Taking a trip Inside the Jewish Bakery

Reading “Inside the Jewish Bakery: Recipes and Mem-ories from the Golden Age of Jewish Baking” is like being invited to go behind the bakery counter to learn the secrets and stories behind favorites such as the black-and-white cookie, pumpernickel bread and more.

The book was written by two men with serious New York baking experience, Norman Berg, a retired baker, and Stanley Ginsberg, who learned how to bake as a youth. Filled with memories, history and homey photos of baked goods, the book’s strength is its adaptation of classics for the home kitchen. Recipes are reduced in serving size but not in authenticity.

With our recent reading of Parashat Noach, with its story of Noah, the ark and the promise of the rainbow, I was particularly attracted to the recipe for Rainbow Cookies. Each recipe below is adapted from “Inside the Jewish Bakery.”

 

Rainbow Cookies

Makes 4 to 5 dozen

For cookies:

1 cup almond paste, at room temperature

1 cup eggs, beaten

1⁄2 cup vegetable shortening

1⁄2 cup unsalted butter, at room temperature

1 tsp. salt

13⁄4 cups plus 2 Tbs. cake flour

13⁄4 tsp. vanilla extract

15-20 drops each of red, green and yellow food colorings

1⁄4 cup apricot or raspberry jam

For icing:

1⁄4 cup water

1⁄2 tsp. light corn syrup

21⁄4 cups powered sugar

3-4 Tbs. unsweetened cocoa powder

1⁄2 tsp. vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Mash almond paste with a fork, then use electric mixer to blend with 1⁄4 cup of the beaten egg until smooth. Add shortening, butter, salt and remaining egg. Beat until soft and light in color. Add the flour 1⁄2 cup at a time, then the vanilla extract. Continue creaming until batter is evenly mixed with a very light texture. Divide into 3 equal portions in separate bowls. Add a different food coloring to each and whisk until blended. To bake, put each color batter into a greased 8-by-8-inch baking pan and bake on middle rack until a toothpick comes out dry, 10-12 minutes. Remove from pans and cool on racks. (If you only have one pan, rinse, dry and re-grease the pan between uses.)

Melt the jam over very low heat to avoid burning (or use a double boiler). Brush as thin a layer of jam as possible over the green layer and immediately top with yellow layer. Brush the yellow layer the same way and top with the red layer. Wrap the block of layers in plastic and return to the original baking pan. Top with another baking pan or tray and place 3 lbs. of weight on it to help compress the layers. Refrigerate for 24 hours.

Make the icing by heating water and corn syrup to boiling, then stirring in the powdered sugar, cocoa powder and vanilla until well blended. Let cool until it feels neither hot nor cool to your lips. Remove the layers from the refrigerator and cut into four even bricks, each 2 inches wide. Apply a thin coating of icing to the top and sides with a metal spatula. When the icing is almost hardened, use a sharp knife to cut the bricks into 1/2-inch slices. Can be made ahead and frozen.

 

Coconut Macaroons

Makes 2 to 3 dozen

1 Tbs. sugar

1⁄2 tsp. salt

21⁄4 cups finely shredded, unsweetened coconut

3⁄4 tsp. vanilla extract

3 Tbs. honey

3 Tbs. oil

3-4 large egg whites, beaten

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Blend all ingredients except egg whites on low-medium speed of electric mixer. Increase speed to medium, add egg whites in a thin stream, mixing until smooth. Use only enough egg to get dough to the consistency of putty. Spoon or pipe the mixture into peaked rounds about 1-inch in diameter on baking trays lined with parchment paper. Bake for 10-15 minutes until the peak starts to turn brown, there is a light brown ring around the bottom of the cookie and the cookie itself shows dappling. Do not overbake. Allow to cool on parchment. Remove and store in an airtight container. If the cookies stick to the parchment, turn paper over and wet it lightly. The macaroons will come off easily.

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer. Her columns alternate with those of Louise Fiszer. She blogs at www.clickblogappetit.com. Contact her at [email protected]

Faith Kramer
Faith Kramer

Faith Kramer is a Bay Area food writer and the author of “52 Shabbats: Friday Night Dinners Inspired by a Global Jewish Kitchen.” Her website is faithkramer.com. Contact her at [email protected].