Wednesday, October 12, 2005

Round Three - Desserts

Well it’s time to talk dessert. Now usually by the time everyone has finished with soup, salads, and an unbelievable selection for the main course it’s time for dessert, but with little room in the tummy.

The menu I shared yesterday is my traditional one, mostly handed down from my mother. That said it’s a lot lighter than the one she used to serve. Hers sounded something like this: It started out the same way with chicken soup with matzo balls, but that’s where the similarity ends. In addition to gelfilte fish, chicken salad, there was also home made chopped liver, marinated eggplant salad and probably at least one more type of salad because, well you never know. Then for the main course in addition to the capon, potato kugel, broccoli and tsimmis there would also be brisket of beef braised with lima beans and bow ties and kasha to soak up the gravy. There would probably be a sweet potato kugel in addition to potato and noodle ones. Unbelievable, but true. So now we’re at the dessert portion. Once again, mine is simple by comparison. Both of us serve honey cake, both serve squares ( I made 3 kinds, she’d make double that and she’d bake at least 5 kinds of cookies.) She’d also make a delicious fruit salad or apple crisp as the “real” dessert. What can I say…so I will just share my paltry dessert menu recipes.

Honey cake is to Rosh Hashanah as Christmas cake and pudding are to Christmas. I’ve already written about it. Every home has their version. This one is my favorite.

And then there are “Squares”. I made three types this year – Date Squares like my mother made (they’re in my cookbook), Almond Crisp Bars and Walnut Squares from two of the first Jewish cookbooks I ever received. I hope they fill your sweet tooth.

Almond Crisp Bars
Adapted from The Pleasures of Your Processor

Hands on time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 25 minutes

Makes 25 squares

½ cup butter cut in chunks
¼ cup granulated sugar
¼ cup brown sugar
½ tsp almond extract
1 egg yolk
½ cup flour
½ cup granola
1 cup chocolate chips
1 tbsp butter
¼ cup almonds, finely chopped

1. Using the steel knife in the food processor, process ½ cup butter with sugars, flavoring and egg yolk for 45 seconds. Add flour and process for 4-5 seconds to mix. Add granola and process with several quick on/off turns to mix.

2. Spread the mixture into a greased 8” square baking pan. Bake at 350°F/180°C for 25 minutes or until golden.

3. Meanwhile melt chocolate chips with 1 tbsp butter mixing to blend well. Spread over baked base.

4. Sprinkle the finely chopped almonds over the chocolate. Cut the squares while still warm.

Apparently these freeze well, but I’ll never know they’re always gone in a flash.

Walnut Squares
From Second Helpings Please

Hands on time: 30 minutes
Baking time: 50 minutes

½ cup soft butter
¼ cup brown sugar, packed
1¼ cup flour
3 egg whites
1½ cup brown sugar, packed
2 tbsp flour
½ tsp baking powder
1 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped

1. Cream butter with sugar, add flour and mix well.

2. Press into the bottom of a greased 8” baking pan and bake for 350°F/180°C for 20 minutes.

1. Beat egg whites until stiff and carefully fold in the remaining ingredients. Spread over the base.

2. Bake at 325°F/170°C for 25 minutes longer.

Dolly’s Date Squares
From Every Kitchen Tells Its Stories

Hands on time: 20 minutes
Baking time: 30 minute
Makes 3 dozen or so

1 lb pitted dates, cut up*
1 cup sugar
½ cup water
Juice of ½ lemon
1 ½ cup oatmeal
1 ¾ cup flour
½ tsp baking soda
1 cup melted butter
1 cup chopped walnuts, lightly toasted**
1 cup brown sugar, packed
½ tsp ground cinnamon

1. Preheat oven to 325°F/170°C.

2. In a medium saucepan, combine the dates, sugar, water and lemon juice and bring it to a boil. Cook the filling until smooth. (about 8-10 minutes)*

3. For crust mixture: In a separate bowl, combine all dry ingredients together and then add melted butter.

4. Pat ½ crust mix in greased 11”x7”x2” Ovenproof pan. Spread filling mixture. Add remaining crust and lightly pat into place.

5. Bake for 30 minutes and cut into squares while still slightly warm.
*If the dates are too hard to cut, just put them in the saucepan and cook until the filling is mostly smooth. To get rid of the large lumps of dates, put the mixture in a food processor and finish with a few quick pulses.

**I like my nuts chopped to a medium ground - not too fine so I use a mini food processor or coffee grinder and just do a few quick pulses. You can always us a sharp large chef knife on a cutting board

Well, it took three posts, but that’s it for our New Year dinner.


Mona said...

My oh my, those desserts look delicious! I love small dessert squares, they're the perfect size that you can tastetest everything.

Joycelyn said...

oh mine, what a sweet-toothed spread! the honey cake, in particular, looks wonerfully moist with a gorgeous crumb

Shauna said...


As always, you have made me hungry. Your feast looks gorgeous, made with love, and steeped with tradition. And the soup! I would happily eat holiday dinner at your house.

And even though it's late, Happy New Year!

Ruth Daniels said...

Thank you ladies for dropping by and your kind words.

It's been over a week since I've written a new post - too many leftovers and a bad cold that keeps me from being inspired.

Joycelyn said...

o dear, hope you feel better soon...

Skrat said...

Hi Ruth,
i especially love the walnut squares! Wish i could get a piece of that! Hope you are feeling better now!

Shauna said...

Ruth! Are you still suffering with that cold? Come back. I miss you.

Ruth Daniels said...

Thanks ladies for your kind words. I'm feeling much better and I promise a post tomorrow.

Today is my last lazy day.