Bread in an hour

This recipe is adapted from Mark Bittman, who is correct in saying that this isn’t the best bread you’ll ever eat, but it’s quick and it will do if you want something to dip in your soup or spread cheese on.

How to make bread

Preheat the oven to 450. In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix 3 cups of flour (it can be regular or bread flour, or whole wheat), 1 tsp kosher (Mortons) salt, 2 tsp instant yeast. Add a cup of warm water. (But not too warm or it will kill the yeast! Just barely warm.) Mix until it forms a ball and then turn it out on to a dry baking sheet. Shape it into a baguette shape. Let it rise an hour if possible, or at least 20 minutes, until the oven finishes preheating. You may need to reshape it as it rises.

Then bake it until it is a good brown bread color all over.

You don’t need to knead this bread, but it won’t hurt it if you do.

Vegan or vegetarian

Yes, it’s vegan. Depending on how you feel about yeast.

Will it keep?

Mostly we eat it all up during dinner. It will get stale quickly. Keep it wrapped in a dishtowel if you want it to last. Or make French toast out of it tomorrow, or gazpacho.

Vegan chocolate mousse

Simple, elegant, delicious, vegan

Regular chocolate mousse is delicious, but it’s definitely not vegan, and also it’s not safe for people with weak immune systems because it has raw eggs in it. This version is a little harder to make, but it has no eggs and is completely vegan – it has nothing in it but chocolate and water.

Is this really mousse? Since it’s vegan?

No, it’s not. Chocolate mousse has eggs in it. The eggs give chocolate mousse a spongy texture that you won’t get here. But the texture is not unlike mousse.

How to make vegan chocolate mousse:

In a medium-size mixing bowl, put eight ounces of vegan dark chocolate (eight squares of baking chocolate, or vegan chocolate chips are fine too) and 3/4 cup of water. Microwave until the chocolate is melted, or nearly melted, about two minutes. Meanwhile, put some ice cubes in a large mixing bowl and get out the electric mixer.

Put the hot bowl inside the cold one with the ice, and begin mixing the chocolate and water together with the electric mixer. Slowly, the mixture will begin to thicken and then it will be like thick whipped cream. It will take about five minutes. Stop now – if you keep going too long your mousse will get grainy.

Divide the mousse into cups and serve.

A vegan tart

You can make this into a lovely vegan chocolate tart by using the mousse to fill a pie crust. Keep it thin: use a big shallow tart pan, not a regular pie pan. For the vegan pie crust, mix 1 1/2 cups of flour with cold cubed vegan butter like earthbalance, and spread it in the tart pan with your fingers. Bake the crust at 400 degrees, and take it out when it has browned. Add the filling after it has cooled. (Or just use butter if you don’t care about whether it’s vegan.)

Can I keep this for later?

I wasn’t happy with the results of refrigerating even for a couple of hours. The mousse got too stiff and was more like icing. Better to make it right when you need it. Maybe if you left it out while you ate dinner, it would soften up again?

Vegan chocolate cake

Simple, elegant, delicious, vegan

My daughter puts on a pop-up restaurant fund-raiser for homeless people every year, and all kinds of people come, so we always need to have good vegan desserts. One of the waitresses – a friend of my daughter’s – brought this vegan chocolate cake one year, and we’ve made it every year since.

How to make vegan chocolate cake:

Preheat the oven to 350, and use safflower oil or margarine to grease a 9×12 baking pan.

In a medium-size mixing bowl, mix together 1 1/2 cups of flour, 1 cup of sugar, 1/4 cup of cocoa powder, 1 tsp baking soda (the kind in the orange box), and a large pinch of salt. Then add 1 tsp. vanilla, 1 tsp. of white vinegar (this helps the baking soda with rising), 1 cup of water, and 1/3 cup safflower oil or 1/3 cup of applesauce or plum sauce. Mix again, pour the batter into the baking pan, and bake 45 minutes. Let it cool before you cut it up. We haven’t had a lot of luck getting these cakes out of the pan, so I’d just cut it in the pan. Or try making it in a springform pan.

What about chocolate frosting?

In a medium-size mixing bowl, put half a stick of margarine or any vegan butter, 2 1/2 cups of vegan powdered sugar, 1/4 cup of water, a cup of cocoa powder, and a teaspoon of vanilla. Use the electric mixer to blend it all together (or do it with a wooden spoon, but it’s harder).

Can’t find vegan powdered sugar? You can make your own powdered sugar by mixing 2 1/2 cups of sugar with 2 tablespoons of cornstarch and spinning it in your blender until the sugar is crushed fine.

Use a rubber spatula to spread the frosting on the cake. Refrigerate for an hour and the frosting will get harder.

Can I keep this for later?

Yes, it’s good for at least a week.

Valerie cake

The best chocolate cake ever

A few years back, I went to a Christmas party at a friend’s house, and everybody brought something. Our French friend Valerie brought this French chocolate cake, and it was so extremely delicious that after that party practically every single woman asked Valerie privately for the recipe. So every time we went to anybody’s house for dinner, or to any party, for months afterwards, you could be sure somebody would make this chocolate cake. Still, we didn’t really get tired of it, because it was so good! In our family, we call this chocolate cake Valerie cake, in her honor, though I have changed the recipe a little over the years.

I bet it’s not really good for you, though

As cakes go, this one is mostly eggs and chocolate, and relatively little butter and sugar. Still, it’s not health food. Eat a small slice once in a while. Bring it to parties and share!

How to make Valerie cake:

Preheat the oven to 325 F. In a medium-size mixing bowl, put 3/4 cup of sugar and a couple of spoonsful of water and microwave one minute, to dissolve the sugar. Add a bag (ten ounces) of dark chocolate chips and 1 cup (two sticks) of unsalted butter. Microwave the chocolate and butter with the sugar syrup for 2 minutes or until the mixture is mostly melted, then take it out and stir with a wooden spoon until it is all melted. Add 2 teaspoons of vanilla and mix. Then add 1 cup of flour and mix again.

Meanwhile, separate five eggs. Add the five egg yolks to the chocolate batter. Take out a springform pan and butter the inside, and then put a tablespoon of sugar inside and swoosh it all over the greased area. Between them, the butter and sugar will help keep the cake from sticking and help it rise higher.

Beat the five egg whites to stiff peaks with an electric beater (or by hand if you really want to), adding 1/8 cup of sugar and a pinch of salt to help them get as stiff as possible. Gently stir the beaten egg whites into the chocolate batter. Pour the batter into the springform pan and bake for about 45 minutes. Leave it in a few minutes longer if you want it to be cake all the way through; take it out a little sooner if you want it hot and runny in the middle. Remove the sides of the springform pan to cool. Sift confectioner’s sugar (powdered sugar) over the top to make it look pretty.

For added excitement, take our a pint of those frozen raspberries you put in the freezer last summer (or get some at the store). Put them in a bowl and microwave them for two minutes, or until they are all mushy and warm (It helps to stir them half-way through). Serve raspberry sauce on top of each slice of cake.

(If you want to, you can reduce the butter by adding a half-pint of raspberry jam to the batter instead of one stick of butter. But know your audience.)

Vegetarian or vegan

Just naturally vegetarian! Enjoy! If you want a good vegan chocolate cake, use this recipe instead.

Can I keep this for later?

Sure. This cake will be good for a day after you make it. But it will get stale if you keep it longer than that.

Sweet potato pie

White girls can’t make no sweet potato pie…

One year, I made this sweet potato pie for my office Christmas party. On the light-rail train on the way home that evening, I had the remains of the pie under my seat. One stop before mine, I stood up and moved over to the door, and then realized I’d forgotten my pie. “My pie! Could someone hand me my pie, please?” and someone did.

A tiny, old, old black man standing by the door says, “What kind of pie is that, girl?” I’m not happy about answering, because I’m afraid he’ll think it’s wrong of me to try it, but I tell him it’s a sweet potato pie. Sure enough, he grumbles, “White girl can’t make no sweet potato pie.” So I cut him a piece. Just as the train gets to my stop, he admits, “Not bad for a white girl.” So this is my “not bad for a white girl” sweet potato pie.

How to make sweet potato pie:

Preheat the oven to 425 and put a pot of water on to boil. Peel three medium-size red garnet sweet potatoes, and cut them into chunks. Put them in the water and boil them until they’re soft, about ten minutes.

Meanwhile, make a pie crust. Put one stick of butter in a mixing bowl and microwave one minute or until melted. Add 1 1/2 cups of flour and mix. Pour into a pie pan and spread the dough around with your fingers until it covers the whole bottom and sides.

Drain off the water and mash the sweet potatoes. Add 1/2 cup sugar, 1/2 cup brown sugar, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 1/2 teaspoon black pepper, 1 teaspoon cinnamon or allspice, 1/2 teaspoon curry powder, 1/2 teaspoon fresh ginger, four eggs, and about 1/2 cup of Greek yogurt. Mix well and pour into the pie crust. Bake about 40 minutes or until a toothpick in the center comes out clean. Eat hot or cold, with whipped cream on top or without.

Vegetarian or vegan

Sweet potato pie is vegetarian, but it’s not vegan.

Strawberry sauce

This is canning strawberry jam – not the fresh sauce recipe here

Strawberry Sauce

In May when they finally come into season, it’s been so long since we had fresh juicy fruit – since August, when the peaches dried up – that we just grab handfuls of strawberries and cram them into our mouths plain.

But after a few days, we’re ready to eat strawberries in more sophisticated ways. or we might want to serve them to company. This isn’t much harder than plain strawberries, and it’s a little fancier.

If you can spare a couple of afternoons to cut up two or three flats of strawberries and freeze them in small tupperware cups, you can enjoy this treat all winter too, and it will make next February much nicer! Strawberry sauce is excellent on pancakes too.

How to make Strawberry Sauce:

Cut up about two cups of fresh strawberries. Cut off the tops and cut the strawberries in half, or into quarters if they are big ones. Put the bowl of strawberries in the microwave and microwave for two minutes. The strawberries will smush into a lovely sauce, shiny and sweet. Ladle warm or cold over pound cake.

You can also microwave frozen strawberries, in exactly the same way, but it will take an extra minute or two. Stir after two minutes to be sure it heats evenly.

You can also make this same sauce with raspberries, blackberries, or huckleberries, though the time in the microwave will be a little shorter. Try the raspberries on top of meringues!

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Strawberry sauce is vegan, but the pound cake isn’t.

Will strawberry sauce keep?

Yes, for a couple of days. If you want to keep it longer than that, put it in a tupperware in the freezer.

Strawberries and sugar

Don’t eat New Zealand Strawberries

These days, they sell things that look like strawberries at the store all year round. But they’ll only *taste* like strawberries in May and June, and maybe into July. While they’re good, buy two or three flats of strawberries and slice them up and freeze them, and you’ll have delicious strawberry sauce even in February.

But after slicing strawberries for a couple of hours, make sure you save enough out to eat fresh – they’re always best fresh!

How to make Strawberries in Sugar:

Cut up about two cups of fresh strawberries. Cut off the tops and cut the strawberries in half, or into quarters if they are big ones. Add 1/4 cup of sugar (and 1/4 cup of white wine if you want), and let the strawberries sit for half an hour while you eat lunch (perhaps some matzobrei or egg salad?).

After lunch, you’ll find that the sugar has gotten the strawberries to give up some of their liquid. You can eat the strawberries as they are, or make them fancier by adding two teaspoons of chopped mint or basil, or some lemon zest.

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Strawberries with sugar are a great vegan dessert.

Will strawberries with sugar keep?

Not in the refrigerator. If there’s really a lot left over, freeze it and you can make strawberry sauce with it later.

Sponge cake with pineapple

With Pineapple!

In the winter, pineapple is good when no other kind of fruit is, and this sponge cake makes it into a delicious dessert!

How to make sponge cake:

Preheat oven to 350. Put the springform pan together, or use a cake pan, and grease the pan. Separate 6 eggs and mix the yolks together in a medium size ceramic bowl until light yellow. Add 1/2 cup sugar and mix more. Add a teaspoon of vanilla and/or a teaspoon of lemon zest, and mix again. Add a cup of flour and mix. Beat the egg whites, adding 1/4 cup sugar, and add them gently. Melt 1/3 stick of butter in the microwave and pour it down the side of the bowl and mix it in just gently. That’s it – pour it into the springform and bake about 25 minutes. Try not to peek, or the sponge cake won’t be as light.

Serve either hot or cooled, with chunks of fresh pineapple over and around it.

Vegetarian or vegan

Just naturally vegetarian! Enjoy! But not vegan, because of the eggs!

Can I keep this for later?

Yes, but it won’t be as good the next day – it gets a little chewy.


Great cookies, no sugar!

Sure, we make hamentaschen in February or March for Purim – it’s traditional – but really it’s an excuse to make rugelach at the same time. We all like rugelach better – which is funny, because rugelach don’t even have any sugar in them. But they do have lots of fat to make up for it.

How to make rugelach:

First, figure out what you’re going to use for a filling. As with hamentaschen, the kids like to use Nutella, which is not traditional but does taste good. Adults prefer strawberry jam, or strawberry-rhubarb jam, if there is still any left in February from the year before. Any kind of thick jam will work.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (But really, if you’re baking these alongside your hamentaschen, you can do them both at 375, no problem). In a medium-sized mixing bowl, put two sticks of unsalted butter and one package of cream cheese (use Philadelphia cream cheese, and not the low-fat kind either).

Use the electic mixer to blend the butter and the cream cheese, then add a cup of full-fat Greek yogurt and blend again.

Or, make ricotta and use that in place of the cream cheese and yogurt, for a slightly different flavor. Heat half a gallon of milk in a saucepan. When it is warm add a quarter cup of white vinegar and stir until it curdles. Strain the whey out through a cheesecloth and mix in.

Use a wooden spoon to add 3 cups of flour, and mix once more, until the dough forms a ball and pulls away from the sides of the bowl. Turn the dough out on to a floured surface and knead for a couple of minutes. It should be a very soft dough.

Divide the dough in quarters, and if you have time wrap each ball in a plastic bag and refrigerate for an hour. But if you don’t want to stop, you can roll it out fresh too, just be more careful. Use a rolling pin, and plenty of flour to prevent sticking, to roll out each of the four balls of dough into a rectangle about a foot long and 4 inches wide.

Use a rubber spatula to spread your filling all over the top of the rectangle. Sprinkle with crushed hazelnuts (which are local here) or walnuts or whatever nuts are local for you. Or leave off the nuts if someone in your house doesn’t like them. Starting from a long side, roll up the dough into a log with the filling inside. Place the logs on two greased cookie sheets with the outside edge on the bottom. Put two logs on each cookie sheet.

Break an egg into a bowl and stir; use a pastry brush to spread egg on the top and sides of the logs. Sprinkle cinnamon sugar on top of that (mix 1 tablespoon of sugar with a teaspoon of cinnamon). Cut the logs into about twelve slices each and move them a little apart from each other on the baking sheet. Bake for about twenty minutes. It can be hard to know when rugelach are done; you want them to be lightly browned, but they’re still going to be soft. They will get harder as they cool.

Vegetarian or vegan

Just naturally vegetarian! Enjoy!

Can I keep this for later?

Sure. Rugelach will be good for a couple of weeks if you keep them on the counter in an airtight cookie tin.

Rhubarb crisp

Rhubarb’s one of the first things you get to eat fresh in the spring, plus it grows like a weed for practically everybody wherever you plant it (except for me; I have a rhubarb plant in a big pot that never produces anything ever. But for everyone else.)

But in the fall, I make the same thing with chopped apples, and that’s good too. Or mix them, for apple-rhubarb crisp.

How to make Rhubarb Crisp:

Dice 5 big stalks of rhubarb, and an apple. In a medium-sized mixing bowl, mix the rhubarb and apple with 1 cup sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 teaspoon Chinese Five Spice, and 1/2 teaspoon nutmeg. Pour into a piepan.

Preheat the oven to 350 F. Crush 1/2 cup of hazelnuts (I do this with a mortar and pestle, but you could do it in a food processor, or just roll the nuts in a dishtowel and go over them with a rolling pin). In the same mixing bowl, melt a stick of butter in the microwave (about two minutes).

Add 1/4 cup brown sugar, 1/2 cup flour, 1 cup old-fashioned rolled oats, a large pinch of salt, and the crushed hazelnuts and mix. Spread the crumble over the top of the rhubarb and bake about 30 minutes. Cool for five minutes. Serve with whipped cream if desired.

Vegetarian or Vegan?

Rhubarb is vegetarian, but it’s not vegan. To make it vegan, you’d need to use coconut oil in place of the butter.

Will it keep?

Yes, for a few days, in the refrigerator.