The Days of Awe, the Days of Remembrance, engage us in a truly formidable task: To draw upon a probing will within ourselves to honestly face, in memory, those times and circumstances during the past year when we must clearly admit that we did wrong. As I was musing upon how I was going to find those difficult hidden memories, I suddenly was struck with the long past memory of a wonderful recipe that reminded me of some great difficulties that later arose with the person who had given it to me.
It’s a recipe for “Putterkuchen” or “Butter Kuchen,” delectably light, raised cinnamon buns baked like cinnamon rolls but possessing a much more delicate crumb than the ubiquitous “Cinnabons.” It’s an old German/Jewish recipe that had been in my friend’s family for ages, and she closely guarded it; at the time, I believed she felt it would get spread around far from the family and lose its “specialness” and perhaps even its authenticity as her own grandmother’s.
She gave me the recipe with great reluctance and I must admit I have rarely made the pastries, I think initially because I deferred to her preference to keep it in her family. I was expected to feel honored by its presence in my handwritten recipe book and perhaps I felt a little guilty that it was there at all. I wondered if I had coerced her into giving it to me when she really didn’t want to and perhaps didn’t feel as if I was actually “worthy” of having it.
The reason why the remembrance of this rare and lovely recipe came up in a search for my present “wrongs” is because of difficulties that kept cropping up in my relationship with this friend. I never seemed to be able to consistently keep on her good side, even though I loved her very much. I always seemed to find myself at odds with her as she directed anger or rage at me that I rarely understood. Was it because I had done something to offend her morally, or again overstepped family boundaries with some behavior or other? Or had I committed sequential wrongdoings in relation to her that I was not seeing because I was not searching clearly within myself or analyzing my own actions in our relationship?
We are now no longer friends, after years of her anger, my inadequacy in breaking through to find out what her difficulties really were, and finally silence punctuated by occasional rumor, that she still “can’t stand” me. What the Days of Remembrance now bring up for me, through the vehicle of the memory of a wonderful pastry (that she made superbly, by the way; she has been a very highly regarded pastry chef for many years now) is that had I not been afraid to face that I had perhaps really hurt her, had I gone to her during the week of the New Year and asked sincerely for her forgiveness and a chance to hear her side of our conflict, I might have been able to bridge the gap and we could be making her grandmother’s recipe together, long distance, for our break-the-fast gatherings. Perhaps that is something “Putterkuchen” can lead me to this year.
It is universally known that the smells and tastes of beloved foods bring memories to the surface that have perhaps been scattered into recently unexplored areas of our gray matter. I’d like to encourage you to dip into your food memories and make with your family or friends some beloved recipes during the Days of Remembrance with the thought of perhaps releasing a pathway in yourself to a spiritual, reflective place where you might understand the need, expressed in this season, to make amends and start the New Year.
To get you started, here are a couple of “memorable” recipes of mine that coincidently are appropriate for one of your Rosh Hashanah meals, the before-the-fast dinner or, of course, for Break-the-Fast!
Olga Carlson’s Gingersnaps
1-1/2 cups shortening or butter
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup molasses
4 cups unbleached flour
2 tsp. baking soda
2 tsp. ground cinnamon
2 tsp. ground ginger
2 tsp. ground cloves
Sugar for sprinkling
Preheat the oven to 375º.
Cream shortening and sugar, beat in eggs well, add molasses and dry ingredients. Roll into one-inch balls, flatten with a fork on a lightly greased baking sheet and sprinkle liberally with sugar. Bake 15 to 18 minutes or until flat and nicely browned. Cool on racks. Will keep two weeks tightly covered.
Makes about 5 dozen.
This is an absolutely decadently rich and delicious almost-flourless cake. It does crumble a bit when being cut, so be sure to use a sharp knife dipped in very hot water and wiped dry before each cut.
18 oz. superior semisweet or bittersweet chocolate (Callebaut, Ghirardelli, Scharffenberger, etc.), chopped
6 Tbs. butter
1-1/2 cups light cream
1/2 cup brandy or other liqueur
10 oz. sweetened chestnut purée (purée de marrons), available in specialty food stores
1/4 cup cornstarch
Butter and cornstarch to grease a 10-inch spring form pan or deep 10-inch cake pan
Butter the pan, line the bottom with parchment or wax paper, butter again and sprinkle lightly with cornstarch.
In a bowl over slightly simmering water melt together the chocolate, six Tbs. of butter, the cream and the liqueur. Beat the chestnut purée until smooth and completely without lumps (a food processor works well).
When the chocolate is completely melted, stir the chocolate mixture until completely smooth. Fold in the chestnut puree with a sturdy whisk. Keep mixture warm over warm water. Beat the eggs and yolks together with the whisk attachment of an electric mixer until tripled in size and very pale yellow.
Fold 1/3 of the egg mixture into the chocolate with a whisk, then sift the cornstarch over and fold in also with the whisk. Add the remaining eggs and fold in with a rubber spatula.
Pour the batter into the prepared pan and bake in a pan of hot water for 1 hour and 10 minutes at 350º. Let cool until just warmer than room temperature, then remove the sides of the spring form pan or run a knife around the sides of the cake pan. Place a cake platter upside down over the top of the cake, reverse plate and cake and carefully remove the pan and pull the paper off. Serve sprinkled with powdered sugar and accompanied by softly whipped cream.
Serves 12 to 16