Hedy Goldsmith is the award-winning pastry chef at Michael’s Genuine Food and Drink in Miami and Grand Cayman and the author of the recently released cookbook, Baking Out Loud.
“The first night of Hanukkah was always special in my family — we’d light candles and get the foil-wrapped chocolate coins and have a big dinner. But though we were Jewish, I grew up in a neighborhood in Philadelphia where I was fortunate to be exposed to lots of different cultures. My neighbors were from Portugal and during the holidays I watched them making steaming seafood stews and cakes soaked in sweet syrup — I thought it was heaven. Later, as a teen, I had a very good Italian friend. On Christmas we’d go to midnight mass and feast on panforte and pignoli cookies and biscotti. I still love that casual Italian baking. Panforte — with its rich, dried fruit, almost red wine flavor — always reminds me of fruitcake.”
Serve with: My mother loved coffee cake and always included it in her dessert buffet — with rugelach, an angel food cake or a honey cake, dried apricots and dates, figs drizzled with honey, and lots of nuts in their shells. When I was little my dad taught me how to crush two nuts together in my palm to shell them. I’ll never forget that!
Pro tip: Leave your eggs and butter out at room temperature all the time — or at least during the holiday season, when you want to be able to bake at a moment’s notice. That’s the way it’s done in Europe, and no, you won’t get sick. Starting with them both at room temperature just makes creaming batters so much easier and keeps cookies and cakes evenly moist during baking.