Good Shabbos, Shabbat Shalom…and Happy New Year! Everyone loves sweets, especially when gathered around the table with family and friends for Shabbat or for the holidays. Resolutions to lose weight and eat healthier meals have been put on the back burner, postponed until January 1st, 2018. It’s time to relax and indulge…you can start your diet tomorrow!
Award-winning author, Chef Yotam Ottolenghi, is widely beloved in the food world for his beautiful, inspirational, and award-winning cookbooks, as well as his London delis and fine dining restaurant. Although the Israeli-born, London-based chef is generally known for his savory and vegetarian dishes, he actually started out his cooking career as a pastry chef.
“Here is my confession: I rarely go a day without a slice or bite or square of something sweet.” –Yotam Ottolenghi.
His latest cookbook, Sweet (Appetite Books) was co-authored with his long-time friend and collaborator Helen Goh. Their cookbook is a baker’s dream, packed with 120 innovative recipes for delicious baked goods, desserts, and confections. From pavlova to cheesecake, you’ll drool over Rolled Pavlova with Peaches and Blackberries, Celebration Cake, Coffee and Walnut Financiers, Rum and Raisin Cake with Rum Caramel Icing, and Knickerbocker Glory (ice cream sundaes made with a homemade Semifreddo (no churning required)!
Sweet features scrumptious international treats that include Chocolate, Banana, and Pecan Cookies, Neapolitan Pound Cake, and Middle Eastern Millionaire’s Shortbread. There are incredible confections which include a sinful Cinnamon Pavlova with Praline Cream and Fresh Figs, Spiced Praline Meringues, Roasted Strawberry and Lime Cheesecake, and Flourless Chocolate Layer Cake with Coffee, Walnut, and Rosewater.
The exquisite photography is absolutely mouth-watering – the desserts almost jumps off the printed page and onto your plate! So, if you’re wondering what to buy with all those gift cards you got for Chanukah, make sure to include Sweet on your shopping list. It’s a must-have for home cooks.
Here are Ottolenghi’s and Goh’s creative spins on two well-loved favourites. Wishing you and your families a healthy, happy and Sweet 2018!!
TAHINI AND HALVA BROWNIES
The combination of tahini, halva and chocolate is so good that some members of their staff (Tara, we see you!) had to put a temporary personal ban on eating these particular brownies during the making of this book. It is very hard to eat just one. In order to achieve the perfect balance of cakey and gooey—that sweet spot that all brownies should hit—the cooking time is crucial. It will vary by a minute or so depending on where the pan is sitting in the oven, so keep a close eye on them.
1 cup plus 1 1/2 Tbsp unsalted butter, cut into 3/4-inch cubes, plus extra for greasing
9 oz/260 g dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids), broken into 1 1/2–inch/4-cm pieces
4 large eggs
1 1/3 cups/280 g granulated sugar
3/4 cup plus 3 Tbsp/120 g all-purpose flour
1/3 cup/30 g Dutch-processed cocoa powder
1/2 tsp salt
7 oz/200 g halva, broken into 3/4-inch/2-cm pieces
1/3 cup/70 g tahini paste
- Preheat the oven to 400°F/200°C. Grease your chosen pan and line with parchment paper, then set aside.
- Place the butter and chocolate in a heatproof bowl over a pan of simmering water, making sure that the base of the bowl is not touching the water. Leave for about 2 minutes to melt, then remove the bowl from the heat. Stir until you have a thick shiny sauce and set aside to come to room temperature.
- Place the eggs and sugar in a large bowl and whisk until pale and creamy and a trail is left behind when you move the whisk; this will take about 3 minutes with an electric mixer, longer by hand. Add the chocolate and fold through gently with a spatula—don’t overwork the mixture here.
- Sift the flour, cocoa powder and salt into a bowl, then gently fold into the chocolate mixture. Finally, add the pieces of halva, gently folding through the mix, then pour or scrape the mixture into the lined baking pan, using a small spatula to even it out. Dollop small spoonfuls of the tahini paste into the mix in about 12 different places, then use a skewer to swirl them through to create a marbled effect, taking the marbling right to the edges of the pan.
- Bake for about 23 minutes, until the middle has a slight wobble and it is gooey inside—they may be ready anywhere between 22 and 25 minutes. If using the 12 x 8-inch/30.5 x 20-cm pan, they will need a couple minutes less cooking time. They may seem a little undercooked at first, but they firm up once they start to cool down. If you want to serve them warmish (and gooey), set aside for just 30 minutes before cutting into 16 pieces. Otherwise, set aside for longer to cool to room temperature.
- They made these in a 9-inch/23 cm square baking pan, but a 12 x 8-inch/30.5 x 20-cm pan also works well.
- These will keep well for up to 5 days in an airtight container. They also freeze well, covered in plastic wrap, for up to a month. When you take them out of the freezer, they are uncommonly good eaten at the half-frozen, half-thawed stage.
Bonnie Stern, aka Yotam and Sami’s Canadian mother, has been looking after “her boys” since they started doing book tours in Canada. As well as being told which restaurants they need to try, Sami and Yotam have come to expect a bag of Bonnie’s exceptional rugelach. Filled with apricot jam, pecans and demerara sugar, they’re simple, brittle and perfectly buttery.
It’s the substitution of apricot jam with membrillo (quince paste) in their version that makes these Not-Quite-Bonnie’s, as well as the addition of the baking powder in the dough, which makes the pastry flakier. Apricot jam still works well, though (as is more widely available than membrillo) so feel free to use the jam, if you like. They’ve fallen for a number of rugelach over the years, from the yeasted varieties so popular in Israel to this flakier version, preferred in North America. The yeasted variety behaves more like bread and doesn’t keep as well as the flaky kind.
1 1/4 cups/160 g all-purpose flour
1/8 tsp salt
1/4 tsp baking powder
Finely grated zest of 1 small lemon (3/4 tsp)
Scraped seeds of 1/4 vanilla pod
1/2 cup plus 1 Tbsp/125 g unsalted butter, fridge-cold, cut roughly into 1-inch/3-cm cubes
1/3 cup/40 g walnut halves
1/2 packed cup plus 1 Tbsp/100 g light brown sugar
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
5 1/4 oz/150 g store-bought quince paste (membrillo) or apricot jam
1 tsp lemon juice
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 1/2 Tbsp demerara sugar
- To make the pastry, place the flour, salt, baking powder, lemon zest and vanilla seeds in a food processor and pulse for about 15 seconds to combine. Add the butter and pulse for a few seconds more, until the mixture has the texture of fresh breadcrumbs. Add the cream cheese and process just until the dough comes together in a ball around the blade (be careful not to over process or the pastry will be tough). Tip the dough onto a lightly floured work surface and knead for a few seconds, just to bring it together.
- Divide the pastry in two, cover each half loosely in plastic wrap, then press to flatten into disks. Transfer to the fridge for 1 hour.
- Preheat the oven to 350°F/180°C. Line two baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.
- To make the filling, spread the walnuts out on a rimmed baking sheet and roast for 5 minutes. Remove from the oven, set aside to cool, then chop finely and place in a small bowl with the brown sugar and cinnamon. Mix together and set aside.
- In a separate bowl, combine the quince paste and lemon juice to form a smooth paste. (If your quince paste is very firm, warm it gently over low heat to soften, [or heat for 10 seconds in a microwave], until the texture is thick like jam but spreadable, then set aside to cool before using).
- Take one of the pieces of dough from the fridge and roll out on a lightly floured work surface to form a 9 1/2-inch/24-cm circle, about 1/8-inch/3 mm thick. Use a small spatula or the back of a spoon to spread half of the quince paste evenly over the surface and then sprinkle with half of the sugar-nut mixture. Using a sharp knife or a pizza wheel, if you have one, cut the dough as though you are slicing a cake into twelve equal triangles. The best way to get even-sized triangles is to cut it first into quarters, then each quarter into thirds. One at a time, roll each wedge quite tightly, starting from the wide outside edge and working toward the point of the triangle, so that the filling is enclosed. Place them on the lined baking sheets, seam side down, spaced about 1 inch/3 cm apart. Repeat the rolling process with the remaining disk of dough and filling, then chill the rugelachs in the fridge for 30 minutes before baking.
- Increase the oven temperature to 400°F/200°C.
- When ready to bake, lightly brush the tops of the rugelachs with the beaten egg and sprinkle with the demerara sugar. Bake for 20–25 minutes, rotating the sheets halfway through, until golden brown all over. Don’t worry if some of the filling oozes out; this will add a lovely toffee taste to the edges of the cookies. Remove from the oven and allow to rest on the sheets for 5 minutes before transferring to a wire rack to cool completely.
- The addition of the baking powder here—and the fact that the dough is made in a food processor with a metal blade, rather than beaten in an electric mixer—makes the pastry light and flaky. The presence of the cream cheese also makes in a dream to roll.
- The pastry can be made a day ahead and kept in the fridge, or frozen for up to 3 months (remember to thaw it overnight in the fridge before using). The rolled rugelach can also be frozen (before glazing) for up to 3 months. When you are ready to bake them, brush with the glaze and bake from frozen, adding an extra minute or two to the cooking time.
- These will keep for up to 4 days in an open container, separated by pieces of parchment paper, and the whole thing wrapped loosely in aluminum foil. Don’t keep in an airtight container; the sugar will week if your do and turn the rugelach soft and sticky
*** NOTE: After publication of this story Ottolenghi found 21 errors in the North American edition of Sweet.Corrections can be found on the publisher’s website (crownpublishing.com/sweetupdate). People who purchased this edition (published under Appetite, Penguin Random House Canada) can get a replacement copy when a new edition comes out in the spring. Just email the publisher at [email protected]
Norene Gilletz is the leading author of kosher cookbooks in Canada. She is the author of twelve cookbooks and divides her time between work as a food writer, food manufacturer, consultant, spokesperson, cooking instructor, lecturer, and cookbook editor. Norene lives in Toronto, Canada and her motto is “Food that’s good for you should taste good!” For more information, visit her website at www.gourmania.com or email her at [email protected]