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By Anne Byrn


Anne Byrn, award-winning food writer and author of the Cake Mix Doctor series cookbooks (over 3.3 million copies in print) has recently published the seventh cookbook in this amazing series – The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free.

In recent years, an awareness of gluten–intolerant related health issues have been in the forefront in food trends. New gluten–free food products have emerged, food blogs and websites have appeared, and even several national restaurants have added gluten–free items to their menu selections.

What is gluten? A protein found in wheat, rye, and barley and thus, the major ingredient in baked items. It has been reported that thirty million Americans are gluten-intolerant, or have gluten sensitivity, and must eliminate gluten from their diets. Gluten has been implicated in health issues ranging from respiratory problems and abdominal discomfort to headaches, fatigue and aching joints. For those suffering from celiac disease, gluten has a disastrous effect on the digestive and intestinal systems.

Using her skill at taking a box of store purchased cake mix, adding her "magic" and creating an easy, delicious, "almost tastes from–scratch" baked goodie, Anne has entered the world of gluten–free baking. What prompted this devotee of pre–package cake mixes to tackle gluten-free baking?

" My readers pleaded with me to write a gluten-free Cake Mix Doctor! Many had baked my cakes for years until someone in their family could no longer eat gluten. For five months I baked nothing but gluten-free cakes that began with a mix. At times I felt like a mad scientist, turning a yellow cake mix into cookies, bars, even gingerbread. And when I was able to bake the Darn Good Chocolate Cake gluten-free…that was a big day! You don’t have to be gluten-free to enjoy these recipes. You just have to love cake."

As with her other recipes, it all starts with a box of cake mix – only in this case, the mix is gluten–free. The normal end result of a gluten–free cake mix does not always mirror its gluten rich cousin. Anne has tackled this issue and has artfully "Doctor"ed the cake mix as only she can. In the book, she lists what you should know about using gluten-free mixes before you start baking - very important to the success of a gluten-free recipe. Each recipe contains a note on dairy-free substitutions – a feature we especially liked for creating a parve version.

Along with a very informative and interesting introduction to gluten-free baking, Anne has created  an assortment of 76 decadent, easy–to–make desserts. Ranging from layer cakes, Bundt cakes, cookies, cupcakes, fruit crisps to a wedding cake, we are certain you will find something to bake in this cookbook.  Anne shared several of her favorite recipes:

My favorite recipes:
•  German Chocolate Cake
•  Easy One-Pan Caramel Cake
•  Kitchen-Sink Gingerbread

Recipes my kids love:
•  Peanut Butter Cookies
•  Easy Orange Layer Cake
•  Gingersnaps

In this age of gluten–free awareness, this is a "must have" cookbook for the gluten–intolerant baker or any baker! Thank you Anne Byrn for entering the world of gluten–free baking!

Visit Anne Byrn at the Ann's books are available on The Cake Mix Doctor Bakes Gluten-Free,The Cake Mix Doctor, The Cake Mix Doctor Returns!: With 160 All-New Recipes, Cupcakes: From the Cake Mix Doctor, Chocolate from the Cake Mix Doctor, The Dinner Doctor, and What Can I Bring? Cookbook (Cake Mix Doctor).

January 5, 2011

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My Search for Jewish Cooking in France

By Joan Nathan


Occasionally a cookbook offers both historical perspectives along with equally exciting recipes. Yes, we use the term “exciting” because we consider each cookbook we read an adventure into culinary techniques, foods, and recipes. The new Joan Nathan cookbook Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France is one of these exceptional publications. It gives the reader both insights into the 2,000–year culinary history of Jews in France, along with many delicious and authentic French recipes – each with a kosher interpretation.

 According to Joan, the title is reflective of the various Jewish influences in France.  “In weaving them together the book is a testament to the Jewish people who, despite waves of persecution, are an integral part of France today, contributing to the glory of its cuisine.”

The book is filled with an eclectic assortment of French–Jewish recipes; based on the historical Jewish European and North Africa cookery. Quiche represents mainstream France –  Dairy quiche “sans” ham and bacon is the Jewish interpretation of mainstream France. Kugel, actually means round in German, came from  the Alsace region. It is traced to the 10th or 11th century when it was used as the second dish for the Sabbath meal. It accompanied Alsatian stews. Couscous represents the North African Jews. There are currently approximately 600,000 Jews in France and half have North African roots. Couscous is a Friday night tradition with this population.

Joan spent four years of research compiling the recipes and tracing the history of French Jewish cooking. She understood from the outset that invitations to people’s homes in France would not be as forthcoming as is in America, that visiting French-Jewish homes might be a challenge. But, due to her fluency in French and her friends and relatives who live in France, she was invited into several homes, shared meals, and gathered the information for the book. According to Joan, at times she felt “like a peeping Tom” When she had a meal in homes and if she thought something was good, she requested the recipe. Most complied!

We recommend Quiches, Kugels, and Couscous: My Search for Jewish Cooking in France not only for the delicious French recipes, but also for the fascinating and personal stories behind each. Many are heirlooms; culinary treasures passed down through the generations and shared for the very first time.

We met Joan Nathan at Kosherfest, and are providing some excerpts from our conversation:

Are there food professionals whom you admire, and who have inspired you?
There are so many: Lynne Rosetto Kasper of The Splendid Table, Marcella and Victor Hazan, award-winning authors for their groundbreaking books on Italian cuisine, Judith Jones, my editor.  (Judith Jones is the literary icon, who both rescued The Diary of Anne Frank from a rejects pile, and discovered the beloved, unforgettable, unique, Julia Childs.)  Admired Chefs also include Thomas Keller, Emeril Lagasse, Daniel Boulud, and Danny Meyer.

What is a typical dinner in your household?
On Friday nights I like to cook Jewish recipes from around the world, including cooked salads, fresh salads, and fish.

What is a favorite Kitchen gadget?
The Cuisinart food processor.

Enjoy the following recipes from this exceptional cookbook: Moroccan Chicken with Olives and Preserved Lemons, Alsatian Pear Kugel, and Gâteau de Hannouka (Polish Hanukkah Apple Cake).

Joan Nathan is a frequent contributor to The New York Times and other publications and the author of numerous books, including two James Beard award winning publications, Jewish Cooking in America and The New American Cooking.

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The College "Cooking" Road Trip


After six successful Kosher by Design series cookbooks, the energetic and creative chef–author, Susie Fishbein, has added a seventh to the series – Teens and 20-Somethings. A very interesting target audience for a cookbook; especially kosher teens and 20–somethings.As anyone who has cooked for this age group knows, they have a very select and definite opinion of what they like to eat (it doesn't necessarily have to be healthy), how (or if they are willing) to prepare it, a shortage of time they will (or can) devote to making it, and a desire for instant results.

Susie feels that the teens and 20–somethings cooking generation is underserved. Some grew up with easy access to fast food and have no desire to cook. There are some who are conscious of healthy eating and want to learn; and some who are aspiring to be gourmet cooks or cooking professionals, which are both currently trendy areas. Each of her cookbooks reflects the course of her life pattern, and lately, those of her children. So it was only natural, with several of her four children in or entering their teens, to write a cookbook that would reflect their food tastes. The cookbook is also geared to young people who "are living on their own for the first time and are becoming more responsible for their own cooking." For this book she picked some new and some traditional recipes and changed them to be funky and appealing.

img_4596We were delighted to preview advanced copies of the cookbook and wondered how Susie would reach the teens and 20–somethings who were her inspiration. How else, but to meet some of them on their own turf − the college campus. So many other people and groups have taken their messages to the campus; why not a kosher cookbook author?

The Kosher by Design – Teens and 20–Somethings, College Road Trip Cooking Demo kickoff was held at Emory University's Chabad Center, Atlanta, GA. Rabbi Shneur and Miriam Lipskier, director and program director respectively of the Emory Chabad, often have 50 − 150 students for Friday night dinner and Rebbitzen Lipskier frequently prepares recipes from Susie's cookbooks. So Emory was a perfect choice to begin her six month multi–campus cookbook and cooking demo tour (The University of Maryland is the next scheduled stop.)

img_4529The room was packed with more than thirty Emory University teens and 20–somethings and Susie started the “pre-event” with an informal Q&A for early arrivals. She addressed one particular question that she is often asked: "what is one of the most memorable demos that you have done?" She explained that there have been several, but one that stands out the most and touched her took place in Manhattan.

After a cooking demo, she noticed two young women at the end of an autograph line. They were each saying to each other, "You tell her. No, you tell her! No, you tell her!" When they finally reached the front of the line they shared their story. Both of them were college graduates, lived on their own, had good social lives, but something was missing. They remembered attending Friday night dinners in college (Hillel or Chabad) and decided to have friends over for a Friday night dinner party. They cooked from Susie's original Kosher by Design cookbook, which one of them had. The dinner party was a success and they continued having regular Friday night dinner “parties” which eventually became Shabbos dinners. They started seeking out what it means to have Shabbos and what it means to be Jewish. Their message to her was, "you carry a lot of things on your shoulders in doing these books, but one of the thing you carry is our souls and the fact that now we are becoming more observant Jews because we just wanted to throw a fun Friday night dinner party." Why did it touch her so?  Because, said Susie, "Judaism elevates mundane you that pause for the moment." Hopefully, she will reach many more young Jewish people through her latest cookbook.

Susie's able cooking assistant at the Emory demo, was her 16-year-old daughter Kate, who appeared to be very comfortable with food related tasks. The trip also gave Kate an opportunity to tour the Emory campus since she is starting to think about possible college choices.

chummos1As is her practice when presenting cooking demos, Susie often mixes it up – she uses recipes from both new and previous cookbooks and this presentation was no exception. From Kosher by Design Short on Time, she presented Creamy Chummos with Steeped Tomatoes, garnished with Vegetarian Cigars. What a perfect recipe to use as an example of delicious and healthy eating, and the difference it can make. "Why make Chummos, which is so easily available in grocery stores?", asked Susie.  The answer was simple: a product that has a long shelf life also contains preservatives or extra ingredients to keep it fresh. "The less processed foods you eat, the better off you are...foods that can be made in the home are usually healthier and better for you."

She discussed the value of Chummos as a healthy snack food, what to do with the left over lemons, (toss in garbage disposal, along with baking soda, for cleaning) variations of olive oil, (cold, first pressed gives freshest, brightest taste; varieties of olives), fried foods, (oil temperature should stay at 375 degrees; healthier to use a deep fryer as it keeps a constant temperature and food absorbs less oil), how to achieve creamier Chummos with canned chickpeas (rub off light shell covering between hands) − and so it went. Leave it to this mother of four to explain why sweets cause a "sugar crash" and that what you put into your body has a roller coaster effect.  Her advice to them, "Eat Chummos, even packaged, not M&M's!"

img_4559The next two recipes demonstrated were from the new book, Kosher By Design Teens and 20-Something, Mexican Chicken (with hot dipping sauce) and Molten Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies; both were quick, simple and luscious choices. When preparing the Mexican Chicken, Susie stressed the importance of proper food handling techniques. There are no shortcuts; wearing disposable gloves when handling raw foods are a must!  She demonstrated the proper way to bread chicken: a wet hand (for dipping into the liquid) and a dry hand (for dipping into the breading).  How easy she made it look.

Her inspiration for Molten Deep-Dish Chocolate Chip Cookies was obvious – ever popular chocolate chip cookies! Her molten center, gooey and chocolaty, has taken the cookie to a new level and the crowd loved it.  Saturated fats, butter versus parve margarine, and the difference between light and dark brown sugars were discussed.  She stressed the importance of always using good ingredients, and for parve baking often uses Fleischmann's Unsalted Margarine sticks and Trader Joes parve chocolate chips.

img_4584Susie used a teen/20-something panel for taste testing the recipes. She explained to them that honesty was required. If, for instance, they didn’t like the recipe, they must be candid; but if they never liked mushrooms, they must disclose that fact in their critique.  According to Susie, the panelists took their responsibility very seriously, resulting in a book written for and tested by this very discerning age group.

Kosher By Design Teens and 20-Something features 100 easy-to-prepare recipes, each accompanied by John Uher’s beautiful pictures, and the appropriate icon to designate if vegetarian, gluten-free, dairy-free, or nut-free. The introduction offers tips on menu planning and the basic kitchen equipment needed.  We feel this cookbook is beautifully done and one that we (and we certainly are not a teen or 20–somethings!) would add to our cookbook library and enjoy using.


The above article was written by for the inaugural publication of Kosher Inspiration Magazine – the newest publication from the Mishpacha Magazine Group.

Did You Know?
•  If Susie could pick any "Chef for a Day" venue it would be her own home with her invited guests. "My kitchen is my favorite place. Nothing makes me happier than serving people I care about."  

•  Duncan Hines brownies rank as a favorite "recipe" of one of her children.

•  Susie has an MA degree in Science Education and taught in the public school system for four years.

•  Susie loves being a mom and is the parent liaison for the school choir. She enjoys Jewish music, family baseball and playing mah jongg with her girls!

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by Rose Levy Beranbaum  (Scribner/Simon & Schuster)

The following Pie Advice and Pie Pointers excerpts are from Rose Levy Beranbaum's cookbook, The Pie and Pastry Bible. Great advice from an accomplished baker equals an outstanding pie!

Pie Advice:

Do not glaze the top of a pie. Although it will make the pie look shiny and very appealing, it seals in moisture and keeps the dough from breathing. It makes a tough crust. A light dusting of sugar is the one exception.

Seal the bottom crust of the pie. Rose obliterates "soggy bottom" by brushing the bottom crust with egg white, sieved preserves for extra flavor or melted chocolate for the most effective moisture-proofing of all.

For certain juicy pies (peach, nectarine-raspberry), bake the pie directly on the floor of the oven for a truly crispy bottom crust.

The food processor method for making pie crusts is the easiest. It is faster than mixing by hand, and because the dough is handled less, it keeps the ingredients more chilled.

In fruit pies, berries become bitter when cooked. The solution is to bind uncooked berries with a glaze or cook only 1/4 of the berries and the remainder uncooked.

Slice apples thinly for apple pie. Thick slices promote air space and create a gap between the fruit and the crust.

For the purest flavor in fruit pies, macerate the fruit, capture the juices, and boil and reduce the liquid. The will decrease the amount of thickener and create more intense, focused flavor and a juicy filling.

If your house is for sale, have an apple pie baking when prospective buyers tour. This will speed the sale.

One tablespoon of cider vinegar relaxes pie dough and makes it easier to roll. It will not diminish the crust's flakiness but will diminish shrinkage as it bakes.

Butter dulls the flavor of fruit (with the exception of apples). Leave all the butter in the crust when baking fruit pies.

Pie Pointers:

Pointers for Success for Making Flaky Pie Crusts:
For flaky crust, ingredients must be cold to start with and stay cold.

Use the correct flour. It is practically impossible to make a flaky crust or even one that holds together using cake flour and equally difficult to make a tender crust using unbleached all-purpose or bread flour.

If using baking powder, be sure not to use SAS baking powders, which contain sodium aluminum sulfate, or the crust will have a bitter aftertaste. Use an all-phosphate product containing calcium acid phosphate, such as Rumford, available in some supermarkets and most health food stores.

If not weighing the flour, use the dip and sweep method: Lightly stir the flour, then dip the cup into the flour and sweep off the excess with a metal spatula or knife.

Brush off any excess flour on top of the dough after shaping it, as it will taste bitter after baking.

Pointers for Success for Fruit Pies:
Make the dough the day before and let it rest for 1 hour refrigerated after rolling and shaping to prevent distortion and for the best shape.

If making the pie to eat the day after baking, decrease the cornstarch by 1 teaspoon.

Use dark heavy metal, ceramic, or Pyrex pie plates for the crispest crust.

For the flakiest crust with the most attractive border, preheat the oven for at least 20 minutes before baking.

For a crisp bottom crust, try baking directly on the floor of the oven for the first 30 minutes of baking, or on an oven stone set on the bottom rack.

The pie's juices must be bubbling thickly all over to ensure that all of the cornstarch can absorb liquid and thicken the filling.

Single-crust pies need to have the edges protected from over browning after the first 15 minutes of baking; double-crust pies, after 30 minutes.

If the top of the pie is browning too much, tent it with foil, but be sure to make a steam hole in the center for moisture to escape so the crust stays crisp.

Allow the pie to cool on a rack to room temperature, or until barely warm, before slicing to ensure that the filling is set and will not run. This will take between 2 to 4 hours, depending on the thickness of the pie.

If you spray the pie pan lightly with nonstick vegetable shortening before lining it with the pastry, or if you grease and flour it, it is usually possible to slide out and unmold the whole pie after it has cooled completely. This makes cutting it easier and is better for both the knife and the pie plate! Greasing and flouring also gives a pleasant, slightly rough texture to the bottom crust.

Reprinted by permission - Scribner/Simon & Schuster)

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With Paula Shoyer, Author of  The Kosher Baker


What prompted you to write the cookbook? 
I had been teaching classes for years and developing recipes when I had the opportunity to edit and recipe test,  two of Susie Fishbein's books .  While working on the Kosher by Designs  Entertains book, I thought that maybe I could write my own dessert book.  I also felt that there was a need for better parve desserts in the world.

How long did it take (to compile the book) and what was the source/inspiration for the recipes?
The book took nearly 5 years to get out in the world.  My recipe ideas come from everywhere - a great dairy dessert I wanted parve, looking in the windows of pastry shops in Paris and copying those desserts albeit parve, combining tastes I thought interesting, and occasionally from friends.  I am basically a scientific baker, so I come up with ideas and then bake over and over again to get the recipes right. 

Do you have anything in the "pipeline" -  a new cookbook, promoting the book, etc.?
I have booked about 20 events around the country to promote the book.  As for the next book, I am thinking about a book of desserts for parties and special occasions.  I develop new desserts all the time.  I have been thinking about napoleons with interesting flavors in the cream filling

We love to include a personal, little know fact about our featured guests - so, what don't most people know about you?
I coach ten-year-old boys in basketball. They were undefeated last year.

What a lucky basketball team - to have a coach who is also a pastry chef! They must enjoy some very good homemade treats after each practice and game. Wonder what Coach Paula baked for the team after being crowned undefeated for the year!

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