Cookbook Review: Secrets from Lori Rapp’s Kitchen

AriCooks, cake, Dairy Free, Jerusalem

Hello! I am visiting from The Dreamy Day with a little cookbook review. Shortly after arriving back in the States I received an e-mail from Lori Rapp of Jerusalem’s La Cuisine, asking if I would mind reviewing her new cookbook on my blog. Since Ari Cooks is my food blog, and the one that is still quite active for recipe-seekers, I thought it best to post the review here. Hope you enjoy (and you can purchase the book on amazon)!

secrets from Lori Rapp's kitchen

Review: Secrets from Lori Rapps Kitchen Tales and recipes from Jerusalem’s popular La Cuisine.

As someone who has worked in the food industry from a young age, both behind the counter and in the kitchen, I thought I knew all the reasons why opening one’s own business is a risky and somewhat crazy endeavor. Over the years people have asked me again and again if I would consider opening my own bakery or cafe one day, and my answer has always been that I don’t have the desire to make my life that hectic and complicated. Inside, however, I have secretly thought that maybe, maybe when my girls are a bit older, and I have more time and energy to devote to such a thing, perhaps I could open something small and unassuming. Just a little place that might become a local favorite somewhere for breads, muffins and cakes. Lori Rapp’s book has done a swift job of reminding and informing me of the perils of the food biz, hitting so close to home for me, that I feel a bit traumatized after internalizing her experiences catering from her home and running her cafe and bakery in Jerusalem.

Amazingly, that is not how Lori Rapp feels. Despite the fact that she was the one whose bathtub was filled with salmon (in the early days of her business), whose face and arm were disfigured by burning caramel, who went through a miscarriage and chemotherapy with little time off from the rigorous pace of her work’s demands, and did all this while navigating an extremely inhospitable city-licensing bureau, impossible-to-please health department, and myriad other hurdles that would have sent most people running for a pleasant desk job, Lori Rapp is glad she spent 21 years doing what she loves.

     The first third of Lori Rapp’s book is memoir, taking the reader on a short trip back in time to her childhood, growing up as the daughter of Holocaust survivors in Toronto. The kitchen of Rapp’s youth was filled with some predictable foods, like shmaltz and poppyseed cake, and some less predictable, such as Mallomars and Aunt Jemima’s pancake mix (Rapp’s father was impressed with the sweets and convenience foods of the new world). As she grew older, Rapp began to discover foods and cooking styles different from her parents’, and her courtship with her husband-to-be, Marvin, was filled with butter-laden, time-consuming recipes — the kind of cooking one does when time and energy allow for impractical meals eaten at late hours.

Rapp then describes in detail, and with the fondness that hindsight can bring, the early years of their catering business: meals for 200 or more, somehow prepared from their small Jerusalem apartment. Adventures in catering brought incidents such as a $2500 electric bill one month, and their five young sons often ate disappointingly simple meals while piles of glazed baked goods (for customers!) mocked them from the kitchen counter.

When Lori and Marvin finally took the business out of the apartment, they were naive and unprepared for the roller coaster of the holiday season in a country obsessed with certain foods at specific times (mountains of cheesecakes and a line out the door on Shavuot, hundreds of honey cakes on Rosh HaShanna). Even so, they smiled their way through 14 years of business ownership before selling off La Cuisine to their partner in 2012.

Luckily for us, that sale did not include the rights to Rapp’s recipes for her wildly popular baked goods and savory items from La Cuisine’s catering menu. When I moved back to Jerusalem in 2011, one of the first things I heard (no joke) was praise for Lori Rapp’s non-dairy cheesecake. Because of the laws of Kashrut, cheesecake had formerly been relegated to the holiday of Shavuot, and the occasional dairy luncheon. When La Cuisine began selling (or selling out of, most often) this cake, happy folks all over the city could serve it at their Sabbath meals. The recipe for the tofu cheesecake of legend is generously provided by Rapp on page 76 and it was the first item I chose to make from her book. I am providing the recipe and photos (my own) below. As for more of Rapp’s delicious cakes (Chocolate Symphony, Chocolate Mousse, Dacquaoise), cookies (florentines, alfajores, butter pecan) tarts and more, you’ll have to buy the book.

Enjoy!

tofutti cheesecake

Lori Rapp’s Tofu Cheesecake

makes one 9-inch cake

Lemon Curd (make ahead and cool)

1/2 cup plus one Tbs sugar

1/2 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice

3 oz butter or butter-flavored margarine (I used smart balance)

2 tsp grated lemon rind

3 eggs (or 2 eggs + 2 yolks, if you want it extra rich)

Crust

180 grams (1.5 cups) Petit-Beurre or Marie biscuit crumbs (“Kedem” biscuits in the kosher section of the supermarket are also good)

1/4 cup brown sugar

3 oz butter or butter-flavored margarine

Filling

32 oz Toffuti plain cream “cheese” (do not substitute other brands)

1.5 cups sugar

5 eggs

2.5 tsp vanilla

2 tsp freshly squeezed lemon juice

240 ml (one cup) lemon curd

Decoration

120 grams (4 oz) lemon curd

1 Tbs warm water

1-2 Tbs non-dairy heavy whipping cream, unwhipped

Preheat the oven to 350°F

line one 9-inch spring form pan with baking paper for easy removal of the cake

make the lemon curd:

put the sugar, lemon juice, butter/margarine, and lemon rind in a small saucepan, bring to a gentle boil.

whisk the 3 eggs in a separate bowl.

when the butter/margarine mixture is entirely melted in the saucepan pour the mixture into the eggs while whisking (careful not to scramble your eggs!), and pour the mixture back into the saucepan.

bring the mixture back to a simmer while whisking. When bubbles start to break the surface and the curd thickens slightly, pour it out through a sieve into a clean bowl (if your curd is very smooth, just pour it into a bowl to get it out of the hot pot). Curd keeps for 4-5 days in the fridge.

thickened lemon curd

make crust:

mix all the ingredients together and press the the crumbs into the bottom and sides of the  prepared pan.

petit beurre crust

make filling:

beat the tofutti cream cheese and sugar in a mixer with the paddle until smooth. Slowly add the eggs, vanilla, and lemon juice. Scrape down the sides once with a rubber spatula and mix again until it’s smooth.

Pour and lightly spread about 240 ml (1 cup) lemon curd into the bottom of the prepared crust. Gently and carefully pour in the cheese mixture.

Bake the cake for about 50-55 min, until it is puffy, lightly golden and a little bit wobbly.

When the cake cools and sinks back down, loosen it from the pan by cutting around the inside of the ring with a sharp knife, but leave the ring on. Refrigerate overnight, and then remove the outer ring. Lift the cheesecake off of the bottom by pulling on the baking paper. Carefully pull off the paper.

decoration (optional):

mix the lemon curd with a tablespoon or two of warm water and pour it on top of the cooled cake, letting it run evenly almost to the outer edges.

Pour the unwhipped cream into a pastry bag (you can also use a ziplock), cut off a bit of the tip with scissors, and zigzag a design onto the lemon curd, pulling into various designs with a toothpick or a sharp knife.