Passover Treats

It’s that time of year again – out with the baguettes, the croissants, the pain au chocolat, in with the matzohs, brisket and macaroons. Somehow giving up these leavened confections seems to much more difficult here in France, but luckily for me I’m headed to London for the first 4 days of Pesach, so I won’t be tempted too much. 

I have never been to London before. Actually, I’ve never been anywhere in England, so when my friend Jess invited me to her home in London for seder, I was thrilled! London is one of those places that I’ve always assumed I would go to but never set my mind on going. Now that I’m finally headed across the channel, I’m really starting to get excited. While I won’t be able to do all my usual culinary samplings because of Passover, I’d say it’s fortunate I’m not coming to Paris for the first time, as missing out on all the boulangeries here would be just sinful.  

All London is straight out of a Harry Potter film, right? 

Anyway, I thought I’d share with you a few of my favorite Passover recipes. Hopefully I’ll be able to whip something up before I hop on the train Friday morning or maybe I’ll be able to make something when we arrive 🙂 I’m going to head down to the Marais in a little bit (the Jewish section of Paris) to see what treats they might have on sale now! And I’m sure I’ll have a full update on London next week!

My award winning macaroons 

An easy flourless chocolate torte

Lemon meringue pie

And probably my favorite recipe at all (that I never get around taking pictures of) Caramel Matzoh

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Perfect Summer Lemonade

New York City in the summer just screams heat! The other day, I was sitting in my bed with sweat beads just falling down my head like nobodies business and I wasn’t even doing anything! The humidity never helps, but luckily NYC doesn’t often get to humid, just incredibly hot hot hot. I have been given the clear by my doctor to go into a pool now, so you know where I’ll be for the next three months. I’m thinking that summer 2011 is going to be another one for the record books, but it’s only the beginning of June, so who knows!

I’ve been trying so hard to drink more water in this heat. I’ve been starting to run again, so that motviates me even more to drink, as I often get some pretty bad headaches if I exercise while dehydrated. But when I want to kick back and enjoy the summer days, there is no better way to do that than with a nice tall glass of fresh lemonade. If you’re used to buying lemonade from the supermarket, stop now. Making your own lemonade can be a little bit tedious, but it’s so worth it. You can make it as sweet or as sour as you like and nothing quite beats fresh squeezed lemons!

When I make lemonade, I just throw together a simple sugar syrup – adding in some basil or mint for a nice herby surprise – throw that in with some fresh lemon juice (and lime if you’d like), a bottle of seltzer, and voila – fresh lemonade! The most difficult part about this whole ordeal is squeezing the lemons, but don’t skimp on store bought stuff. That extra teaspoon of sweat from all your work gives the lemonade that extra boost 😉 You don’t need to add seltzer, nice cold water will work too. I always make mine as a mixture of lemons and limes, but picking one citrus of the other will work perfectly as well. Drop some fresh mint and sliced lemons into your final product for garnish and you are sure to have a crowd pleaser.

FRESH LEMONADE

(Recipe by Me)

INGREDIENTS:

  • 2 cups lemon/lime juice (15 or so lemons and limes, depending on size)
  • 2 cups sugar
  • 1 cup water
  • fresh bunch of basil or mint
  • 2-4 cups cold water of seltzer
DIRECTIONS:
1) To make simple syrup, combine water, sugar, and basil or mint (or both) in a sauce pan. Simmer until sugar has dissolved – about 4 to 5 minutes. Allow mixture to cool. Discard herbs.
2) In a large glass measuring cup, squeeze lemons, until you have approximately two cups of juice.
3) In a large pitcher filled with ice, combine lemon juice, simple syrup and water or seltzer.
4) Add some fresh mint and sliced lemons to garnish and serve.

Long forgotten, but still remembered

I must apologize for my lack of updates in the recent months. I’ve had a few recent bumps in the road in terms of my health that have kept me from updating as often as I would have liked (take a look here for more information on that side of my life – http://abvdinnyc.wordpress.com/) I’ve been baking a bit here and there still, but with summer upon us, I’m looking forward to getting back into the swing of things baking-wise!

Instead of backtracking to find all the recipes I’ve used in the past month, I thought I’d just share some pictures that I have taken of my creations. We’ve had a few birthdays in the apartment, Passover, and the usual baking adventures. I also hosted a baking birthday party for some 6 and 7 year olds along with my roommate. It was loads of fun and if anyone is interested in having a baking party, let me know!  With school over in just a few days, my time will be opened up once again to try some new things this summer!

Coconut brownies made during a ski vacation in Vermont. 

Chocolate cake with caramel butter cream, chocolate ganache, and salted praline for my grandfathers birthday. 

Red velvet cupcakes with cream cheese frosting for my grandfathers birthday. 

Adventures in juice making with our lovely new juicer. 

Carrot, pineapple, and apple juice made at home. 

Lemon cheesecake cupcakes with glazed blueberry topping for a roomies birthday party. 

The birthday spread. 

The start of the most amazing meal I had while on spring break in France. 

The most perfect steak. 

Leading a six and seven year old baking birthday party. 
A sugar cookie baking adventure at a birthday party. 

Lemon Lime Bars

Sometimes, you have those nights, when it’s 9:30 pm, you want to bake something, but realize that anything you make is going to take almost an hour from start to finish (unless you make 5-minute cake of course). Well, that happened the other night and instead of settling on something that would actually be done in an hour, my roommates and I settled on lemon bars, which may take 10 minutes to bake, but then take another 2 hours to cool down in the fridge. Whoops! Well, we went forward anyway (actually, I didn’t realize they would have to cool for that long until I was half-way through making them, so there was no turning back).

The outcome – expedited by the freezer – was still delicious. I have a hard time in general with custards and this was no exception. I don’t think I let it heat up for long enough, making the lemon custard a little more liquidy than I would have liked, but after baking and freezing, it turned out just fine. I myself, am not the biggest sour lemon eater, but all my roommates, who suck on lemons as a hobby, said that they were the bars had the perfect balance of sweet and sour. I added coconut into the crust as per the recipe. I’m not sure it added anything to the crust, although mine wasn’t sweetned, so perhaps some sweet coconut would have tasted better and added to the texture. They are a delicious lemon lime bar that should be made in advance of any occasion, not in a rush 😉

LEMON LIME BARS

(Adapted from Baked: New Frontiers in Baking)

INGREDIENTS:

For the crust:

  • 1 cup sweetened shredded coconut
  • 2 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 2 tbs dark brown sugar
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, melter

For the lemon lime filling

  • 11 large egg yolks
  • 3 large eggs
  • 1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
  • 3/4 cup fresh lemon juice
  • 2 tbs fresh lime juice
  • 2 tbs grated lemon zest
  • 2 tbs grated lime zest
  • 3/4 cup unsalted butter, softened and cut into 1-inch pieces
  • 1/3 cup heavy cream

DIRECTIONS:

For the crust:

1) Preheat the oven to 3oo°F. Butter the side and bottom of a 9×13 inch baking pan or spray with nonstick cooking spray.

2) Spread coconut on baking pan. Toast in oven for 7 to 10 minutes until it turns golden brown. Remove from oven, toss the coconut, and return it to over for 3 more minutes.

3) Put the graham cracker crumbs in large bowl, add the toasted coconut and brown sugar, and toss with hand until combined. Add the melted butter.

4) Use hands to combine, then turn it out into the prepared pan. Using your hands, press the crust into an even layer on the bottom and up the sides of the pan. Use the bottom of a measuring cup to create a perfectly even crust.

5) Put the crust into the fridge for 15 minutes, then bake for 10 minutes or until golden. Let the crust cool before adding the filling.

For the lemon lime filling:

1) Increase over temperature to 325°F.

2) Whisk together the egg yolks, eggs, sugar, lemon and lime zests, and lemon and lime juices in large metal pot. Whisk until combined.

3) Cook over medium heat, whisking constantly, until the mixture registers 180°F on a candy thermometer – about 10 minutes.

4) Remove from heat and whisk in butter and cream. Pour through a fine-mesh sieve directly into the cooled crust. Use a rubber spatula to press the curd through the sieve.

5) Make sure the curd is evenly distributed. Tap the pan gently against the counter to make a level layer.

6) Bake for 8 to 10 minutes, until the filling is just set. Transfer to a wire rack and let cool to room temperature. Wrap the pan in plastic, being sure to not let the plastic touch the filling, and put in fridge for at least two hours.

7) Enjoy 🙂

Pour over the crust and bake for 30 to 35 minutes (less if you are using the thinner topping), or about five minutes beyond the point where the filling is set. Let cool to room temperature.

Cut into triangles and dust with confectioners’ sugar.

Lemon Meringue Pie

This past weekend, there were two birthdays in my suite. One on Friday and my roommates on Sunday. As joint venture between the two, we had a lovely little party on Saturday night. Since they are both known to like a little lemon, I decided to try a lemon meringue pie since I have never made one and I bought a tart pan weeks ago that I have been dying to use.

Since it’s still Passover, I decided to make a tart crust with cake meal, so that I would be able to eat it as well. After much research, and finally discovering that the cake meal box itself gave me the answer, I ventured into tart making territory knowing that I could subsititute 5/8 cup of cake meal for every 1 cup of regular flour. I found that the cake meal made the crust much more crumbly, so I wasn’t able to roll it out, but had to press it into the tart pan bit by bit. I know that this is a big no-no when making pie dough as it can cause shrinkage, but I had no choice.

Making lemon meringue pie is definitely a two day process unless you have ALL DAY to make it. On Friday I made the crust and curd and refrigerated it over night. I made the meringue the next afternoon, but it in the fridge again and it was perfect for serving later that evening. 10 minutes gave me the perfect brown over the meringue, but make sure the meringue stretches all the way to crust, or else it will start to shrink. I think it was a big hit for both the birthday girls and all the guests. I am definitely going to try it again after Passover with an actual flour crust, but it still makes an excellent Pesach treat 🙂

LEMON MERINGUE PIE

(Adapted from joyofbaking.com and ME)

DIRECTIONS:

crust:

  • 1 1/2 cups all purpose flour (I substituted 1 cup of cake meal)
  • 1/8-teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 cup unsalted butter, room temperature
  • 1/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 1 large egg, lightly beaten

lemon curd:

  • 3 large eggs
  • 1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
  • 3/4 cup granulated white sugar
  • 4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature and cut into small pieces
  • 1 tablespoon lemon zest

meringue:

  • 4 large egg whites
  • 1/2 cup plus 2 tablespoons white granulated sugar
  • 1/2 teaspoon cream of tartar

INSTRUCTIONS:

crust:

1) In a separate bowl, sift or whisk together the flour and salt.  Set aside.

2) Place the butter in your mixer and beat until softened.  Add sugar and beat until light and fluffy. Gradually add the beaten egg, beating just until incorporated.  Don’t over mix or the butter will separate and lighten in color.

3) Add flour mixture all at once and mix just until it forms a ball.  Don’t overwork or pastry will be hard when baked.

4) Flatten dough into disk, cover with plastic wrap, and refrigerate for about 30 minutes or until firm.

5) Have ready an 8 – 9 inch (20 – 23 cm) tart pan with removable bottom.  On a lightly floured surface, roll out the pastry into an 11 – 12 inch (28 – 30 cm) circle that is about 1/8 inch (3 mm) thick.  To prevent the pastry from sticking to the counter and to ensure uniform thickness, keep lifting up and turning the pastry a quarter turn as you roll (always roll from the center of the pastry outwards to get uniform thickness). To make sure it is the right size, take your tart pan, flip it over, and place it on the rolled out pastry.  The pastry should be about an inch larger than pan. (I had much issue with using cake flour. If you do use cake flour, you can try using cake flour, otherwise, I just pressed pieces into the tart pan)

6) When the pastry is rolled to the desired size, lightly roll pastry around your rolling pin, dusting off any excess flour as you roll.  Unroll onto top of tart pan.  Never pull pastry or you will get shrinkage (shrinkage is caused by too much pulling of the pastry when placing it in the pan).

7) Gently lay in pan and with a small floured piece of pastry, lightly press pastry into bottom and up sides of pan.  Roll your rolling pin over top of pan to get rid of excess pastry.  With a thumb up movement, again press dough into pan.  Roll rolling pin over top again to get rid of any extra pastry.

8 ) Prick bottom of dough (this will prevent the dough from puffing up as it bakes).

9) Cover and refrigerate for about 20 minutes to chill the butter and to rest the gluten in the flour.

10) Preheat oven to 400 degrees F and place rack in center of oven.  Line unbaked pastry shell with parchment paper or aluminum foil.

11) Fill tart pan with pie weights, rice or beans, making sure the weights are to the top of the pan and evenly distributed over the entire surface.

12) Bake the crust for 20 to 25 minutes or until the crust is dry and lightly golden brown.

lemon curd:

1) While the crust is baking make the Lemon Curd.

2) In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended.  Cook, whisking constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes pale in color and quite thick. This will take about 10 minutes.

3) Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps.

4) Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted.

5) Add the lemon zest.  Immediately pour the lemon curd into the baked crust and smooth the top.

6) Reduce the oven temperature to 350 degrees F.

7) Bake the tart for about 10 minutes or until the lemon curd is firm but still a little wobbly in the center.  Do not let it brown or burn.

meringue:

1) In a clean bowl of your electric mixer, with the whisk attachment, beat the egg whites until foamy.  Add the cream of tartar and continue beating until soft peaks form.

2) Gradually add the sugar and continue to whip until stiff peaks form.

3) Using a spoon, place dollops of the meringue over the entire surface of the hot lemon curd, starting at the outside edge of the tart.  (Make sure the meringue comes right up to the crust and there are no gaps between the crust and the lemon curd.)

4) Then, with the back of your spoon, gently press down on the meringue to get rid of any air pockets and to make sure all the lemon curd is covered with the meringue.  If desired, swirl the meringue making a few decorative peaks.

5) Return the tart to the oven and bake for about 10 to 15 minutes or until the meringue has nicely browned.

6) Remove from oven and place on a wire rack to cool, away from any drafts.  When cool, serve or else cover and refrigerate.