The World of Jewish Desserts: More Than 400 Delectable Recipes from Jewish Communities from Alsace to India

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Overview

Food can be an expression of who we are, and few foods have the power to please and uplift us as desserts do. In The World of Jewish Desserts, Gil Marks explores delicacies from Jewish communities around the world with more than 400 recipes that cover the full range -- culinary, geographical, ethnic, and cultural -- of Jewish desserts. This essential volume showcases the full spectrum of influences, offering desserts from both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions, and ...

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Overview

Food can be an expression of who we are, and few foods have the power to please and uplift us as desserts do. In The World of Jewish Desserts, Gil Marks explores delicacies from Jewish communities around the world with more than 400 recipes that cover the full range -- culinary, geographical, ethnic, and cultural -- of Jewish desserts. This essential volume showcases the full spectrum of influences, offering desserts from both the Ashkenazic and Sephardic traditions, and communities from Denmark to Tunisia, from Italy to Bombay.

A Jewish dessert can be anything from the petites madeleines invoked by Marcel Proust to the beloved jam turnovers of Isaac Bashevis Singer's Polish childhood. It can be German butter cake or a Middle Eastern syrup-soaked nut cake, the creamy rice pudding of India or an Eastern European cheese blintz.

Marks -- rabbi, chef, writer, historian -- has provided recipes for every type of sweet temptation: cakes and cookies, puddings and kugels, yeasted and unyeasted pastries, phyllo and strudel desserts, fruit desserts and confections. There's even a chapter on Passover desserts. While the sources of these delectable treats may seem exotic, the ingredients and techniques are not, and the easy-to-follow, step-by-step recipes have been tested and retested to make sure they will work in any home kitchen.

Headnotes and sidebars illuminate the connections among food, culture, and history, giving fresh insight into the richness of the Jewish experience. Including extensive and valuable information on ingredients and cooking techniques, this book is one that you will use again and again.

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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Marks returns to the territory covered in The World of Jewish Cooking and The World of Jewish Entertaining with this third effort encompassing Jewish food from all corners of the globe. While those first two books distinguished themselves with the great diversity of recipes offered, it seems that Jews the world over tend to eat similar types of desserts. Items such as Hungarian "Farfel" Bars, which cleverly call for grating the dough into pellets, and Ashkenazic Honey-Spice Cookies outnumber more exotic desserts such as Calcutta Coconut Bread Pudding and Persian Rice Flour Cookies. Marks again delivers solid, flawless recipes along with great bits of information: among them, the Talmudic mentions of sweets and an overview of the different cheeses used in Jewish cooking. An entire chapter on fried pastries includes Greek Anise Fritters and Italian Anise Fritters, in addition to Algerian Raised Donuts and Dutch Yeast Fritters. German Apple Coffee Cake (made with a yeast dough) has much in common with Ashkenazic Fruit Coffee Cake (which Marks suggests making with apples, pears, plums or peaches). There are plenty of treats appropriate for the holidays, including numerous Hamantaschen variations and a chapter on desserts for Passover that ranges from a simple Passover Sponge Cake to a Sephardic Baked Matza Custard. All and all, his volume makes a zesty compendium of traditional foods. (Oct.) Copyright 2000 Cahners Business Information.|
From The Critics
The World of Jewish Desserts provides recipes with a fine background by gourmet cook Rabbi Marks, who gathers Jewish recipes from Jewish communities around the world. The international focus of the Jewish dessert recipes makes for an appealing, involving cookbook which provides a very surprising variety of Jewish dessert choices. No photos, but the amount of research and depth to this title makes them less necessary.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780684870038
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster
  • Publication date: 9/29/2000
  • Pages: 432
  • Product dimensions: 7.70 (w) x 9.40 (h) x 1.26 (d)

Table of Contents

Introduction

The Baker's Assistant
Yeast Cakes and Pastries
Cakes
Cookies and Bars
Pastries and Filled Cookies
Phyllo and Strudel
Fried Pastries
Pancakes
Baked Puddings and Kugels
Stovetop Puddings and Creamy Desserts
Fruit Desserts
Confections
Passover Desserts

Index

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First Chapter

Chapter Nine: Baked Puddings and Kugels

With what does one sanctify the Sabbath?
With sweet foods, spiced wines, and nice vessels.

— MIDRASH TANAYIM ON DEUTERONOMY

The prevalent American perception of pudding is that of a sweet, smooth, soft- textured dish. For this reason, most people are surprised to discover that the source of the word pudding is the Old English poding, derived from the French boudin and originally from the Italian budino, referring to types of sausages. Indeed, for much of history, puddings consisted of savory grain or bread mixtures stuffed into animal casings such as intestines and stomachs, then boiled in water. (The Ashkenazic kishke and Scottish haggis come to mind.) Other rudimentary puddings were baked, such as the Talmudic kutach, a savory mixture of bread, sour milk, salt, and oil. Yemenite Jews still prepare a similar dish called ghininun (sometimes substituting cottage cheese for the milk), baking it overnight for Sabbath lunch. Other descendants of those ancient bread or grain puddings still exist in the Middle East, most notably halvah.

An old Ashkenazic way of preparing bread pudding was to substitute a broth for the dairy products and to spread it over the Sabbath stew to seal in the moisture or to drop it in the center of the stew. At first, people called this pudding by the same name as the Sabbath stew, schalet (from the Old French word meaning "warm," chald), now commonly called cholent. By 1100, in order to differentiate between the two, many began referring to the pudding as koogel, German for a ball or sphere, referring to its shape. In western Europe, these puddings are still called schalet, while in eastern Europe kugel is the generic term and schalet is occasionally applied to some dessert puddings.

At first, kugels were exclusively savory and made from bread or flour. Eventually people began adding eggs, producing a custard consistency. Housewives started cooking these puddings in a covered small, round dish placed inside the stew pot and served them warm alongside the stew for Sabbath lunch. As home ovens became more prevalent, cooks began baking the pudding outside the stew. Kugels began achieving new gastronomical heights around 800 years ago in Germany when cooks started substituting farfel and noodles and, on Passover, matza for the bread mixtures. Later rice and potatoes were used, creating an even wider range of flavors. On occasion, cottage cheese and milk were added to the kugels, a tasty reversion to the dish's original dairy form. By the seventeenth century, with the increasing affordability of sugar, some cooks began sweetening various puddings. Soon Lithuanian and Polish Jews developed a preference for sweet kugels — customarily seasoned with cinnamon and frequently containing raisins — serving them as both a side dish and a dessert. Conversely, many of those from Galicia (an area in southeastern Poland and southwestern Russia) adamantly prepared only savory puddings, which they pronounced keegals. Hungarians took the dessert concept even further, layering the sweetened kugels with various fillings.

Sephardim never developed the same passion for baked puddings as Ashkenazim. Nonetheless, they devised some of their own, including pastichio (Greek cheese noodle pudding), pyota (Greek semolina pudding), and babanatza (Greek semolina and raisin pudding).


Apfelschalet(Alsatian Apple Charlotte)

8 TO 10 SERVINGS

Puddings have come a long way from grain sausages, developing into a vast array of baked and steamed treats. The New Larousse Gastronomique (New York, Crown Publishers, 1977) records one of these developments, schaleth à la Juive, an apple pastry similar to a fluden. The charlotte is a related dish in which a crisp bread casing contrasts with the soft fruit filling. For Passover, substitute moistened matzas for the bread.

3 tablespoons unsalted butter or margarine
2 pounds tart cooking apples, such as Golden Delicious, Granny Smith, Gravenstein, Greening, Jonathan, Macoun, Pippin, Starr, Winesap, or any combination, peeled, cored, and sliced (about 7 cups)
1/4 to 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest or vanilla extract (optional)
1/4 to 1/2 cup sugar
1 pound stale challah or other egg bread, crusts removed, cut into 1/4-inch-thick slices (about 24 slices)
1/2 cup clarified butter or melted margarine
About 3 tablespoons confectioners' sugar for dusting

1. Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the apples, cinnamon, and zest if using and sauté until well coated. Cover and cook until the apples are tender but not mushy, about 15 minutes. Stir in the sugar. Let cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 375 degrees.
3. Cut some of the bread slices into strips to fit the sides of a 2-quart charlotte mold (a metal pan with slightly slopping sides) or deep 2-quart casserole. Cut the rest into triangles. Coat the triangles with the butter (by dipping or brushing) and arrange, slightly overlapping, on the bottom of the mold. Coat the bread strips with the butter and arrange, slightly overlapping, along the sides of the pan. Fill with the apple mixture. Coat the remaining slices with butter and arrange, slightly overlapping, over the top.
4. Bake until golden brown, about 40 minutes. Let cool for at least 15 minutes, then invert onto a serving platter. Dust with the confectioners' sugar. Serve warm or at room temperature.

VARIATIONS

Substitute 8 cups chunky sweetened applesauce for the sautéed apple mixture and flavor with the cinnamon and, if desired, the lemon zest.

Stir 4 large egg yolks into the cooled apple mixture, then beat 4 egg whites until stiff but not dry and fold into the apple mixture.

Individual Charlottes: Fit rounds of bread in the bottom of 1/2-cup muffin tins, line the sides of the cups with overlapping bread slices, fill with the apple mixture, and top with butter-brushed bread rounds. Bake at 400 degrees until golden, about 25 minutes.

Zwetschenschalet (Alsatian Plum Charlotte): Substitute 2 pounds (about 10 medium) pitted and sliced Italian plums for the apples.


Nudlovy Kakyp(Czech Soufflé Noodle Pudding)

5 TO 6 OR 8 TO 10 SERVINGS

Czech cooking is frequently subsumed under that of Austria or Germany, two countries that long dominated it. Yet it possesses certain unique attributes. Mehlspeisen (Czech desserts) commonly feature fruits and are typically served warm. This is a popular Czech version of an old Ashkenazic favorite.

For 9-inch square baking pan:
4 cups milk
6 ounces (about 5 cups) medium or large noodles, slightly broken
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
About 2/3 cup sugar
5 large eggs, separated
1 1/2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (about 4 cups)

For 13-by-9-inch baking pan:
5 1/3 cups milk
8 ounces (about 6 cups) medium or large noodles, slightly broken
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
10 tablespoons (1 1/4 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
About 3/4 cup sugar
6 large eggs, separated
2 pounds apples, peeled, cored, and thinly sliced (about 5 cups)

1. Bring the milk to a low boil, add the noodles and salt, and simmer until tender, about 8 minutes. Let cool. Add the vanilla.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if using a glass pan). Grease the baking pan.
3. Beat the butter until smooth, about 1 minute. Gradually add the sugar and beat until light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the egg yolks, one at a time. Add the noodle mixture.
4. Beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold into the noodle mixture.
5. Spoon half of the noodle mixture into the prepared pan, scatter the apples over the top, and cover with the remaining noodle mixture.
6. Bake until golden brown, about 35 minutes. Serve warm.


Zeesih Lukshen Kugel(Ashkenazic Sweet Noodle Pudding)

8 TO 10 SERVINGS

The northern Chinese were already eating boiled strips of wheat dough called mein by the second century BCE. Noodles spread westward to Persia by at least the seventh century, as demonstrated by the Babylonian Talmud's mention (in Berachot 37b) of rihata (from the Farsi itriyah), a dish of boiled dough. The Arabs introduced macaron to Spain by the tenth century, and it quickly found a prominent place in the Sephardic kitchen. The first record of pasta (originally the name of a barley gruel sprinkled with salt, derived from the Greek pastos, meaning "sprinkled") in Italy appeared in a cookbook about 1260, including recipes for vermicelli (literally "little worms") and tortelli (filled pasta). Pasta was certainly eaten in Italy well before Marco Polo, who is erroneously credited with bringing the dish back to Venice from China in 1295. It is uncertain, however, whether pasta developed independently in the West or reached Europe by way of Persia.

The first mention of boiled doughs in a European Jewish source appeared in the writings of the Italian rabbi Kalonymous ben Kalonymous (1286-1328), who included macaroni and tortelli in a list of dishes served at a Purim feast. (His recommended desserts included tarts, gingerbread, and pancakes.) Considering the frequent interaction between the Jewish communities of Italy and Franco-Germany, pasta must have reached the Rhineland by at least the thirteenth century. Earlier Franco-German dough dishes, such as vermesel (fritters) and krepish (meat-filled dough), were fried. By the 1400s, chicken soup with noodles was the standard first course for Friday dinner.

It is uncertain whether eastern Europeans learned of pasta from the Tartars (Mongolian tribes who overran the area beginning in 1240 with the sacking of Kiev) or the Italians. Whatever the case, the earliest forms of eastern European pasta were loose doughs similar to the German spaetzle, Hungarian galuska, and Ashkenazic einlauf and grated dough pellets such as the Hungarian tarhonya and the Ashkenazic farfel. By the end of the fifteenth century, flat egg noodles (a word derived from the German nudel, an enriched grain mixture that was shaped into long rolls and force-fed to geese) were a mainstay of eastern Europe. Hungarians soon devised simple desserts of sweetened noodles tossed with butter, sugar, and poppy seeds or chopped walnuts.

By the time noodles became commonplace in Europe, frimsel supplanted the antiquated vermesel as the western Yiddish word, as did lukshen in eastern Europe. The Yiddish lukshen and the Slavic lokshyna derived from a Persian noodle dish called lakshah, from kashk, a Persian term for "cracked barley and wheat" that also gave rise to such well-known dishes as kasha and kishke.

By 1500, kugels made from farfel had become commonplace in Poland. Eventually the more versatile noodle replaced the earlier form of pasta. Today there are nearly as many variations of noodle kugel as there are cooks: savory or sweet, dairy or pareve, plain or fancy. Dairy kugels are traditional fare for Shavuot and Hanukkah. Noodle kugels are common at many holiday meals and life-cycle events. This recipe can be halved and baked in an 8-inch square pan.

1 pound fine or medium noodles, cooked and drained
1/2 cup unsalted butter or margarine
4 to 6 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, or honey
1 teaspoon vanilla extract, or 3 tablespoons lemon juice
About 1 teaspoon salt
1 cup dried fruit (raisins, chopped dried apricots, or chopped pitted prunes), or 2 cups fresh fruit (pitted sweet cherries, coarsely chopped apples, coarsely chopped pears, or any combination) (optional)
3/4 cup sliced almonds or coarsely chopped walnuts (optional)

Topping (optional):
1 cup plain bread crumbs, or 1/2 cup chopped almonds or walnuts
1/4 cup unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 to 3 teaspoons brown or granulated sugar

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
2. Put the hot noodles in a large bowl, add the butter, and toss until melted. Add the eggs, sugar, vanilla, salt, and if desired, the fruit and/or nuts. Pour into the prepared pan.
3. To make the topping if using: Combine all the topping ingredients and sprinkle over the kugel.
4. Bake until golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature. The kugel freezes well.

VARIATION

Lukshen un Kaese Kugel (Ashkenazic Baked Noodle-Cheese Pudding): Add 2 cups (1 pound) small-curd cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, or pot cheese and 2 cups sour cream (or 1 cup sour cream and 1 cup cream cheese).


Stiriai Metelt(Hungarian Noodle Pudding)

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

Hungarians enriched noodle kugels with the addition of layers of jam or other flavorings. There are even more elaborate versions with several different layers, including Ashkenazic Poppy Seed Filling (page 73) and Prune Levkar or Apricot Lekvar (page 75).

4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1 cup sour cream, or 1 cup milk blended with 4 ounces softened cream cheese
1/2 to 3/4 cup granulated sugar, brown sugar, or honey
1/2 cup (1 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, melted
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
About 1 teaspoon salt
1 pound fine or medium noodles, cooked and drained
3/4 cup apricot jam, melted
1/4 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if using a glass pan). Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
2. Beat together the eggs, sour cream, sugar, butter, vanilla, and salt until light and smooth. Stir in the noodles.
3. Spoon half of the noodle mixture into the prepared pan, spread with the jam, then top with the remaining noodle mixture. Sprinkle with the cinnamon.

4. Bake until golden brown, about 1 hour. Serve warm or at room temperature


Riz ib Assal — (Syrian Baked Rice Pudding with Honey)

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

Middle Easterners make many types of rice pudding; this version is nondairy. During the lengthy cooking time, the rice grains break down, resulting in a smooth texture. Rice puddings flavored with honey and rose water are traditional on Shavuot.

6 cups water
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup medium- or long-grain rice
1 cup (12 ounces) honey
1 teaspoon rose water, orange blossom water, or vanilla extract
1/2 cup cornstarch dissolved in 1 cup water

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 2-quart casserole or ring mold or 6 shallow 1-cup dishes.
2. Bring the water and salt to a boil in a large ovenproof saucepan over medium heat. Add the rice, stir briefly to prevent sticking, and cook for 15 minutes.
3. Place the pan in the oven and bake until the water reaches the level of the rice, about 30 minutes.
4. Stir in the honey and bake 1 additional hour.
5. Add the rose water to the cornstarch mixture, then stir into the rice. Bake, stirring occasionally and adding more water if the pudding threatens to burn, until the mixture has a paste-like consistency, about 30 minutes.
6. Pour into the prepared casserole and let stand until set. Run a sharp knife around the edge of the pudding and invert onto a serving platter. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled. If desired, garnish with fresh berries.

VARIATIONS

Reduce the honey to 1/2 cup and add 1 cup chopped pitted dates with the honey.

Dairy Baked Rice Pudding: Reduce the water to 4 cups and add 2 cups milk with the honey.


Riz au Pommes(Alsatian Baked Rice and Apple Pudding)

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

This is an elaborate version of an old favorite.

1/4 cup finely ground blanched almonds

Pudding:
1 cup medium- or long-grain rice
6 cups hot milk
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup sugar
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
2 teaspoons vanilla extract

Filling:
3 to 4 cups applesauce

Custard:
1 1/2 cups heavy cream or half-and-half
1/4 cup sugar
2 large egg yolks, lightly beaten
1 large egg, lightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Meringue Topping:
2 large egg whites
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup sugar
Confectioners' sugar for sprinkling

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if using a glass pan). Grease a 9-inch square baking pan and sprinkle with the almonds.
2. To make the pudding: Place the rice, hot milk, and salt in the top of a double boiler over boiling water and cook, stirring occasionally, until the rice is very tender and the mixture is thickened, about 1 hour. (The rice can be cooked more quickly by putting it in a heavy-bottomed saucepan over direct heat, but stir frequently to prevent burning.) Add the sugar and stir until dissolved. Remove from the heat and stir in the butter and vanilla.
3. Spoon one-third of the rice pudding into the prepared baking dish and cover with 1 1/2 to 2 cups applesauce. Top with half of the remaining rice pudding, then another 1 1/2 to 2 cups applesauce. Cover with the remaining pudding.
4. To make the custard: Combine the cream, sugar, egg yolks, egg, and vanilla. Pour over the pudding and poke with the handle of a wooden spoon in several places to let the custard sink in.
5. Bake until nearly set, about 30 minutes.
6. To make the meringue: Beat the egg whites on low speed until foamy, about 30 seconds. Add the salt, increase the speed to medium-high, and beat until soft peaks form, 1 to 2 minutes. Gradually add the sugar and beat until stiff and glossy, 5 to 8 minutes.
7. Spread the meringue over the pudding and lightly sprinkle with confectioners' sugar. Bake until lightly browned, about 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

RICE
Fields in China and India have produced rice for more than 5,000 years, making it the long-time staple of more than half of the human race's diet. The Persians brought rice westward, introducing orez (rice) to Israel during the Second Temple period. Tradition considered its whiteness a symbol of purity. By Roman times, Judean rice had become an important export, of which the Talmud boasts, "There is none like it outside Israel." Suggestions for the blessing over this grain included Simeon ha-Chasid's proposal, "...who has created delicacies to delight the soul of every living being."

Although members of Alexander the Great's Indian campaign made note of rice, it did not reach Europe until the Arab invasions at the beginning of the ninth century. Most Westerners treated it with indifference. Only in Italy, Spain, and the Balkans did rice become an important part of the European cuisine.

The more than 7,000 varieties of rice are defined by four basic characteristics: size (long, medium, and short), texture, color, and aroma. Each size category contains varying amounts of two primary starches: amylose and amylopectin. Amylose does not gelatinize during cooking, so the larger the proportion, the drier the kernels. In the reverse, amylopectin does gelatinize, so the larger the proportion, the stickier the kernels.

Medium-grain rice, which has a larger amount of amylopectin starch than long-grain, produces a stickier, creamier pudding. Too much amylopectin, however, as in short-grain varieties, results in a gritty texture in puddings. The more readily available long-grain rice makes a suitable substitute for medium-grain.

SHAVUOT
Shavuot (Hebrew for "weeks") is a two-day Pilgrim Festival (one day in Israel) commemorating the giving of the Torah at Mount Sinai seven weeks after the Israelites departed Egypt. Milk and honey are the preeminent foods of Shavuot. The Torah is compared to milk and honey (Song of Songs 4:11), and the Bible refers to Israel as a "land flowing with milk and honey" (Exodus 3:8). In addition, tradition recounts that, after receiving the Torah and the laws of kashrut, the Jews could no longer eat the meat foods they had prepared beforehand or use any of their cooking utensils, which were now unkosher. Therefore they ate dairy dishes on the first Shavuot. Shavuot also corresponds to the time of the year when young ruminants are being weaned, an abundance of milk making it an obvious choice for the holiday. In addition, dairy products and other white foods such as rice are considered symbols of purity.

Middle Eastern Jews decorate their synagogues on Shavuot with branches and rose petals in recognition of the legend that plants flourished on Mount Sinai during the giving of the Torah; hence the name "Festival of Roses." Accordingly, Middle Eastern Shavuot fare is frequently flavored with rose water, and rose petal preserves are served with the meal.

Sephardic Shavuot desserts include cheese-filled phyllo pastries, atayef (cheese-filled pancakes), cheese-filled kadayif, rice puddings, and biscochos Har Sinai (mounded cookies representing Mount Sinai). Ashkenazic Shavuot treats include cheese blintzes, noodle kugel, rice kugel, cheese knishes, cheese or fruit kreplach (filled pasta), cheese pirogen, cheese or apple strudel, schnecken (yeast pastries), rugelach (cream cheese cookies), kuchen (coffee cakes), cheese fluden (layered pastry), and cheesecake.


Apam(Calcutta Coconut Bread Pudding)

8 TO 10 SERVINGS

The English introduced European foods, including bread puddings, to India during their control of the subcontinent. The substitution of coconut for milk makes this version perfect for kosher tables.

4 cups coconut milk (page 312), or 8 ounces creamed coconut (see Note) dissolved in 4 cups water
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
2 large eggs, slightly beaten
2 large egg yolks, slightly beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 pound stale challah or hearty white bread, crusts removed, cut into 1-inch cubes (about 8 cups)
1/4 cup raisins
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds

1. Preheat the oven to 325 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.
2. Stir the coconut milk and sugar over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the heat and let cool slightly, then blend in the eggs, egg yolks, and vanilla.
3. Scatter the bread, raisins, and almonds in the prepared pan. Slowly pour the coconut mixture on top and let stand for 15 minutes.
4. Bake, uncovered, until set and browned, about 1 hour. Serve warm, at room temperature, or chilled.

VARIATION

Substitute 4 cups half-and-half (or 2 cups milk and 2 cups heavy cream) for the coconut milk.

NOTE: - Creamed coconut, available in hard 7-ounce blocks, needs to be dissolved in hot water.


Brot Kugel - (Ashkenazic Bread Pudding)

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

This simple dish, which dates back to medieval Alsace, is a transition between the even more ancient kutach (Babylonian bread pudding) and the relatively more recent German noodle kugels. Like many other early Jewish puddings, it was customarily baked overnight in the center of a cholent (Sabbath stew) at low heat and served for Sabbath lunch. Eventually it was cooked outside the stew and the cooking time shortened. At times, dairy products were reintroduced, the combination of bread and custard an ingenious way to use up leftovers. Bread puddings using leftover challah were particularly popular at a melaveh malkah at the end of the Sabbath.

In modern restaurants, various additions and accompanying sauces turn this old-fashioned dessert into a chic treat. This nondairy Ashkenazic version possesses a different texture from the custard types. An egg bread gives the best flavor, but you can substitute a hearty white loaf. When the bread is several days old, it has a bit of a chewy texture after baking.

1 pound stale challah, crusts removed, cut into 1/2-inch-thick slices (about 12 slices)
About 4 cups water or chicken broth for soaking
2 large tart apples or pears or any combination, peeled, cored, and chopped (about 2 cups)
1/3 cup raisins (optional)
4 large eggs, lightly beaten
1/2 cup softened margarine or schmaltz (rendered chicken fat)
1/2 to 1 cup granulated or brown sugar
2 tablespoons water
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
About 1/2 teaspoon salt
1/8 teaspoon ground ginger or cloves
Pinch of grated nutmeg

1. Preheat the oven to 225 degrees. Grease a 13-by-9-inch baking pan or 10-inch tube or Bundt pan.
2. Soak the bread in the water to moisten. Drain and squeeze out most of the excess moisture. Crumble the bread and mix in the apples and raisins if using. Combine the remaining ingredients and stir into the bread mixture.
3. Pour into the prepared pan. Cover and bake for at least 3 hours or overnight. Serve warm.


VARIATIONS

Quick Bread Pudding: Bake the pudding in a 375-degree oven, uncovered, until golden brown, about 1 hour. If desired, separate the eggs, beat the egg whites until stiff, and fold into the batter.

Brot un Flohmen Kugel (Alsatian Bread and Prune Pudding): Alternate layers of the bread mixture with stewed prunes. If desired, brush the kugel occasionally with prune juice.

COCONUT

The coconut, which may have originated in Malaysia, was widely used in India and the Middle East by the sixth century CE. Portuguese traders introduced the nut to Europe in 1674, and the Spanish named it after a popular clown of the time, Coco. Perhaps the three "eyes" reminded them of a clown's face. Choose medium-sized coconuts that have a sloshing sound of liquid when shaken. Avoid those with cracks or any sign of mold or deterioration around the eyes. If the juice inside tastes sour or smells soapy, discard the coconut. Refrigerating whole coconuts facilitates mold. Store in a cool, dry place (around 55 degrees) for up to 2 weeks, but preferably use within a few days (since you don't know how long it's been in the store). Shelled coconut flesh should be used within twelve hours.

To open a coconut, use an ice pick to poke holes through two of the "eyes." Place over a container and drain the liquid. Hit the shell with a hammer at the points where the thin ridges cross until it splits. Crack into several smaller pieces. Use a dull knife to separate the flesh and shell. Southeast Asians have a special grater to scrape the flesh from the shell, which produces a fluffier, moister product. If you don't have such a tool, use a paring knife or vegetable peeler to pare off the brown skin, then run chunks of coconut over the small holes of a hand grater. Or use a food processor fitted with a steel blade: cut the coconut meat into 1/2-inch pieces and, with the machine running, drop through the feed tube and process, stopping occasionally to scrape down the sides. One medium coconut weighing about 1 1/2 pounds yields about 3 cups grated coconut.

CALCUTTA CUISINE

Jewish traders visited the province of Bengal in northeast India for centuries, but it was only after Calcutta became the British capital of India in 1772 and emerged as an important commercial center that the first permanent Jewish settlement was established. Merchants were attracted by the economic potential of this alien location, and within a short time the city boasted a large and vibrant Jewish community, maintaining synagogues, schools, hospitals, and other communal and charitable institutions. Since a large percentage of this growing population came from Iraq, the Jews of Calcutta became known as Baghdadis. At its height in the early twentieth century, the Jewish community of Calcutta numbered about 6,000. Today only about forty Jewish families remain in this city on the Hooghly River, a tributary of the Ganges.

Partly because of the more evolved Sephardic-Arabic cuisine of the Baghdadis and partly because of their rather late arrival in the country, the cuisine of Calcutta's Jews evidences less Indian influence than that of other Indian Jewish communities. Although the Baghdadis continued to prepare a great deal of Middle Eastern fare, they eventually added local dishes to their repertoire and adapted their traditional foods to the local ingredients and spices. Characteristic of this synthesis is the Baghdadis' Sabbath bread, a Middle Eastern flat bread sprinkled with kala jeera/kelonji (nigella, a seed mistakenly called black onion seed). Bengali desserts, most notably milk-based sweets, are famous throughout India.


Apam(Bombay Semolina and Coconut Pudding)

10 TO 12 SERVINGS

The Bene Israel of Bombay commonly serve this moist treat on the Sabbath. Apam is similar to an ancient Teutonic semolina pudding called greissflammery, but the flavors of coconut and cardamom mark its Indian heritage.

5 cups water
4 cups coconut milk (see page 312)
3 1/3 cups (about 17 1/2 ounces) coarse semolina
1 cup jaggery (see Note) or brown sugar
3 to 4 teaspoons ground cardamom
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 cup raisins (optional)
1/4 cup slivered blanched almonds (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 12-inch round baking pan or casserole or two 9-inch pie plates.
2. Bring the water and coconut milk to a boil. Gradually stir in the semolina and cook, stirring frequently, until thickened, about 10 minutes. Stir in the sugar. Remove from the heat and add the cardamom, vanilla, salt, and raisins if using.
3. Pour into the prepared pan. If desired, sprinkle with the almonds. Bake until a tester inserted in the center comes out clean, about 30 minutes. Cut into diamond shapes.

VARIATIONS

Substitute 14 ounces creamed coconut (see Note, page 307) for the coconut milk, increase the water to 8 cups, and simmer until the coconut cream dissolves.

Passover Apam: Substitute 4 cups matza meal for the semolina, but do not cook after stirring it into the coconut milk. Remove from the heat and beat in 6 large eggs, then proceed as above.

NOTE: — Jaggery, called gur in Hindi and piloncillo in Central America, is brownish raw sugar crystals made by extracting the liquid from sucrose-rich plants.

MILKING THE COCONUT

Coconut water is the liquid found inside fresh coconuts. More important to cooking is coconut milk, a thicker liquid made by steeping grated coconut flesh in water. When the mixture is left standing in the refrigerator, a thick, sweet coconut cream (with a strong coconut flavor) separates and rises to the top. The thinner liquid left on the bottom is coconut milk. Coconut cream and milk can be substituted for dairy cream and milk in many recipes. If fresh coconuts are unavailable, substitute unsweetened desiccated coconut. Canned coconut milk (most contain thickeners, preservatives, and whitening agents) is usually thicker than fresh coconut milk. Do not confuse it with canned sweetened coconut cream (used in cocktails), a very thick, sugary liquid.

COCONUT MILK

ABOUT 2 CUPS

The delicate flavor of coconut milk deteriorates as it ages, so it's best when fresh.

2 cups water
2 cups grated fresh or unsweetened desiccated coconut

Bring the water to a low boil. Stir in the coconut, remove from the heat, and let cool to room temperature, stirring occasionally, about 2 hours. Puree in a food processor or blender. Strain through a fine cheesecloth. Store in the refrigerator.


Pyota(Greek Baked Semolina Pudding)

8 TO 10 SERVINGS

This pudding is a popular Purim dish and is also served for shalosh seudot ("third meal" of the Sabbath) or a melava malcha (post-Sabbath meal). Double the recipe and bake in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

2/3 cup (4 ounces) fine semolina (not semolina flour)
2 1/2 cups milk
1 1/2 cups water
2 tablespoons unsalted butter
5 large eggs
1/2 cup sugar
1/3 cup (4 ounces) honey
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
3/4 to 1 cup coarsely chopped almonds or walnuts (optional)
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon

1. Place the semolina in a medium saucepan and gradually stir in the milk and water. Bring to a boil, reduce the heat to medium-low, and cook, stirring constantly, until thickened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the butter. Let cool.
2. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if using a glass pan). Grease a 9- or 10-inch square baking pan.
3. Beat the eggs, sugar, and honey until thick and creamy, about 5 minutes. Blend in the semolina mixture and vanilla. If desired, add the nuts. Pour into the prepared pan and sprinkle with the cinnamon.
4. Bake until set, about 55 minutes. Let cool, then refrigerate for several hours. Serve chilled or at room temperature, accompanied with fresh fruit if desired.


Palacsinta Felfujt(Hungarian Blintz Loaf)

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

Originally this dish consisted of topfenpalatschinken (Hungarian cheese crepes) baked in a rich custard. This variation skips the time-consuming process of making blintzes. Double the recipe and bake in a 13-by-9-inch baking pan.

Batter:
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
3 large eggs
3/4 cup sour cream
1/4 cup orange juice
1/4 cup ( 1/2 stick) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
3 tablespoons sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 teaspoon double-acting baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt

Filling:
1 cup (8 ounces) small-curd cottage or ricotta cheese
4 ounces cream cheese, softened
1 large egg yolk
2 tablespoons sugar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon fresh lemon juice or ground cinnamon (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees (325 degrees if using a glass pan). Grease a 9-inch square baking pan.
2. To make the batter: In a blender, food processor, or large bowl, beat together all the batter ingredients until smooth.
3. To make the filling: Combine all the filling ingredients.
4. Pour half of the batter into the prepared pan, drop the filling by heaping tablespoonfuls over the batter, then carefully top with the remaining batter (the layers will mix a bit). The loaf can be covered and refrigerated for up to 24 hours. Return to room temperature before baking.
5. Bake until puffed and lightly browned, 50 to 60 minutes. Serve warm, accompanied with a fruit sauce or fresh fruit if desired.


Budino di Ricotta(Roman Cheese Pudding)

6 TO 8 SERVINGS

Italian Jewish cuisine, some of which ranks among the most ancient in the world, more closely resembles that of Sephardim than the Jewish cooking found in the rest of Europe. This is due in part to its Mediterranean location, as well as to the arrival of a sizable contingent of Iberian exiles following the Expulsion in 1492. Nonetheless, from the ghettos of the Italian cities, especially Rome, came some of the most ancient and authentic of Jewish dishes. Since kosher dietary laws restricted the use of meat sauces and cheese, Italian Jewish dishes tended to be more delicate than those of their non-Jewish neighbors. Although in the twentieth century many Italkim became rather assimilated, most still maintained an abiding affection for the cuisine of their ancestors and zealously preserved it. The origins of this dish date back to the days of the Roman Empire.

1 pound (2 cups) ricotta cheese, at room temperature
3/4 to 1 cup sugar
4 large eggs, separated
2 tablespoons brandy, rum, or marsala
1 1/2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, potato starch, or cornstarch
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon or vanilla extract
2 teaspoons grated orange or lemon zest, or 1 teaspoon each
Pinch of salt
1/4 cup golden raisins or chopped candied citron (optional)

1. Preheat the oven to 300 degrees. Grease a deep 1 1/2- to 2-quart casserole or eight 1-cup ramekins or custard cups.
2. In a food processor or blender, process the ricotta, sugar, egg yolks, brandy, flour, cinnamon, zest, and salt until smooth. If desired, stir in the raisins.
3. Beat the egg whites on low until foamy, about 30 seconds. Increase the speed to medium-high and beat until stiff but not dry. Fold into the cheese mixture.
4. Spoon into the prepared pan. Bake until a wooden tester inserted in the center comes out nearly clean, about 45 minutes for the 2-quart dish or about 30 minutes for the ramekins. Place on a rack and let cool in the pan for at least 15 minutes. Serve warm or at room temperature.

VARIATION

Kaese Pudding (Ashkenazic Cheese Pudding): Substitute 1 pound farmser's or pot cheese for the ricotta cheese (or use 8 ounces farmer's or pot cheese and 8 ounces cream cheese) and 1 cup orange juice or heavy cream for the brandy. If desired, spread 1/2 cup crushed zweiback or graham cracker crumbs evenly over the bottom of the casserole.

Copyright © 2000 by Gil Marks

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2005

    Food and History Intertwined

    The book presents recipes in their historical contexts. I've enjoyed making desserts that I had previously only bought in bakeries. The recipes complete the gaps in my family's own box of traditional recipes.

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