KARITHOPITA – AN EASY-TO-MAKE GREEK WALNUT CAKE

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Photo by Alexa Speyer

Summer is here and my hibernation is over! It’s time for light summer meals, BBQs on the patio and weekend entertaining. It’s been a long winter here in New York, stretched out by a spring that felt almost as cold as the winter itself.

So what has cheffie been doing? Yes, I know I’ve neglected this blog, but I’ve been busy promoting Book Two in The Gift Saga: Waiting For Aegina and writing the third and last book in the series. Not to mention holding down a day job, running a household and spending quality time with my ninety-five year young dad.

Like the first two books, recipes will be included between some of the chapters, and I’ve been thinking about which ones I’ll share with readers. So far, each of the recipes has been a Greek one, most of them handed down to me by my mother and my yiayiá (grandmother). This time around don’t be surprised to find a French recipe thrown in to set the mood—hint, hint of a new local and adventure for some of the characters.

This recipe for Karithopita, I’ve already decided, will be added to Book Three. It’s delicious, easy to prepare and one of the many recipes my mom had handed down to me. Karithia is the Greek word for walnuts and this cake is loaded with them, doused in simple syrup and cut into individual squares.

Karithopita

Preheat oven to 350º

4 cups coarsely crushed walnuts

1½ cups sugar

3 cups flour

½ cup butter, softened

8 eggs, separated

2 teaspoons cinnamon

2 teaspoons baking powder

In a large bowl, beat the butter, sugar, egg yolks and cinnamon together. Set aside. In another bowl, beat the egg whites to a meringue. Fold into butter mixture. Add the walnuts. Mix together the flour and baking powder before adding it to the mixture. Stir until fully blended.

Butter and flour a 9 x 13 baking dish. Pour the batter into the pan. Bake for 40 minutes.

While the cake is baking, make the syrup.

5 cups sugar

5 cups water

2 cinnamon sticks

Add all the ingredients in a medium-sized saucepan. Bring to a boil. Lower the temperature to a simmer for 15 minutes.

Cut the cake into even-sized squares. Cool to a warm or room temperature. Add the warm syrup, allowing the cake to absorb the liquid.

I suggest letting it sit for several hours or overnight.

 

 

 

REVANI – CHRISTMAS COOKIE & PASTRY MARATHON…DONE!

 

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With just a couple of days left until Christmas Eve, I finally finished boxing and cello wrapping trays of cookies. The pastries that require syrup I always make last—baklava, melamakarona and revani. By the time they will be consumed, the sugary liquid will have fully absorbed into the pastry, yet will still taste freshly made.

There are other pastries drenched in delicious syrup—ones I’ll share with you on another occasion—Karithopita, a cinnamon walnut cake. And Galaktoboureko, a semolina pastry cream, layered between fluffy phyllo dough.

But today, if you are looking to make a quick dessert, nothing could be easier than a pan of revani.

This ends my Christmas cookie blog posts for this year. If you are celebrating Christmas, I wish you a joyous and peaceful one. If you’ve already celebrated your holiday, I hope you had a very Happy Hanukkah. And for those celebrating other holidays this season, I hope the message of your holidays bring happiness to your lives.

Revani

Cake

1 1/3 cups flour

1 cup farina or semolina

8 eggs

¾ cup sugar

2 teaspoons baking powder

½ teaspoon salt

2 teaspoons vanilla

Zest of 1 orange

 

Preheat oven to 350°

Combine flour, farina, baking powder and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a mixer. Mix in vanilla and orange zest. Slowly add the farina mixture and mix through. Pour batter in a buttered 11x 14-inch baking pan and bake 35 minutes. The cake should take on a light golden color. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.

Syrup

4 cups water

3 cups sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 slices of orange rind

Juice from ½ orange.

Add all ingredients into a pot. Boil for 10 minutes and simmer for another 10 minutes.

The juice from the orange is optional. I decided to put the orange juice in the syrup so not to waste the orange I took the zest from. The cake had a more intense orange flavor than usual. If you only wish to have only a hint of orange flavor, omit the juice and use only the rind.

After the cake has cooled a bit, cut it into serving size squares or diamonds. Pour the warm syrup over the cake and let it absorb the syrup before serving.

 

 

REVANI & DELETED SCENE

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http://www.amazon.com/dp/0692471839/ref=cm_sw_r_tw_dp_bZ9Yvb0QM2NMN

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In EVANTHIA’S GIFT, I’ve shared many recipes, all of which gave been relevant to the story. But the chapter in where the moist and delicious revani was cited, had been deleted. Yet, I’ve kept the recipe in the book. One of the characters, dies crossing the street – hit by a taxi cab. The section that was deleted explains the reason she was hit. She’d made pastries that afternoon, and decided to walk across the street to deliver some to a friend who lived close by. With a platter of revani in her hands, she mindlessly crossed the street and was struck by a car and killed instantly.

My editor thought this was strong and harsh in tone in comparison to the rest of the book, and she deleted it. The truth is that this exchange was inspired from an actual event. Years ago, my father’s godmother had guests over and she’d made a platter of pastries for them to take home. When they left, she realized they’d forgotten to take the pastries, so she ran outside to give it to them. Backing out of the driveway, her guests ran over her, killing her instantly. A truly awful story.

So when you read EVANTHIA’S GIFT,and you get to this unfortunate event, you will now know why this character was crossing the street. And that’s all I can say – no spoilers. In the meantime, the revani was too good to delete. It’s easy to make, and one of the biggest requests I get from friends and family.

Revani

Cake

1 1/3 cups flour

1-cup farina or semolina

8 eggs

¾ cups sugar

2 tsp. baking powder

½ tsp salt

2tsp. vanilla

Zest of 1 orange

Combine flour, farina, baking powder and salt. Beat sugar and eggs with a mixer. Mix in vanilla and orange zest. Slowly add the farina mixture and mix through. Pour batter in a buttered 11x 14-inch baking pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 40 minutes. The cake should be golden on top. While the cake is baking, prepare the syrup.

Syrup

4 cups water

3 cups sugar

1 cinnamon stick

1-2 slices of orange rind

Juice from ½ orange.

Add all ingredients to a pot. Boil for 10 minutes and simmer for another 10 minutes.

The juice from the orange is optional. I decided to put the orange juice in the syrup so not to waste the orange I took the zest from. The cake had a more intense orange flavor than usual. If you only wish to have only a hint of orange flavor, omit the juice and use only the rind.

After the cake has cooled a bit, cut it into serving size squares or diamonds. Pour the warm syrup over the cake and let it absorb the syrup before serving.

Lemon Blueberry Tart

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What is Cheffie to do on a frigid day when the wind is gusting and the snow is predicted to accumulate to thirty inches? With nowhere to go, Cheffie spends a good part of the day in the kitchen. I have a leg of lamb in the oven, and when my family comes home they instantly recognize the aroma of the garlic cooking inside the slits of lamb I’ve stuffed into it. “It smells like Yiayiá’s house,” my daughter says, and for me that is the greatest compliment.

What to make for dessert… I want to taste the flavors of summer. Truth be told, I just want summer. Period. Nothing reminds me of the sun and warm weather more than citrus. So for a little bit of sunshine on a blistery day, my lemon blueberry tart will do the trick.

Lemon Blueberry Tart

 Preheat oven to 350 degrees

Crust

2 sticks unsalted butter, softened

½ cup confectioner’s sugar

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

¼ teaspoon salt

2 ¼ cups flour

In a bowl, cream butter and sugar. Add salt, vanilla, and flour. Mix until blended. Form a ball and flatten to a disc. Grease a two-piece tart pan. Press the dough evenly into the pan. With a mini rolling pin smooth the dough inside the pan. Depending on the size of your tart pan, you may be left with unused crust. Bake for 20 minutes or until the edges are golden.

Filling

2 cups sugar

1/3 cup flour

6 large eggs

Juice from 2 large lemons

Zest from 2 large lemons

1 cup fresh blueberries

1 teaspoon vanilla

¼ cup confectioner’s sugar

In a large bowl, mix sugar and flour. Whisk in eggs until smooth. Stir in lemon juice and zest. Fold in berries. Pour filling over crust and return to oven for about 30 minutes or until filling sets. Let cool in pan on a wire rack. When the tart is completely cool, remove rim from tart pan. The bottom will easily separate by sliding a knife under it. Sprinkle with confectioner’s sugar.

Ms. Murray-Wilke Apple Bread

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Still inundated with apples, I baked another family favorite that I discovered could be frozen and used for Thanksgiving. This apple “bread” is really not bread at all. It has no yeast—it’s more of a cake, but one I serve with dinner. I like to fill a breadbasket with squares of cornbread and apple bread to pass around the table, accompanied with maple syrup butter.

So where did this bread get it’s name? From my daughters’ AP literature teacher. Although an educator for over 30 years, Ms. Murray-Wilke was dedicated and enthusiastic until the day she retired. A passionate baker, she would bring cookies and cakes for her classes to enjoy while they discussed anything from Pride and Prejudice to Shakespeare or even Harry Potter. Her students adored her and many still keep in touch with her. She was generous enough to share her recipe, and when Alexa came home with a copy of it she begged me to make it, and the rest is, as they say—history! The ingredients remain the same, though I changed the method just a bit from the original copy.

*Just an idea- If you are looking to give a small gift to a friend or neighbor, or to bring a hostess gift to a party; this apple bread would make a wonderful gift. Simply wrap in cellophane and tie with a pretty bow.

Ms. Murray-Wilke Apple Bread

Makes one loaf

Pre-heat oven at 325 degrees F

Bread

½ cup unsalted butter, softened

1 cup sugar

2 eggs, beaten

1 Teaspoon vanilla

2 cups flour

½ Teaspoon salt

2 Tablespoons buttermilk or sour cream

1 Teaspoon baking soda

2 cups peeled, diced granny smith apples

Topping

2 Tablespoons unsalted butter, softened

2 Tablespoons sugar

2 Tablespoons flour

1 Teaspoons cinnamon

2 Tablespoons chopped walnuts

*Hint- I like a lot of topping. I double the amount of topping on each bread. The choice is yours!

Method

Make the topping first and set aside. Cream butter and sugar. Add flour, cinnamon and nuts. Mixture should resemble coarse crumbs.

For the batter- cream butter and sugar until light and fluffy. Add eggs and vanilla, blend well.

In a separate bowl combine flour and salt. Stir flour mixture into egg and butter mixture. Dissolve baking soda in buttermilk: add to batter, mixing well. Peel and dice the apples now that the batter is done. I find that there is less of a chance of the apples turning brown this way. Stir in apples. Spoon batter into a well-greased and floured 9×5- inch loaf pan. Sprinkle with topping. Bake for 1 hour. Cool slightly before removing from pan. Cool on wire rack.