A Bittersweet Year

Cranberry and Raspberry Rugelach
November 26, 2013
A French Tart makes for a Sweet Passover
April 7, 2014

Every January I look for official year highlights in print because every top ten list suggests another book to buy for my Kindle, a new song to add to my workout and another travel destination for my bucket list. While reading the hilarious Dave Barry’s Year in Review 2013, I recalled the ups and down of my own 2013, full of amazing highs, and some deep lows. And yes, there is a recipe here too.

The year started off perfectly with the bar mitzvah of the century. We celebrated my twins Jake and Joey with hundreds of family and friends in Chevy Chase, Maryland. The food was spectactular as I brought down Foremost Caterers (who used some of my recipes) and the party was an elegant black and white ball thanks to Claudia Ades, the best party planner in DC. The highlight was seeing all four grandparents there to celebrate the accomplishments of my amazing boys.

Right after that we sent Sam off to Jerusalem, Israel for the semester on the Ramah TRY program and moved immediately into more celebrating with Emily’s prom, siyyum and graduation. We are so proud of our beautiful and talented daughter, now at college at Barnard in NYC. Then Emily left for Israel with her graduating class. I spent the winter and spring editing and editing The Holiday Kosher Baker.

Our family was back together for Passover in Israel where I tasted every single baked good on the buffets of four different hotels (40 plus desserts daily). I drooled my way through the Machane Yehuda Market and ate from the last batch of Marzipan rugelach before they closed down for Passover.

This past summer, all four kids went to Camp Ramah Palmer and my husband and I traveled every weekend. While I was up at Ramah about to start my annual weeklong cooking and baking class to teens, we learned that my dear father-in- law, Arthur Shoyer, z”l, passed away. Many months have gone by and we still miss him and I particilarly pine for his astute business advice that I counted on even when he was already 94. We tell bad jokes in his memory.

Back to school, I jumped right into the Jewish holidays and I started working on booking events for the book tour, geting more excited every week to see my newest baby, The Holiday Kosher Baker, in print.

At the end of September, we got slammed again and lost a dear friend, Shlomit Botton-Dascal, my sister-in-law’s sister in Israel, who died from a heart attack at age 45. Shlomit always had a positive attitude, so she would have appreciated how I “managed” all the baked goods arriving during shiva, sharing the good ones with guests and saving the best for family. We even received FIVE identical home-baked cakes that I learned was clearly from the national chocolate cake recipe of Israel, courtesty of Keren Goran’s cookbooks.

The book tour started in October with my first event in Hong Kong, China with the JCC and Chabad there, then to Boston, Kosherfest, Los Angeles, San Diego and many local events in the DC area. The book was in its seocnd printing by Thanksgiving.

Thanksgiving brought all the remaining grandparents to us, only to have my mother-in-law fall in our house and break three ribs, and then suffer a mild stroke two weeks later. She is, thank g-d, well in Florida. Now my father has been in the hospital for almost 4 weeks, one thing after another, including failing the swallow test so he cannot eat until he can have surgery to repair the problem. It is hearbreaking – no one eats baked goods with as much thrill as he does, even if now he is limited to sugar-free ones.

While this has been happening I was offered a new book deal from the wonderful Sterling Publishing (details next blog) and was hired by a bakery to develop a line of desserts for them. I spent a glorious and surprisingly warm 6 days in Paris with Emily, trying to fit pastry shops in around the art-history major’s aggressive museum and gallery itinerary. The week we were there was the period of the Galettes des Roi, a puff pastry cake filled with almond cream. My version is below with the story behind this annual French tradition.

So the unexpected ups and downs continue.

As I dive into this frigid 2014, I have learned that you truly have to be grateful for everything good (no matter how small) that comes along because you might get weeks or just minutes to enjoy it before you get slammed again. With every success, you must remind yourself that you deserve it and with every tragedy you have to believe that some good news is just around the corner.

Thank you for all your smiles, hugs and tears this year, and for embracing my new book. Thank you for keeping both my spirit and the kosher baking revolution alive.

My Version of Galette des Roi

4 tablespoons margarine

1/3 cup sugar

1/2 cup almond flour

1 tablespoon all-purpose flour

1 large egg

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract

1 package frozen puff pastry (2 sheets from a 17.3-ounce box)


1 large egg, beaten

2 teaspoons sugar to sprinkle on top

Thaw the puff pastry at room temperature for 45 minutes.  Meanwhile, prepare the almond cream. With an electric mixer on high speed, beat the margarine in a medium bowl until soft. Add the sugar, almond flour and flour and beat until creamy. Add the egg and vanilla. Turn speed to high and beat one minute, until the mixture is light and airy.  Cover and place in the fridge until ready to assemble the cake, up to three days in advance.

To shape the cake you will need two dinner plates or round baking pans, one that is about 8 inches diameter and one that is 10 inches diameter.  Place a piece of parchment on the counter and sprinkle with some flour. Unroll one sheet of puff pastry and use a rolling pin to roll out to smooth out the lines, until it is larger than the 10-inch plate. Place your plate over the pastry and run your knife around the plate to cut out a circle, discarding the trimmings.  Take your 8-inch pan or plate and press on top of the pastry to mark a smaller circle in the center of the pastry circle, or use a dull knife to score the circle, without cutting through.  Set aside.

Take another piece of parchment and roll the second sheet of pastry as the first.  Place the 10-inch plate on top and cut out another 10-inch circle. Make sure to peel up the dough and sprinkle some flour underneath so the dough does not stick to the parchment; you have to lift it up later.

Remove the almond cream from the fridge. Brush the beaten egg on the 2-inch border made between the scored circle and the outer edge. Using a silicone spatula spread the almond cream on the circle inside of the egg-brushed border (not on the border). Try to spread it as evenly as possible.

Place your hand under the parchment of the second pastry circle and lift it up and flip it over on top of the almond cream. Peel off the parchment and stretch the dough so that you can press the edges of the two pastry sheets together to seal the top dough to the bottom dough. Pinch to seal tightly. Place your 8-inch plate or pan on top and use the back of a knife to score but not cut a circle around the filled center so you have a border around the part that holds the cream filling. Use a knife to cut a scalloped pattern on the border, careful not to cut beyond where the two pastry sheets are sealed together.

Use a knife to mark but not cut a pattern on top, by holding the tip of the back of the knife in the center and marking curves from the center to the inside border. Brush the cake with the beaten egg. Reserve the egg to brush the top again before baking.  Place the pan with the cake into the freezer for 20                 minutes.

Preheat oven to 450°F. Remove the cookie sheet from the freezer and brush the dough again with the beaten egg. Sprinkle the top with two teaspoons sugar. Bake for 15 minutes. Reduce the temperature to 400°F and bake another 25 to 30 minutes, or until browned.

Serve warm or at room temperature. Store covered in plastic at room temperature for up to three days.