Holiday Baking: Rosh Hashanah edition

At the halfway point.

At the halfway point.

One of my ‘things’ this year has been to do my own holiday baking. Partly out of self-preservation — boxed and mix Passover cake is truly the bread (cake) of affliction — and mostly out of the realization that I bake all the time the rest of the year and it’s silly to do otherwise for the holidays. Pesach featured a flourless Valhrona chocolate cake (that I only got a single tiny sliver of), lemon-almond macaroons, and peanut butter cookies and was, I think, a rousing success as a debut.

Rosh Hashanah was next up and that presented its own challenge: honey cake. Honey cake for Rosh Hashanah is to Jews what fruitcake is to Christians at Christmas — everyone eats it, gives it, gets it, and wishes it were more edible. There are a million versions, a small but hardcore group of devotees, and a whole lot of well-fed squirrels after the majority goes stale.

I had been considering not bothering, but then Deb from Smitten Kitchen posted a recipe (including a tale of woe with which I am all too familiar) and I figured what the heck.

You’ll notice I remembered the whiskey (that’s honey in the measuring cup, btw), went so far as to get a new bottle of veggie oil (I have learned to buy small bottles because I don’t use it often enough to keep it from going bad) and a new can of orange juice concentrate, made fresh coffee… and you’ll notice what’s not there. Eggs. I did take the eggs out of the fridge — the ‘fake’ eggs (Eggbeaters) I prefer and some real eggs (because Waldbaums was completely out of egg substitutes and was down to the last couple of dozen eggs — was there a chicken strike somewhere?). I just had them on the butcher block to warm up and forgot them.

Oops.

To my defense, the batter looked fine without the eggs — not too thick, not too runny — and there was no dead giveaway that Something Was Amiss.

And the cakes ended up coming out fine all considering — moist and tasty — and honey cake is supposed to be dense. That said, I’d like to try it once with all of the ingredients before doing something like swapping out half of the oil for apple sauce.

This here is a gratuitous pan picture, since best friend T has trauma over my occasionally ancient cookware. On display are my Eckoloy and Bake King 8″ square pans and my Ovenex 9″ square pan. They are all older than dirt. They are also not as dirty as they look. And they work just fine.

Next up was biscotti mandel bread. I make classic almond biscotti all of the time and can do it without thinking too much or screwing it up too badly. (Now I’m still working on a decent chocolate chocolate chip biscotti recipe, however…) Usually, the only adventurous part of making these for me is toasting the almond slivers without turning them to char. This time, however, it was that I was out of almond slivers. Oops. But! I was rescued by the supply of blanched whole almonds in the freezer, which got toasted and then chopped and worked out even better than the slivers, although with more work.

One of these days, I’ll do a post about biscotti, but for now, suffice to say that they’re ridiculously easy and turned out just fine (if a little aqua tinted in the photo):

Biscotti are easy, but they are also passively time-consuming and so I used the time between the first and second bakes to get my bread into the oven.

Still working on my scoring techniques. The one on the left has za’atar mixed in. Bread is another post for some future date.

You can’t get this out of a bread machine. The crust is fabulous for sandwich bread. I do it a disservice by freezing it, but fresh it’s amazing.

Since I wasn’t sure about the honey cake, I decided to bake one more thing (who am I kidding, I always go overboard with these things): a new recipe, fudge drops.

One of the things I find mildly ironic is that I have the King Arthur cookie cookbook and don’t use it — I tried a few things right when I got it, they turned out mediocre at best, and I veered away. I keep it to hand because while the recipes have done me no great favors, the creative ideas do. I keep meaning to go back and try some more recipes instead of just looking for what looks good and then trying to replicate it with someone else’s recipe. The cookbook is engagingly written, funny, and very creative. I just wish that I had a better track record with it.

This recipe comes from their entertaining and tempting blog and, really, what could be bad when you start with half a pound of chocolate and go on from there?

This is Chocovic Maragda 70%, a Spanish chocolate picked up from Fairway. It’s got a nice bitterness to it, not too sharp. It’s getting melted here, so a giant mess is perfectly acceptable chopping methodology so long as it all stays on the cutting board. I always melt my chocolate in the microwave; setting up bain maries and jury-rigging double boilers is far too much effort. Put it in for less time than you think it needs and then stir down; my range top was warm from the oven, so I just left it there to work out the biggest lumps and then add in the butter, which I’d forgotten to do beforehand.

You have to refrigerate the dough, which is more batter than dough when you’re done with the mixing part. It stiffens up a bit and then you can dollop.

I have scoop-shaped measuring spoons, so I have thus far eschewed cookie scoops, but every once in a while I think about getting the kind with the moving parts, like the ice cream scoops, to make life a little easier.

I forgot to take pictures once they were done baking, so this is a make-up picture a couple of days later. They come out of the oven domed and too soft to even consider moving. After a few minutes, they collapse a little but are still a little delicate, so handle gently. They stay soft — not dangerously so, but this doesn’t turn into a chocolate-chocolate chip cookie. It stays evil. Very evil.

I suspect this might end up being a standard recipe in my repertoire; T’s husband has requirements for doing things like picking me up and letting me hang out with his wife and decadent chocolate desserts are a guaranteed way to meet them.

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2 thoughts on “Holiday Baking: Rosh Hashanah edition

  1. Old baking containers are much better than new ones. The “can’t quite get it clean” appearance results from the microscopic and near microscopic pits on the surface filling in with baked on grease; a process commonly called seasoning. Those little pits are responsible for the poor baking quality of brand new metal cookware. Also, old baking pans ted to be much heavier than new pans, they bake more evenly. And now for the physics lesson. Bright clean, shiny pans have a very high reflectance whereas dull pans have a low reflectance/high absorbtivity. The heat absorbed by the top of the cake/bread/rolls/&c. will be the same no matter what pan is used, but the body of the baked item will absorb heat much more slowly in a shiny pan. For things larger than cookies and cupcakes, the top will burn before the interior is cooked. There’s a reason that most pro bakeware comes in a matte/brushed metal surface; it isn’t shiny and it takes a rapid seasoning. Also, there’s little need to be too fastidious with bakeware , at 400 F, few things growing on the surface between uses will survive.

    ~ There’s seasoning and then there’s shmutz. The Eckoloy’s been in the rotation for a while, but the other two were fetched from a never-accessed cabinet and, for all I know, might last have been used when Nixon (or Truman) were in office. I have no desire to get them bright-and-shiny, although there are websites that feature pictures of the same ones gleaming bright as silver.

    Also, I used the Bake King to make cornbread and the results did taste a bit metallic.

  2. your Eckoloy 8″ Square baking tin – do you know that it’s made of – meaning is it aluminum or….?

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