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Celebrating Chanukah – Potato & Chives Latkes

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays, Vegetables On December 4, 2010 9 Comments

Lasting eight days, Chanukah, also known as the “Festival of Lights”, is a Jewish holiday  which commemorates the rededication of the Holy Temple (Second Temple) in Jerusalem. At Chanukah, one of the traditions occurring in Jewish homes is the lighting of a candle on a Menorah – a candelabrum – in a prayer at dinnertime. Over the years, I have been invited to my Jewish friends’ homes in order to participate in such a joyous celebration.

A popular side dish served at Chanukah dinners consists of potato pancakes called “latkes”. Latkes are crunchy on the outside and deliciously sweet inside. I finally learned how to make them with an added accent of chives. Serve these latkes as tradition has it – with applesauce and sour cream. Enjoy.

Active prep time: 10 to 15 minutes
Inactive prep time: 4 minutes
Cook time: 16 minutes
Makes: 6 to 7 latkes

Ingredients:
1 pound Russet potatoes (approx. one large)
1 small white or brown onion
1 teaspoon salt
1 large egg
Dash ground black pepper
1 tablespoon all-purpose, unbleached flour
1 to 2 tablespoons minced fresh chives
¼ cup vegetable oil
¼ cup olive oil
8 ounces (1 cup) ready-made applesauce
8 ounces (1 cup) sour cream

1. Peel and grate potato into a large bowl with cold water. Peel and grate the onion into the same bowl; stir in ½ teaspoon of the salt. Let mixture soak 1 to 3 minutes.

2. Meanwhile, in a 4-quart mixing bowl, beat together the egg, remaining ½ teaspoon of salt, black pepper, flour and chives. Set aside.

3. Drain the potato-onion mixture in a colander, pressing down to remove excess water.

4. Transfer the drained potato-onion mixture to a cheesecloth or clean white kitchen towel; roll up and squeeze out excess water.

5. Stir the potato and chives into the egg mixture and blend with a fork until uniform.

6. Heat both oils in a 12-inch, nonstick skillet until oil is hot but not smoking.

7. Measure ¼-cup potato mixture into hands and form a round, flattish shape.

8. Place the flattened potato mixture in hot oil, pressing down with a spatula to form a 4-inch pancake (latke).

9. Measure and prepare 2 more flattened potato mixtures in skillet and cook 3 to 4 minutes per side, on medium-high heat, until latkes are golden brown.

10. Drain on paper towels on a platter.

11. Serve latkes hot, accompanied by applesauce and sour cream. Latkes usually accompany beef brisket or other roasted meats.

Note: If oil is not hot enough, the latkes will be oily.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Pumpkin "Cheese" Cake

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On November 13, 2010 20 Comments

During the week before Thanksgiving I usually make pumpkin bread. This year, I reinvented this Autumn coffee go-with. I made a traditional pumpkin cake with an added cream cheese filling. Some of the white flour has been substituted with whole wheat flour. And, although I eliminated the oil, this dessert is still moist and scrumptious. Serve this “no fuss” cake for Thanksgiving – and don’t forget the coffee!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 40 to 50 minutes
Makes: One 10-inch cake

FOR THE CREAM CHEESE CAKE FILLING:
One 8-ounce package cream cheese, softened at room temperature
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg

1. In a 2-cup mixing bowl and with a hand mixer, beat together the cream cheese, sugar and egg.

2. Set aside until ready to assemble into the raw cake batter.

FOR THE CAKE:
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup whole wheat flour
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 teaspoon allspice
One 15-ounce can pumpkin
1 cup nonfat, plain yogurt
4 large eggs
1 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 cup (4 ounces) Dulce de Leche*

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Grease and flour an 10-inch round spring form pan and set aside.

2. In a 4-cup mixing bowl, combine the flours, salt, baking powder, cinnamon and allspice; set aside.

3. Meanwhile, in a 2-cup mixing bowl, using a hand mixer or a stand mixer fitted with a bowl, beat together the cream cheese, sugar and egg; set aside.

4. In a 3 or 4-quart mixing bowl, mix together the pumpkin, yogurt, eggs, sugar and vanilla on low speed.

5. Gradually add the combined dry ingredients to the pumpkin mixture and beat at low speed until the batter is uniform, about 1 to 2 minutes.

6. Pour half of the pumpkin batter into the prepared pan, spreading it evenly with a spatula; set aside.

7. Spoon the cream cheese mixture evenly over batter in pan followed by remaining half of pumpkin batter. Make sure the top pumpkin batter layer covers the cream cheese mixture evenly.

8. Place springform pan with batter on a rack positioned in center of oven and bake 40 to 50 minutes.

9. After 40 minutes, check doneness of cake by inserting a pointed knife in its center. If knife has sticky batter around it, bake cake for an additional 5 minutes. Check doneness once more. Knife inserted should come out clean. If not, bake another 5 minutes.

10. Cool cake completely in spring form pan on counter.

11. If making a day ahead, cover pan with aluminum foil and refrigerate. Remove cake from refrigerator 2 hours before serving.

FOR THE CAKE GARNISH:
5-Minute Sweetened Whipped Cream (found in our recipes, under Desserts, Creams & Sauces)

1. When cake is completly cook and at serving time, remove sides of spring form pan and set cake on a platter (do not remove cake from pan bottom). 

2. Serve individual pieces of cake on your guests’ plates, topped with a drizzle of dulce de leche and the whipped cream.

*Dulce de leche is a caramel sauce from Argentina and can be found in Latin American supermarkets. It is usually packaged and sold in a 15-ounce glass or plastic jar.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Halloween Tombs & Cupcakes

In Cakes & Cupcakes, Holidays On October 6, 2010 2 Comments

A few weeks ago, I was shopping at an arts and crafts store and noticed candy molds for skeletons and cakes. Making Halloween desserts with such fun decorations is a great art project for kids and adults. You’ll have a blast assembling the tombs and decorating the cupcakes. During this graveyard project, you won’t be able to resist tasting the candies and cakes. However, be sure to leave a few for your guests!

Prep time: 45 minutes (for the green skeleton candies & cupcakes)
Bake time: 25 minutes
Frosting time: 15 minutes
Makes: 8 tombs & 8 cupcakes

MAKE THE SKELETON CANDIES:
One 14-ounce bag Wilton® White Candy Melts
4 drops green food color
Pastry bag fitted with a star tip
Skeleton design candy molds

1. Melt the candies in a double boiler or in a microwave (follow microwave directions on package).

2. Using a wooden spoon, immediately stir the green food color into melted candy.

3. Set container with melted candy on a counter to cool 5 to 8 minutes.

4. Carefully spoon the melted candy into the bottom of a pastry bag fitted with a star tip.

5. Squeeze the pastry bag to overfill each skeleton mold – the top of each mold should look like it has a cloud of melted candy over it. Using a long metal spatula, scrape off the extra candy.

6. Set the mold in freezer, about 8 to 10 minutes or until candies have hardened.

7. Unmold candies onto a flat surface and set aside. Repeat filling the mold, freezing and unmolding the hardened candies until there are enough candy parts to form 8 complete skeletons.

8. If making ahead, set the skeleton candies in layers with paper towels in between each candy layer – inside a sealable plastic container. Make sure the candies do not touch. Freeze candies until ready to use.

FOR THE TOMBS & CUPCAKES:
5 mini loaf pans (5 X 3 X 1-7/8), greased and floured
8 Halloween baking cups, set in a muffin baking pan
One box Devil’s Food cake mix (1 lb. 2.25 oz.)
One Wilton® Orange Decorating Icing tube (4.25 oz.)
Decorating Plastic Tips to attach to icing tube
Halloween candies or decorations

1. Preheat oven to 350˚F. Prepare cake mix per package directions.

2. Pour a scant 2/3 cup cake batter into each loaf pan and divide remaining batter evenly among 8 baking cups set in a muffin pan.

3. Set the loaf pans on bottom oven rack. Set the muffin pan on top oven rack.

4. Bake 18 to 20 minutes or until knife inserted in center of loaves and cupcakes comes out clean. If knife is coated with batter, bake an additional 5 minutes.

5. Transfer the loaf pans and muffin pan with cupcakes to a counter to cool completely. Unmold the loaves.

6. If making a day ahead, set loaves and cupcakes on a flat plate. Cover them with aluminum foil wrap and set aside on counter overnight.

PREPARE THE FROSTING & GARNISH:

1. With loaves right side up, horizontally slice off the rounded tops.

2. Set two of the sliced-off tops in a bowl and crumble – this will be used as edible earth around the loaves or tombs.

3. Arrange candies in each of the 8 tombs to form a complete skeleton and set aside.

4. Frost the cupcakes with the orange icing tube (fitted with a decorator tip).

5. Arrange tombs and cupcakes on a large platter with crumbled “earth” around them. Add Halloween candies as part of the decoration.

Happy Halloween!

Note: White Candy Melts, candy molds, pastry bags, premade orange frosting tubes, decorator tip attachments and Halloween baking cups can be found at party supply and/or arts and crafts stores.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Columbus Day Corn Bread

In Breads, Crêpes, Pancakes & Puddings, Holidays On September 29, 2010 0 Comments

Lately, I’ve been thinking of our October holiday honoring Christopher Columbus who arrived in America in 1492. I imagined him stepping off his ship in America, encountering an indigenous culture and new culinary delights – some made with corn or "maize". This idea inspired me to kick up our usual cornbread recipe with different ingredients. To test my invention, I recently brought this cornbread to work and set it on our kitchen counter. Everyone seemed to like it because it disappeared in under an hour – Happy Columbus Day!

Prep time: 20 minutes
Bake time: 25 to 30 minutes
Servings: 12 to 14

Ingredients:
1 small zucchini, cut in chunks
1 small carrot, cut in chunks
1/2 red bell pepper, cut in chunks
2 tablespoons vegetable oil
1 teaspoon salt
1-1/4 cup yellow cornmeal
1-1/4 cup all-purpose, unbleached flour
1-1/2 tablespoons baking powder
2 large eggs
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup milk (whole or 2% milk fat)

1. Heat oven to 400˚F. Grease and flour a 9-inch spring form pan or regular cake pan; set aside.

2. In a food processor, pulse-blend the zucchini, carrot and bell pepper chunks until chopped but not mashed; set aside.

3. In a 12-inch nonstick skillet, heat the 2 tablespoons oil and stir fry the chopped vegetables on medium high heat for 1 to 2 minutes.

4. Stir in 1/4 teaspoon salt, transfer the vegetables to a plate and set aside to cool.

5. Meanwhile, in a 2-quart mixing bowl, combine the remaining 3/4 teaspoon salt, cornmeal, flour and baking powder; set aside.

6. In a 4-quart mixing bowl, with a wire whisk, mix the eggs and sugar until uniform.

7. Stir in the oil and milk. With a wooden spoon, add the combined dry ingredients and mix until blended – do not overmix.

8. Gently stir the cooled vegetables into the batter; pour batter into prepared pan.

9. Set the pan on a rack positioned in center of oven for 25 minutes.

10. After 25 minutes, check doneness by inserting a pointed knife in center of cornbread – knife should come out clean. If knife has wet batter around it, bake cornbread for an additional 5 minutes.

11. Remove cornbread from oven and set on a counter to cool. When it is warm, loosen and remove spring form pan sides and slice the cornbread. If using a regular cake pan, loosen sides of cornbread with a knife and flip onto a flat plate. Slice and serve.

Enjoy the warm cornbread with soups, stews or chili.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real

Easter Biscotti

In Cookies, Candies & Sweets, Holidays On April 1, 2010 6 Comments

These biscotti were inspired by a traditional recipe my maternal grandmother Nonna Nuccia used to make. Every year, during Easter week, Nonna made a panettone (an Italian sweet bread) decorated with multicolored nonpareil candies. My biscotti logs are sprinkled with the same candies and when sliced, they surprise you just like Easter eggs.

Prep time: 30 minutes
Bake time: 30 to 40 minutes
Makes: 4 to 4-1/2 dozen biscotti

Ingredients:
3-1/2 cups all-purpose, unbleached flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon sea salt
1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon (use lesser amount for a lighter flavor)
4 large eggs
1-3/4 cups granulated sugar
1/2 cup vegetable oil
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
2/3 cup shelled raw pistachios
1/2 cup dried blueberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
1/2 cup chopped dried apricots (cut into 1/4-inch pieces)
1/3 cup dried cranberries
1 egg yolk, mixed with 1 teaspoon water (for egg wash)
Multicolored nonpareil candies (for decoration)

1. Preheat the oven to 350°F. Grease and flour two 12 X 18-inch baking sheets and set aside.

2. Combine the flour, baking powder, salt and cinnamon in a medium bowl and set aside.

3. In a large mixing bowl and with a hand mixer, beat together the eggs, sugar, oil and vanilla extract on medium speed until well blended.

4. Stir in the pistachios, blueberries, raisins, apricots and cranberries.

5. With mixer set on low speed, gradually add the flour mixture (1 cup at a time) to the wet ingredients, mixing well after each addition.

6. Transfer the dough onto a smooth, floured surface and, with lightly-floured hands, lightly knead the dough until smooth and uniform.

7. Divide the dough into 4 equal pieces. Form each piece into a log measuring 14 inches long by 2 inches wide.

8. Transfer the two logs onto each prepared sheet, at least 2 inches apart.

9. Gently press each log to flatten slightly. Using a pastry brush, lightly coat each log with the egg wash.

10. Sprinkle each log abundantly with the nonpareil candies.

11. Bake logs, 10 minutes and then invert sheets (transfer sheet from upper rack to lower rack and vice versa).

12. Bake logs 15 minutes longer or until golden and they firm to the touch. If logs are too soft, bake an additional 5 minutes.

13. Transfer sheets to a wire rack or on the kitchen counter. Let logs cool in baking sheets for 6 to 8 minutes.

14. After 6 to 8 minutes, place logs on a cutting board and, using a sharp knife, cut logs crosswise and on a diagonal slant into 3/4-inch thick slices.

15. Arrange biscotti on the same baking sheets, cut-side down, in a single layer.

16. Return baking sheets with biscotti to oven and bake 4 to 5 minutes, turning biscotti over. After turning biscotti over, bake an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

17. Allow the biscotti to cool completely in baking sheets set on counter. Once cool, store the Easter Biscotti in double plastic freezer bags. They will keep frozen up to two months.

Text and Photographs ©2010 Nancy DeLucia Real
Photograph of Dove Candies ®, which are a registered trademark.