Articles and Media

Celebrating Spring

by Ana L. Palles

Blueberries and Strawberries The first blossoms of spring have just popped their heads out of the ground this week. A reminder that sunny days and fresh breezes begin making their way into our daily routine. Spring's holidays of Easter and Passover are no less food-focused than their autumn counterparts. But the flavours that make their way onto our tables are greener, brighter and more subtle.

A light sprinkling of lavender in a poundcake or rose water in a tender white velvet cake teases our palates with whispers of nature's joyous awakening. Spring is a season to celebrate the fulfillment of the promise made in the autumn that mother nature was simply laying down for a nap and would soon return.

Easter and Passover are amongst the most well known of the Spring holiday season and each carry their specific traditions. Whether celebrating an Easter European or Western style Easter, one of the common themes to be found is the use of colored eggs.

At this time of year, bakeries will make rich loaves of sweet egg bread, often studded with nuts and cherries and sporting beautifully dyed eggs interwoven into the braided bread. The eggs are colored but not hard boiled as they will cook in the oven with the bread.

Poundcakes bursting with berries and Coconut Raspberry Bars will bring smiles to everyone's faces. The combination of textures and sweet and tart contrast of the blueberries are an ideal reminder of the warm days ahead.

Blueberry Pound Cake

1 cup butter
2 cups sugar
4 eggs
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups cake flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups blueberries (fresh, or frozen drained)

Cream together the butter and the sugar. Add the eggs, one at time and the vanilla. Add the flour, baking powder and salt, incorporating the dry ingredients well as you do.Gently fold-in the blueberries, making sure not to over-mix so that the batter does not turn blue. Spoon batter into a greased and sugared 10-inch angel food cake pan, or into two large loaf pans.Bake at 325°F for approximately 1 hour and 30 minutes in the tube pan; 1 hour for the loaves.

Coconut Raspberry Bars

1 cup all-purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 cup melted butter, slightly cooled
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon milk
1/3 cup raspberry jam
1/4 cup butter, softened
1 cup sugar
1 egg, beaten
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
7 oz. flaked coconut

Combine flour and baking powder. Gradually stir in the 1/2 cup melted butter, mixing well. Stir in the egg and the milk. Press mixture into a greased 9 X 11 X 2 inch baking pan. Spread jam over the dough; set aside. Cream the 1/4 cup butter in a large mixing bowl. Gradually add the sugar, beating well. Stir in the remaining egg and vanilla, mixing well. Fold in the coconut. Spread carefully over the jam. Bake at 350°F for 30 minutes or until just golden brown. Cool and cut into bars.

For Jewish celebrants, the holidays are about eliminating leavening, so only the flat unleavened bread known as matza will make its way to the table. Baking becomes somewhat of a challenge for Jewish households since flour cannot be used and instead, dishes must be made with matza meal or potato starch instead.

Fortunately, the many invitations to join friends in Passover celebrations result in becoming quite creative with desserts that use no baking powders or flour. Good recipes often can be adapted to accommodate the necessary parameters. The Brownies are a year round favorite. The unsweetened chocolate (make sure you use real unsweetened chocolate, never imitation or chocolate-flavored squares) gives this brownie an unmatched pure chocolate flavor. And don't worry about the coconut, (you won't even notice it's there) even little children love this fudgey brownie. It mixes up easy and come out with a shiny, crackly top.

The Sabra torte is an elegant dessert suitable for more adult tastes. The cake is moistened using Sabra, an Israeli liqueur flavoured with chocolate and orange. Be prepared for eager curiosity when you walk in with this interesting dessert.

Passover Brownies

6 oz unsweetened chocolate
1 1/2 cups butter
8 eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
4 cups sugar
2 cups matza meal
1 teaspoon salt
1 cup flaked coconut

Melt the unsweetened chocolate with the butter until completely smooth. Mix together the remaining ingredients in a mixing bowl. Blend in the melted chocolate and butter. Spread mixture in a half-sheet pan and bake for 30 - 35 minutes. NOTE: Brownies will NOT test done. These will stay fudgy so do not overbake. Let cool completely and cut into squares. Yield: approximately 35 Fudge Brownies.

Sabra Torte

6 extra large eggs, separated
1 cup sugar
1/2 cup pecans, ground
1/2 cup walnuts, coarsely chopped
1 3/4 cups flaked coconut
1/2 teaspoon grated orange rind
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/2 cup orange juice
1/4 cup Sabra liqueur

Prepare a 9 inch springform pan by lightly greasing. Set aside. Beat egg whites in a glass or metal bowl until soft peaks form. Add 1/2 cup sugar by tablespoon to the egg whites until stiff, glossy peaks form. Set aside.

In another bowl, beat the egg yolks with the remaining sugar until lemon colored and fluffly. Add the nuts and coconut to the yolks. Add grated rind, salt and vanilla extract. Fold the egg whites in very gently and do not overstir. Place cake batter into the springform pan. Bake in a 325 degree oven for 45 minutes or until the torte is light brown on top. Remove from the oven and let cake sit for a few minutes.

Combine orange juice and Sabra liqueur. Pour over torte while the cake is still in the pan. After the torte is thoroughly cooled, place in the refrigerator. Make fudge icing. When ready to serve, take cake out of the springform pan and place on serving platter. Ice the sides of the cake with fudge icing and pipe borders along the top and bottom. Layer the top of the cake with strawberries, serve and enjoy!

Fudge Icing: Melt 1/2 cup of semi sweet chocolate chips. In a mixing bowl, beat 1/2 cup butter, melted chocolate chips and 1 cup of powdered sugar. Add more chocolate if needed.

Fresh strawberries