I don’t know if I mentioned, but someone plowed into our car last week. We had just finished a 26 km hike on the Israel Trail and were on our way home. About two seconds after the light turned green a car hit us from behind, flinging our heads backwards and bashing in the frame. The kids reacted by bursting into laughter. The whiplash has subsided and so have the sore muscles but the car never made it back.
In short, I wear a green halo begrudgingly as I wait for public transportation or walk across town to get simple errands done. These days I feel like Laura Ingalls Wilder or a kerchiefed safta (grandmother) plodding home with their renewable bags laden with groceries. How do they do it?
In these October heat waves all I want to do is sprawl on the cool stone floor as soon as I open the door. That’s why I wasn’t too keen when my son leafed through The Culinary Institute of America’s Chocolates and Confections book, looking for a dessert to prepare for his class. I knew it wouldn’t end well. Instead of brittle topped with dark chocolate and pecans, I was left with a tray of caramel sauce that refused to set and buttery fingerprints over everything.
I was ready to kick him out of the kitchen at this point but his brothers came to his rescue and together they made a luscious Pierre Hermé truffle recipe. They were perfect. Or almost. He didn’t anticipate the heat wave the following day which would melt everything into a congealed blob. This was disappointing but hardly his fault.
The next afternoon he announced “I want to bake something”. I told him that he would be banned from the kitchen if he left even a micron sized crumb in it.
This is what he made:
This recipe comes from the book My Cookie Jar by Benny Saida, one of Israel’s foremost cookbook authors. Here he uses three popular varieties of Israeli cheese- the white, the salty (feta) and the yellow (kashkaval)- to make these decadent pastries.
2 ½ cups self-rising flour
200 grams (1 cup) cold butter, cut into small cubes
250 grams 9% white cheese (it is called gevina levana in Israel. If it isn’t available full fat sour cream might be a good substitute although I haven’t tried it)
150 grams kashkaval cheese, grated (substitute Parmesan if not available)
250 grams feta cheese, crumbled (my son used 22% goat feta cheese)
2 egg yolks
½ teaspoon coarsely ground pepper
1 egg, mixed
Sesame or nigella seeds
A day before baking, add all the ingredients besides the topping to a food processor and mix until uniform. My son did this step using the stand mixer equipped with a flat beater and it worked fine.
Divide the dough into 6 equal portions and cover with plastic wrap. Place in refrigerator overnight.
The following day preheat the oven to 180°C (350°F). On a clean surface dusted with flour, roll out each ball into a circle 28 cm in diameter (here my son asked his younger brother to find a ruler to make sure these came out perfect). Cut the circle into 8 equal triangles and roll each piece from the wide side to the tip. Bend the tips of the roll to form a crescent and place it on a parchment lined baking tray. Prepare the rest of the balls in the same manner.
Brush the crescents with egg and sprinkle with sesame or nigella seeds. Bake for about 15-20 minutes or until golden brown. Serve warm or at room temperature. Clean the kitchen.
Waste not, want not. I have been flambéing bananas, à la Ernest Hemingway with the gritty caramel sauce left behind from the brittle attempt. I simply put a tablespoon of the sauce in a cast iron skillet and add a banana or two. When they are golden brown and well coated I pour in a shot of dark rum and tip the pan into the flame for some lively cooking. As for the truffle mess, almost nothing is left of that.