Savory Cake (or quick bread) with Olives, Cheese, and Pine Nuts

This is a quite lovely meze-cake to enjoy in the garden, accompanied by crisp white or rose wine in the first sunny spring days. On this olivewood stand that I asked our friend, the brilliant wood-carver Panos to make for me the cake looks even more sumptuous. The basic idea comes from Les Cahiers de Delphine, the always interesting weekly newsletter.

 

Of course, I made quite a few changes, using local green olives instead of the black from Provence, and scallions, instead of the chives that are not available here. As I always do, I substituted olive oil for the butter, and grated aged graviera cheese for the parmesan, I increased the amount of pine nuts and sunflower seeds and added rosemary which gave a lovely aroma to the cake.

I baked it in a pan with a hole in the center, but you can of course use a loaf pan, or a simple round 8-inch pan. This meze cake is best slightly warm, or just cooled.

 

At least 8 generous appetizer pieces (more…)

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Strawberry Cake with Raisins and Almonds

This is my new, spring version of our beloved Quince Cake that started from a recipe of an apple cake/sharlotka by Darra Goldstein. This very easy, wonderful cake has become our go-to winter treat and I was making it all the time.

Now that strawberries appeared in the market,  I adapted Darra’s basic recipe for this early spring fruit.

For a 9-inch round cake –or equivalent square, or 1 large or 2 small loaves  (more…)

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Very Lemony ‘Chess Pie’

I came across a picture of this wonderful, lemony pie at the bottom of my old friend Ari Weinzweig’s inspiring weekly newsletter. I was very intrigued; Ari had no recipe, just mentioned that the pie was sold at Zingerman’s Bakehouse, part of his iconic deli empire in Ann Arbor.

I never heard of this dessert and was baffled by its name. Looking it up I found lots of recipes online. I chose the one from King Arthur Mill, since I love their products, and know that their recipes work, as I have occasionally used them as starting point for my baking. 

 

I substituted olive oil for the shortening and butter in the recipe, as I always do, and added some carob flour to the crust, because I wanted to make it dark, thinking that the lemon cream would be light-colored, so the contrast would be nice. Of course the filling darkened considerably by the time it set, as the sugar-lemon-egg cream develops a deep dark caramel color…

 

In the notes, I read that the word “chess” in the recipe’s title “…some food historians say it’s a takeoff on “cheese,” as in English cheese pies, similar to American cheesecake — the filling is of a consistency similar to chess pie. Others say ‘chess’ refers to the chest in which pies used to be kept; due to the high degree of sugar, chess pies didn’t need to be refrigerated (though in these days of heightened awareness of food safety, we do recommend refrigeration). One final theory holds that chess refers to the simplicity of the pie itself. “What kind of pie is that?” “Jes’ pie.” Chess pie.”

 

For a 9″ pie  (8 to 12 servings) (more…)

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Dried Fruit and Nuts for Sweetness and Strength

Nuts and dried fruit are associated with the Holiday Season and the New Year.

They are supposed to bring luck and help start the year with sweetness and strength, something we particularly need these difficult times…

 

English pudding is one of such festive cakes, but it is somewhat too complicated, with lots of strange ingredients, while the Boozy Fruitcake I propose is quite simple, provided you have help chopping dried fruit, and do not spare the cost of real, aged Cognac, Armagnac, or Grand Marnier needed to douse the cake. 

 

There is also our morning treat: the somewhat heavy yeasted Seedy, Fruity and Nutty Bread, close to a fruit-nut cake, with complex, bold flavor I always have sliced in the freezer. We toast pieces to enjoy with our coffee.

A variation of this bread can become a vassilopita —the New Year’s cake where the lucky coin is hidden.

(more…)

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Boozy, Delicious Fruitcake

With lots of dried fruits and nuts, this dense cake, adapted from Amanda Hesser’s Good Fruit Cake, comes out perfect because it is baked in a very low oven for about 1 ½ hours. Apparently, this is the secret to making a fruit cake that is not hard and chewy… and of course lots of good liqueur and/or brandy!

This is a dense fruitcake, full of flavor, that should be thinly sliced and enjoyed in moderation, maybe accompanied by cream, mascarpone, or thick yogurt. 

 

 

Makes 2 Fruitcakes

(more…)

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