Posts tagged Dessert
Grandma Margot's Plum Torte


I ate curious foods around my grandparents' table, although they never struck me as unusual. When my family visited my grandparents, we’d gather around for an array of German products I never saw anywhere else: liverwurst, weisswurst, gooseberry fool, little pickles, dense, grainy bread, Westphalian ham. My grandmother hated the kitchen, but my grandfather loved food. It was around their table that my identity as “feinschmecker” was born. 

Though she wasn’t much of a cook, my grandmother baked, and she passed down her love of sweets to me. Every visit brought the promise of cookies, cobbler, or my hands-down favorite plum torte. 

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Knafeh (Middle Eastern Sweet Cheese Pie)

My low-key Israeli boyfriend doesn’t usually bubble over with enthusiasm about food. In fact, in comparison to, say, me, he almost never speaks about something he’s eaten with the kind of fervent excitement that peaks my curiosity and makes me want to try it too. Given his usually measured temperament, it is particularly notable that I’ve heard him rhapsodize passionately about only one food: knafeh, a Middle Eastern pastry made with shredded filo pastry, sweet cheese, and sugar syrup. He waxes poetic about knafeh in a way that makes eating it sound like nothing less than a religious experience. 

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Hungarian Sour Cherry Soup

My Hungarian-born grandma’s Bronx apartment always smelled of paprika and chicken fat, the scent of which permeated the upholstery and lingered in the air. Even in the heat of summer, Grandma Rose cooked Hungarian foods that were unapologetically hearty, like stuffed cabbage, and chicken paprikas with nockedli. One perennial summer favorite broke the pattern, though: meggyleves, cold sour cherry soup. Of all the foods I was ever served by my Grandma Rose, it was my hands-down favorite.

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Benne Wafers: A Sweet South Carolina Staple with West African Roots

The first time I visited Charleston, South Carolina and the surrounding coastal region known as the Low Country, it was hot. Really, really hot. Thankfully, every little inn and shop had a gracious shaded porch, lazily spinning ceiling fans, and icy pitchers of sweet tea to help Northern tourists like me avoid succumbing to heat stroke. Alongside so many sweating pitchers of iced-tea and lemonade often stood a plate piled with thin, humble-looking little cookies—the kind that don’t usually tempt me, since they aren’t brimming with chocolate chunks or peanut butter gobs, or caramel. Not interested, at first, I passed on the first few plates of the drab little cookies, but they had an unusual name, and I kept seeing them all over town. So, ultimately, intrigued, I had to try them. I discovered that they were delightful: crispy, light, buttery, and caramelized, with a satisfying little chew owing to their star ingredient, sesame seeds. Over the remainder of my visit, I downed more of these little cookies than was probably called for, and I decided to find out a bit more about them and their unfamiliar name, benne wafers.

It turns out benne wafers tell an interesting story which starts long ago, and far away:

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Lemon Strawberry Charlotte

This week’s recipe was supposed to be easy. Especially for me. I’m a trained pastry chef. I’ve made puff pastry, croissants, petit fours, sugar showpieces, and wedding cakes. For this week’s recipe, all I had to do was open some pre-packaged ingredients, do a little stirring, and stick a pan in the fridge to chill, and voila!, I would have a beautiful, refreshing, delicious cake to write about for my blog.

Things didn’t quite go as planned. First off, there was the weather issue. Next, the pre-packaged ingredients weren’t so easy to come by. And then there was the problem of the eggs. Here’s what happened, starting from the beginning:

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Palacsinta (Hungarian Crêpes) with Sweet Cheese and Caramelized Rhubarb

This week’s post is inspired by the Jewish holiday Shavuot, which, this year begins at sundown on Saturday, May 23rd and ends at sundown on Monday, May 25th. For Jews, Shavuot is a spring festival with both historical and agricultural significance. Often remembered as The Festival of The Torah, it celebrates the giving of the Torah (the Jewish Bible) at Mount Sinai. Sometimes referred to as Feast of The First Fruits, Shavuot also celebrates the harvest of the season’s first fruits and grains. To observe Shavuot, Jews are not required to perform any or rituals or attend a particular type of service; only festive meals and celebration are called for.

Some have nicknamed Shavuot “the cheesecake holiday”, because it has become customary for Jews of all kinds to celebrate Shavuot by eating foods featuring dairy. Why dairy?


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