Bread, Fast and Slow

Posted on Updated on

Easter and the beginning of Passover coincide this weekend, which presents an opportunity to reprise experiments in bread both leavened and unleavened.

A lesson in povitica

Mamma, matzoh!

Beyond Pumpkin Pie

Posted on Updated on

This year’s Thanksgiving feast chez Kate focused on new combinations of  traditional ingredients. Case in point: to liven up the pumpkin portion of the meal, Kate served up fresh-baked Slow-Rising Pumpkin-Thyme Dinner Rolls. Warm from the oven, they were a lovely way to start the dinner, spread with some Cheddar-Cava Spread and a glass of sparkling Chevalier Cremant de Bourgogne.

Alongside the Roasted Turkey.

Pumpkin made a final appearance in the form of Ginger-Pumpkin Cheese Tart, spiced up with a cheesecake-style filling, fresh ginger and gingersnap crust, along with the can’t-do-without Mocha Pecan Pie. Simplify the latter recipe a bit by using the pie crust recipe of your choice and basic whipped cream; the filling itself shines by cutting the usual toothache-inducing sweetness of pecan pie through addition of espresso and cocoa.

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

In My Easter Basket(s)

Posted on Updated on

I always had two Easter baskets as a kid. One was child-sized, filled with plastic grass, a few colored eggs, a Russell Stover chocolate bunny and some jelly beans.  It was mine alone. The other, a more serious large, woven affair, was the family basket, the real Easter basket. My mother handled that one as we made our way to the Catholic church on the day before Easter to have the baskets blessed. It’s a common tradition in the Polish and Croatian communities from which my parents hailed and the specified contents of the basket never varied: ham, kielbasa, home-made bread, colored eggs, spring onions, radishes and povitica, the sweet bread swirled with a nut filling made at holidays and for special events.

Each day of the Easter Week was consumed with the process of procuring and preparing those items, with special trips to the local butcher/sausage maker, and evenings spent with my mom cracking whole walnuts while my dad put them through the old-fashioned, hand-cranked grinder he’d attach to the kitchen table. Thursday was dedicated to povitica baking; Good Friday was always bread baking, egg dyeing and ham baking day. On Saturday morning, the baskets were filled with packets of the meats and breads, along with the prettiest of the colored eggs on which we’d scrawled names of each family member. Then the basket was covered with an embroidered cloth.

The church was always packed to the rafters for the special afternoon service. Baskets lined the aisles and the women toting them would stoop to carefully fold back a corner of their fancy linen covers as the priest made his rounds with incense and holy water.  (Although I always suspected a bit of one-upmanship in their carefully orchestrated maneuvers, each striving to make sure everyone saw that she had the best-looking basket.)

Saturday’s rite served as a punctuation mark on the Easter season, a sign that all the devotion and preparation was about to culminate in the next day’s celebration.  We weren’t allowed to touch anything from the basket until Easter morning, when it would be unpacked and the foods consumed to break our Lenten fast.  Sitting at the table, cracking open an egg, my mother would inevitably say, “Doesn’t the blessed food just taste better?”  We kids would roll our eyes at this oh-so-predictable comment. But somehow, it was true.

Matzo in a Hurry

Posted on Updated on

Well, of course that’s the whole point of matzo, the unleavened bread eaten during Passover. But we’ll be adding homemade matzo to the “So Simple and Tastes So Much Better than Store-bought, Why Didn’t We Think About Making It Before?” list. (Although some people would argue that beating the taste of commercially made matzo doesn’t take much.) Start to finish, this recipe for Olive Oil Matzo came together in 45 minutes, with just one person in the kitchen, and with nothing more than flour, olive oil, water and a little salt.

Even for those of us who aren’t Jewish, it’s an easy flatbread to try. In a few minutes you can pull together something warm to go with hummus or other spreads. And it would be a great project for the kids. With a quick dough recipe, rolled flat and baked for a few minutes at high temperature, it’s not unlike homemade pizza night. And yes, the kids could add pizza toppings. You already have the ingredients on hand, so crank up the oven and give it a try. The recipe calls for blending in a food processor, but mixing by hand in a bowl worked fine. Do be sure to roll the dough out so thin that you can see through it, and keep an eye on it during baking.
We’ll be having some tonight alongside Spiced Carrot and Sweet Potato Soup with Almond and Ginger Matzo Balls. Definitely not your grandmother’s matzo ball soup, this contemporary version is bright and flavorful and can be adapted easily to vegetarian menus.

Matzos dont have to be perfectly round
Roll the dough so thin you can see through it
Hot out of the oven, sprinkled with sea salt