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Posts Tagged ‘baking’

Every March 9, in some regions within Romania, folks celebrate the day by making măcinici. The măcinici are different depending on the region… they vary from a pasta-like dough to a bread-like dough. Growing up, my family always made the pasta-like dough (read more about the tradition in an old post).

Since having Julia, exposing her to my childhood traditions have been important and fun. We have also exposed her to the Jewish traditions, which I also love. Julia is curious and seems to enjoy them all, which makes it even more fun.

March 9 fell on a Friday this year. Making anything on a weeknight is challenging, but my mom and I decided to still make them… we could not break the tradition. My mom made the dough and I took a half a day vacation so we can get an early start. Making măcinici is time consuming.

As soon as we rolled the dough into a sheet, Julia insisted that she wanted to use the punch. The punch is not an easy tool… you really have to press it into the dough, wiggle it a bit to release the dough from the rest, and then lift and press the top to release the cutout. She tried a couple of times and got frustrated. My mom and I told her that it was even hard for us to do, but I am not sure if that made her feel better.

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My mom had an idea… she tasked Julia with moving the măcinici from our working area to the towel so that they can dry. Julia thought that it was the best idea! She was even counting them.

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At one point I looked over and Julia was arranging the măcinici in rows… it looked so pretty so we continued the pattern.

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As with any 5 year old kids, she eventually got tired of moving the măcinici over so she abandoned her post. My mom and I continued for a while. After about 2 hours and a few breaks, we were ready to boil them.

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The măcinici are pretty much considered fresh pasta, so just like fresh pasta, once they come to the surface, they are done. To finish them off, we added finely ground and chopped walnuts, lemon zest, cinnamon, vanilla and rum extract, sugar, and a pinch of salt. We boiled it a bit more until the sugar dissolved and then we were done.

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We truly enjoyed our hard work… the măcinici were delicious.

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Julia turned 2 the other day. Crazy!! I cannot believe that she is already 2 and at the same time it is hard to believe that she is only 2. Ha!

We had a small birthday party to celebrate her birthday. Since one of Julia’s friends is vegan, I decided to make a vegan cake. I looked in a few cookbooks and at a few sites and decided to give it a try. The recipes did not seem too involved, so how hard can it be. Another ha! I baked 5 cakes… yes, I said 5 cakes… and they were either ok, mediocre, or just awful.

The first recipe that I tried was a coconut lemon cake from the Veganomicon cookbook. It was simple to make. The recipe included coconut milk, lemon juice and zest, and the regular baking items, such as flour, sugar, etc. Since no eggs are included, a combination of baking powder, baking soda, and apple cider vinegar is used as a replacement. The recipe required a bundt cake pan, but I decided to make it in a springform pan. The cake was pretty good, but it was not a good cake for a birthday cake. The flavor was really nice… the coconut and lemon worked well together. The consistency of the cake was pretty dense… it almost resembled corn bread. Joel tried to convince me that it was an ok recipe as a birthday cake, but I was not convinced.

I searched some more and I came across a recipe for an orange blossom sesame cake on the My New Roots blog. It sounded pretty tasty. However, there were a few things… the recipe required unhulled sesame seeds and tahini made from unhulled sesame seeds. I am not sure where you can find tahini from unhulled sesame seeds. Wegmans does not carry it… perhaps Lori’s or the co-op? I did not have time to search around too much so I settled on the tahini that I had in my fridge. Same goes for the sesame seeds. The recipe also required orange blossom water. I again searched at Wegmans but could not find it there. I did find it at Cook’s World… I love that place… they have everything there! :) The recipe was also fairly simple to make. The cake looked somewhat similar to the photo in the blog. My version was lighter, which I suspect is from the fact that I used hulled sesame seeds and tahini. I really liked the cake. The flavor was nice. I liked the taste of the tahini with the orange flavor. I did not care too much for the honey syrup… I found it way too sweet. If I make the cake again, I would make a simple syrup instead. Even though the cake was good, again I did not think that it was a good cake for a birthday party for a 2 year old.

The search continued. I decided to look in my Moosewood Restaurant Book of Desserts cookbook. I forgot that I owned this cookbook and thought for sure that a vegan recipe would be included. I was right… but it was a chocolate cake. I was set on making a vanilla type of a cake, since chocolate seems to affect Julia. I thought I would give it a try anyway. The recipe is the simplest cake recipe I have ever made. It takes 12 minutes if you want to use a bowl. According to the recipe, you can mix everything in the pan, which would only take you 6 minutes to make… hence the name of the recipe “Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake“. The cake looked pretty good… it looked rich and fluffy. However, the flavor was much subtle, specifically the chocolate part… it was pretty mild. The recipe only required 1/3 of a cup of cacao, so I am not surprised. Aside, from that, I did not really like it as a cake. Again, it needed more chocolate.

The last recipe that I tried was a recipe that I found on AllRecipes.com called Vegan Basic Vanilla Cake. I have never made anything that was posted on that site, but 23 people gave it a 4 1/2 star. So it must be a good recipe, I thought. The recipe required the same basic ingredients that all vegan recipes require and it was pretty easy to make. The outcome, however, was not good. The cake was gummy tasting and just blah. I am so surprised that 23 people gave it such a high rating. I must be missing something. Or I must have high cake standards. It is definitely NOT a keeper.

In the end, I ended up making a regular sponge cake with lemon curd and vanilla frosting for Julia’s birthday. Since I felt terrible about not having a cake for Julia’s friend, I made the Six-Minute Vegan Chocolate Cake recipe as cupcakes. I must admit that I really liked the recipe as cupcakes. I think that it worked way better than baked in a springform pan. I am not sure if it is because the muffin pan requires less cake so it bakes differently or what. The flavor seemed more intense too.

I am not sure what to make of vegan baking. The egg replacement is a mystery to me. I admit that I have not tried the egg replacements that exist, but I did not want to buy another ingredient that I will only use once or maybe never, depending on the outcome. I have had some really tasty vegan cakes so I know that a good recipe exists. I guess I just have not found it yet.

Julia's birthday cake

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I have been on a baking kick lately. It’s Kristin’s fault! :) A few weeks ago, while we were making plans to get together, she kept mentioning this Nectarine Upside Down Cake that she discovered in her new cookbook called Everyday Greens: Home Cooking from Greens the Celebrated Vegetarian Restaurant. I really wanted to try it, so I asked her if she would make the cake in return for a dinner at my house. She agreed. The cake was fantastic! I asked her for the recipe and she gladly gave it to me.

This past weekend we were going to a small get together with a few friends so I decided that it was the perfect opportunity to make the cake. The recipe is very simple. You make a caramel mixture from butter, brown sugar, and some rum. You add the sliced nectarines (or peaches, which I bought by mistake, since I thought that the recipe required them) on top of the caramel in a spoke-like fashion, and then you top if off with a cake batter made from almond paste, flour, sugar, butter, eggs, baking powder, and salt.

As I was making the cake batter, I noticed the almond paste requirement. I apparently did not read the recipe very well before going to the grocery store, since I did not buy the almond paste. I decided to pulverize a bunch of almonds in my small food processor and add it to the batter. The end result was delicious! The cake was a hit! In fact, I liked the cake so much that I made it again this past Sunday. :) The recipe mentions that the cake can also be made with other fruits such as peaches (HA!), apricots, plums, and fresh cherries. I think that even pears and apples would work. The possibilities are endless!

I am a sucker for fresh things… bread, fruit, anything. Oh, and especially if they are locally made/grown. While I was grocery shopping on Sunday, I saw these beautiful apricots that were brought in from a local farm. I could not resist! I bought a fairly large pint, and as soon as I got home from the grocery store, I ate a bunch of them. An hour later my stomach was killing me. (I am unable to eat a lot of fresh fruits. That pesky stomach! But I could not resist!)

It was another rainy day in Rochester, which put a damper on my bike riding plans, so I decided to make something with those beautiful apricots, especially since Joel informed me that they were getting very ripe. I searched on my trusted sites and came across a recipe for a Breakfast Apricot Crisp. Perfect! And oh, how perfect it was. YUM!

I did however make a few adjustments to the crisp recipe. I doubled the amount of oats and flour (I used white and whole wheat flour), cut the sugar to only 4 tablespoons, added a teaspoon of honey to thicken it a bit, substituted pumpkin seeds for almonds, and added vanilla and coconut flakes. :)

Ok… so I did make a fair amount of changes, but I think that you can add whatever you like in it. Next time I will try adding some cinnamon and cardamom. (My friend Sally gave me a delicious granola recipe a few years ago that included cinnamon and cardamom, and it worked wonderfully.)

Happy baking!

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