Pros: A lot of color photographs and some how-to photographs. Recipes arranged by holiday.
Cons: Not every recipe has a photograph.
It is funny what draws you to a cookbook. Sometimes it’s the cover. Maybe it’s an author you recognize. Or maybe, just maybe, it is one little pastry or other wonderful creation that calls out to you. This last applies to me. While perusing cookbooks at the local book store, I was intrigued by a tray full of little bronzed pastries on the front cover of “The Holiday Kosher Baker” by Paula Shoyer. I pulled the book off of the shelf and immediately went searching for this little pastry. I can often find what is on the front cover by looking on the index page of the book. However, nothing was to be found there to help me locate this suddenly elusive recipe. Without knowing what it was called, I simply started to go through the book one page at a time. The first time flipping through pages resulted in absolutely beautiful photographs of mouthwatering desserts, but not the one, not the bronzed little conical shaped delicacy I was searching for. Looking around for a place to sit so I can more thoroughly examine this book, I spotted a coffee shop nearby. I happily paid for my book, went to the coffee shop, ordered a drink and relaxed in a comfy chair intent on figuring out who Paula Shoyer was, and why she put this particular creation on her cover.
As I thoroughly go through her cookbook I see many beautiful displays of desserts, some more humble than others, and I start to wonder why she chose the one pastry as one of her trio of deserts on her cover when there were so many other beautiful ones to choose from. Before I tell you what the recipe is, let me describe what they look like. They are cylindrical pastries, about 2” tall and around, they have ridges on them and they appear to be almost burned. You won’t find fancy flowers on them or even any frosting at all. I finally found the recipe towards the back of the book. It is found under the celebration of Shavout. “According to ancient mystical wisdom of Kabbalah, the Omer is an opportunity to strengthen and improve certain personal qualities. One week we concentrate on Chesed – loving-kindness – and consider ways in which we can improve how we treat people. During another week, we emphasize Hod – humility – and work on how we can better manage our accomplishments without belittling others.” I included this section from her description because I was humbled after making these wonderful little Canneles, and I definitely feel bad for belittling them. Yes indeed these little pastries deserved to be on the cover of “The Holiday Kosher Baker.” I am now wondering why these delectable little pastries had to share space at all on the cover! Nonetheless, the recipe for Canneles is not the only reason to get this book.
What Paula Shoyer has done is compile a nice selection of recipes that are associated with traditional Jewish holidays. You no longer have to wonder what to take to a get together to celebrate any Jewish holiday with your friends or relatives. However, you don’t have to be baking for a particular reason to enjoy the recipes found in her cookbook. You can tell from her comments throughout the book that she knows what she is talking about when it comes to preparing kosher dishes for Jewish holidays. She is a graduate of the Ritz Escoffier pastry program in Paris. She uses her expertise to write cookbooks, put on cooking demonstrations, and also teach French and Jewish cooking classes in Washington DC. The cookbook itself is a nice hard back with heavy pages to protect from splashes.
I found the way this book was arranged to be very helpful. What Shoyer has done is arrange the sections in the cookbook by Jewish Holiday. Instead of seeing Salads, Beef, and Desserts you will find Rosh Hashannah and Yom Kippur, Sukkot, Chanukah, Purim, Passover, and Shavout. Inside each of these sections you will find a brief description of the holiday that is represented along with both contemporary and traditional recipes. Interspersed throughout the cookbook are little tips that just might help with a particular technique. At the beginning of the book there is also a very concise “Kosher Baking Encyclopedia” to answer any questions you may have about kosher baking. While there are not photographs of every recipe I found that there were plenty of photographs especially for the more difficult desserts. I found the index to be particularly useful. She has two indexes. One is an “index of Recipes by Category.” This is brilliantly laid out with recipes sorted by Dairy, Gluten-free, Low sugar, Non-gebrokts, Nut-free, Parve, and Vegan. I find myself more and more looking for recipes that are Gluten-free, or Nut-free when I have friends over. I used to think food allergies were fairly rare, now they seem to almost be common. Having the recipes indexed this way just makes choosing recipes that much easier. This is followed by a General Index where you can easily find all the recipes by name or ingredient. The recipes are geared to the home cook with very detailed instructions and photographs when you need them. Don’t think you have to be Jewish to enjoy the recipes.
As for the recipes themselves, I didn't find any errors while reading through them and all the ones I tried were easy to execute. I have to say of all the Challah bread recipes I have tried over the years, her recipe for Classic Challah on page 65 is absolutely the best one. However the recipe I want to share is the Cannele recipe. At first I thought the Cannele recipe would be just like baking a cupcake. Whip up the batter, refrigerate it, and bake it. Well, it wasn't quite as simple as that. You see these little pastries deserve your time and attention to detail with heat to get them just right. The silicon pans are readily available on Amazon. You can buy them in 6, 8, or 15-cavity as the recipe calls for. There are also Copper molds with tinned interiors available. But those are very expensive. I went with the 8-cavity mold and had to bake mine a bit longer. Pay close attention to the recipe, when it doesn't mention giving the batter a good whisk the next morning when you want to bake them there is a reason! It’s air. You don’t want to whip air into the batter. It makes them expand when cooking. I gave mine a gentle stir and they still puffed over a bit. She recommends pressing the edge of the Cannele towards the center when they puff out. Another tip is to make sure your oven temp is correct and keep it at 475 a good ten minutes before you put them in. The recipe says to make sure they are “very brown on top.” She is not kidding. One downside to using the silicone mold is it’s very difficult to pop just one out to see if it’s done. My first batch wasn’t done enough. They were done, but not caramelized like I wanted them to be. My second batch I left in a lot longer and they turned out much better. The result is a wonderful delicate flavor and nice texture in the center with a slight harder shell. They are wonderful. They were a big hit with my family. I hope you enjoy the recipe.
Makes 30 to 32 mini pastries
Canneles, pronounced “canelays,” are small, fluted cakes that originated in the Bordeaux region of France. They have a dark, caramelized exterior and a spongy, rich, custardy interior. Use a silicone pan that makes 15 mini cakes and bake them in two or more batches. You can easily find “canneles molds” online.
2 cups (480ml) whole milk
4 tablespoons (57g) unsalted butter, cut into pieces, plus one tablespoon to grease molds
½ vanilla bean, split and seeds scraped
Dash of salt
2 large eggs plus two yolks
¾ cup (95g) all-purpose flour
1 cup (200g) sugar
2 teaspoons rum
Place the milk, butter, scraped seeds and vanilla bean pot, and salt into a small saucepan and heat over medium heat until hot, not boiling, and the butter has melted. In a medium bowl, use a silicone spatula to mix together the eggs, yolks, flour, and sugar into a paste. Strain 1/2 cup of the milk mixture into the eggs and whisk in. Strain in half of the remaining milk and whisk in. Strain in the remaining milk, discard the vanilla bean pod a, and whisk until combined. Add the rum and stir. Strain the mixture into another bowl, discarding any solids. Let it cool for 10 minutes. Cover the bowl and refrigerate overnight.
Preheat oven to 475°F (240°C). You will need to bake the canneles in batches, washing the pan between each batch. Place the mold on top of a jelly roll pan. Melt the remaining tablespoon of butter and use a small pastry brush to grease the insides of the molds. Pour the batter into the molds and fill up to about 1/8 of an inch (3mm) from the top. Wipe of any excess batter on top of the pan.
Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce heat to 375°F (190°C) and bake another 50 to 60 minutes, or until pastries are very brown on top. The pastries may puff up out of the molds at some point, but they will usually come down before they are done. If the canneles are still puffing out of the molds after they have baked for 40 minutes, use the back of a small spoon to gently push the sides into the center and they will drop back into the molds. Do not bang the tops; this is not whack-a-mole. Remove the molds from the oven and immediately unmold the canneles onto a wire rack to cool. Wash and dry the molds and bake another batch. Store covered at room temperature for up to three days or frees for up to three months.