A Pancake by any Other Name

…in this case, the pancake is called atayef, a Middle Eastern pancake filled with ashta, a type of milk pudding/custard/cheese that is delicately and divinely delicious. I love pancakes, have been known to wake up at 5 am craving them, and my mother loves ashta, so when someone gave a few of these atayef to my dad out of their brown bag a few days ago, I knew I had an irresistible excuse to make pancakes.

The pancake is easy enough to make, and comes with variations. Some call for the use of yeast and baking powder, some just baking powder alone. In either case, the pancake is free of eggs or butter, making it a perfectly light foil for the whole-milk filling that will leave you wanting more.

The batter is to be made slightly, barely, thicker than a crepe batter; making it too thick will not allow you to form a graceful, elegant cone into which the filling goes. If your batter is too thick, don’t be afraid to thin it down by whisking in additional milk (or water).

But, before you can get going on the pancakes, you must make the filling. It’s a simple enough affair, although mystifying for us non-Middle Easterners, made of milk, corn starch, some sugar, and flavored (rose and orange blossom) waters. Once sufficiently thickened, the filling is set aside, and kept warm.

As the pancakes come off the skillet, allow them to cool for a few seconds, then bring the edges together to form a cone. Hold the edges till the shape sets, about 10 seconds, and set aside for filling. Eventually, you’ll get dexterous enough to shape two pancakes at a time (look, both hands, Ma!). Fill with ashta, sprinkle with pistachios, and serve with simple syrup on the side for those who desire that extra dash of sweetness.

Recipes are on the flip side.

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Among other things: one year older :)

So, I’ve been on a mission to perfect the South African Snowball (not to be confused with the Sno-balls from Hostess Cakes), a delicate, fluffy, cake loved by children all over South Africa. Well, I certainly was transfixed with it as a kid. It is basically two domes of white sponge cake sandwiched together with jam, rolled in jam and coconut. Sounds easy, right? But, no. Getting the cake to hold it’s shape once it’s been piped onto the pan, but still remain soft and fluffy, like a good sponge should be, is going to be the end of me. I can tell.

In my continuing saga with the Elusive Snowballs, I attempted a recipe that a benevolent reader directed me to. It was good, but did not have the result I wanted. Taste was great, shape was good, but while that blogger’s recipe said the cakes would be cut in half and then sandwiched together, I had no such possibility of doing that: my batter spread enough that the bottoms were completely flat, so the cakes were just sandwiched directly, no intermediate step of cutting involved. One less step, but obviously not what the recipe intended. I’ll tinker with the recipe and probably add a 1/4 cup more flour and see what gives.

So, round two, in time for turning a year older (hey, what better way to treat yourself than a good snowball experiment?!), I decided to modify a recipe for Madeleines, from Nick Malgieri’s book Perfect Cookies, Cakes, and Chocolate, to see if they would turn into snowballs. There is hope with this recipe, but it’s going to take less work to achieve peace between Israel and Palestine!

Nonetheless, I’ve got a tunnel of fudge cake, some shortbread, brookies (brownie cookies for the uninitiated), and ice cream to help me put on at least five pounds today. So dedicated am I to this goal that I don’t even have pictures of it all…and have no idea when I’ll put any of them up. I’m just a lazy birthday girl!

Birthday Bagels

So, there was a birthday, right?

…turns out the birthday boy is really old at heart: he found the molten cakes to be a bit too sweet.

So, out of the goodness of my heart, I decided to make him bagels, since he missed them the first time I made them….

…and ok, I wanted to see if the bagel recipe really is reliable. (What, sometimes a recipe works once and flops the second time around. Usually because I don’t pay as much attention the second time around…but, whatever…)

…turns out, the birthday boy thought they “taste just like bagels!”

My job is done.

Well, almost. Now I’m putting whole-wheat bagels on my To-Do list.

There was a birthday…

 

…and somebody turned 30. (No, it was not me. I’m an old lady.) This was what I made: Bon Appetit’s Winter-Spiced Molten Chocolate Cake

 

Since I used half-cup ramekins, rather than the 3/4 cup size called for, I adjusted the baking time from 15 minutes down to 13…

…they baked up nicely, and the crust on top jiggled a bit when touched…

Served with a scoop of vanilla ice cream.

…this does not look molten, does it? Well, unfortunately, this is the only one, the one I chose for the picture (my one!) that did not flow like lava. By the time I got to this shot, the ones that were totally molten were, well…totally gone.

But, hey, this was molten enough for me, and I’m calling this recipe…a feast!

Notes:

I halved the recipe;

I added 1 tsp of instant coffee to the melted chocolate;

I eliminated the spices because a)it ain’t winter; and b) the idea of desecrating chocolate with spices does not sit well with me.

Back Onto the Baker’s Rack

This is a good recipe for cream puffs, from Epicurious, with a few changes:

  • You can safely eliminate the sugar;
  • Use 4 eggs;
  • Beat the hot dough in the mixture for a few minutes, not seconds, before adding the eggs. The eggs must not be allowed to cook up in the beating process–they need to cook up in the baking phase!
  • Fill with Pastry Cream folded into whipped cream (adjust ratio of whipped cream to pastry cream as desired; I used 3 cups cream, whipped it, then folded in about 1 cup pastry cream).
  • Toss in some strawberries for a bona fide California experience.
  • Top with Ganache.