So folks, first off, mea culpa! It has been way too long since I last posted, but work and life has been hectic. To catch you up on the past few months, we’ve had Chanukah, Tu B’Shevat, Purim and Pesach, all prime food holidays, which I admit, I slacked on. My bad. For those of you who would like, I can pull out some menus and recipes from those days and catch you all up. But onwards and upwards! Since we have just finished Pesach, a holiday of no leavened products, I feel the great desire for some real bread. Not potato starch bread. Not a gluten free concoction (though credit does go out to my gluten-intolerant and Celiac friends, I’ve got your backs too! Check out the posts under the Gluten Free Category). I want real, wheat flour based, bread!
So with that in mind, I dedicate the rest of this week to bread! Our proud quiet companion that supports whatever delicious substance we slap between two pieces of it. Without you bread, we wouldn’t have a sandwich. Thank you.
This post is taken from Tori Avey, aka The Shiksa in the Kitchen. She has a great site that I encourage you to visit at www.toriavey.com.
Typical foods served on Tu B’Shevat include fruits, nuts, grains, and vegetables. The almond trees bloom at this time of year, so almond-laden foods often make an appearance on the holiday table. Those who partake in a Tu B’Shevat Seder will eat at least 15 different types of fruits and vegetables. Chocolatey carob pods are sometimes included in the meal. It is also customary to include the Seven Species mentioned in the Torah: wheat, barley, grapes, figs, pomegranates, olives, and dates.
¾ cup golden raisins
½ cup dried figs*
½ cup dates*
1 ¼ cup unsweetened almond milk
¼ cup applesauce
1 teaspoon cinnamon
½ teaspoon allspice
⅓ cup light olive oil
½ cup sugar
½ cup brown sugar
1 ½ teaspoon vanilla extract
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (¾ cup all-purpose + ¾ cup whole wheat flour will work too)
½ cup barley flour
2 teaspoon baking powder
½ teaspoon baking soda
¼ teaspoon salt
¾ cup pomegranate seeds
½ cup chopped walnuts
Nonstick cooking spray or paper muffin tin liners
Topping Ingredients (optional)
2 tablespoons turbinado sugar
¼ teaspoon cinnamon
* To learn how to properly inspect these fruits, click here.
You will also need:
Blender or food processor, large mixing bowl, medium mixing bowl, standard muffin tin, ice cream scoop or small ladle, cooling rack
If your raisins are particularly dry, cover them with water and bring to a boil. As soon as the water boils, turn off the heat and let the raisins sit in the water to plump for 10 minutes. Drain and pat dry with a paper towel.
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F.
If your figs have tough stems on them, remove them and discard.
Roughly chop dates and figs. Set aside.
Use a blender or food processor to blend together the following ingredients until very smooth: dates, figs, almond milk, applesauce, cinnamon and allspice.
It may take a couple of minutes to blend all ingredients to a smooth consistency, depending on the power of your blender. The end result should be similar to the texture of apple butter or smooth fruit preserves. Set mixture aside.
In a medium mixing bowl, whisk together eggs, light olive oil, sugar, brown sugar, and vanilla extract.
In a large mixing bowl, sift together flour, barley flour, baking powder, baking soda, and salt.
Gently mix the pomegranate seeds into the dry mixture, making sure the seeds are well coated with flour.
Make a well in the middle of the dry ingredients. Pour the fruit mixture from the blender into the well.
Add the egg mixture to the well.
Fold the dry ingredients into the wet ingredients until the dry ingredients are just moistened and a lumpy batter forms. Do not over mix – if you do your muffins will turn out heavy and dense.
Fold raisins and chopped walnuts into the muffin batter with a light-handed stir.
Prep your muffin pan by spraying a small amount of non-stick cooking spray into the bottom of each muffin tin (not the sides), or use paper muffin cup liners. Divide batter equally into muffin cups, filling each cup to the top and mounding the surface slightly. I’ve found that it’s easiest to do this using an ice cream scoop.
If you’d like to top the muffins, mix the sugar and cinnamon together in a small bowl using a fork. Sprinkle about a ½ tsp of cinnamon sugar mixture evenly across the surface of each muffin.
Place muffins in the oven and immediately turn heat down to 375 degrees F. That extra heat blast at the beginning of the baking cycle will help to activate the baking powder and baking soda. Bake for 25-27 minutes until the tops of the muffins are golden brown and a toothpick inserted in the centre comes out clean. Let muffins cool for 10 minutes before removing from the tin and cooling on a rack. Do not let the muffins cool completely in the tin, they are quite moist and may stick to the tin if you leave them there too long. Serve warm.
You may be thinking… huh? Wasn’t New Year’s like over a month ago? Firstly, I can’t believe it’s already been a month since New Year’s, and secondly, I’m talking about the New Year of the Trees. Tu B’Shevat – the 15th of the month of Shevat is celebrated as the New Year for nature. We actually have four new year’s in the Jewish calendar. The different new years all coincide with the tithing schedules (the part that you’re supposed to leave or give to G-d in thanks).
The first is the first day of the month Nissan. This is considered to be the New Year of the Prophets and starts the counting of the layout of the festivals for the remainder of the year. There are several sacrifices that are made at this time of year, and it is also around this time that the holiday of Passover begins (the 15th day of Nissan). This also marks the official start of Spring.
The second is the first day of the month of Elul. This is starts the year from the point of view of tithing cattle for Temple sacrifices. Since the destruction of the Temple, the Sages determined that this would also the beginning of when we start to recite Selichot, or preparation for repentance before RoshHaShannah. This also marks the official start of the last month of Summer.
The third is the one that most people are framilar with and that we celebrate on the first day of the month of Tishri. This is called RoshHaShannah – Head of the Year. Originally this date was associated with the last reaping of the harvest and the festival associated with it, though after the destruction of the Second Temple, the Sages decided that it would mark the head of the civil year, and therefore be called Rosh HaShannah – Head of the Year. This also begins the ten-day trial period where humanity is judged and ends with the Day of Atonement (Yom Kippur).
The fourth, and the one we are currently celebrating is Tu B’Shevat. Originally this marked the date for calculating the tithes of the harvest that farmers would pledge to the priests of Israel. Today Tu B’Shevat represents a national Arbour Day in Israel, with tree planting ceremonies in Israel.
To celebrate the holiday, we tend to plant a tree or eat some of the fruits and grains from the land of Israel. So today I’m going to post two recipes. One that keeps cookie week going strong, and another that I’m actually re-posting from another blog. When you see it, you’ll know why I’m posting it! So enjoy, and Happy Tu B’Shevat!