Spring has sprung, calendar-wise at least, the birds have been singing and the daffodils have emerged out of the cold ground, but the weather itself has not settled down yet and even yesterday there were snow flurries coming down. One hopes that this is just winter's last hurrah, and that, as they tell us, this is about to change for the better by the end of this week.
Regardless, we're well into the Lenten season, and Passover and Easter are nigh upon us. The renewal of nature that comes with spring echoes the promise of redemption inherent in these two great feasts of the Judaeo and Christian faiths respectively. This is a time for celebration!
To help celebrate, here's a collection of traditional recipes, running the gamut from breakfast through dessert,all rooted in both time and history.
For centuries, Sephardi Jews - those displaced Jews who first settled on the Iberian peninsula of Spain, Portugal and the surrounding area and then further exiled to other lands, mostly those bordering the Mediterranean - have made traditional sweet breads called Roscas, a.Spanish word that means ’round'. Traditional roscas include round loaves, large rings, rings with notches, small knotted twists, coils large and small, and so on..
For special occasions, the dough is rolled out flat, spread with sugar, cinnamon, nuts, dried fruit if you like, then rolled into a snake, coiled and baked in a round pan. It's the Sephardic version of the non-Sephardic babka. The texture is that of a cake-like challah, and it is a great contribution to a festive breakfast or brunch. Anything leftover makes the most decadent French toast the next day.
for the dough:
1 18 oz bag Organic Ancient Grain Pizza Dough Mix
2½ tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
4 tablespoons honey
2 eggs at room temperature
for the filling:
2 tablespoons cinnamon
¼ cup chopped nuts, optional
¼ cup dried diced fruit, optional
1 egg for wash, beaten with 1 tablespoon water
¼ cup brown sugar, firmly packed
- Place the Ancient Grain Pizza Dough Mix in a large bowl and stir.
- Make a well in the middle and add the water, sugar or honey, olive oil and eggs.
- Beat with a wooden spoon or dough hook until mixture forms a ball.
- (Alternatively, use a stand mixer with a dough hook).
- Turn out onto a floured board and knead for 5 minutes or until smooth and elastic.
- Transfer to a lightly oiled bowl, cover with plastic wrap, and let the dough rise in your refrigerator overnight, as per the instructions that came with the Ancient Grain Dough Mix.
- On a flat floured surface, roll dough into a large rectangle 1/4 inch thick. Spread cinnamon, sugar, nuts and fruit, if using, over entire surface, leaving about 1” border on all four sides.
- Starting at the long side closest to you, roll the dough, jelly roll style into a long snake shape. Press the loose edge into the dough to seal.
- Coil the dough into a snug circle, tuck the loose end under the coil. Place coil in a round, well greased cake pan, seam side down. Brush top with beaten egg. Allow to rise in a draft free place until double in size, 30 minutes to one hour.
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
- Brush loaf the egg wash once more. Bake in preheated oven for 25 to 30 minutes until golden. Be careful; when removing pan from oven as the melted sugar often drips and will burn. Cool in pan 15 minutes until sugar begins to firm, then carefully remove loaf to wire rack and cool completely.
recipe adapted from sephardicfood.com and .thekosherchannel.com
Savoury (Mini) Muffins, 2 kinds
for the muffins:
2 cups, 8.5 oz (250g) Organic Einkorn Pancake and Baking Mix
2 large eggs
1 ½ - 2 oz melted butter
¾ cup, 6 oz, (170g)) yoghurt or milk
additional ingredients for the Cheddar Cheese and Ham Muffins:
2 ½ oz (70g) mature cheddar cheese - grated
1 ½ oz (40g) wafer-thin ham, chopped
additional ingredients for the Goat's Cheese, Red Onion and Herbs Muffins:
4 oz (113g) red onion, peeled and finely chopped
2 tbl, 1oz (30g) butter
4 oz (113g) goat's cheese, cut into 1/4 inch (5mm) cubes
2 teaspoons herbes de provence or 4 teaspoons chopped fresh rosemary, plus 12 small sprigs rosemary for garnishing
directions:If making the goats’ cheese, red onion and rosemary muffins, make this first before proceeding to making the muffin batter
- Melt the butter in a small saucepan and soften the onion in it for about 5 minutes. Then allow it to cool.
- Preheat your oven to 375°F. Grease the muffin tins, or line the wells with muffin papers.
- Put the baking mix in a mixing bowl. Add the dry additional Ingredients.for either the Cheddar Cheese and Ham or the Goat's Cheese Muffins.
- Beat the egg with the melted butter and the yoghurt or milk and stir gently into the mix, taking only 20 seconds. This is important. No matter how lumpy, resist the temptation to stir until the lumps are gone. You'll wind up with tennis balls if you don't.
- Using a 1/3 cup measure or a cookie scoop, fill the cups of a muffin tin 1/2 to 2/3 full. Bake at 375°F for about 22-25 minutes.
recipe adapted from.deliaonline.com
Festive Desserts and Snacks
Easter Zuccotto (Zuccotto Pasquale)
A classic holiday dessert from the isle of Sicily. This is a cake that will undoubtedly remind you of the Cassata, the queen of Sicilian holiday desserts.
What you Need For the Cake
Day ahead bake or purchase the sponge - la Pan di Spagna.
- 1 Pan di Spagna (sponge cake), see recipe below
for the Syrup
½ cup 100 gr water
¼ cup 50 gr sugar
2 teaspoons Orange Flower water
for the Filling:
2 ½ cups, 1lb 5.33oz (600 g) ricotta
¾ cup, 7oz (200 g). heavy cream
1 cup less 2 tbl, 6oz (170g) sugar
1 drop of vanilla essence
3 - 4 oz (80-113g) diced candied mixed citron and orange peel
5 oz bitter-chocolate shavings or chocolate chips
for the Glaze:
scant 9oz (250 g) very good quality dark chocolate
scant ½ cup about 3.5 fl oz (100 g) heavy cream
¼ cup, 2 oz ( 50 g) butter
- 4 tbl toasted pistachio or almond nuts (coarsely chopped)
for the Pan di Spagna:
1.5 cup Einkorn Cake mix (120g flour + 80g sugar)
1 oz additional sugar
6 eggs, at room temperature
- Heat oven to 350°F.
- In the bowl of a standing mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, beat the eggs on medium speed for 30 seconds.
- Add the sugar, increase speed to high, and beat for 1 minute until the egg mixture begins to thicken.
- Detach bowl from mixer and sift in a few tablespoons of the cake mix, folding in with a spatula. Repeat with the remaining mix until completely used.
- Fill a buttered and floured 9" pan to halfway full with the batter. Bake for 35-40 minutes until the cake is lightly golden on top and a toothpick inserted into the center comes out clean.
- Transfer the pan to a wire rack and let cool for 10 minutes. Remove cake from pan and cool on a rack until completely cooled.
Assembling the Zuccotto:the Filling:
- In a colander, drain the ricotta overnight or a minimum of 6-8 hours. The next day press ricotta through fine-mesh sieve into large bowl, stir in sugar until smooth. Blend in the candied peel, the chocolate shavings and vanilla. Store in the refrigerator..
- When ready to use, mix the ricotta with a wooden spoon to aerate and make it silky-smooth. Whip the heavy cream until soft peaks form.
- Add the ricotta mixture to the cream.
- Bring the water and sugar for the syrup to a boil, and simmer for a few minutes. Remove from heat and add the orange flower water.
- Line a 1.2-litre pudding basin with cling wrap, leaving enough hanging over the edges to fold over the top of the pudding and cover securely.
- Slice the sponge cake horizontally into 2-3 layers of even thickness with a sharp serrated knife, and then into strips 1/2 inch (1cm) wide. Sprinkle cut side of each layer with 2 tablespoon of syrup.
- Line the pudding basin with the cake slices, each alongside its neighbor, so the whole basin is lined with cake. Make sure there are no gaps, otherwise patch with more cake..
- Using a pastry brush, brush the cake with 2-3 tablespoons of the syrup.
- Fill the center with the ricotta mixture.
- Cover this with the reserved sponge strips, trimming the edges to fit the basin. This will become the bottom of the zuccotto when unmolded. Cover with plastic wrap; refrigerate 12 hours or overnight.
- After unfolding the plastic wrap, place a plate on top of the bowl and invert the bowl. Remove bowl and plastic wrap and brush the cake all over with more of the syrup.
- Dust lightly with cocoa.
- For the Glaze, in a microwave, or over very low heat, heat the cream then add the chocolate pieces. Add the butter and blend thoroughly.
- Using a ladle, pour glaze over top of dome, letting excess drip down sides.
- Finally, sprinkle with a handful of pistachio nuts. .
recipe adapted from dolcisiciliani.org
Speckled Easter egg cupcakes
These Easter cupcakes, topped with mini eggs, are decorated so the icing looks like finely speckled eggs. The delicate pattern is created using cocoa powder and water, then using a brush to create the flecks.
Prepare the cakes a day ahead if short on time,. then when they have cooled, store in an airtight container. Once iced, the cakes will keep, still in an airtight container, at room temperature, for up to three days.
for the cupcakes:
3oz (75 g) plain or bittersweet chocolate, finely chopped
½ cup, 4 fl oz (125 ml) hot coffee
generous 2 ½ cup, 14oz, (400g), half bag Organic Spelt Chocolate Cake/Brownie Mix best weighed out
½ tsp bicarbonate of soda
½ cup, 4 fl oz (125 ml) vegetable oil
3 medium eggs
2 tsp. white wine vinegar
For the icing and decoration
- 1 cup, 8oz (225 g) unsalted butter, softened
- 1 lb (450 g) powdered sugar, sifted
- 1 tbsp.milk
- 1 tsp. vanilla extract
- light blue and/or green food colouring paste/gel
- 1 tbsp. cocoa powder
- 36 mini chocolate eggs
- Preheat oven to 180°C (160°C fan) mark 4. Line a muffin tin with paper cases – we used brown to match the chocolate.
- To make the cakes, put chocolate into a large bowl and add the hot coffee. Whisk until smooth. Set aside to cool. In a separate bowl, mix the brownie mix and the bicarbonate of soda.
- Whisk oil, eggs and vinegar into cooled chocolate mixture. Add flour mixture and whisk to combine. Divide among cases and bake for 20-25min until set and just firm to the touch. Cool completely (in cases) on a wire rack.
- To make the icing, using a freestanding mixer or handheld electric whisk, beat butter in a large bowl until smooth. Add powdered sugar and, starting slowly, beat to combine. Beat in milk and vanilla until smooth and fluffy. Dye icing duck egg blue (we used a mix of blue and green food colours).
- Scrape buttercream into a piping bag fitted with a plain nozzle about 1.5cm (2/3 in) wide. Pipe on to the cooled cakes and decorate each with three mini chocolate eggs. In a small bowl, mix the 1tbsp cocoa powder and just enough water to make a loose paste. Dip a small clean stiff bristle paintbrush/toothbrush into cocoa mixture and, holding it near a cupcake, brush your fingers over bristles to fleck cocoa mixture on to the buttercream. Repeat to cover cupcakes with flecks. Serve.
recipe adapted from .goodhousekeeping.com/