Grandma Hindes’s Brenta (Jewish Hash Browns)

If I had to name our family’s absolute favorite recipe, I think this would be the one.  You have to understand the history of this recipe.  My mother’s mother Rose, my grandma, was a wonderful, Jewish, European cook.  From what my mother told me, she was a self-taught cook.  She definitely cooked typical Jewish, European recipes, but in my opinion, no one made them better.  My mother often mused about how she didn’t appreciate her  mother’s wonderful cooking when she was growing up, and how she didn’t really start to appreciate her mother’s cooking talent until she got married herself.  My grandmother didn’t use complicated ingredients in her food; her cooking was simple but delicious.  One of her greatest pleasures was cooking for her husband, my grandpa, her children, her children’s spouses, and her grandchildren.  Every Friday night my cousins, Paul, Bobby, and Janie were dropped off at my grandparents’ house for a delicious Friday night (Shabbat) dinner.  Only a few times did I get to eat with them.  I loved those times.  Anyway, from what I remember, the dinner consisted of pot roast, chicken fricassee with little meatballs, and brenta.  (I’m not sure what the rest of the meal was.)  As far as I’ve been told, brenta was an original creation of my grandmother’s.  Brenta means “burned” in Yiddish. My grandmother’s brenta was the most delicious food I ate as a child.  Luckily, my mother made brenta every other Friday night for us as a side dish (the main course was brisket).  I became my mother’s personal brenta assistant.  I learned the technical art of turning the brenta properly, and I took over making the brenta from beginning to end.  The best part of making the brenta was picking out delectable morsels when it was done and popping them in my mouth.  Oh, it was so good!  The last and most important part of the job for me was carrying the bowl of brenta over to the kitchen table.  Why?  Of course, so I could be the one to put all the best pieces on my plate.  My poor brother, Kenny got shafted by his greedy sister again.  If you ask him, he will tell you that he still hasn’t forgiven me, and he is not joking!  Well, when I had my children, I started making Friday night dinners and having my parents over, and both my mother and father were so happy when I would bring a magnificent bowl of brenta to the table.  Luckily, my children and my husband adored my brenta, too.  The consensus was that my brenta was definitely as good as my mother’s and my grandmother’s brenta.  Right now, I am working on teaching my daughter Randi the art of making brenta, because we need to keep the family tradition going.   

  • 5 pounds  Russet or Idaho potatoes
  • corn oil -about half of a one quart bottle
  • Kosher salt
  • water

Wash and peel potatoes.  Cut into medium sided chunks and place in a pot or bowl of cold water.  You can do this a few hours in advance and keep them in the refrigerator until you are ready to cook them.  Drain the potatoes in a colander.  Then pour the potatoes into a very large non-stick skillet (I use a 12 inch pan for this).  Pour about 1/2 to 3/4 cup of corn oil over the potatoes.  Then pour about 1 cup of cold water over all. 

Put a cover over the skillet.  I don’t have a cover large enough, so I put my largest cover directly over the potatoes instead of over the pan.  Put the flame on high.  After about 20 minutes, when the potatoes are a little soft, remove the top.  Let the potatoes brown, without turning them.  Then turn them, and let them brown again.  I squish a spatula down on the potatoes a few times to mush up some of them to make some of the pieces smaller.  You just keep letting them cook 10 minutes or so, and then you turn them.  If you think the potatoes are not soft enough, you can always add a little more water to them, and recover them for a few minutes.  If the potatoes don’t seem to have enough oil to brown in, add a little more oil.  When the potatoes are burned in parts, and really browned well, you can put them in a large bowl that you have lined with layers of paper towels.  Wrap the towels around them and flip over.  Wait about  3 or 4 minutes and unroll them from the paper towels, as you dump them into the bowl.  Sprinkle them sufficiently with the kosher salt to taste and bring your masterpiece to the table. Five pounds of brenta will disappear right in front of your eyes!

Note:  The actual cooking time is about 1 hour and 15 minutes.  In recent years, I have used red potaotes and not peeled them, but I still think they come out best when you use  Idaho’s or Russets, and you peel them.  

Nana’s Easy As 1, 2, 3 Chocolate Cake

No One Will Believe This Cake Is Not From Scratch! 

This is a simple chocolate cake to make when you don’t feel like baking one totally from scratch.  My mother made this cake often, and she’d cut it in half and freeze it for company.  I loved this cake.  You have to understand that my mother usually didn’t just bake things and let us eat them.  Almost everything was made and then saved for a particular occasion.  Well, I would know that this cake was in the freezer.  And no one was allowed to touch that cake, except for my mother.  But I’d want some of the cake.  I would crave a piece of the cake.  So this is what I’d do.  And I did this many times, probably every time my mother baked this cake.  I’d sneak down to the basement with a sharp knife.  I’d take out the bag with a half of the cake in it from the freezer.  I’d put it on the ironing board, and take it out of its plastic bag and I’d unwrap it from the aluminum foil.  Then I’d lay the cake on its side, and proceed to slice some very thin slices off the bottom of the cake.  I’d then eat those very thin slices.  Then I’d wrap the cake up, and put it back in the plastic bag and then back in the freezer.  Nana never caught on to my cake theft.  I do remember a few times when she took the cake out to slice it for company,  and she’d comment that she didn’t understand why the cake looked so much smaller.  Of course, I said nothing- I didn’t want to sabotage my future prospects for stealing some cake.   Boy, when it came to food, nothing could stop me! 

  • 1 box dark chocolate cake mix (I use Duncan Hines Dark Chocolate Fudge Cake Mix)
  • 1 box Jello brand instant chocolate pudding
  • 4 extra large eggs
  • 1 cup sour cream
  • 1/2 cup canola, corn, or light olive oil
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips
  • 6 oz. semi-sweet chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees and grease sides and bottom of a 10 inch tube pan with removable sides.

Put cake mix, instant pudding, eggs, oil, sour cream, in the bowl of an electric mixture fitted with a paddle attachment.  Mix on medium speed, scraping down the bowl once or twice during mixing, until mixture is well blended, about 2 or 3 minutes.  Mix in the chocolate chips by hand with rubber spatula. 

Pour the batter evenly into prepared pan and bake it in the center of the oven 45-55 minutes until the sides of the cake have separated from the pan and a toothpick comes out clean  Cool on a baking rack for 60 minutes.  Then run a sharp knife around the edges of the pan and around the tube.  Lift the cake up by holding the tube.  Cut the cake in half, and then lift halves off the pan using a metal spatula.  You may place it on a serving platter whole, but I think it looks prettier if you slice it and then place your slices overlapping each other on a round platter. 

Note:  This cake freezes extremely well, and is great to keep in your freezer to have on hand for when you have company or you want to bring something over to a friend’s on the spur of the moment.  

Jewish Marble Cake

 This Marble Cake Will Satisfy Any Craving For Chocolate Or Sugar!

This is another recipe that came from Adele Hochheiser.  Adele Hochheiser was my mother’s wonderful best friend, and she was like a second mother to me.  Adele was a terrific  cook and baker.  I have wonderful memories of going over to the Hochheiser house, walking into Adele’s kitchen, and smelling the enticing aroma of either something cooking or baking in Adele’s oven.  My mother loved Adele’s marble cake, and of course my mother got the recipe from her.  This became one of the standard recipes that my mother baked for the Jewish New Year holiday of Rosh Hashana.  My father and I really loved this cake, but my mother adored this cake.  When I ask my mother which cake recipe is her all time favorite one, she always says, “The marble cake.”  This cake is  a little on the heavy side, but it is GOOD.  My mother and I have had some great laughs through the years about how much we love this cake despite its slightly heavy and dry texture. We always say, “But it just tastes so good!”   My mother and Adele baked this cake in a 9 x 13 pan, but I when I started baking it, I discovered the cake came out moister when I baked it in a tube pan.  So that’s the pan I use.  When I bake it, I usually cut it into thirds, wrap it, and of course deliver some to my mother.  She keeps it in the freezer, and takes it out sparingly, because she doesn’t want to use it up.  I’m feeling guilty right now, because I know her supply is running out, and I need to replenish it.  I’d better get on the job!

  • 3/4 cup (1 1/2 sticks) unsalted butter or Fleischmann’s margarine, at room temperature (I usually use butter)
  • 2 cups granulated sugar
  • 4 extra large eggs, at room temperature
  • 3 cups unbleached flour, sifted (sift, then measure)
  • 3 teaspoons baking powder
  • 1 teaspoon kosher salt
  • 1 cup whole milk
  • 3 oz. unsweetened chocolate (I use Baker’s or Nestle’s squares)
  • 1 1/ 2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Grease a tube pan with removable sides well with butter or margarine.

In mixing bowl, put flour, baking powder, and salt; set aside.  In a small microwave safe bowl, put the squares of chocolate, and then melt on a low power level in the microwave.  Add the 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract to the melted chocolate, and mix with a rubber spatula.  Set aside.

In the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a paddle attachment, cream butter or margarine.  Add the sugar and cream until light and fluffy.  Add the eggs, one at a time, mixing after each addition.  Add the 1 remaining teaspoon vanilla, and mix, just until blended.  Add the dry mixture alternately with the milk in three or four additions, scraping down the bowl one or two times.

Take out about 1/3 of vanilla batter and put in a bowl. Add the melted chocolate to it, and mix with a rubber spatula.

Pour all of vanilla batter into prepared tube pan.  Then put dollops of chocolate batter on top of vanilla until you have used up the chocolate batter.  Take a knife and swirl the chocoate batter through the vanilla batter.   Do not overswirl at this point, because you want the chocolate cake to be chocolate, and you want the vanilla cake to be vanilla.  Bake about 50 minutes until the cake just starts to separate from the sides of the pan and a toothpick comes out clean.  Cool the cake on a wire rack about 1 1/2 hours until completely cool.  Run a knife around the edge of the pan and around the inside tube.  Then lift the cake up off of the sides holding the tube.  Then cut it in half, and with a metal spatula, lift each half off the bottom of the pan  onto a serving plate.

Note:  This cake freezes well.  Wrap it in halves or thirds in plastic wrap and then in aluminum foil, and then put in plastic freezer bags.  When you have company, take out 1/3 or 1/2 , slice it, and put slices in an overlapping pattern on a serving plate.   

Aunt Helene’s Easy, Light and Creamy Cheesecake

You Don’t Have To Be An Expert Baker To Bake Your Own Outstanding Cheesecake!

I adapted this recipe from a recipe for cheesecake that I got from my ex-husband Joe Kahn’s wonderful Aunt Helene. Aunt Helene is a wonderful cook and baker, and I was lucky to have the chance to eat some of her delicious homemade food. This recipe for cheesecake is one of her specialties. I make this recipe for cheesecake often. It calls for less cream cheese than my other recipe and it is a little smaller. You will be surprised when you see how easy it is to make homemade cheesecake. Say goodbye to Sara Lee!

for the filling:

  • 1 pound (2-8 ounce bars) of Philadelphia brand cream cheese at room temperature
  • 1 cup granulated sugar
  • 1 pint (16 ounces) sour cream
  • 6 extra large eggs (cracked and set aside in a bowl)
  • juice of one fresh lemon (about 2 tablespoons)
  • 1/2 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
  • dash of kosher salt (1/8 teaspoon)

for the crust:

  • 1 3/4 cups graham cracker crumbs
  • 1/2 cup sugar
  • 1 1/2 teaspoons cinnamon
  • 1/4 cup (4 tablespoons) melted margarine or butter
  • 1/4 cup finely chopped pecans

to make the crust:

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Grease the bottom and sides going 3/4 up from the bottom of the pan of a 9 inch springform pan.

Mix the graham cracker crumbs with the melted margarine or butter. Pat the crumbs into the bottom and 3/4 of the way up the sides of prepared pan. Bake in preheated oven for 8 minutes. Take out and cool.

to make the filling:

In large bowl of Kitchen Aid or other electric mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat room temperature cream cheese until it is smooth and as lump free as possible. Add the sugar and mix till blended. Then add the sour cream and blend on low speed. Pour in the eggs, the fresh lemon juice, the vanilla, and the dash of salt. Blend on low speed till filling is very smooth.

Pour filling into cooled crust. Place carefully in center of oven. Bake for 1 hour. a cure for genital herpes Turn oven off. Let cheesecake sit in oven for at least 3-6 hours with door closed. Take out. Let sit on counter until it isn’t warm at all. Then take the sides off the pan. Place the cheesecake (which is still on the bottom of the springform pan) onto whatever cake plate you will be serving it on. Wrap the cheesecake well with plastic wrap, and let it sit in the refrigerator overnight. Serve the next day.

Serving Suggestion:

Slice 1 – 2 pints of fresh strawberries and pile on top of cake right before you serve it, or serve a bowl of sliced strawberries on the side.

Hint #1: If you like your cheesecake to be really light and fluffy, then separate the eggs first and set the egg whites aside. Add only the yolks to the cream cheese mixture initially. When you are done mixing all of the ingredients for the filling, whip the egg whites separately until stiff (but not dry) peaks form. Then fold the egg whites in right before you pour the filling into the crust.

Hint #2: I start baking the cake around 4 or 5 in the afternoon the day before I plan to serve it because of how long the cake stays in the oven after it finishes the actual baking. Helene just keeps the cake in the oven overnight and refrigerates it the next morning. I don’t feel that is necessary, but I’m sure keeping it in the oven overnight won’t hurt it.