A Misty Walk at Dark Hollow and Ramp Mushroom Ravioli!

Dark Hollow Trail: Salisbury, CT

A slow steady rain was starting- undeterred, we put on our raincoats and water proof hiking boots and set out for a misty early spring hike on the Dark Hollow Trail in Salisbury.

As we walked up the trail, the air was damp and fragrant with pine and rich humus and we saw many early woodland wildflowers peeking hesitantly out of the soil.

Enthralled, we saw the first trilliums of the season!

Fiddlehead ferns were slowly unfurling on their stalks and tiny leaf buds glistened with moisture.

Through the mist from a vantage point high on the trail, we could see a home in the village.

Early spring is the time of year for wild ramps.

Wild Ramps Next to Trillium Flower

I had always heard about ramps and their delicate onion/garlic flavor, but had never tried them. Luckily, our dear friends Thomas and Fran are avid ramp foragers and they offered to take us to harvest ramps from one of their sources.

According to Spruce Eats:

Ramps–a cousin of onions, leeksscallions, and shallots–grow in low mountain altitudes from South Carolina to Canada. In many areas, they’re considered a spring delicacy and a reason for celebration. Harvesting ramps has a long tradition in the Appalachian region of the United States, with West Virginia particularly well known for its many festivals and events. Ramp festivals are also held in Tennessee, Virginia, and North Carolina. There are many ways to enjoy ramps: raw, sautéed, roasted, grilled, and pickled too.

On Mother’s Day we set off for a beautiful hike at the New Marlborough Land Trust- then we went off to find ramps at an undisclosed location!

New Marlborough Land Trust

Not far from the side of the road, we came upon a sizeable patch of ramps. Next to a swampy area, thousands of ramp plants were clustered together in the woods. Paul called them a “run of ramps”!

Paul had found a recipe for vegan ramp ravioli from Meatless Makeovers and I decided that this would be a perfect use for our foraged treasures. When we returned home in the late afternoon, I thought I might make the pasta dough and then prepare the filling and form the ravioli the next day. But, after the inspiring walks and ramp adventure with our friends, I found myself full of energy and decided to make the raviolis for dinner. I listened to Stile Antica on Pandora and found myself in cooking heaven.

The original vegan recipe calls for pasta dough made with ground flax seed instead of egg, but I decided to go with rich golden organic egg yolks, a wise decision; the pasta was tender and full of flavor! I also added mushrooms and a few seasonings: dried thyme, nutmeg, red pepper flakes and salt & pepper to taste. The flavor of the ramps was just as I had imagined; subtle and delicate and they blended beautifully with the mushrooms and vegan ricotta. I think that you could also make the raviolis with leeks and scallions for a similar flavor.

These are definitely a dish for company. We will serve these soon for a group that includes our favorite ramp foragers!

ENJOY!!

Wild Ramp and Mushroom Ravioli (almost vegan)

FILLING:

  • 3 cloves garlic (Minced)
  • 1 bunch ramps (chopped with white stems separated from leaves)* Note
  • salt and freshly ground pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 4- or 5 mushrooms finely chopped
  • pinch of ground nutmeg
  • pinch of red pepper flakes
  • Vegan Ricotta ( I used Kite Hill plant based ricotta)

SAUCE:

  • 2 Tbsp vegan butter (I used Kite Hill Vegan Butter and it had a nice flavor, although you could just use unsalted butter)
  • 3 cloves garlic (sliced)
  • 15–20 sage Leaves
  • 2 Tbsp walnuts (chopped)
  • 1 ramp (chopped with white stems separated from leaves)

Ingredients for Pasta Dough

Makes enough dough for 24 ravioli or cappellacci

1 cup cake flour (not self-rising)

1/4 cup all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon salt

2 large egg yolks

1 1/2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil

1/4 cup water

Blend together all dough ingredients in a food processor until mixture just begins to form a ball. Knead dough on a lightly floured surface, incorporating only as much additional flour as necessary to keep dough from sticking, until smooth and elastic, 6 to 8 minutes. Wrap dough in plastic wrap and let stand at room temperature 1 hour.

Cooks’ note:

Dough can be made (but not rolled out) 1 day ahead and chilled, tightly wrapped in plastic wrap. Bring to room temperature before rolling out.

  1. Prepare the Ramps: Meanwhile chop the ramps completely, separate the chopped leaves from the white ends. Mince the garlic.
  2. In a skillet over medium heat, add 1 Tbsp olive oil. Place the chopped white part of the ramp first and allow to cook for 2 minutes.
  3. Next, add the chopped ramp leaves, mushrooms and the garlic. Cook, stirring frequently for 3 minutes. Transfer to a bowl and set aside.
  4. Making the Ravioli: Once the dough has rested, cut it into 8 equal pieces. Working in batches roll out the dough on a floured surface. Your dough should be about 3mm thick after rolling.
  5. Dollop 1 tsp vegan ricotta cheese about 3 inches apart along your rolled out dough. Place 1 tsp of the ramp filling onto each dollop of ricotta.
  6. Place another rolled out piece of dough over the filling piles. Carefully press out any trapped air and seal your ravioli tightly using your finger and cut them out with a knife or with a ravioli cutter. Dust your fresh ravioli with flour and set aside.
  7. Put a large pot of water on the stove to boil.
  8. Make the sauce:  In a skillet over medium/low heat, melt the butter. Stir the butter frequently until it has a slight golden brown color. Approx. 4 minutes.
  9. Add the garlic, white part of the ramps, and the walnuts. Cook stirring constantly until garlic begins to brown. Approx. 3 minutes.
  10. Remove the sauce from the heat, add the ramp greens and sage leaves to the sauce and set aside.
  11. Once your water is boiling, place a few ravioli into the water at a time. Allow them to boil for 3-4 minutes.
  12. Serve: Plate the ravioli and spoon the sauce over them. Garnish with red pepper flakes, black pepper, or grated vegan parmesan, if desired. Serve immediately and enjoy!
  13. Store uncooked ravioli in the fridge for up to 3 to 4 days or freeze for up to 3 months.
  14. * Note: Make sure to wash ramps very well with plenty of cold water. They are quite gritty! After I washed the ramps, I spun them dry in a salad spinner.
  15. ENJOY!

AND: Here is I think, an appropriate “Tree of the Week!”


“I think I Smell Something Good”!

HAPPY SPRING!!

High Ledges and a Passover Delicacy

High Ledges- Shelburne, Massachusetts

It was a windy chilly early spring day with the unusual occurrence of Easter, Passover and Ramadan taking place over the same weekend. We took a walk with breath taking views on the High Ledge Wildlife Sanctuary Trail in Shelburne, Massachusetts. From the top of the trail one can see the Deerfield River weaving gracefully through the hills with Mt. Greylock in the distance.

The trail climbed gently through peaceful pine woods and passed a gentle gurgling stream. In no rush, we stopped to listen to the beautiful sounds.

From the vantage point at the top, looking down almost 1,000 feet, we were treated to a cookie cutter view of the village of Shelburne Falls. To the left of the village not too far off, nestled in the hills, is our newly purchased land!

This year was our first in person Passover Seder since 2019. What a wonderful feeling to get out our fancy tableware and set the table for our guests! Although, I had lost track where the serving platters and large bowls were stored away. I needed to recalibrate how much food to prepare; I had gotten so used to cooking for two people!

One of the best things about hosting a Passover dinner again was that I could prepare Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish! When you mention gefilte fish to most people, there is a bit of eye rolling; we have a collective memory of cold gloppy fish that came from a jar with a strange after taste complete with an unappealing gooey gelatin. Mostly I think we ate it because we were starved after the long Seder service!

I found the recipe several years ago on Epicurious from an April 2002 issue of Bon Appetit Magazine. I love it when a person tastes the dish; skeptically the first time and then a look of delight crosses their face! A request has been made for a summer version of the dish; perhaps with a glass of chilled rose wine and served with tender baby lettuce with fresh peas from a local farm stand!

Each year, a few weeks before Passover, I make my annual pilgrimage to Zabars on Manhattan’s Upper West Side to purchase the freshest smoked whitefish; one of the ingredients for the gefilte fish. I do believe this is what makes the dish so special. I always enjoy watching the rude irreverent countermen carefully slice nova and other smoked fish. As I stand in a long line waiting for my turn, Mozart is playing softly in the background accompanied by the aroma of smoked fish and freshly baked bagels in the air. I listen to the back and forth banter between the customers and countermen. Then, I take my treasure home and keep it in the freezer for a few weeks until it is time to prepare the dish. The fish can be made up to 2 days before serving.

It had been several years since I had made the recipe and I needed to read the directions carefully. This recipe is a bit of a slog, but the result is well worth the effort! I hope you will try this recipe!!

Smoked Whitefish Gefilte Fish with Lemon-Horseradish Sauce

Ingredients

Makes about 24 dumplings

Gefilte fish

3/4 cup thinly sliced peeled carrots

1/4 cup matzo meal

2 tablespoons olive oil

1 cup chopped onion

1 cup chopped green onions ( reserve a small amount to garnish the fish)

4 large eggs

1 tablespoon fresh lemon juice

1 1/2 pounds mild white fish fillets (such as sole or flounder), cut into small pieces

2 cups flaked smoked whitefish (about 8 ounces), carefully boned

3/4 teaspoon salt

1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper

Sauce:

2 garlic cloves

1/4 cup prepared white horseradish

2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice

1 cup mayonnaise ( I use vegannaise)

salt and freshly ground pepper to taste

For gefilte fish:

Step 1

Cook carrots in pan of boiling salted water until very tender, about 8 minutes. Drain, reserving 1/2 cup cooking water in small bowl. Stir matzo meal into water; let stand 10 minutes. Place carrots in processor. Heat olive oil in heavy medium skillet over medium-low heat. Add onion and sauté until soft, about 5 minutes. Add green onions and stir 1 minute. Add onion mixture to carrots in processor. Add matzo meal mixture; blend until mixture is pureed and smooth. Using electric mixer, beat 3 eggs and lemon juice in large bowl until foamy and slightly thickened, about 4 minutes. Stir in mixture from processor; do not clean processor bowl.

Step 2

Blend fish fillets, smoked fish, salt, and pepper in same processor bowl until fish is finely chopped. Add remaining egg and blend to coarse paste. Add fish mixture to matzo meal mixture and mix thoroughly. Cover and refrigerate until very cold, about 2 hours.

Step 3

Line large baking sheet with waxed paper. Using wet hands, shape 1/4 cup fish mixture for each dumpling into egg-shaped oval. Place on prepared sheet. Cover with waxed paper and chill before steaming.

Step 4

Set vegetable steamer rack in large pot. Fill pot with enough water to meet, but not cover, bottom of rack. Line rack with parchment paper. Arrange 8 fish dumplings on parchment paper. Bring water to boil. Cover pot and steam dumplings until cooked through and firm to touch, about 25 minutes. Steam remaining dumplings in 2 more batches. Cover and refrigerate gefilte fish until cold, at least 6 hours. (Can be prepared 2 days ahead. Keep refrigerated.)

For Sauce:

Step 5

Mince garlic and place in small bowl. Mix in horseradish and lemon juice. Gradually whisk in mayonnaisse. Season sauce with salt and pepper. Adjust seasonings adding more lemon juice or horseradish to taste. Cover; chill up to 1 day. The flavors develop overnight!

Serve fish on a large platter sprinkled with remaining chopped scallions.

ENJOY!!

As is the tradition, at the end of the Seder, we opened our door to let Elijah enter. As dusk was falling we could hear the sounds of the birds tucking in for the evening and peepers calling from the pond across the street. I always imagine at this time of the year that a hungry bear enticed by the aroma of smoked whitefish gefilte fish, matzo ball soup and roast chicken may enter the door instead of Elijah! What a joy it was to be gathered around our table with dear friends once again!

AND, here is the “Tree of the Week”:

“It’s been a whirlwind of a year so far!”

HAPPY SPRING AND STAY SAFE!

A Sunny Trek at Thousand Acre Swamp and Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel!

March 14, 2022 Thousand Acre Swamp- New Marlborough, MA

Winter really is over, the sun felt warm on our faces and the sky was a brilliant blue; a lovely day for an invigorating walk with friends at Thousand Acre Swamp in New Marlborough , MA. The trail meanders gently through a forest of hemlock and black cherry trees with views of Thousand Acre Swamp.

How quickly the weather changes this time of year. We returned yesterday and the landscape was completely different; although a brisk chilly wind reminded us that winter has only just left us!

Thousand Acre Swamp- March 21, 2022

We crossed a rickety suspension bridge. The strong wind whipped the water underneath into interesting patterns and made the bridge sway back and forth with a motion that was a bit unsettling to say the least!

In my last blog entry, I talked about the family history on my father’s side. They came from the section of Russia that at the time included Poland and Ukraine; around 1914. My Grandpa Sam wrote a detailed and poignant account about growing up in a small poor town rife with antisemitism and their eventful trip to the United States. I don’t have the same documentation for my Grandma Bella, who came from the same area of the Ukraine. But, I do have rich memories; I remember her deep throaty voice with a heavy Russian accent. She had intelligent bright brown eyes and she rubbed her tiny worn hands energetically together as she listened avidly to other’s conversations. She did not have much formal education and spent her life taking care of a small dark apartment in St. Louis; I remember the plastic covered sofa and the scent of mothballs and schmalz in the air. I imagine that in different circumstances she would have been an excellent journalist or lawyer.

Grandma Bella

Her life revolved around her family and she often sent us packages of her homemade strudel. I regret that I never watched her prepare the pastry; I was an impatient teenager. I didn’t have the chance to listen to her family stories about the old country, although perhaps she would not have been comfortable talking about the hardships that she had endured.

I have never tasted any other strudel like my grandmother’s. Most strudels that I have tried had a flaky almost phyllo like pastry and were filled with either apples, cherries or poppy seeds. Grandma Bella’s strudel had a pastry covering that was very thin, more like the pastry for rugelach or a thin pliable pie crust. The filling had dried apricots, raisins and walnuts and was flavored with cinnamon.

I did a google search for Ukrainian/Russian strudel and although some of the ingredients were different, the recipe sounded a great deal like her strudel. I decided to make strudel and this is what I came up with. It was remarkably similar and was delicious. I liked it way too much and tried to give away as much as possible. I think Grandma Bella would have approved!!

Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel

Ukrainian Dried Fruit Strudel ( from Food Network; based on a recipe by Wayne Harley Brachman)

Sour Cream Pastry:

1 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

12 tablespoons (1 1/2 sticks) cold unsalted butter cut into pea sized bits

1/2 cup sour cream

Dried Fruit Filling:

1 cup pitted organic prunes

1/2 cup organic prune juice

1 teaspoon vanilla

1 cup golden raisins

1/2 cup dried cherries

1 cup coarsely chopped walnuts

cinnamon for dusting top of strudel

1 egg

2 tablespoons water

Directions

  1. Put the flour in the bowl of an electric mixer. On slow, mix in the butter until it looks like very coarse meal. Mix in the sour cream until it masses together to form a dough. Pat into a rectangle, wrap in plastic and refrigerate for 1 hour or overnight.

Dried Fruit Filling:

  1. Filling:
  2. Coarsely chop the prunes. In a small saucepan, cover the prunes with the prune juice and sugar. Bring to a simmer for 3 minutes. Place in a food processor with the vanilla and puree to a paste. Mix in the raisins, cherries and walnuts. Refrigerate for 1 hour. Preheat the oven to 400 degrees. On a lightly floured surface, roll the dough out into a square 16 by16 inches. Place the filling in a log running along the bottom and roll up. Pinch the ends closed. Place on a parchment lined cookie sheet, seam side down. Mix the egg and water together to form a wash and paint the strudel. Dust lightly with cinnamon. Bake for 30 minutes until crisp and golden. Let cool on a rack, then slice into 1 inch pieces. Wait until very cool to slice; use a serrated bread knife.

This week, I have strayed from my trusty “Tree of the Week” and morphed to stone! No fear, the trees will be back shortly. This rock caught my eye and I imagined a face with a crooked sly smile and one tooth sticking out the corner of it’s mouth!

Thousand Acre Swamp New Marlborough, MA

HAPPY SPRING!!

Vibrant Colors and Albanian Bureks!

New York Botanical Garden- September 2021 Exhibit KUSAMA: Cosmic Nature
Beaver Dam Road Salisbury, CTFebruary 2022

The contrast could not be more stark. The colors on a recent walk were mono chromatic; I felt as if I was in an old black white film. Time to write about a trip to the New York Botanical Garden in September 2021, when I viewed the eccentric, whimsical and boldly colorful work of the contemporary Japanese artist, Yayoi Kusama.

Yayoi Kusama New York Botanical Garden

Pre-pandemic, my usual routine was to commute to New York on Fridays to teach at Hofstra University and then if I did not have a rehearsal scheduled for Saturday, I would excitedly plan a food/art/ethnic neighborhood exploration. I had great fun finding unusual places and small out of the way Mom and Pop ethnic restaurants. This all ended abruptly in March of 2020.

Last September, during a lull in the covid case rate, I started teaching in person again at Hofstra and felt safe enough to go on one of my Saturday excursions. I decided to return to an area of the Bronx and The New York Botanical Garden that I had last visited in 2019. I had the wonderful fortune to view Yayoi Kusema’s featured exhibition. Before I headed up to the Bronx, I made a visit to Zabars, a beloved Westside fancy food store selling the freshest cheeses, the best smoked fish, coffee, breads, etc.; complete with rude but skillful countermen at the smoked fish counter. I loved listening to their sarcastic banter as they expertly sliced nova lox, whitefish and sable; I had missed the aroma of lox and freshly baked bagels mingling in the air with Mozart playing softly in the background.

Kusama: Cosmic Nature

When I arrived at the Botanical Gardens, proof of vaccination was required and we were asked to wear masks at all of the indoor locations. I felt completely safe and even though there were crowds of people, it felt almost normal!

Yayoi Kusama’s wildly colorful and playful sculptures were placed throughout the gardens; some outside and others inside galleries and the Haupt Conservatory.

The artist wrapped trees with dotted fabric and this moved in perfect lockstep with my love of anthromorphizing trees, one of which became a favorite “Tree of the Week”.

” I felt like getting dressed up today!

I was also touched by the artists’s compelling bio; this is from her website:

Yayoi Kusama dazzles audiences worldwide with her immersive “Infinity Mirror Rooms” and an aesthetic that embraces light, polka dots, and pumpkins. The avant-garde artist first rose to prominence in 1960s New York, where she staged provocative Happenings and exhibited hallucinatory paintings of loops and dots that she called “Infinity Nets.” Kusama also influenced Andy Warhol and augured the rise of feminist and Pop art. She has been the subject of major exhibitions at the Museum of Modern ArtCentre PompidouTate Modern, and the National Museum of Modern Art in Tokyo. In 1993, Kusama represented Japan at the Venice Biennale. Today, her work regularly sells for seven figures on the secondary market. Throughout her disparate practice, Kusama has continued to explore her own obsessive-compulsive disorder, sexuality, freedom, and perception. In 1977, Kusama voluntarily checked herself into a psychiatric hospital in Tokyo, where she continues to live today.

Continuing on my walk through the gardens, I was also fascinated by plants and giant lily pads in the pond outside of the Haupt Conservatory.

After walking quite a distance through the gardens, not wanting to miss any of the installations, I became quite hungry. It was time to revisit Dukagjini Burek, I had last been there in 2019. Only a five minute drive from the Botanical Gardens, I was delighted to discover that the small Albanian restaurant located at 758 Lydig Avenue had made it through the pandemic! I was also heartened to learn that my aggressive instinct for finding parking spots in NYC had not disappeared! As I entered the small restaurant, that for the time being is only open for takeout, the hard working counter person and a few customers were speaking Albanian. To my ear, the soft lilting sounds fell somewhere between Greek and Slavic.

Counter Worker cutting Bureks

The small menu includes three kinds of bureks; meat, spinach and cheese. I ordered a slice of the spinach burek and a small plastic container of plain yogurt; nothing fancy here! I took my treasures back to my car a few blocks away and had a lovely picnic. The crisp buttery crust of the burek had the texture of phyllo dough with a bit more heft to it and the spinach filling was mixed with bits of soft onion, feta and herbs. The yogurt complimented the richness of the pastry and filling; simply put- totally delicious! I think it would be well worth a trip to the Bronx just for bureks!!

The days are visibly brightening up, the sun is stronger and I hear the sweet sounds of bird song ; some hearty souls that have made an early return!

Kelsey Road- Sheffield, MA

Still, the weather is cold and bracing and calls for hearty comfort food. Paul recently showed me a recipe that he saw on a website called Little Spice Jar for Pesto Chicken Meatball Soup. It sounded delicious and this is the version that I came up with! If you have the time to make a batch of home made chicken broth, this is great, but store bought will also work in a pinch.

Pesto Chicken Meatball Soup

Ingredients

2 quarts chicken stock

6-7 pieces of lacinato kale- tough centers removed and cut into ribbons

1/2 cup small dried pasta (any small shape is fine)

2 tablespoons extra virgin olive oil

Chicken Meatballs

  •  1 pound ground chicken
  •  ½ cup panko breadcrumbs (add more if mixture seems too soft)
  •  1 large egg
  •  2 tablespoons minced Italian parsley
  •  2 tablespoons prepared pesto
  • 2 small garlic cloves finely chopped
  •  1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1/2 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1/2 teaspoon salt
  • few grinds of freshly ground pepper

To Make Meatballs:

Combine all of the above ingredients and mix well.

Heat olive oil in a large skillet.

With wet hands, form mixture into medium size meatballs and saute in olive oil until nicely browned on all sides.

To Make Soup:

Place chicken stock in a large pot and bring to a simmer.

Add meatballs, kale and bring to a boil.

Lower hear to a simmer and cook for about an hour.

Make Pasta

To Serve Soup:

Place a serving in each bowl, add desired amount of pasta

Top with grated percorino cheese and freshly ground black pepper

ENJOY!!

AND, here is the “Tree of the Week”!

Spring really is coming, I promise!!”

STAY SAFE AND WARM!!

Winterscapes and Lots of Chocolate!

Bray Road- Buckland, MA

I have never been the most athletically talented person, but I think I may have found my true winter calling- snowshoeing!! A friend suggested trying it out. I put on a borrowed pair the other day and duck footed, glided off! My own bright turquoise and gold pair will arrive next week. The snow shoes give me great balance; no fear of careening out of control down a hill on cross country skis and best of all I can traipse to my heart’s content through deep snow in the woods taking photos!

Bray Road- Buckland, MA

Walks on the last few weeks have been glorious, even with frigid temperatures. The contrast of light and shadows on the snow, water and sky has been breathtaking; some days with brilliant blue skies and others cloudy, misty and atmospheric.

I have picked some of my favorite photos for a slideshow:

SKY:

WATER:

SNOW:

All of this cold weather has made me crave chocolate even more than usual and put me in the mood for chocolate cake! I wanted to find a recipe that tasted fudgy and rich; without the fat and calories. I found this simple one bowl vegan chocolate cake recipe from allrecipes.com. For a low glycemic cake, I swapped out the sugar with Monk Fruit Sweetener and Coconut Sugar. To fancy up the cake, I made a dark chocolate pudding filling to sandwich between the layers and for the topping. I adapted the recipe for the chocolate pudding from a treasured old cookbook called fittingly, Chocolate Cake by Michele Urvater. With the addition of Lily’s Stevia Chocolate Chips and some toasted pecans for decoration, it was irresistible!

Snowy Day Chocolate Pudding Vegan Chocolate Cake

Cake Ingredients:

  • 1 ½ cups whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • ¼ cup cocoa powder
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • ½ teaspoon salt
  • ⅓ cup vegetable oil
  • 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
  • 1 teaspoon distilled white vinegar*- see note
  • 1 cup water

To Make Cake:

  • Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C). Lightly grease and line one 8×10 cake pan with greased wax or parchment paper.
  • Sift together the flour, sugar, cocoa, baking soda and salt. Add the oil, vanilla, vinegar and water. Mix together until smooth.
  • Pour into prepared pan and bake at 350 degrees F (175 degrees C) for about 25-30 minutes. Do not overbake, the cake should remain soft and fudgy. Remove from oven and allow to cool.
  • Remove cake from pan, peel off wax paper and place on rack to cool.

Chocolate Pudding Filling– adapted from Chocolate Cake by Michele Urvater

Ingredients:

1/4 cup cornstarch

1/3 cup monk fruit sweetener ( this makes a very bittersweet pudding, feel free to add up to 1/2 to 3/4 sugar.)

1 1/2 cups unsweetened almond or soy milk

1/2 teaspoon almond extract

4 ounces dark chocolate chopped (I used Equal Exchange Extremely Dark chocolate, but you could semi or bittersweet chocolate for a sweeter taste)

To make the pudding:

In a small mixing bowl, with a fork or small whisk, combine the cornstarch with 1/2 cup of the milk.

In a small saucepan over low heat, bring the remaining 1 cup milk to a simmer with the sugar, stirring occasionally so the milk does not boil over. Remove the saucepan from the heat.

Whisk the cornstarch and milk in the bowl again to make sure the cornstarch is dissolved, and add this to the hot milk and sugar mixture. Return the saucepan to the heat and bring to a simmer until the mixture thickens, whisking constantly. Remove from the hear and add chocolate, stirring until chocolate melts into the mixture. Stir in almond extract. Put pudding in a bowl and refrigerate until cold.

To fill the cake:

Carefully slice cake with a serrated bread knife in half and place one piece on a plate. Spread half of pudding mixture and place other half on top.

Spread remaining pudding on top and sprinkle with Lily’s Stevia Chocolate Chips. Decorate with toasted pecans. This would also be nice to decorate with sliced strawberries or raspberries.

* I was curious to find out why vinegar was called for in the recipe. For the kitchen science geeks, it turns out that vinegar reacts with baking soda to create a chemical reaction that makes the crumb of the cake light and tender!

ENJOY!!

I have become more than a little obsessed with the Great British Baking Show and in one installment the contestants made rich molten chocolate puddings filled with peanut butter. I decided to make my own lighter version with the vegan chocolate pudding batter and they were delicious- also addictive!!

Vegan Chocolate Peanut Butter Muffins

To make muffins:

Pre-heat oven to 350 degrees

Lightly grease a muffin tin ( this recipe will make about 8 muffins)

1 recipe of vegan chocolate cake batter

Fill each muffin cup with the vegan chocolate cake batter about 2/3 of the way.

Place a heaping teaspoon of peanut butter in the center of each muffin.

Top each muffin with remaining batter.

Bake about 10-12 minutes. The centers should jiggle slightly and it’s better for these to be slightly under baked!

ENJOY!!

The other day as I sat carving oboe reeds in my study, my husband called excitedly from the living room. He had just come upon a poem, very appropriate for our time, by Percy Bysshe Shelley. Published in 1818, the famous poem describes how powerful men are destined to fade into oblivion. Very cheering to think that one un- named boastful tyrant we know only too well, will follow this route!!

Ozymandias

Percy Bysshe Shelley

I met a traveller from an antique land,
Who said—“Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. . . . Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them, and the heart that fed;
And on the pedestal, these words appear:
My name is Ozymandias, King of Kings;
Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal Wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.

AND: Here is the “Tree of the Week!

“Have I Got a Story for You!!”

STAY SAFE AND WARM!!

Bray Road- Buckland, MA

Mozart’s Starling and Bird Song!

Buckley Dunton Lake- October Mountain State Park Beckett, MA

It’s cold out there!!

What better time to write about birds and their elegant and exquisite songs to get us through this stretch of winter and to help harbor thoughts of spring!

I start with my own talented little Cockatiel Lucy, who learned to sing a snippet from the Mozart Clarinet Quintet when he was a baby!

I was delighted to discover that my little genius was in good company with no less than a starling that was Mozart’s dear pet! I have been reading a charming book; Mozart’s Starling written by eco philosopher and naturalist Lyanda Lynn Haupt.

Today, starlings are considered to be nuisance birds; a species that is aggressive and invasive. In Mozart’s time, starlings were endearing and delightful household pets.

In her book, Lyanda Lynn Haupt describes a beloved starling that Mozart bought in a pet shop in Vienna in 1784. The story goes that as Mozart entered the store, the starling sang a snippet from a piano concerto that Mozart had completed a few months before but was yet to be performed in public! He ended up purchasing the bird, naming it Vogelstar, which means starling in German. He became so attached to his pet, that when it passed away 3 years later, he held a small funeral for Vogelstar and wrote a short elegy:

Here rests a beloved fool,
A starling bird.
Still in his prime
did he experience
the bitter pain of death.
My heart bleeds
when I think about it.
Oh, reader! Shed a tear for him.
[…]
I bet he is up above
to praise me
without payment
for this act of friendship.
Since while he, unsuspecting,
bled to death
he thought not at all of the man
who can write such good rhymes as these.

Countless works have been composed that depict bird song and much has been written about the practical use of bird song. Is it for the creation and defense of territory, declaring sexual maturity and attracting a mate or simply beautiful music? When we are treated to the throaty and lyrical song of a wood thrush as dusk falls at the end of a long summer day, I prefer to think of the latter!

Wood Thrush-Kathy Porter (C)- Mass Audubon

The talented young composer Alexander Liebermann has transcribed intricate and complicated birdsongs into musical notation. In this video, you can follow the complex rhythm and remarkable pitch of a thrush nightingale!

Coming back inside from the bracing cold calls for comfort food and Chicken Potpie Cornbread Muffins fit the bill! I adapted this dish from a recipe written by Scott Hocker from a recent Food and Wine Magazine article. What can be better than both chicken potpie and cornbread muffins; in one meal! The house smelled heavenly as they baked and they were delicious for dinner along with a green mesclun salad with slices of pear, chunks of parmesan cheese and toasted pecans.

Chicken Potpie Cornbread Muffins

Ingredients

Cornbread:

  • 1 1/2 cups cornmeal
  • 1/2 cup whole wheat pastry flour
  • 3/4 teaspoon salt
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/2 teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 large egg
  • 1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk

Filling:

  • 2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
  • 1 small onion, chopped finely
  • 1 small celery, cut into medium dice
  • 1 small carrot, cut into medium dice
  • 4-5 mushrooms cut into small pieces
  • 1/3 cup frozen peas defrosted
  • Kosher salt to taste
  • Freshly ground black pepper to taste
  • 1 teaspoon dried thyme
  • 1 teaspoon dried sage
  • 1 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 3/4 cup chicken stock or low-sodium broth
  • 1/2 cup cooked chicken cut into small pieces

Directions

Make the cornbread:

  • Step 1 In a bowl, stir together the cornmeal, flour, 3/4 teaspoon salt, baking powder and baking soda. Whisk the egg and soy or almond milk into the cornmeal mixture. Fill 12 (1/2-cup) greased muffin tins about 2/3 full with the cornbread batter. Preheat the oven to 350°F.

Make the filling:

  • Step 2 In a large cast-iron or heavy skillet, heat the oil over medium high heat until hot, then saute the onion until it softens. Add carrots, mushrooms, celery, salt and pepper to taste, thyme and sage. Cook, stirring occasionally, until golden, 8 to 10 minutes. Stir in green peas. Stir in the flour and cook, until incorporated, about 2 minutes. Pour in the stock and bring to a boil, then stir in the chicken. Season the filling with salt and pepper to taste. Place 2 to 3 tablespoons of the filling over each batter-filled muffin tin.
  • Step 3 Bake the muffins until golden around the edges, about 25 minutes. Let the muffins cool slightly and then run a table knife around the edges of the muffins. They will be easier to remove if you wait a bit, although this may be hard to do!!
  • ENJOY!!

I decided to use a tree of the week from a trip that I took to the New York Botanical Gardens last fall. I thought a bit a greenery would be appropriate! The tree was part of a whimsical and eccentric exhibit, Kusama: Cosmic Nature by the contemporary Japanese artist Yayoi Kusama; more about the exhibit in my next blog!

“Tree of the Week” from NY Botanical Garden- 9/12/21

“I Decided to Get Dressed Up Today!”

STAY WARM AND SAFE!

Bobcat prints! New Marlborough, MA

Coming Soon: “Bird Songs and Mozart’s Starling”!

Wood Thrush perched on a limb singing.

My next blog will be all about intricate bird songs, Mozart’s love of birds and his talented starling, my own talented Cockatiel Lucy and more! In the meantime on this frigid and blustery day, here is a recipe for Blue Corn Waffles.

At the start of the pandemic, we made a mail order for organic blue corn flour. The order was huge and I squirreled away large bags of it in our freezer. One of my New Year’s resolutions is to find a use for all of this flour; not a hard resolution to keep! Yesterday, I made Blue Corn Blueberry Banana Muffins!

Blue Corn Flour Waffles

Yield: 5-6 waffles

Ingredients:

3/4 cup whole grain spelt flour

3/4 whole wheat pastry flour

1/2 cup blue corn flour- *Note

1 teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons baking powder

4 tablespoons canola oil

1 large egg

1 1/2 cups unsweetened soy or almond milk

For Topping:

1 1/2 cups wild frozen blueberries (I like the Wyman brand)

Cook blueberries in microwave about 2 minutes until soft and syrupy.

To make waffles:

Heat a waffle maker

In a medium sized bowl, mix together dried ingredients.

Add oil, egg and soy or almond milk and mix together.

For each waffle, place about 2 large spoonfuls of mixture in center of waffle maker and cook until light brown and crisp on the edges.

Serve with blueberry sauce, plenty of maple syrup and we enjoy a dollop of Oatley Oatgurt; creamy and totally delicious!

Note: Blue Corn Flour can be hard to find. We found a source on the excellent Milk Street Store site!

ENJOY!!

Norbrook Brewery: Colebrook, CT

STAY SAFE AND WARM!!

A Winter Walk at Ole’ Stoney Lonesome!

Overnight, ice crystals were magically transformed into intricate fractals on our deck.

It was a gloomy day, cold and steely gray; a perfect backdrop to explore an atmospheric section of the Billings Trail called Stoney Lonesome maintained by the Norfolk Connecticut Land Trust.

My husband Paul had scouted out the trail a few days earlier with a friend; they happened upon a lone hiker who stopped in his tracks and asked excitedly, “Did you find the site of the train accident?”

The trail follows an abandoned train track that was built in 1871 and ran from Hartford, Connecticut to the border of New York State. It was built on a high ledge above the Canaan valley, strewn with enormous boulders. There was in fact a horrific wreck that occurred in 1882 when a train rammed into a boulder that had slid down the mountain side onto the track. We read that the laying of the track was very difficult and engineers had to make huge rock cuts into the side of the mountain.

Walking along the trail we were captivated by the dramatic rock formations made from the deep cuts through the mountain side to accommodate the train tracks.

We had set out on our walk late in the afternoon; the days are so short now that by the end of our hike, the sun was starting to set. The clouds suddenly parted and for a brief moment, sunlight lit up the hillside with a golden glow.

Our eyes were drawn uphill to a rock formation that reminded us of stone sculptures that we have viewed at the Storm King Art Center in upstate New York.

By the time we returned to our car, it was almost completely dark. We drove back down the road with a beautiful sunset in front of us leaving somber Stoney Lonesome behind.

Glad to be back safely home after our frosty and invigorating adventure, we settled in next to a cozy fire in the woodstove and enjoyed hot chocolate and a few Gingerbread Biscotti that were left over from Christmas.

After our hike, we wanted to know more about the origin of the name Stoney Lonesome; some sources suggested that the name reflects a desolate area, strewn with rocks and boulders. This certainly seemed appropriate! Then we discovered that the name is also a slang term, made popular in the early 20th century for prison. Paul found the prison reference to Stoney Lonesome in a book written by John O’Hara published in 1931 with the title, “Appointment in Samarra“. The title of the novel refers to W. Somerset Maugham’s retelling of an ancient Mesopotamian fable where a servant has an untimely meeting with the devil- dark indeed!! We were so curious about this that we ordered the book and have gotten pulled into the tragic tale of a used car salesman from the 1930’s.

AND, of course we had a bit of fun arranging Bananagram tiles into references from “Appointment in Samarra“!

Here is a recipe for Gingerbread Biscotti’s adapted from NY Times Cooking. These biscotti are full of warming delicious spices including ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, star anise along with espresso powder and almond & orange extract. The spices create a lovely flavor combination that lingers beautifully in the mouth! I swapped out the brown and granulated sugar in the recipe for monk fruit sweetener and coconut sugar which has a low glycemic index. I used whole grain spelt and whole wheat pastry flour, which in addition to being more nutricious, give the biscotti an added nutty flavor and I used Lily’s stevia sweetened chocolate chips. The original recipe called for candied chopped ginger, which would also be good! These biscotti are hard and crunchy and are excellent dipped into coffee or espresso!

Gingerbread Biscotti from NY Times Cooking

Ingredients:

  • 1 large egg plus 1 large egg white, at room temperature 
  • 1/4 cup monk fruit sweetener
  • 1/4 cup coconut sugar
  • 1 tablespoon ground ginger 
  • 1 teaspoon ground cinnamon 
  • ½ teaspoon ground nutmeg
  • ½ teaspoon ground cloves 
  • ¼ teaspoon ground cardamom 
  • 1 whole star anise, finely ground (1/4 teaspoon)
  • 1 teaspoon instant espresso powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • ½ teaspoon baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon almond extract
  • ¼ teaspoon lemon extract or orange extract
  • cup whole wheat pastry flour 
  • 1 cup whole grain spelt flour
  •  cup/113 grams dark or semisweet chocolateI used Lily’s Stevia sweetened chocolate chips.
  • 1/2 bar any dark chocolate to coat biscotti- I used Equal Exchange “Total Eclipse” dark chocolate. Feel free to use something with more sugar!)

PREPARATION

  1. Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, add the egg, egg white, both sugars, ginger, cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves, cardamom, star anise, espresso powder, salt, baking soda, almond extract and lemon extract. Beat on medium speed just to combine, scrape down the bowl and beater, then increase the speed to high and beat for a full 90 seconds or until the mixture is slightly paler, thick and ribbon like.
  3. Add the flour. Beat on low speed until mostly combined, stopping the beater just before all the flour is incorporated so you don’t overmix. Scrape the sides and bottom of the bowl to incorporate any remaining dry bits into the dough. Add chocolate chips.
  4. Gather the dough with your hands, kneading lightly in the bowl just to bring everything together into a cohesive mass. Place the dough on the center of the prepared sheet, then dampen your hands with water and mold the dough into a 9-by-4-inch log about 1 inch tall. Bake until the log puffs and spreads a little, turns golden brown at the edges and is firm to the touch, 40 to 45 minutes.
  5. Remove the loaf from the oven and allow to cool for 10 minutes. Transfer the loaf to a cutting board and, using a serrated knife, cut at a diagonal into 12 (¾-inch-wide) slices. Turn the slices on their sides and return to the oven.
  6. Bake, flipping the slices halfway through, until slightly browned and dry in the centers, 10 to 15 minutes. Bake longer for drier, crunchier biscotti. Remove from the oven and cool the biscotti on the sheet. Turn the slices top sides up.
  7. In a double-boiler or a heatproof bowl set over simmering water, melt the chocolate, stirring until completely smooth. Remove the bowl from the heat, and using a small spoon, drape the melted chocolate over the tops of the biscotti, nudging some to drip over the edges. Allow the chocolate to sit at room temperature or in the refrigerator to fully set. The biscotti will last for a couple of weeks in an airtight container at room temperature.

ENJOY!!

As I write this blog, it is a raw cold day with sleet and freezing rain and we are in for a few days of frigid weather. Today I plan to sit close by the fire and enjoy a cookbook that just arrived; My Shanghai: Recipes and Stories for a City on the Water by Betty Liu. I will dream about making dumplings for our next dumpling party which I hope will not be in the too distant future!!

AND, here is the first “Tree of the Week” for 2022!

“YIKES!!”

STAY WARM AND SAFE!!

The Amazing Guest, Fantastic Fungi and Spooky Sounds!

I read a recent New York Times article that talked about how excited a couple was to host a guest for the weekend. They were determined to fill the planned itinerary with as many activities as possible, after being denied time together for so long. The guest went home feeling tired and overwhelmed. Our dear friend Carol was planning to meet us for some well deserved R & R; first at our home and then at a Bed and Breakfast in Cummington, Massachusetts. My husband Paul and I talked for weeks about all of the places we would take Carol; among them, many of our favorite hikes. And, although we wanted to avoid the same pitfalls of over booking, we were not sure this would be possible!

We started our glorious fall weekend at the Ashintully Gardens in Tyringham, Massachusetts.

Ashintully Gardens Trustees of the Reservation

We walked up a hill through a field of dried wildflowers standing at attention like soldiers in a row and quickly realized that Carol was the perfect guest- she was delighted and engaged with everything we showed her and being a visual artist, she innately understood my love of close observation.

Before our dinner reservation on the patio at the excellent restaurant, John Andrews in Hillsdale, New York, we squeezed in a short walk at Parsons Marsh in Lenox, MA. The late afternoon sun was beautiful as we walked on a boardwalk that wove gently through the woods to the marsh.

Parsons Marsh-Berkshire Natural Resources Council
Parsons Marsh

After a delicious dinner at John Andrew’s, we returned home, watched an episode of Only Murders in the Building on Netflix and then fell into a deep slumber! The next day we were eager to show Carol our land that we recently closed on in Buckland, MA in the hill towns above Northampton. Our big news is that in a few years we plan to build our dream house there! On the way, we made a stop in Northampton to the Woodstar Cafe to pick up a picnic (that included their yummy vegan peanut butter cookies) and headed up into the hills! Near Buckland, is an old cemetery that was a perfect location to make a creepy Halloween video.

We put on our hiking boots and traipsed uphill on our land. Carol bravely joined us in a bit of bush whacking!

On the land, the trees are beautiful with many tall evergreens, but our eyes were drawn close to the ground. The patterns of autumn leaves, fungi, rocks and twigs made beautiful collages.

Carol came up with an interesting concept-along with photographs of my recipes, we could make natural place settings with leaves and twigs and photograph them with a woodland backdrop; perhaps a cottage industry was born!!

Continuing on our walk, we saw some incredible and unusual fungi.

Back in the car, we took a short five minute jaunt to the charming village of Shelburne Falls; complete with art galleries, cozy cafes, bookstores, restaurants, an artisanal bakery and the beautiful Bridge of Flowers, the site was created in 1929, when the old trolley bridge was no longer used.

Bridge of Flowers-Shelburne Falls, MA

On a bit of a schedule, we moved on to our next activity; a beautiful fall drive through the country roads to Cummington, MA where we were guests at The Upland Meadows Farm B & B. The quaint old farmhouse was full of character with cozy rooms and the surrounding area was quiet and peaceful. And, it was right down the road from our beloved William Cullen Bryant Homestead. We could walk through a pasture to reach the Sugar Bush Trail!

Upland Meadows Farm B & B

We took a short walk and then headed down towards Chester for our dinner reservation at the Chester Common Table. I was not sure what to expect, but we were pleasantly surprised. Tucked away in the small town of Chester that borders the Berkshires and the Pioneer Valley, the small restaurant opened in 2016 and is housed in a charming vintage house. We sat on the covered front porch and inside a folk group with mandolin and guitar played gentle Appalachian and bluegrass tunes that wafted softly through the open window. It started to rain, but with our jackets on and a cozy space heater next to us, we were totally comfortable. I enjoyed a tall glass of a local IPL draft beer brewed in MA, called Jack’s Abbey “Hiponius Union”. The light lemony flavor of the beer was perfect with a big plate of Coconut Curry Noodles that was lightly spicy. The dish included rice noodles, grilled chicken, crunchy bits of broccoli, red peppers, zucchini and red onions. Along with a few pieces of homemade corn bread, I was a happy camper!

Sunday morning, we took a misty early morning walk on the Rivulet Trail at the Bryant Homestead. I had been wanting to show this trail to Carol and she was enthralled by the tranquility and peacefulness of the fragrant pine woods.

Rivulet Trail- William Cullen Bryant Homestead

On the trail, we came upon one of my favorite trees that I call “The Wise Man”.

And, then after coffee and brunch at the Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters, it was time to hug tightly and say goodbye. All in all, an incredible weekend- hopefully with not too much packed in for our amazing guest!

Shelburne Falls Coffee Roasters

When I was little, my mother often made a favorite fall dessert; a sticky, gooey, very sweet dessert called Apple Brown Betty. It was rich with melted butter, brown sugar, graham crackers, raisins, lemon juice and spiced with cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice and cloves. The recipe was from Erma Bombauer’s, The Joy of Cooking. I found myself craving this dessert, but wanted something much lighter. I decided to make an almost sugar free healthy version. I am happy to say, I may have found it!! I had a loaf of stale whole grain sourdough bread from Berkshire Mountain Bakery hanging around. I cut it into pieces and made bread crumbs in my food processor. I toasted them in the oven until they crisped up. Instead of using butter I substituted fresh apple cider for the liquid and I used Monk Fruit instead of sugar. It has a very low glycemic index and it can be used the same way as granulated sugar.

The dessert is even better the next day and perfect to eat sitting curled up on the couch with one of the first woodstove fires of the season; perhaps watching an old Hitchcock film- I think Psycho might be too scary, maybe something along the line of The Trouble with Harry, still with a macabre theme, but with plenty of black humor and a great film score by Bernard Herrmann or maybe something dark and atmospheric like Rebecca. Happy Halloween!!

Apple Brown Betty Redux

Ingredients:

Topping:

3 1/2 cups toasted bread crumbs ( preferably from whole grain bread- I just made another version and used Rockhill Raisin and Cinnamon bread that was also really good!)

1 tablespoon grated lemon zest (from an organic lemon)

1/8-1/4 cup Monk Fruit sweetener (you could also use granulated sugar)

1 cup apple cider

1/2 cup raisins

1 tablespoon lemon juice

1 teaspoon cinnamon

1/4 teaspoon all spice

1/4 teaspoon nutmeg

1/4 teaspoon ground cloves

Apple Filling:

4-5 large apples peeled and cored (try to use a combination of firm local apples for the best flavor).

1-2 teaspoons cinnamon

To Make Apple Brown Betty:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Place 3 1/2 to 4 cups bread crumbs on a baking sheet. Bake and crispy and lightly browned.

Place breadcrumbs in a medium sized bowl. Add grated lemon zest, lemon juice, spices, raisins and monk fruit sweetener. Slowly add 3/4 apple cider until absorbed. The mixture should feel lightly moistened when squeezed.

Cut apples into quarters, peeled and then thinly slice them. Place in a medium sized casserole dish. Sprinkle lightly with cinnamon and stir.

Sprinkle bread crumb mixture over apples in baking dish and pour remaining 1/4 cup apple cider over the top. Cover tightly with foil and bake until apples are tender when pierced with a fork. Remove foil and bake about 5-10 more until bread crumbs crisp up a bit. Let cool briefly- Enjoy!!

AND of course here is the: The Halloween Tree of the Week!

BOO!

A Sweet and Healthy New Year!

Rosh Hashana was early this year and I was feeling ambivalent about sitting with a large group of people in a synagogue or staring at a Zoom screen for hours. A friend mentioned that she was going to spend the holiday communing with nature; an excellent idea. This seemed to be exactly what I was seeking!

Paul found a beautiful trail right down the road from Tangle Wood in Lenox, MA run by Mass Audubon called Pleasant Valley. The day was warm and sunny with a beautiful breeze. We took a trail that meandered through marshland, ponds and pine forests.

The trail crisscrossed over several burbling brooks that rushed over mossy rocks. During Rosh Hashanah a tradition is observed called Tashlich. Small stones are thrown into the water to cast off one’s sins. I remember being at a service once where the cantor said that the ritual might also be used as a way to cleanse one’s self of unwanted grudges or to create intentions for positive change. I chose this route and as I tossed a few stones into the water, I felt an immediate sense of lightness.

I had brought my recorder along thinking I might play an improvisation that sounded slightly Hebraic and pastoral at the same time. I was hoping to find an inspirational location and was not disappointed!

Now the only thing needed for a perfect Rosh Hashanah was a delicious dessert with apples. I looked through a few of my old blogs and found a recipe I had included for apple kuchen, from Smitten Kitchen. This moist dessert reminds me of the apple kuchen we had in Germany when my daughter and I were on our “Following in Bach’s Footsteps” journey a few years ago! When baking this cake, your house will smell heavenly as the rich aromas of butter, vanilla, cinnamon and apples fill the air!

Apple Kuchen (from Smitten Kitchen)

Topping
4 tiny-to-small apples, halved, peeled and cored
2 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
2 tablespoons granulated sugar

Batter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon (125 grams) unsalted butter, at room temperature
1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons (6 tablespoons) granulated sugar
1/4 cup honey (any variety you like to eat)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
3 large eggs, separated
2 good pinches of salt
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/4 cups all-purpose flour

Glaze
1/4 cup honey
A good pinch of sea salt

Heat oven: To 350°F. Coat a 9-inch springform with butter or a nonstick spray. Line the bottom of the pan with a round of parchment paper.

Prepare apples: Place peeled, halved and cored apples cut-side-down on a cutting board. Use a knife to create parallel thin slices, but only cut halfway through each apple so that the apples stay intact. Don’t fret if you cut through, however; you can just reassemble the halves on the cake in a few minutes.

In a bowl, toss apples with lemon juice and 2 tablespoon granulated sugar.

Prepare cake base: Beat butter and 1/4 cup plus 2 tablespoons granulated sugar together in a bowl with electric beaters until fluffy. Add honey and beat until combined. Add vanilla and egg yolks, beating until just combined. Sprinkle salt and baking powder over cake batter, and mix for just 5 seconds, until they disappear. Add flour, half at a time, mixing only until just combined.

In a separate bowl with cleaned beaters, beat egg whites until stiff. Stir 1/4 of them into the cake batter, to lighten it a little. Fold in the rest in three additions. It will seem impossible to fold in at first because the batter is so stiff, but it will loosen with careful folding. Only fold the last addition of egg whites until it has mostly disappeared (a couple faint streaks of egg white are fine).

Spread cake batter in prepared cake pan, smoothing the top. Arrange apple halves facedown over the cake batter. To warn, 4 tiny/small apples will definitely fit over the cake batter. When I made it with 4 small-almost-medium apples, I could only fit 3 1/2 of them. No need to press the apples into the batter. You can pour any extra lemon juice and sugar in the bowl over the apples.

Bake cake: 35 to 40 minutes, until a toothpick or skewer inserted into the center of the cake comes out clean. Let rest on a cooling rack for 5 minutes, then cut around the cake to make sure it’s not sticking to the pan at all, and unhinge the sides. Let cake cool completely. You can store it at room temperature at this point, or after you add the honey, for up to 5 days 3 days at room temperature. After that, a fridge is best for longevity. The cake is lovelier on day 2 than day 1.

Before serving, if you’d like the glaze to look glossy, or whenever the cake is cool, if you don’t mind if the honey sinks into the cake: Warm 1/4 cup honey and a good pinch of sea salt until it liquefies to the point where it makes a thin glaze — this will take less than 30 seconds. Brush honey-salt mixture over cooled cake.

I added a sprinkle of cinnamon on the top of the cake before baking.

ENJOY!

This was a perfect Rosh Hashanah! Best Wishes for a Happy and Healthy 5782!