Baking – How Much Can You Change a Recipe?

I’m often asked if it’s possible to substitute oil for margarine, honey for sugar, or whole-wheat flour for white flour in cakes and cookies. Of course it’s possible, but the results may not turn out to be very good!

So my answer is “it depends”. Solid fats like margarine and butter create a different texture than oil does in baked goods. Margarine contains water, whereas oil is 100% fat, so the measurements need to be adjusted. Honey is a liquid, so it doesn’t substitute for sugar without adjusting other ingredients in your recipe. Whole wheat flour gives a heartier taste to baked goods, so you might not want to use it when you’re looking for a delicate or subtle flavored product.

Here’s the recipe for a cake I baked last Shabbat. The original recipe called for white flour and 1 ¼ cups of sugar. It also called for a larger bundt pan (24cm/9 ½ “) than I had. So I divided the batter between my 20 cm (8″) pan and a mini pan that could go into the freezer later for another occasion. Did you know that if you serve a large cake, people are likely to eat more of it than if the cake is smaller to begin with?

The recipe contains flavorful spices and citrus zest, so I felt comfortable substituting whole-wheat flour for all of the white flour. And because most cakes are just too sweet for my taste, I cut back on the sugar by ¼ cup.

The results – excellent! Nobody even guessed that it was made from whole-wheat flour or that it wasn’t sweet enough. It’s also quick and easy. You’ll need an electric mixer, but otherwise this cake goes together in just a few minutes.

Orange Spice Cake (Parve)

3 eggs

1 ¼ cups sugar (white or demerrara)

2 ½ cups whole-wheat pastry flour

2 ¼ teaspoons baking powder

(Or substitute one 350 gm package of self-rising whole-wheat flour for the flour and baking powder)

½ teaspoon salt

½ teaspoon ground cinnamon

1 teaspoon ground cardamom

1 tablespoon grated orange zest (preferably organic)

1 teaspoon grated lemon zest (preferably organic)

¾ cup orange juice

¾ cup canola oil

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Powdered sugar (optional)

Heat the oven to 180 C (350 F). Spray a bundt pan (see above for size information) with baking spray.

Beat the eggs and sugar with an electric mixer on high speed, until they’ve significantly increased in volume and are light colored and thick.

Meanwhile, whisk together the flour, baking powder, cinnamon, cardamom, orange and lemon zest together in a separate bowl.

Measure the orange juice and oil in one measuring cup and add the vanilla extract to it.

When the eggs are ready, lower the speed of the mixer and add the flour and liquid ingredients to the eggs. Scrape the bowl occasionally and mix to get out any lumps.

Pour the batter into the baking pan and bake for about 30-40 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Cool on a baking rack for 15-20 minutes, then turn the cake out of the pan and let it cool completely on the rack. Sprinkle with powdered sugar before serving, if desired.

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

Shabbat Morning

What do you serve when you get home from services on Shabbat morning? Some people enjoy a Kiddush at the synagogue. Then they come home to eat their main meal at around noon. Others, especially in Israel, are home by nine or ten in the morning, when it’s just too early to eat a big meal.

We make Kiddush and then enjoy muffins, fruit and tea.

Why do I like muffins? They’re quick and easy to make. They freeze well and they’re healthy. With a little imagination, you can create endless varieties.

For instance, last Shabbat we had blueberry cornmeal muffins and fresh grapes. Why? Because I found a bag of blueberries in the back of the freezer, leftover from last year’s crop. And because the grapes I found at the market – a large green seedless variety, were delicious.

What’s on the menu for this coming Shabbat? With more hot weather this week, our bananas ripened faster than we could eat them. And I happened to have half a bag of chocolate chunks in the pantry. (Have you seen the Scharffen Berger Bittersweet Baking Chunks? Wow!) So it’s banana-chocolate chip muffins and a fruit salad of fresh melon and new-season apricots.

Muffins “Any Which Way” (Dairy)

Create endless variations by starting with this basic muffin recipe. Use less flour if you’re adding dryer ingredients (like dried fruit and nuts), and the full amount of flour if the ingredients are moist (like frozen berries). Use whole-wheat pastry or light whole-wheat flour if it’s available. Otherwise you can substitute white for some of the wheat flour. When I use all whole-wheat flour, I use the lesser amount. Here are some ideas:

Blueberry: 1 ½ cups blueberries plus 2 teaspoons lemon zest

Raspberry: 1 ½ cup raspberries plus 2 teaspoons orange zest

Banana chocolate: 1 large banana, diced plus ½ cup chocolate chips

Date and Nut: 1 cup chopped dates plus 1 cup chopped walnuts

Apple Spice: 1 cup diced fresh apples plus 1 teaspoon cinnamon

Apricot Ginger: 1 cup diced dried apricot, ½ cup diced candied ginger and 2 teaspoons ground ginger

Corn: Substitute 1 cup cornmeal for 1 cup of flour and add 1 ½ cups corn kernels

2 ¼ – 2 ½ cups whole-wheat flour (see note above)

2 teaspoons baking powder

1 teaspoon baking soda

½ teaspoon salt

½ cup sugar (white or brown)

1 1/3 cups buttermilk

1/3 cup canola oil

2 eggs

1 teaspoon vanilla

1-2 cups fruit or fruits and nuts (see above)

Line 12-18 muffin tins with paper liners.

Preheat the oven to 375 F (190 C).

In a large bowl, whisk together flour, baking powder, baking soda, salt and sugar.

In a smaller bowl or a 2-cup measuring cup, mix together buttermilk, oil, eggs and vanilla.

Gently mix the wet ingredients into the flour mixture. Just before it’s all mixed, add in the fruit. Mix the batter just a little more to incorporate all of the ingredients. Don’t over mix or the muffins will be tough.

Bake the muffins for 20-20 minutes, until a toothpick comes out clean. Turn the muffins out onto a rack to cool.

Makes 12-18

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

Summer Fruit Crisp for Two (Parve)

I’m not big on cooking or baking during the hot summer months. But we do enjoy dessert, especially on Shabbat. When it’s just the two of us, this fruit crisp recipe is perfect. Use apricots, peaches, plums, cherries, berries or a mixture of fruits. This recipe takes just a few minutes to put together and you’re likely to have all of the ingredients on hand.

2 cups fresh fruit, (stone fruit should be sliced, cherries pitted)

2 teaspoons orange juice

1-2 teaspoons sugar (depending on how sweet the fruit is)

2 teaspoons flour

2 tablespoons rolled oats

¼ cup sliced almonds or chopped walnuts

2 teaspoons flour

1 tablespoon brown sugar

1/8 teaspoon cinnamon

1 tablespoon canola oil

Preheat the oven to 400 F (200 C). Spray a small shallow baking dish with cooking spray.

Combine the fruit, orange juice, sugar and flour and mix lightly. Spoon it into the baking dish.

Mix together the rolled oats, nuts, flour, brown sugar and cinnamon. Stir in the oil until the mixture is crumbly. Use your fingers to distribute the topping over the fruit.

Bake for 20-25 minutes, until the fruit is bubbling and the topping is lightly browned.

Serves 2

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

After The Fog of War

Three weeks of being on high alert took its toll. On the one hand, I felt super alert, ready to run at the first sound of a siren. On the other, I felt foggy-brained and unable to concentrate. Multi-tasking was out. Curling up on the couch with a book was in.

We’ve been rocket-free for several days now in Beer Sheva, and the city is slowly coming back to life. I saw a few children out playing today. The buses were fuller, the shops busier. Schools are re-opening tomorrow.

I’m getting back on track as well. I woke up energized and started working on neglected laundry, sewing repairs and a clean sweep of the refrigerator.

Among my findings were leftover mashed potatoes and a bit of salvageable fresh dill: I’ll add a can of salmon and an egg and make salmon patties for dinner.

What about that pitcher of fresh lemon juice my husband squeezed a few days ago? I’m thinking of making lemon curd, that tart and tangy spread that’s especially popular in Great Britain. Traditionally it’s made with butter and egg yolks, so it’s high in fat and cholesterol. But this recipe cuts out the butter altogether and uses whole eggs instead of just yolks, so it’s more like a thick sauce or custard. Serve a spoonful over fresh fruit, berries or sponge cake for a special Shabbat dessert.

Lemon Sauce (Parve)

2/3 cup fresh lemon juice
¾ cup sugar
2 eggs
¼ teaspoon vanilla extract
Grated zest of 1 lemon

Combine the lemon juice and sugar in a small saucepan and heat it to a simmer.

Whisk the eggs in a small bowl until they’re slightly frothy. Whisk a little of the hot lemon mixture into the eggs, mixing constantly. Pour the egg mixture into the saucepan, whisking it in carefully and stirring constantly with the whisk. Cook the mixture, whisking it all the time, until it begins to simmer. Cook for another minute.

Pour the lemon cream through a fine strainer set over a bowl. Mix in the vanilla and lemon zest and let cool.

Refrigerate in a covered container.

Makes about 1 ½ cups

Facebook Twitter Plusone Email

Chana Rubin, RD

Food for the Soul

Traditional Jewish Wisdom for Healthy Eating
By Chana Rubin, RD

Buy the Book

Sign up for Emails

Enter your email address: