Pascale's Kitchen: Tu Bishvat is coming!

In honor of this holiday, on which it’s traditional to eat dried fruit, I decided to invite pastry chef Shlomi Svirski from Kfar Saba to join me for a session in my home.

Fruit cake (photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Fruit cake
(photo credit: PASCALE PEREZ-RUBIN)
Not everyone likes to incorporate fresh fruit in their cakes. In my experience, this combination is a love story that has to start small and grow slowly as you get used to the new textures and flavors. It took me hours and hours of trial and error until I began to love this unique blend, which is so different from baking with dried fruits and nuts, and that almost everyone loves straight away. 
This coming Wednesday night, we will celebrate Tu Bishvat, the New Year of the Trees. If you look around outside, you might see the beautiful pale-pink flowers that have just started blossoming on almond trees, as they do every year as Tu Bishvat approaches. In honor of this holiday, on which it’s traditional to eat dried fruit, I decided to invite pastry chef Shlomi Svirski from Kfar Saba to join me for a session in my home. 
Learn more about Pascale's Kitchen here>>
Shlomi began his career in the catering business, but quickly moved on to other jobs where he could try his hand at baking. His boss saw his potential and sent him to study at the Estella Master Class in Pastry, Chocolate & Bakery, and since then he’s been creating magnificent desserts. 
Shlomi participated in a baking competition organized by Al Hashulchan magazine and was surprised to find out that the dish he’d prepared won first prize, awarding him a space in a course at Danon Culinary School. In recent years, Shlomi has become a master at preparing Italian-style gelato. 
A few years ago, before the coronavirus epidemic, while Shlomi was on a trip to Italy, he fell in love with Italian pastries, especially a cake called panettone. Panettone is baked in a tall pan with dough that is left to sit overnight in the fridge like sourdough. It contains raisins and other dried and candied fruits, and is traditionally served on Christmas and New Year. Shlomi spent quite a lot of time investigating this traditional cake’s origins, how to prepare it and how to perfect the unique texture. Sometimes, panettone is sprinkled with powdered sugar or made with pistachio cream, vanilla cream, chocolate chips and chopped nuts. 
Over a period of two years, Shlomi practiced making tall, medium and low panettone cakes with a variety of fruit and nut additions, until he finally came up with his own special version. A simplified version of this recipe, which calls for preparing a dough starter that needs to be prepared the day before, appears below. 
The traditional recipe requires preparing the starter a few days ahead, as well as other more complicated steps, including how to knead the dough so that it comes out lighter and with air pockets. And instead of letting the cake cool on a metal rack, panettone needs to be hung upside down using skewers. Doing so prevents the cake from collapsing in the middle and keeps it light and fluffy with air pockets. Shlomi claims that it was his parents, Bella and Yaakov Svirski, who helped him perfect his own personal recipe by being his official taste-testers for the myriad versions he tried. 
Below, you will find two of Shlomi’s recipes for cakes made with dried fruits. The first is for oatmeal cookies, the second is for cookies made with seeds, and the third is a simplified version of a panettone recipe. All of the pictures included this week are photographs I took in my home kitchen, except for the picture of the panettone cake, which was taken by Shlomi. If you follow the recipe below, it will probably not look exactly like the one pictured here, since this was prepared using Shlomi’s longer and more complicated version.
Happy Tu Bishvat, everyone!
Note: It’s very important to use a food scale to prepare the following recipes.
Makes 32 cookies.
280 gr. (1¾ cups) flour, sifted
300 gr. (3 cups) oats
1 tsp. baking soda
1 tsp. salt
200 gr. butter
120 gr. (¾ cup) light brown sugar
100 gr. (½ cup) white sugar
¼ cup honey
2 medium eggs
1 tsp. vanilla
Zest from 1 orange
100 gr. (¾ cup) dried apricot pieces
100 gr. (¾ cup) dried cranberries
100 gr. (¾ cup) sesame seeds
200 gr. (1 cup) walnuts
In a large bowl, mix together the flour, oats, baking soda and salt.
To the bowl of an electric mixer fitted with a flat beater attachment, add the butter and sugar and mix on medium speed. Add the honey, eggs, vanilla and orange zest. Lower the speed and add the flour mixture and the dried fruits. Mix well. 
Take a bit of batter and make balls with a diameter of 3-4 cm. Place them evenly spaced on a tray that is lined with baking paper. 
Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 170°C for 15 minutes. Let cool. Store in an air-tight container. 
Level of difficulty: Easy. 
Time: 30 minutes. 
Status: Dairy.
Makes 32 cookies. 
100 gr. (¾ cup) sunflower seeds
100 gr. (¾ cup) pumpkin seeds
100 gr. (1 cup) walnuts
100 gr. (¾ cup) sesame seeds
100 gr. (¾ cup) sliced almonds
60 gr. (1/3 cup) egg whites
110 g (1+½ Tbsp.) sugar
Place all of the ingredients in a large bowl and mix well. Line two trays with baking paper. Use an ice cream scooper to scoop up some of the dough and place the mounds on the baking paper with space in between each one. Bake in an oven that has been preheated to 160°C for 18 minutes. Let cool and store in an airtight container. 
Level of difficulty: Easy. 
Time: 30 minutes. 
Status: Pareve.
Prepare the starter the day before and store in the fridge. 
Use a 16-cm. diameter pan that is 11-cm. tall.
50 gr. (¾ cup) raisins
33 gr. (1/3 cup) pistachios
67 gr. orange peel pieces
67 gr. lemon peel pieces
26 ml. rum or orange juice
Starter (prepare the day before and store in the fridge):
66 gr. (½ cup) flour
40 gr. (¼ cup) water
2 gr. dry yeast
2 gr. salt
75 gr. milk
75 gr. egg yolk
2 gr. vanilla
64 gr. sugar
7 gr. salt
233 gr. bread flour
10 gr. dry yeast
Prepared starter
100 gr. butter at room temperature
Prepared fruit mixture
Peel from 1 orange
Peel from 1 lemon
To prepare the fruit mixture, mix all the dried fruits in a medium bowl with the rum. Store in the fridge overnight. 
To prepare the starter, mix all the starter ingredients with an electric mixer on low speed, then for another 5 minutes on medium speed until smooth. Cover with a towel until it triples in volume. 
Knead the starter to get out all the air pockets. Form into a ball and store in the fridge overnight. The next day, let the dough sit at room temperature for 2 hours before beginning to work with it. 
To prepare the dough, add the milk, egg yolks, vanilla, sugar, salt, flour and yeast to the bowl of an electric mixer. Mix on low speed for 3 minutes. 
Add the starter and mix for another 5 minutes on low speed. Stop the mixer and scrape down all the dough on the sides of the bowl. 
Continue mixing the dough at medium speed for 10 minutes. Add the butter and mix another 10 minutes on low speed until smooth. Add the dried fruit and orange and lemon peel. Mix well. 
Cover with a towel and let sit in a warm place for 3 hours. 
Preheat oven to 160°C and bake for 1 hour. 
Level of difficulty: Medium. 
Time: Day before plus six hours. 
Status: Dairy.
New flavors for you
I’m excited to announce that the English version of my book, Flavors of Tripoli, can now be purchased on Amazon or Kindle. It is a compilation of all my favorite recipes from Tripolitan cuisine. If you want to expand your culinary knowledge and learn how to make Makud, Lubia Balslak, Heraime, Mafrum, Sfinge, Makrut, Ousban and Kukla, this book is definitely for you. 
If you have family members living overseas who love Tripolitan cuisine, this could be a great present for them.