Category Archives: Dessert

Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana’s Passover Cake)

This chocolate, apple and walnut torte is the Passover cake my mother and grandmother have made for decades. I have been asked to share the recipe several times — and here it is! Like my great-grandmother’s recipe for Matzo Ball Soup, it is published in an old synagogue cookbook that I still use for traditional Jewish recipes, including many from my family. (By the way, Mower’s matzo ball soup is still surprisingly popular on Pinterest.)

chocolate, apple, walnut passover torte

My grandmother “Nana” had a serious stroke 12 years ago. She doesn’t remember much that has happened since her childhood, and pretty much thinks of herself as a girl. She doesn’t remember me when I visit her memory-focused assisted living, but gets that I am there for her and is as sweet and as pleasant as ever. She even forgets what she said a minute before, and when she finds a good joke, she repeats it. We were only recently a family of four on our last visit to New York and she kept asking how many kids we planned. She would then advise, “Two or three is okay, but more than four is too many.” So of course my husband would tell her we wanted fourteen and she would crack up. This happened about twenty times in the space of an hour.

But memory is a funny thing. She can identify the names of every single plant on the grounds. And she remembers recipes! On my last trip, my uncle gave me her recipe box to bring to the visit. Nana remembered them all and shared stories. I recognized the Passover cake recipe as identical to the one I had made a month before (and every Passover before it since I was a teenager.) I am calling it “Nana’s Passover Cake” but as she reminded me, it was originally the recipe of her friend Bea Glück. “Well, since it was Bea’s recipe, naturally it’s a winner. Natch!”

Nana's Passover Cake

As you may see in the index card, there isn’t a ton of detail to the technique, nor in the version my mom wrote for the cookbook. But I’ve added some tips and my own system for sailing through the prep. You could make it all by hand, but a food processor and mixer will help. Tip: no need to wash the processor between ingredients. I even go ahead and make charoset right afterwards.

A friend in the midst of a Whole 30 challenge, gave me a Paleo-friendly apple and nut muffin that had such a similar taste and texture. Although this a “torte” in the sense that it uses no flour, rather ground nuts and a handful of matzo meal (similar in baking to breadcrumbs), I bet it could be adapted to gluten-free pretty easily. Try using almond meal in place of the matzo and/or more apple. There is no added fat, other than the eggs and nuts, and this Passover torte is not too sweet. My grandmother noted “Red Delicious” apples, but I have often used Fujis with good results.

5.0 from 1 reviews
Chocolate, Apple, Walnut Torte (Nana's Passover Cake)
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish (Passover)
Prep time:
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Passed down from my grandmother, this traditional passover cake could easily be confused with a contemporary paleo-ish torte, featuring chocolate, chopped walnuts and apple in a light sponge. It's not too sweet, and everyone loves it!
Ingredients
  • 4 ounces semi-sweet chocolate, grated
  • 2 apples, cored and grated
  • 1 cup of walnuts, chopped
  • 6 eggs, separated
  • 1¼ cups sugar
  • ½ cup matzo meal
Instructions
  1. Preheat over to 350*F. Grease a 9 inch springform pan.
  2. Using a grater, or grating attachment on a food processor, grate the chocolate. Place the chocolate in a medium sized mixing bowl. Without washing or rinsing the food processor, grate the apples. (The apples should be cored but don't peel them.) Add to the mixing bowl. Without washing, take out the grating plate and put the chopping blade into the food processor. Chop the walnuts and then add to the mixing bowl.
  3. In the bowl of a stand mixer, beat the egg yolks with the sugar until thick (at least 2 minutes on high/fast.) Gently stir into the chocolate, apples, and walnuts and add the matzo meal. In a clean bowl, beat the egg whites until they form stiff peaks. Gently fold into the batter.
  4. Bake in the greased springform pan for 1 hour. Cool in pan.
Notes
The instructions include equipment (such as a food processor and stand mixer or hand mixer) that make the cake a snap. But the cake can also be made by grating, chopping, and beating by hand.

Serving options: I like the cake with whipped cream (or non-dairy whip for Kosher friends) and strawberries. (Strawberries are usually in season for Passover/Spring Equinox/Easter.) My mom's transcription from the 80's suggests sprinkling with powdered sugar just before serving.

The cake is best the first day, but can be baked the morning of a big dinner.

If you like this recipe, please like the Baby Birds Farm page on Facebook, or follow my Jewish Recipes board on Pinterest.

How to Make a Perfectly Flaky All Butter Pie Crust

This post on a foolproof, flaky all butter pie crust is three years in the making. This is the recipe and method I’ve been using for almost ten years. My mom is a master pie baker, I think my lack of fear of pastry dough comes from her. She taught me to use half butter and half shortening, but I prefer all butter for taste, texture and health reasons. For most of my adult years I’ve been the designated pie baker at Thanksgiving, bringing various Pumpkin Pies and my favorite, Chocolate Espresso Pecan Pie. I like baking, and letting someone else host the rest of the meal works for me.

How to Make a Perfect, Flaky, All Butter Pie Crust via @babybirdsfarmSo, ever notice how successful food bloggers post recipes well in advance of a holiday? (The reason is so that the post has time to get shared on Pinterest and Facebook.) I’m clearly not organized enough to be one of them, although I have aspirations. I tend to just bake/cook and take pictures if I can. Writing and posting happens when I have free time. We took pictures of making this butter pie crust three Thanksgivings ago! I actually started drafting this post in September, and I’m only remembering to share it today as my friend asked me for an all butter pie crust recipe last night. Today (the Sunday before Thanksgiving) is actually the perfect day to make pie crust. It will be just fine in the fridge. Little Bird and I are starting our pie dough today, so join us in real-time baking! This is also the perfect recipe for procrastinators as it is one of the few that doesn’t have to be chilled before rolling.

How to Make a Perfect, Flaky, All Butter Pie Crust via @babybirdsfarm

Tips for making a flaky butter pie crust:

  • The secret is really to have big chunks of butter suspended in the dough. They steam a little when they bake, making pockets in the pastry, which gives it the crunch and flake.
  • You don’t want the butter to ever melt, either from a hot kitchen, or warm hands. Fortunately freezing the butter this way really helps.
  • Don’t over handle the dough. If you mess up, just try to patch it back together with a little water. Don’t ever ball up the dough and roll it out again. Over-handling it like that makes it tough.
  • With this much butter in the recipe, the quality of your butter will be apparent. Use a good grass-fed or cultured butter if you can. And make sure it is unsalted!
  • Make crust “cookies” (kid-cook friendly) with any extra dough (or make an extra batch!)
  • There is no “perfect” in baking, and letting go a little helps. I’ve actually heard of pie baking being good therapy for anxiety. Maybe one day I’ll combine my private practice (psychotherapy) with baking in a workshop!
  • I really should do a video to show more of the rolling technique, but in the mean time, don’t worry about it being a perfect circle. If you historically struggle, make 1.5x the dough you need, so that it is bigger than what you need when you roll it out. Then use a knife to cut it into a circle! The scraps can be used for crust cookies or decorating.
  • The dough can be prepared the weekend before Thanksgiving. Make a round, 1.5″ thick disc of the dough. Wrap tightly in plastic and store in the fridge, up to 4-5 days. Can also be freezer for longer.
  • Pies taste the best when baked the day of. That way the bottom crust is still flaky. When stored in the fridge after baking, it can get tough or mushy. You can, however, roll out the dough the day before, put it in the bottom of the pie pan, cover in plastic and store, unbaked, in the fridge for a day or two. Then fill it and bake the day you want to serve it.
  • For more pie tips from Matt Gordon of Urban Solace, along with a Sweet Potato Pecan Pie recipe, click here.

How to Make a Perfect, Flaky, All Butter Pie Crust via @babybirdsfarm

Flaky All Butter Pie Crust
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: American
 
Makes a double crust. For a single crust pie, such as pumpkin pie, freeze the other half for an easy pie crust in the future. From The Baker’s Dozen Cookbook via eggbeater.
Ingredients
  • 2 Cups all purpose flour
  • 4 Tablespoons sugar (optional, I usually omit)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt
  • 8 ounces unsalted butter
  • ice water, to incorporate
Instructions
  1. Cut the butter evenly into small pieces, place on a plate in the freezer and chill for about 30 minutes. Put ice and cold water in a measuring cup and chill (you won't use it all, but might as well have it cold.)
  2. Place all dry ingredients in the bowl of a Kitchen-Aid mixer. When butter is frozen, use paddle attachment with mixer on the very lowest setting, and drop butter in a few pieces at a time. Stay close by. When the chunks of butter are slightly larger than pea size, dribble in the ice water until dough does not appear dry and JUST begins to come together.
  3. Move the dough to a dry surface and push together with the heel of your hand. Try not to knead or overwork the dough, you want it to come together so you can roll it out. This dough can be used right away! This amount makes enough for a top and a bottom. If you are not going to use it right away, double wrap it in plastic and refrigerate for 3-4 days or freeze for up to a month.

Pin the recipe to remember it for next year!

How to Make a Perfect, Flaky All Butter Pie Crust via @babybirdsfarm

 

Blueberry Mascarpone Tart

Today is National Blueberry Day!

Blueberry Marscapone Tart

Here is a quick snap of a Blueberry Mascarpone Tart. I used the cheese filling recipe from Chef Dennis Littley’s “No Bake Peach Tart” with an almond crust and a pound of organic blueberries. Gotta snap up those berries when they are on sale!

What is your favorite way to use blueberries?

Dark Chocolate Almond Lace Cookies (Copy Cat Recipe)

Dark Chocolate Almond Lacy Cookie (Trader Joe's Copy Cat Recipe)

I wanted to share how delicious these crisp, chewy toffee cookies turned out. I love the Dark Chocolate Almond Lacey Cookies from Trader Joe’s. So when Little Bird insisted we do a mommy-daughter baking project during Baby Bird’s nap yesterday, we tried out this copy cat recipe featuring a honey toffee and orange zest.

We used this recipe from My Jerusalem Kitchen with local honey. We made them exactly as written with a few small changes. I think they taste better than the store-bought. The orange zest and cinnamon add more levels of flavor. The store-bought can be pretty addicting, but these went really quick!

My notes on making Dark Chocolate Almond Lace Cookies:

  1. We used Trader Joe’s Almond Meal in place of the finely chopped almonds. The recipe still worked great and it was a convenient swap.
  2. I baked them on silicone mats instead of parchment paper. Again, worked well and a reusable option.
  3. We made the sandwich version with melted chocolate in the middle. Our yield was a dozen sandwich cookies. I might double the recipe if making to share.
  4. Please use organic citrus anytime you are zesting or otherwise eating peel. p.s. Our orange tree smells AMAZING right now!

Dark Chocolate Almond Lacy Cookie (Trader Joe's Copy Cat Recipe)

Rugelach

Rugelah, rugelach, ruggelah… don’t come here looking for a definitive spelling. Hebrew words, like Hanukkah, have no one right spelling in English. But read on if you want a proper recipe.

Any way you spell it, rugelach is a Jewish cookie made with a cream cheese pastry dough, and rolled with brown sugar, nuts, cinnamon, and anything else you like. These rugelach include chocolate chips.

Rugelach recipe from Baby Birds Farm

This rugelach recipe comes from my mom and has been perfected for over 20 years. For most of those years she has lead the baking for the Jewish Food Festival in Carmel, for which she and a team make 2000+ pieces in small batches each year. When a recipe has been made several hundred times, you know that it is tried and true.

jewish food festival brideHere I am with my dad, circa age 15, in a mock wedding from the era of “Fiddler on the Roof” at the Jewish Food Festival.

Random trivia: My cousin Rachel has had many nicknames over the years, but “Rugelach” is one of the earliest.

This recipe freezes really well. My mom will pre-cut a roll, but leave one layer of the roll intact, so that it stays together as a log. Then you can pull it out, cut the rest of the way,  and bake any time you have a craving. The cookies don’t even have to defrost before baking.

This chocolate chip version is tasty, but I love the simple brown sugar, cinnamon and nuts original the best.

Tried and true rugelach recipe, been perfected over 1,000s of times.

Rugelach
 
Author:
Recipe type: Dessert
Cuisine: Jewish
Cook time:
Total time:
 
Like my great-grandmother's matzo ball soup, this recipe was originally published in 1994 in a synagogue cookbook. The rugelach recipe was submitted by Joyce Kurtz, with additional tips by Diana Rosenthal.
Ingredients
  • ½ pound (8 ounces) butter
  • ½ pound (8 ounces) cream cheese
  • 2 cups flour
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 1 cup walnuts (chopped fine)
  • cinnamon, to taste, or mini chocolate chips
Instructions
  1. Cream butter and cream cheese and gradually add flour. Roll into a ball and chill overnight.
  2. Divide ball into 2 pieces and roll each into an ⅛ inch thick rectangular shape. Mix the brown sugar, nuts and cinnamon and liberally spread the mix on the dough. Roll jelly roll fashion, starting with the longest side of the rectangle.
  3. Cut ¾ inch slices and bake on a silicone mat at 350* for 20 minutes, or until brown and bubbling.
Notes
Nuts chopped fine with a food processor and mini chocolate chips are preferred as bigger chips or nuts will tear the dough when rolling up the logs.