Learning As I Chop

Did You Know: Buttermilk

Posted in Did You Know, Tips by R @ Learning As I Chop on April 28, 2011

When I saw some leeks in the Farmers Market this past Saturday, I decided to make my potato leek soup for Sunday dinner. A quick meal, this soup always satisfies. I read the recipe and prepared to venture out to the market. However when I came upon the need for buttermilk, I was struck with an idea. Rather than purchase a quart, and only use a cup, I remembered Sari’s advice from our first edition of “Did You Know” – I could make my own. And that, my friends, is what I did.

1 tbsp white vinegar + 1 cup of milk + 10 minutes = 1 cup of buttermilk

So how did it turn out? 4 bowls, and a few days later, I’d say quite the success. Enjoy!


Pièce de résistance

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Holiday by R @ Learning As I Chop on April 25, 2011

I made a few new food items during Passover, which you can read about here & here, but neither made me as proud as my dessert. I’ve come a long way since mastering my springform pan fears and failures, and decided to try again – this time with a flour-less chocolate cake. I didn’t have a recipe on file, so searched the interwebs and found this one. What could be difficult about eggs, butter, sugar and chocolate? Answer: a water bath for the pan. Scary.

10 ounces (290 g) bittersweet or semisweet chocolate, coarsely chopped
7 ounces (200 g) butter, salted or unsalted, cut into pieces
5 large eggs, at room temperature
1 cup (200 g) sugar

Preheat the oven to 350F (175C).

1. Butter a 9-inch (23 cm) springform pan* and dust it with cocoa powder, tapping out any excess. If you suspect your springform pan isn’t 100% water-tight, wrap the outside with aluminum foil, making sure it goes all the way up to the outer rim.

2. Melt the chocolate and butter in a double boiler (or microwave), stirring occasionally, until smooth. Remove from heat.

3. In a large bowl, whisk together the eggs and sugar, then whisk in the melted chocolate mixture until smooth.

4. Pour the batter into the prepared springform pan and cover the top of the pan snugly with a sheet of foil. Put the springform pan into a larger baking pan, such as a roasting pan, and add enough hot water to the baking pan to come about halfway up to the outside of the cake pan.

Bake for 1 hour and 15 minutes.

You’ll know the cake is done when it feels just set, like quivering chocolate pudding. If you gently touch the center, your finger should come away clean.

5. Lift the cake pan from the water bath and remove the foil. Let cake cool completely on a cooling rack.

Create your own double-boiler to melt the butter and chocolate together. If you want, you can stop here. This mixture tastes mighty good on its own. (Please ignore the messy stove – Passover cooking time.)

Pour the chocolate mixture into your pre-powdered pan. Yum.

Now here comes the scary part – cover the pan with tinfoil, fill a roasting tin with warm water and gently put the chocolate cake into the tin. Didn’t really understand why a water bath was necessary. According to the internet, this method prevents the cake from cracking. Similar to the way cheesecakes often crack in the oven. Come to think of it, this cake didn’t crack at all. Coincidence?

See the foil’s reflection? That’s how you can tell there’s water in the pan.

I tucked the device into the oven and hoped for the best. Except when I removed it an hour later, I discovered this predicament. The cake looked unappealing and water was leaking. Didn’t feel optimistic.

So I followed an instinct and put the cake in the fridge. For some reason, I thought cooling the cake would make it taste better.

The next evening, I served the cake with this disclaimer  – I have no idea how this dessert will taste, and it could be bad, but there are always jelly rings if it sucks. (See them in the top picture?) Makes you want to try a piece, right? But you know what happened? The cake tasted great! The top smoothed over in the fridge and developed a mousse quality. I felt so happy and relieved.

Perhaps this dessert will become a new Passover staple in our house. Definitely recommend it if you feel like being adventurous. Enjoy!


Passover Part Two

Posted in Baking/Cooking, Holiday by R @ Learning As I Chop on April 21, 2011

As we continued planning for our first Seder, I decided that we needed to have potato kugel. A staple in Jewish cooking, kugel is one of those dishes that you can always expect to see at a holiday table – no matter where you go. Some holidays include a noodle kugel, but since this is Passover and no leavened flour is allowed, we’ll go the potato route. My cousin S makes hers with apple, Matzah and/or carrots, and while that sounds interesting, I decided to go neat and simple for my first attempt. Here’s what I used. I always trust family recipes.

The following is my mom’s version, passed on by her mother, Minnie Rosenkranz, who hailed from Shnyaten (actually, one doesn’t “hail” from a place like Shnyaten so much as flee from there). 


6 medium russet potatoes

1 small onion (or 1/2 medium Onion:Onion:onion), peeled, stem end trimmed

3 large eggs, well beaten

1/4 cup vegetable oil, plus more for coating dish

2 tablespoons matzoh meal (or all-purpose flour)

1 teaspoon baking powder

1 teaspoon kosher salt

Freshly ground black pepper


Heat oven to 375°F and arrange a rack in the middle. Generously coat an 11-by-7-inch baking dish with oil; set aside.

Peel the potatoes and submerge them in a pot of cold water. Grate the onions through the large holes of a box grater; set aside (or electric meat grinder—do not use a food processor). Grate the potatoes, removing each potato from the water as needed, through the large holes of the box grater.

Place the onion and potato mixture in a clean, lint-free dishtowel and squeeze out liquid (stop squeezing when water begins to drip rather than stream).

Place the potato mixture in a large bowl. Add the eggs, oil, matzoh meal or flour, baking powder, salt, season with pepper, and stir to combine.

Transfer to the baking dish and spread into an even layer. Bake until golden brown on top, about 1 hour.

Little did I know how easy kugel would be.  Honestly, the hardest part was grating the onion. Who has a good trick for no tears? I’ve tried many tricks – bread in my mouth (supposed to absord the smell) and wearing protective glasses a la the lab – but nothing seems to work.



If you like potato pancakes, you’ll love potato kugel.  Perhaps it’s even a a little healthier, as kugel is baked rather than fried. Sure, you need a little oil to grease the pan, but I’ll personally take natural oil over non-stick spray any day.

I have to say I was very happy with this kugel. Tasted liked childhood. Though next year I might experiement, or use a smaller, deeper serving dish, this can definitely become an old and favorite stand-by.

Once the meal started, we were all a little hungry and I  forgot to take pictures. However here’s what remained. Considering there were only six of us, I’d say a job well done. Enjoy!