Shabbat Shalom and Happy Valentine’s Day! I’m not too sentimental when it comes to Valentine’s Day, but if my husband feels the inclination to buy me flowers, I certainly won’t object.
I often bake with my grandchildren and for Valentine’s Day we usually make some heart-shaped cookies and decorate them with sprinkles and chocolate candies. If I’m baking from scratch, I make sugar cookies, which are ideal for decorating. I use the recipe for Sugar Cookies from Daphna Rabinovitch’s award-winning book The Baker in Me.
Rabinovitch was a speaker at a Canadian food history event I attended last Sunday at Fort York in Toronto. The annual Hungry for Comfort, is an educational day organized by the Fort York National Historic Site/ City of Toronto Museums to celebrate the food history of various groups of Canadians, and about 100 people attended.
This year, the focus was on the culinary stories of the various Jewish communities across Canada. There were speakers, cooking and baking workshops, a vegetarian lunch and loads of baked goods prepared from Canadian Jewish cookbooks. I ate well – too well.
I also spoke at this event. I gave an overview of the roots of Canadian Jewish food traditions and I relied heavily on two Canadian books – Rhapsody in Schmaltz by Michael Wex and Save the Deli by David Sax, as well as an article written by CJN contributor, Cynthia Gasner, about her childhood memories of Kensington Market.
At the event, Daphna Rabinovitch welcomed people and she also gave a very interesting, and quite academic, history of challah tracing its origins from biblical times. Later, Doris Fin gave a workshop on challah making.
Rosalin Krieger, an ethno-cultural food guide, spoke about the Jewish comfort foods she ate growing up in the area around Baycrest.
The fourth speaker, Aharon Ozery, co-owner of Parallel (a popular Israeli restaurant) and its head chef, George Grabsky, gave a demo on tahini. The lunch – falafel, babaganoush, hummus, salad and sandwiches – was catered by Parallel.
There was even a challah baking contest, which was organized by the Culinary Historians of Canada. The door prizes included an assortment of Jewish cook books – Kosher Style by Amy Rosen; The Baker In Me (Rabinovitch) and The Brain Boosting Diet: Feed Your Memory by Norene Gilletz.
Throughout the day, attendees were plied with refreshments. The baked goods were mainly made from Jewish cookbook recipes.
Bagels from Primrose Bagel Co. could be schmeered with mixed herb cream cheese and salmon spread made from recipes from Kosher Style.
There was a sour cream coffee cake from a recipe by Susan Silverman, which appeared in UJA’s community cookbook, The Bathurst St. Kitchen.
Also on offer was an apple cake made from Lillian Kaplun’s Kitchen, and hamantashen from a recipe from The Complete Canadian Living Baking Book.
After lunch there were workshops accompanied by two historical recipes. An old cheesecake recipe was demoed by culinary historian, Bridget Wranich, and cakes from Esther Levy’s 1871 cookbook, The Jewish Cookery Book, were prepared by Mya Sangster and John Hammond.
Joel Levy, a professional baker, taught hamantashen making, while Joanne Yolles, a baking instructor at George Brown College, gave a ruggelach making demo. (As a match for this workshop, I have included a recipe for Apricot Rugelach from Desserts by Bonnie Stern.
Adell Shneer, a baker, food stylist and artist led a kreplach workshop with Canadian food icon, Elizabeth Baird, longtime editor of the magazine, Canadian Living. The kreplach were actually served with kosher schmaltz.
Shneer said her kreplach recipe (seen below) comes from her maternal grandmother, Sarah Taradash. “When I was a little girl, she showed me how to fold them using a paper napkin,” Shneer recalled. “We stood side by side making kreplach. I fondly recall eating them straight out of the boiling water slathered with schmaltz and sprinkled with salt.”
SUGAR COOKIES (Daphna Rabinovitch)
560 ml (2 ¼ cups) all-purpose flour
2 ml (½ tsp) baking powder
1 ml ( ¼ tsp) salt
3/4 vanilla bean
250 ml (1 cup) butter softened (250 g/ 8 oz)
250 ml (1 cup) granulated sugar
1 large egg at room temperature
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl and set aside.
Scrape the seeds from the vanilla bean into the sugar, making sure the seeds are distributed evenly. Let it stand for 5 minutes.
In a bowl of stand mixer fitted with a paddle attachment or using a hand-held mixer, beat the butter for 5 minutes. Beat in the sugar for 3 minutes, and then scrape down the dough. Beat in the egg and remove the bowl from the stand.
With a wooden spoon, stir the flour mixture into the butter mixture just until incorporated. Remove the dough at a work surface. Divide the dough in half. Wrap each half in plastic wrap and flatten into a disc. Refrigerate for up to 24 hours.
Preheat the oven to 350°F (180°C). Line 2 cookie sheets with parchment paper.
Lightly flour your work space. Working with 1 disc of dough at a time, roll out each disc to 6 mm or 1/4 -inch thickness. Cut out desired shapes. Transfer the cookies to the prepared cookie sheet.
Bake 1 sheet of cookies at a time in the centre of the preheated oven until the cookies turn golden brown around the edges, about 8-9 minutes. Transfer the cookies to a wire rack to cool completely. Repeat with the remaining cookie dough, re-rolling scraps only once. Cool the pans slightly before adding the unbaked dough to them.
The cookies can be stored in an airtight container at room temperature for up to 10 days.
APRICOT ALMOND RUGGELACH (Bonnie Stern)
250 ml (1 cup) all-purpose flour
125 ml (½ cup) butter, cold
125 g (4 oz) cream cheese, cold
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/4 teaspoon salt
125 ml (½ cup) apricot jam
60 ml ( ¼ cup) white sugar
125 ml (½ cup) toasted almonds
5 ml (1 tsp) lemon zest
75 ml 1/3 cup course granulated sugar or chopped nuts
sifted icing sugar
Pastry: Place flour in a large bowl. Cut butter into small pieces and rub into the flour with your fingers or pastry blender. Cut cream cheese into small pieces and rub into the flour mixture with your fingers or pastry blender. Knead until a ball forms.
Cut the dough in half. Wrap each half with plastic wrap and refrigerate.
Filling: Stir jam until it is spreadable. In a bowl, combine sugar, nuts, apricots, and zest.
On lightly floured surface, roll out each piece of chilled dough. The larger and thinner the piece, the crispier the dough will be. Each circle should be 23 cm (9-inch) round in diameter. Spread each circle with jam and sprinkle with the almond mixture.
Cut each circle into 12 wedges. Roll up each wedge from the outside edge. Turn the edges slightly to form a crescent. Place them on a parchment-lined baking sheet about 2.5 cm (1 inch) apart. Repeat until all the cookies are shaped.
Preheat the oven to 180°C (350 °F)
Beat the egg and brush the cookies with the beaten egg. Sprinkle with the course sugar chopped nuts.
Bake the cookies for 20 to 25 minutes or until they are golden. Cool on racks and dust with icing sugar.
Makes 24 cookies. Store tightly in a covered container.
KREPLACH (Sarah Taradash)
Yield: about 40 kreplach (with some leftover filling)
40 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
1 onion, finely chopped
500 g (1 lb) cooked brisket, cut into chunks
1 ml (¼ tsp) each salt and pepper
500 ml (2 cups) all-purpose flour
30 ml (2 tbsp) vegetable oil
105 ml (1/3 cup + 2 tbsp) cold water (approx.)
Filling: In skillet, heat oil over medium heat. Sauté onions until golden, 5-7 minutes. Let cool.
In bowl of food processor, pulse brisket chunks until chopped fine. Add sautéed onion, egg, salt and pepper until pulse and well combined. Add 15 – 30 ml (1-2 tbsp) water. Pulse and set aside. (Make ahead: Store in airtight container. Refrigerate up to 2 days or freeze for up to two weeks.)
Dough: Place flour in bowl. In measuring cup, whisk together egg, oil and water.
Pour egg mixture over flour and stir with fork to make a ragged dough. Add more water by teaspoon (if needed), to make a stiff dough. Knead until smooth. Wrap in plastic wrap and set aside for 30 to 45 minutes. (This is to let the gluten relax so that the dough is easier to roll).
On lightly floured surface, roll dough to scant ¼-inch thickness. Cut dough into 2-inch squares.
Place scant 1 tsp filling into centre of square of dough. Brush two inside edges lightly with water. Bring opposite corners of dough up and over filling. Pinch edges together to make triangle. Pinch two points of triangle together to join.
Bring a large saucepan of salted water to boil. Add kreplach, about 10 at a time, and boil for 5 minutes or until dough is tender and filling is hot.
Drain with slotted spoon and slather with schmaltz or a little vegetable oil to prevent sticking. Repeat with remaining kreplach. Makes 40 kreplach.
To freeze: Arrange on baking sheet so they are not touching each other. Freeze until firm, at least 6 hours. Store in airtight containers until ready to use. Thaw and add to soup.