Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Orange Blossom Peach Pavlova with Chestnut Cream & Praline



Shalom foodies :)

I feel like talking to you about Jerusalem today. Not exactly the Yotam Ottolenghi JERUSALEM cookbook, but rather the Jerusalem that resonates in my fondest childhood memories.

In the 1970's, along with thousands of Sephardi families, my grandparents left Casablanca to establish themselves in Israel. They settled in Bayit VeGan Jerusalem, a mountain top neighborhood east of Mount Herzl, ten minutes from Israel's official Holocaust memorial, the Yad Vashem. 

My grandparents had two kitchens...  a  dairy one and a meat one, talk about kosher foodies ;) I was 9 years old the first time I traveled to Jerusalem, and these are some of the best childhood memories I have. The view from my grandparent's dira/apartment was breathtaking, overseeing a sea of Jerusalem stone buildings, and an oval-shaped Knesset beaming out. Every Friday night, the sirens sang to bring in the Sabbath, certain streets, including mine on Harav Uziel were blocked so no cars can drive by for the next 25 hours. There was this little makolet/shop in my grandparent's building where I discovered lebens/milk product for the first-time, and met the owner's daughter, who soon became my vacation buddy with whom I communicated in a Hebglish  (hebrew-english) of some kind lol.

So whats the perk of being a kosher kid in Israel for the first time? You hit culinary jackpot, experiencing food everywhere you go. I felt like singing "FREEDOM!" and taste EVERYTHING! I had my first piece of coca-cola flavored Bazooka gum or artik /ice pops, real-deal street food falafel, shawarmas, sesame baguettes, matzah pizza... and yes Cafe Rimon spaghetti, my favorite restaurant in the entire world, literally.

This one's for Joan Nathan. Mini-me
with the Mayor of Jerusalem, Teddy Kollek.
Famous Jewish food cookbook author Joan Nathan, earned a master's in public administration from Harvard University, and for three years she lived in Israel where she worked for Mayor Teddy Kollek of Jerusalem. In her book "The Foods of Israel Today," she expresses how food is a way to mend bridges and foster peace. And I totally agree, I hope this post can resonate peacefully with all those who come across it.

Eating aside, Mahane Yehuda shouk/market not only had the best quality fruits or veggies one can taste, it was the perfect place for any 9 year old foodie to hone down on her grocery bargaining skills.. though not really applicable in North America for some reason. :) Aside from my fascination with suspended unplucked chickens, I discovered my all-time favorite Israeli delicacy, sweet roasted pecans

A glimpse of Mahane Yehuda Photo credit:
http://www.inisrael.com/news/?p=708
And hear you have it, my inspiration for today's recipe. Yotam shares a nice rose water pistachio meringue recipe in his Ottolenghi cookbook, I thought, orange blossom meringue right away. Then I thought, I need a topping... and my imagination went BERSERK (can't help it)... creme de marron/ chestnut cream, caramelized peaches, whip cream, and of course sweet pecan crunch, UM... UMMMMM! So here you have it, a labor of sweetness, a new age sephardi delicacy. Enjoy a taste of my childhood, inspired by Jerusalem.

Look at these beauties


INGREDIENTS

Serves 8-10

For the meringue, Martha Stewart's recipe
  • 6 large egg whites, room temperature
  • Pinch of cream of tartar
  • 1 1/2 cups superfine sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cornstarch
  • 1/8 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon champagne vinegar or white-wine vinegar
  • 1 teaspoons of orange blossom essence (optional if you are not a fan)
For the peaches
  • 3 peaches, sliced
  • 2 tbsp of sugar to taste
  • 2 tbsp of butter
  • 1/2 cup of chestnut creamI buy this one at Cité Casher
  • 1/2 cup of whip cream (optional), store bought or homemade
For the Praline Clusters
  • 1/3 cup of pecans
  • 1/3 cup of sugar
  • 1 tbsp butter
  • dash of kosher salt

INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Make the meringue: Preheat oven to 250 degrees. Draw 8 -10 circle shapes  onto a piece of parchment. Turn parchment over, and use it to line a baking sheet. Beat egg whites and cream of tartar with a mixer until soft peaks form. Gradually beat in superfine sugar, then cornstarch and salt, beating until stiff, glossy peaks form. Fold in vinegar and orange blossom
  2. Using drawing as a guide, gently mound meringue on parchment; smooth sides. Bake 1 to 1 1/2 hours. Gage it. Turn heat off, and let meringue cool in oven.
  3. Make the peaches: in a sauteing pan, on medium, melt the butter in a saucepan, sauté the peaches then melt in the sugar, reduce to medium low-heat, you don't want to over cook them. 
  4. Make the praline crunch: melt your better in a sauté pan, melt the sugar so that it caramelizes, once done, toss your pralines and mix well so that they are caramelized. Remove them from place and let cool. Once cool, hammer them! kidding :) Just chop them into bits. not too thin not too small, you want crunch. 
  5. Now the assembly: Take your  meringues, smear chestnut cream, then smear whipping cream, place your peaches and then top them with your pralines, and voila! There you have it, my version of a delicious Sephardi, and Moroccan, yummy dessert!



Tuesday, July 7, 2015

The Sugar Box Baker

Le Journal de Montreal is giving Kosher a bad name by publishing headlines that downgrade local Kosher eateries and bakeries. Not cool!  I see a bigger picture here. When it comes to Kosher bashing, I got its back... they're messing with the wrong mama. I won't let them put our Kosher spirits down!

NO WAY!  More so, I will continue to SHARE the Joys of Kosher in Montreal! I will OVERCOME their kosher harassment! I will continue to CELEBRATE local kosher cuisine! I will climb-up Mount-Royal and shout "SHOW ME THE KOSHER $^&%*$@!"...um on second thought, that's weird - won't do that. 

But I will continue to feature the amazing people who not only elevate kosher or bring Kosher sweetness into the world, but do so while raising a "gang" of beautiful children. Today's post will feature one of my favorite bakers (and high school classmate), Sabrina, AKA The Sugar Box Baker.

S.B. Beautiful home garden filled with herbs, peppers, tomatoes..





I thought I was living a busy life until I entered Sabrina's kitchen. This mother of six children, is not only a household manager, chauffeur, housewife, but more so, she's a self-taught professional home-baker who sells stunning kosher cakes, cookies, cupcakes and other pastries for all of us to enjoy. Power to her!


A glimpse of  some of The Sugar Box's creations. On the bottom second to left, is Sabrina's most challenging cake,
The Seinfeld Topsy Turvy cake.

Though she prides herself as a cook rather than a baker, Sabrina's baking journey began a few years back after she baked her first cake, an M&M one for her cousin's birthday. The family raved and then
voilà, her cake gave light to a new baking business, The Sugar Box.

Sabrina proceeds with hafrashat challah custom. 

UP-CLOSE WITH THE SUGAR BOX BAKER

To see more of her creations visit her Facebook page. I had a chance to ask Sabrina's impressions on Montreal Kosher food, and life, here is what she had to say:

L.P. What food would you like to see made Kosher in Montreal?
S.B.: So many things! More meat choices, as in better cuts, hormone-free and artisanal sausages. Also, more accessible chalav yisroel quality products such as better ice cream and cheeses all year long (not just Passover lol). I could go on and on...

L.P.: If you can bake a cake for anybody, who would it be and why?
S.B.: My grandfather. He was a truly gifted artist of his own right. He was a jeweler who made everything by hand and I would be proud to show him that I too found my artistic side.

L.P. What is your favorite part about raising a family of 6?
S.B.: The noise and the laughter.

L.P.: What is your favorite Shabbat dish?
S.B.: My grand mother's stuffed red snapper with potatoes topped with caramelized tomatoes and crispy lemons. Yum! Yum! Yum!

L.P.: Your favorite quote is...
S.B.: Gam zo le'tova meaning "this too is for the good." ~ Talmud 

L.P.: What's your most unique cake you decorated
S.B.: I have a whole bunch of favorite cakes... Each time I push myself to do something new and challenging, and I succeed... that cake becomes a new favorite. My most challenging cake, by far, is my Seinfeld topsy turvy. 

Sabrina braids her Challah.... look at these beauties!
Every Thursday or Friday, Sabrina bakes her Challah for Shabbat, "No matter how busy I am, I make sure I bake my Challah for the blessing and mitzvah, its more important than the meal because I find that the following week flows much better after I bake." Here is Sabrina's favorite challah recipe, it's based on Rebbetzin Kanievsky’s recipe published in the Bais Ya'akov school cookbook. 

Lets all remember, no matter the negative portrayal of Kosher in the media,  we take pride in our values, the joy and spirit of keeping Kosher homes, baking our weekly challah, cooking for our families, this is at our core, something we can most definitely all be proud of. 


INGREDIENTS Yield: 6-10 challot
  • 6 cups very warm water
  • 4 tbsp. of quick rise dry yeast
  • 1 ¼ cups of sugar
  • 1 ¼ cups oil
  • 1 egg
  • 1 ½ tbsp. salt
  • 5 pounds flour (a 2.5 kg bag)
  • egg wash for glazing
  • Topping
6 strand challah breading & her family's favorite Challah topping
INSTRUCTIONS
  1. Mix water, yeast and sugar till bubbly.
  2. Add oil, egg and salt stir
  3. Add flour a little bit at a time let the dough rest about 5 minutes and then knead for about 10 minutes.
  4. Cover in plastic wrap (or big plastic bag) and let rise until almost double the volume
    (about half an hour to forty five minutes)
  5. Preheat your oven to 350 degrees
  6. Proceed with Hafrashat Challah
  7. Grease 5 to 6 loaf pans, depending on the size you prefer) and braid your challah.
  8. Cover again with plastic bag until well risen (about 45 minutes).
  9. Glaze with egg wash and your choice of topping. 
  10. Bake in a 350° preheated oven for 30 minutes

For more info visit The Sugarbox Montreal Facebook Page.