Sweet Summer Shabbats


In my many extended visits to Israel, my impressions of Shabbat always leave me in awe. How differently it's treated there than anyplace else in the world! Whether observant or non-observant, Friday and Saturday mean guests, and guests mean food.

Israelis usually don't entertain with large dinner parties; most families don't have room to serve full meals for a crowd. But enter a stairwell of an Israeli apartment building on a Friday afternoon and you're met with the aroma of strudels, tortes and other sweet delicacies as part of the preparations for Shabbat.

For most Israelis, entertaining on the weekend means fruit, sweets, cake and coffee before or after the big meal: lunch. If you're invited, you'd better be more than a little hungry since Israelis cook up and serve ample portions.

The following treats make up a delicious dessert tray designed for a casual, post-meal Shabbat gathering. It's a wonderful tradition to export to the USA!

Pear-Almond Cake

4 cups cored and coarsely chopped ripe pears (about 5-6 pears) 
2 cups sugar 
1/2 cup vegetable oil 
2 eggs, beaten 
2 cups all-purpose flour 
1 tsp. ground cinnamon 
1/2 tsp. grated nutmeg 
grated zest of 1 lemon 
2 tsps. baking soda 
1/2 tsp. salt 
1 tsp. vanilla extract 
1 cup chopped almonds 
confectioners' sugar

Preheat oven to 350°.

Grease a 10-inch round cake pan.

Combine pears and sugar in a medium bowl, and let stand 15 minutes. Combine oil with eggs and add to pears.

In another bowl, combine the flour, cinnamon, nutmeg, lemon zest, baking soda and salt. Stir into pear mixture. Add vanilla and almonds.

Pour into prepared pan and bake until cake tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 45 minutes.

Cool on a rack about 20 minutes before turning out. Invert onto a serving platter and dust with confectioners' sugar.

Serves 12.

Cottage-Cheese Pastry

8 oz. butter, room temperature 
8 oz. low-fat cottage cheese, room temperature 
21/4 cups flour 
1/2 tsp. salt

Combine the butter and cottage cheese until well-blended.

Add the flour and salt; mix until a smooth dough is formed. (I use a food processor).

Form dough into disc, wrap in plastic wrap and refrigerate at least 1 hour. The dough may be refrigerated for two days.

This recipe makes enough for about 4 dozen small pastries, 4 strudels or one double-crust pie.

Jam-and-Chocolate Strudel Slices

1 cup favorite jam (I use orange or lemon marmalade) 
1 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate 
4 oz. melted butter 
2 Tbsps. sugar, mixed with 1 tsp. cinnamon 
1 recipe cottage cheese pastry

Preheat oven to 350°.

Divide dough into fourths. Roll out each fourth to a 18×5-inch rectangle. Spread each with 1/4 cup jam, then sprinkle each with 1/4 cup chocolate.

Roll each rectangle up jelly-roll fashion and place on an ungreased cookie sheet. Brush tops with melted butter and sprinkle with sugar-cinnamon mixture.

Bake for 30 minutes, or until golden brown. Let cool and slice into 2 inch slices.

Makes about 4 dozen.

Apricot-Almond Chocolate Balls

1/2 lb. dried apricots 
1/2 lb. almonds, toasted 
2 oz. bittersweet chocolate, cut into small pieces 
1 cup sugar 
8 Tbsps. water 
confectioners' sugar

Place the apricots, almonds and chocolate in a food processor, and process until very finely chopped.

In a medium saucepan, over medium-high heat, cook sugar and water until a soft ball stage, about 240°F on a candy thermometer — about 10 minutes.

Stir in the apricot mixture and let cool.

Squeeze the mixture together with hands to make a firm ball. Pinch off about 1 tablespoon of mixture, form into 1-inch balls, and roll in powdered sugar. Place in paper candy cups and serve.

Makes about 4 dozen.


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