When I think of spring, I think of fresh berries and citrus fruits. So what better way to celebrate a friend’s April birthday than with a spring-inspired cake?
As anyone who has ever made or eaten matzoh balls knows, there are sinkers and there are floaters. You want the floaters. Not the sinkers. Trust me. Sinkers, well…you might as well go chew on some of the gravel left over from making Stone Soup.
I made 3 batches of matzoh balls this week using 3 different techniques. I did not start this out as a science experiment. I just got lazy. All three techniques are based on the standard Manischewitz recipe. Continue reading
I stained a dozen boiled eggs to snack on during our Passover Seder, as is Sephardic custom. These eggs are stained by gently simmering them in a brew of black tea and the outer skins of red onions. After they simmer for about 1.5 hours, the shells are gently cracked randomly and placed back in the simmering water for at least another hour. This creates delicate spider web patterns inside the shell and gives enough time for the color to infuse and darken.
I needed a large amount of red onion outer skins, more than I would have gotten from 1 or 2 onions. And I didn’t want to buy a bunch of them since we can’t eat them that fast. So I must confess, I went a-scavaging. In the grocery store’s product department, rifling through the red onion bin collecting loose skins. I got a few strange looks as I stood there for about 5 minutes, but I got what I needed. The cashier thought I was bonkers when I handed over the bag of skins to pay.
Tea and Red Onion Skin Stained Eggs
Adapted from Joy of Kosher
Yield: 12 eggs
12 eggs, raw and in shells
2 tablespoons loose black tea leaves, or 3 tea bags
at least 10 large pieces of outer red onion skins (from at least several onions; more skins will yield darker color; I used at least 25 pieces)
1 teaspoon ground black pepper
2 teaspoons Kosher salt or 1 teaspoon table salt
1. In a large pot, add tea, onion skins, salt, and pepper. Gently place eggs in bottom of pot, then fill with enough cold water to cover the eggs by about 1.5 inches.
3. After 1.5 hours, the egg white should be set. Scoop each egg out of the pot one at a time (I used a spaghetti spoon) and gently crack in different areas using the bowl of a spoon. Gently return to the pot and repeat until all eggs have been cracked.
Last night was the first night of Passover, and my husband and I hosted several of our friends to a laid-back Seder. During the Seder we retell the story of Passover, which essentially goes something like this, in a very brief nutshell: The Hebrews migrated to Egypt during a time of famine in search of food, and when the Pharoah died, the new Pharoah enslaved them all out of fear. He ordered that all male babies be murdered, but Moses’ family ensured that he survived and eventually floated him down the river in a basket and into the arms of the Pharoah’s daughter, who raised him as her own in the palace. Moses knew he was a Hebrew, and each time he saw an enslaved fellow Hebrew maltreated he grew increasingly upset. Eventually the Lord, under the cover of the burning bush, told Moses he would be the one to stand up to the Pharoah and demand the Israelites be freed. Moses, despite vast reservations, brought his brother Aaron with him first to the Hebrews to garner their support and convince them that he had been chosen to free them, and then to stand before the Pharoah. Ten times before the Pharoah Moses demanded, “Let my people go!” Each time, the Pharoah refused, unleashing a new plague onto the Egyptian people: darkness spread over Egypt, waters turned to blood, frogs overran the land, bugs took to the fields and then locusts ate the crops, cattle became ill, hail and fire fell from the sky, Egyptians’ bodies were covered first with lice and then in boils, and eventually death of the first born, including flock animals. Except for the Israelites: They were prepared, smearing sacrificial blood over their doorposts so that the Angel of Death “passed over” their houses. This last plague convinced the Pharoah that he no longer had a choice in freeing the Israelites, and so as soon as he had declared them free the Hebrews left immediately, quickly baking their bread dough and taking very little else with them. (In their haste the bread had to be baked without fermentation, causing it to be cracker-like, and so we eat matzoh, an unleavened bread.) They made it as far as the Red Sea when they found themselves being chased by the Pharoah’s army; evidently he had changed his mind after all. The Sea miraculously parted, allowing for the Hebrews to cross while drowning the Pharoah and his army. Moses and the Israelites then found their way to the desert, where they wandered for 40 years. Eventually Moses received the 10 commandments and the people made it out of the dessert.
Passover is a holiday filled with the celebrations of freedom and springtime, while also making time to think about more global social issues: What does it mean to be free? Where does slavery still exist? What do we take for granted?
Today was Cake Competition Day! I was super nervous about getting to the show with my cake in one piece. For every bump in the road that I hit I cringed as I heard my flowers clacking against one another. But fortunately they all made it in one piece! Enough so that I placed Silver in the student cake category!
All in all it was a very fun experience to compete, and I’m definitely already thinking about the next cake show, which I think will be in June. I saw some fabulous cakes in the professional category and these are certainly worth aspiring to!
Outside of the cake and culinary competitions, the main event was a food show for Ben E Keith, distributor. There were some interesting products, such as parchment cupcake liners that extended above pan level in scallop or triangle shapes and came in fun colors like pink or polka dots. There were also many vendors demonstrating prepared cakes, and while it was fun to see all the different flavor combinations, I was sad to see the amounts of corn syrup and other additives and preservatives within the ingredients. Yet another reason to cook and eat at home!