post has 4 months worth of experimentation: 3 new recipes, 2 explanations of things that I haven't written about but should have, and 1 success.

The three new recipes are apple stuffed cardamom hallah, pavlova with raspberry-pomegranate topping, and pumpkin sufganiyot.  These are all adaptations of recipes that I really like, so I've posted the original recipes and the changes I made.

Moving takes weeks longer than just the actual act of moving physical things from one location to another.  Usually I spend the first two weeks unpacking things and then wandering around the apartment, vainly trying to remember where I put all of my stuff.  My apartment is from the 1950's and hasn't been updated since then except for the oven and fridge.  Things it doesn't have: lots of electrical outlets, muted color schemes, a dishwasher, or a garbage disposal.  This is the kitchen:

Lucy Ricardo would have loved this place.

Check out the bathroom:
It would be so classy if it was tiled in black and white.
I always laugh when anybody says that the 1950's were so glamorous, people knew how to dress and decorate, etc.  No.  Some of the worst color schemes ever showed up in the 1950's.  While I'm living here, I pretend that I am a time-traveling anthropologist who is studying how the natives live in their pink-and-maroon habitat.  This is a very nice apartment with the exception of the color schemes (one for every room!).

Since I moved in the middle of August, I had just about finished unpacking at the beginning of September.  This also coincided with the Jewish new year (Rosh Hashanah) which is normally at the end of September.

All of the Jewish holidays were very early in 2013 due to the way that the lunar and Gregorian calendars matched up.  Hence, Thanksgivukkah (more on this later).  I decided to make a sweet hallah with apples and honey, because you eat apples with honey at the new year to signify a sweet new year.  I got the idea to make an apple stuffed hallah from the Shiksa in the Kitchen, which is a blog written by a woman who converted to Judiasm and who has been teaching herself to make many traditional Jewish recipes.

Apple-stuffed cardamom hallah: the first thing I baked in the new place.
I have been making my mother's hallah recipe for years, so I decided to try the Shiksa's* recipe to compare.  I followed all of the directions and did not end up with hallah dough.  The yeast proofed but when I tried the trick of putting a pan of boiling water in the oven, the dough did not rise.  Since I really liked the idea and I had chopped up a bunch of apples, I redid the dough using my mother's recipe (no problems there) and followed all of the other steps, including braiding it into a round loaf.  That part was surprisingly easy.  I also added some cardamom to the hallah dough because I like the taste with apples and honey.

Many commenters said that they had great results so I don't know what went wrong.  The good news is that the idea works with any hallah recipe, so go crazy!

* PSA: "shiksa" is really not a nice word.  I'm using it because she does but it's a serious insult.  Think of it as one of those words that you can use about yourself as a joke but it's not okay when somebody else uses it.

Recipe experiment 1: Apple Honey Challah at the Shiksa in the Kitchen (made using my mother's hallah recipe + 1 tablespoon ground cardamom in the dough)

So that was September.

B's girlfriend K's birthday was in October and B organized a party.  I was excited to go because K and B have been dating for a while but I hadn't really met K before I moved back home.  Usually I would bake a nice cake and drive it to the party, but I decided not to keep my car at my apartment because of the parking situation.  I park it at my parent's place instead.  Normally this isn't an issue.

Then the BART (subway) union went on strike.  Instead of hopping on a train to get from San Francisco to Berkeley, picking up my car, driving it back to my place, and driving a cake to the party, I needed to make something that was easily portable on public transportation.  Pavlovas are much easy to travel with than people realize.  The trick is to take the layers in separate containers and assemble them at the destination.

I would eat this entire pavlova myself (from here).
Most Americans have never heard of a pavlova, especially because we call them meringues.  There are lots of websites with information about pavlovas.  They were invented either in Australia or New Zealand and were named in honor of Anna Pavlova.  A pavlova is a large meringue base with a topping of whipped cream and fruit.  I originally tried making a pavlova because of this website's pictures.

I knew that I would need to bring the pavlova on three buses, including a trans-bay bus which would be packed since it would be the only public transit going east out of San Francisco.  I decided to make a large meringue for the pavlova base like normal, put the whipped cream and fruit topping in separate tupperwares, and carry it all in one shopping bag.

Pomegranates are in season in October, so I decided to make the topping with pomegranates and raspberries. I didn't have the time to pick the seeds out of fresh pomegranates, so I cooked the raspberries in pomegranate juice instead.  It's easy to make a nice sauce for desserts out of fresh fruit by boiling it in sugar-water or a mixture of sugar-water and juice.  I simply boiled the raspberries in pomegranate juice with some sugar until the juice had thickened, and then strained out the raspberry seeds.  I put this topping over the whipped cream on top of the meringue.

This meringue recipe has worked perfectly every time I've used it.  I usually top the pavlova with whatever's in season instead of using their lemon curd recipe.  One of the main things I like about pavlovas is that it's so easy to use whatever fruit you feel like eating as the topping.

So after making all of this I discovered that there was no way to get from my place to B's place and make it to the party because the line for the trans-bay bus was more than 3 hours long.  I ended up having to eat most of the pavlova myself.  Oh well.

Recipe experiment 2: Pavlova built of Chow's meringue base with my pomegranate-raspberry sauce and whipped cream

Tips: the sauce is a concentrated version of whatever you use to make it, so the fruit you use must be fresh and of good quality.  If you decide to use juice as well, make sure that it is 100% fruit juice only, without any other ingredients.

The egg whites will not whip up correctly if there is any contamination so be sure that no part of the yolk ends up in the whites.  If any yolk is mixed in, try to separate it out with a spoon.  I usually separate the eggs one at a time into a smaller container before adding one egg white into the larger bowl.   If something happens to the egg white, then I only need to discard the one in the smaller container instead of all of the egg whites in the larger bowl.

The sugar must be added slowly.  If you dump all of the sugar in at once, you won't get the right consistency.  Start adding the sugar to the beaten egg whites when they have the consistency of foamy bubble bath.  It will take a couple of minutes to add the sugar.  The egg whites will lighten up and become firmer during the process.  Don't rush it.

Once the meringue has baked for 60 minutes, turn off the oven and leave the meringue in for a couple of hours while the oven cools down.  This will help ensure that the outside of the meringue is crunchy and solid and the inside is soft and chewy.

The fruit sauce will take about 30 to 45 minutes of cooking, depending on how thick you want it.  I boiled the sauce for a good 45 minutes to thicken it up and make sure that it wouldn't run off edge of the whipped cream too much.  The sauce will continue to thicken as it cools down so you can't use it as a topping for another hour or so after you've finished boiling it.  

Because the meringue will take about an hour to bake and an hour to cool, you should start making the fruit sauce once you've put the meringue in the oven.  The fruit and liquids will boil down while you are waiting for the meringue to finish baking, and the sauce and oven can cool down at the same time.

There's more sugar in the fruit sauce recipe than you will see in other recipes for raspberry sauce.  I doubled the amount of sugar because pomegranates are not as sweet as raspberries, and I also increased the amount of liquids to compensate.  If you're making plain raspberry sauce, you can use 1/2 cup of sugar and 2 cups of liquids.  Some recipes include a small amount of lemon juice.  You can also use a little bit of sifted cornstarch to make sure that the juice thickens, but the cup of sugar and long boiling time should ensure a thicker sauce.

The meringue and sauce can be made ahead of time.  The sauce will keep in the fridge for about a week.  The meringue can be wrapped in tin foil or parchment paper and stored in a cool, dry place for a day or so.  A fresh meringue tastes better so I recommend making the meringue on the day you plan on eating the pavlova.


For the meringue:
  • 1 pinch salt
  • 4 large egg whites with no traces of yolk, at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1 teaspoon white vinegar
  • 1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
For the sauce:
  • 2 cups raspberries
  • 16 fluid ounces pomegranate juice
  • 1 cup granulated (white) sugar
  • 2 cups water
For the whipped cream:
  • Heavy whipping cream (1/2 or 1 pint)
  • Granulated (white) sugar
  • Vanilla extract



Heat the oven to 250°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Using a 9-inch round cake pan, trace a circle onto a piece of parchment paper with a pen or marker.  Flip the paper over and place it on a baking sheet (the traced circle should be visible); set aside.

Place the egg whites and salt in the very clean, dry bowl of a stand mixer fitted with a clean, dry whisk attachment or use a hand-held beater. Beat on medium speed until the whites begin to lighten in color and only small bubbles remain, about 2 minutes.

Increase the speed to high and very slowly add the sugar in a thin, continuous stream. Beat until firm, shiny peaks form, resembling marshmallow creme, about 3 minutes.

Remove the beaters and sift the cornstarch through a fine-mesh strainer into the meringue.  Drizzle with the vinegar and vanilla and fold them into the meringue with a rubber spatula until no streaks of vanilla remain, being careful not to deflate the whites.

Using the rubber spatula, pile the meringue into the center of the circle drawn on the parchment paper and smooth it to the edges of the circle to form a rough, even disk about 1 inch tall.  Bake until the meringue is firm to the touch but slightly soft in the middle, about 60 minutes.  Turn the heat off and let the oven cool down, about 1 hour.  Remove the meringue from the oven.  Run a thin metal spatula under the meringue to loosen.  Carefully slide it onto a serving platter or cake stand; set aside until assembly.


Carefully wash and fruit and be sure to remove any stickers or other non-fruit little bits; be especially careful if you're using raspberries or blackberries.  Put the fruit in a saucepan with 4 cups of liquid (water or water and juice) and 1 cup of granulated sugar.  Turn the heat to high so that the liquid is boiling and cook for 30 to 45 minutes, until the volume is visibly reduced.  

Strain the sauce into another container to remove the raspberry seeds if desired, or pour the sauce into another container.  Let the sauce cool to room temperature.

Whipped cream:

Beat the heavy whipping cream until soft peaks form.  Slowly add a small amount (~2 tablespoons) of sugar and a little bit (1 teaspoon) of vanilla extract if desired.  Continue beating until the cream is as thick as you want it to be.  If you are using pieces of fruit instead of a sauce, the whipped cream must be solid enough to support the weight of the fruit.


Place the meringue on a serving plate.  Spoon the whipped cream over the meringue and smooth it out evenly.  Pour small amounts of sauce on the whipped cream all over the top or sprinkle fresh fruit on the whipped cream.

Serves 6-10.

The egg whites need to look like this when you start to add the sugar, slightly more solid than liquid and with firm bubbles.
The egg whites with the sugar added becomes the raw meringue.
With the cornstarch and vanilla folded in.  The sugar makes the meringue shiny.
The raw meringue is solid enough to make a firm pile on the parchment paper.  I smoothed it out into a circle with a rubber spatula.
Boiling the raspberries in pomegranate juice.
Straining out the raspberry seeds.
The baked meringue.
With soft whipped cream on top.

    Finished pavlova with rapsberry-pomegranate topping.

    So that was October.

    November was when things got really insane: Thanksgivukkah happened.  Although this was an American-only holiday, it seemed like the entire English-language part of the internet was going bonkers for it.  Jewish holidays are on a lunar calendar which doesn't match up to any solar calendars, including the Gregorian calendar (a.k.a. the one everybody else uses).  And because it's a lunar calendar, Jewish holidays start at night and end at night.  In this case, the first night of Hannukah was the night before Thanksgiving.  This also caused some confusion and many non-Jewish people thought that the first day of Hannukah was the same day as Thanksgiving.  What it really meant was that we had a Hannukah celebration on Wednesday night and then got up on Thursday and did Thanksgiving.  There was so much food, so so so much food.

    I was asked to make a Hannukah-Thanksgiving dessert.  The traditional Hannukah foods are fried in oil because it is the Festival of Oil.  Latkas (לביבות, potato pancakes) are more common in America and sufganiyot (סופגניות, doughnuts) are more common in Israel.  Why?  I have no idea.

    A couple of years ago, my roommate carved a Halloween pumpkin and gave me the insides that she scooped out to cook with.  I googled around for recipes and ended up making a pumpkin souffle.  It was amazing!  It was so tasty, like the world's lightest pumpkin pie.  Pumpkin and pumpkin pie seems to be a North American thing.  Most Americans and Canadians I've met like it but pretty much every European thinks it's a bizarre, terrible taste and should never be served as dessert.  The souffle recipe was originally done by somebody who liked souffles and liked pumpkin and decided to combine them.

    This is what I had in mind when I was asked to make a Thanksgivukkah dessert: pumpkin soufganiyot.  I had not idea if it would work or not, but there was so much food that it wouldn't have mattered if every doughnut turned out to be completely inedible.  So I took my reliable sufganiyot recipe and added some canned pumpkin to the batter.  Instead of filling the doughnuts with jam like usual (pumpkin+raspberry jam = gross!), I fried up doughnut holes and rolled them in pumpkin pie spices and white sugar.  People said that they were good and tasted like pumpkin.  I didn't really taste much pumpkin at all.  They also were a little heavier than they would normally be without the pumpkin but since they were little doughnut balls, it didn't matter.  I wouldn't make these very large.

    I originally found this sufganiyot recipe because I needed a parve version.  The Jewish dietary laws are called kosher, and an important part of keeping kosher is that dairy and meat ingredients are not used together in a recipe and that dairy and meat foods are not eaten together.  Most doughnut recipes have a dairy recipe, which means you can't eat them as dessert after a meal that has meat.  There are three types of food for keeping kosher: meat, dairy, and parve.  Parve is neither meat nor dairy, and includes fruit, vegetables, grains, fish, and eggs.  Yes, fish should be meat but these rules are 6,000 years old and a bit behind the times.  I was going to a Hannukah party that had meat as a main course so I needed to make parve sufganiyot.  I liked this recipe so much that I use it for all my sufganiyot needs.

    Recipe experiment 3: Pumpkin sufganiyot (recipe on the Chabad webpage, originally from the Lubavitchers Women's cookbook)

    Tips: this recipe is a triple-rise recipe.  It takes hours.  I usually either do laundry or cook something else when I'm making sufganiyot.

    If your yeast doesn't proof, you can start over with a new packet.  If you're unsure whether the yeast has proofed, then it hasn't.  It will be noticeably foamy instead of liquidy and it will smell strongly of yeast (kind of like beer and bread mixed together).  I usually microwave the non-dairy creamer for 5 to 10 seconds to get it lukewarm before I add the yeast.  If the non-dairy creamer is too hot, just let it sit for a minute or two.

    I like to use vanilla flavored non-dairy creamer but that's just my personal preference. 

    You can melt the margarine in the microwave instead of a double-boiler.  Make sure the margarine is cooled before you add the egg yolks.  You don't want to cook the egg yolks by accident.

    Most margarine brands have milk or butter in them.  The only non-dairy margarine brand I know of in the US is Nucoa.  It is whey- and dairy-free.  If you're lactose intolerant or keep kosher, you need to use Nucoa brand margarine.  The bad news is that it used to be widely available but now only seems to be in supermarkets on the west coast.  I think you can get it on Amazon fresh but not the full Amazon website.  If you don't need a completely parve recipe, then you can use whatever margarine you want.

    Like most recipes with a yeast dough that needs to rise, the recipes says to cover the bowl with a towel and let it sit in a warm place.  I use the same trick for this as with my mother's hallah: pre-heat the oven to 200 F (95 C) and turn the oven off once it's heated.  Keep the door closed while you make the dough and the put the dough in the warm-but-not-hot oven to rise.  You also won't need to worry about going in and out of the kitchen, opening doors and windows, or accidentally making the kitchen too cold.  You can use a dry or a damp towel.  I usually use the towel I've dried my hands on after washing the dishes because it's a bit damp.

    Fruit jams are a traditional sufganiyot filling.  I also like to use fresh lemon curd as well.

    I fry the sufganiyot in 100% vegetable oil.  Heat the oil up until it sizzle when you flick a little bit of water in it.  It will take a good 10 minutes to get hot enough.  I usually adjust the heat to about halfway between medium and hot on the stove dial.  You will need to practice with the first couple of sufganiyot to tell when they need to be flipped.  Once they're fried, place them on a stack of paper towels on a plate to drain.  You will need to replace the paper towels regularly because they will be full of oil.

    Most people either sift powdered sugar over the sufganiyot or apply a sugar glaze (usually a mixture of sifted powdered sugar and water).  For the pumpkin sufganiyot, I rolled the doughnut holes in a mixture of white sugar and spices.

    There are several different types of yeast: fresh, instant, and active dry.  When recipes refer to a packet of yeast, they usually mean active dry.  Active dry has the longest shelf life.  Instant is also called bread machine yeast.  Fresh is exactly what it says.  Active dry is the only type of yeast that needs to be rehydrated.  If a recipe just says "yeast" but has directions to proof the yeast with liquids, then you know that it's active dry yeast.

    The bad news is that there isn't a one-to-one correspondence between the types of yeast.  One teaspoon of instant yeast isn't one teaspoon of either fresh or active dry yeast.  This wonderful blog post explains the difference between the types of yeast and gives conversion amounts but only for grams and cakes for fresh yeast.  Here is a website to convert from ounces to grams for fresh yeast.  This recipe calls for 1 ounce fresh yeast = 28.35 grams fresh yeast = 14.175 grams active dry yeast = 4.89 teaspoons active dry = 2.17 packets active dry yeast.

    The amount of yeast in a packet is different from country to country (7 grams in the US, 8 grams in Canada).  Be sure to check how many teaspoons are in a packet if you're not in the US!

    "Pumpkin pie spice" is a mixture of cinnamon, ginger, cloves, and allspice.  I used a ratio of 4 cinnamon to 2 ginger to 1 cloves to 1 allspice, mixed it together, and added it to 1 cup of granulated sugar.  The spices will be strong so you don't increase the amount until after you've tasted it.  I added a bit extra of cinnamon and cloves just because I like them.  You will need to make at least a cup of sugar-mixture for rolling the sufganiyot.  I ran out partway through and had to make more.

    • 1 ounce fresh yeast (2 1/4 packets active dry yeast)
    • 1/2 cup lukewarm non-dairy creamer
    • 1/2 cup flour
    • pinch of salt
    • 1/2 cup margarine (1 stick = 8 tablespoons = 1/2 cup)
    • 3 egg yolks
    • 1 1/2 tablespoons sugar
    • 1/2 cup lukewarm non-dairy creamer
    • 2 3/4 cups flour
    • jam or curd for fillings
    • powdered sugar
    • 5+ cups 100% vegetable oil (for frying)
    Additional ingredients for the pumpkin variety:
    • 1 can pumkpin (15 ounces)
    • 1 cup flour (plus extra to feel) to make up for the liquid in the pumpkin
    • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
    • 1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground cloves
    • 1/4 teaspoon ground allspice
    • 1 cup white sugar


    In a small bowl, dissolve yeast in 1/2 cup lukewarm non-dairy creamer.  Let sit for 5 minutes until yeast is foaming. Pour 1/2 cup flour in a large bowl.  Make a well in the flour and pour in the dissolved yeast and a pinch of salt.  Mix well.  Cover bowl with a towel and let stand in a warm place until sponge is doubled in bulk, about 1 hour.

    While dough is rising, melt margarine and pour it into a large bowl.  Allow to cool 12-20 minutes. When cool, add egg yolks one at a time and mix well.  Add sponge to egg yolk mixture and beat well for 10-15 minutes.

    Add sugar and 1/2 cup lukewarm non-dairy creamer, stirring continuously.  When completely mixed, add 2 1/2 cups of flour in a little at a time, continuing to stir mixture.  Once all of the flour has been added, continue kneading until the dough detaches from the sides of the bowl.  

    If you are adding the pumpkin and this is your first time making this recipe, add all of the flour as if you were not making pumpkin sufganiyot at this point. You need to feel what texture the dough should have. Now you can add the pumpkin and more flour until the dough is back to the original texture.

    Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise in a warm place until double in bulk, about 1 1/2 hours.
    Sprinkle remaining 1/4 cup flour over board and place dough on it.  Gently roll out with a rolling pin to 1/4 inch thickness.  With a 2-inch cookie cutter or glass rim, cut out 28 circles.  On 14 circles, place 1 teaspoon jam or pastry cream.  Moisten edges with finger dipped in a glass of water.  Cover circles with remaining 14 circles.  Pinch edges together firmly.  

    If you are making doughnut holes instead of filled sufganiyot, scoop 1 tablespoon of dough, roll between your floured palms, and place on the floured board.

    Cover and let rise 1 hour.

    Heat the vegetable oil in a deep frying pan.  Deep fry each doughnut 1/2 minute on each side.  Remove with slotted spoon and drain on paper towels.  Once cooled, sprinkle with powdered sugar or roll in the pumpkin pie sugar mix.

    Proofed yeast with 1/2 cup flour.

    After the first rise.

    After the second rise.

    Last year: I used cherry, blackberry, and lemon curd as the fillings.

    Frying the sufganiyot.

    Letting the oil drain.

    This year: pumpkin sufganiyot.

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