Daphna Rabinovitch’s inner baker becomes a winning cookbook
In January of 2015 Nick Rundall, publisher of Whitecap Books, approached Daphna Rabinovitch about writing a cookbook. She did not jump at the offer even though she’d been wondering about doing a book about baking for some time.
“I hemmed and hawed… I thought, does the world need another baking book?”
Rabinovitch, a Toronto-based food writer and award-winning author, may have been uncertain about embarking on the project, but her family and friends urged her to give Whitecap the green light.
One of her biggest cheerleaders was her father, the late Jack Rabinovich, founder of the Scotia Bank Giller prize, Canada’s richest and most prestigious literary award.
In November, Rabinovitch’s book, The Baker in Me (Whitecap Books 2016) scored gold or top prize in the single-subject cookbook category at the Taste Canada Awards. These awards recognize the best in culinary writing in Canadian cookbooks and blogs
“When they called my name it was like going into shock,” Rabinovitch recalled. “I didn’t expect to win…My legs went to jelly.
“It was a tremendous moment in my life. I dedicated the win to my dad. I wish he would have been there to know that I won.”
The Taste Canada Awards are decided by people in the industry and so it was particularly “gratifying” to be recognized by her peers, she said, noting that she “was up against stiff competition.”
She was surprised her book won, especially after celebrity chef, Anna Olson, garnered silver in the same category for her baking book.
“I’m proud of my book,” Rabinovitch said. “White Cap did an amazing job and I had a tremendously gifted team.”
She described The Baker in Me as a practical work that “demystifies the science” of baking. “It’s not meant to be a ‘trendy’ cookbook. It’s a home baking book.
“It’s a classic cookbook that people can use over and over again.”
This culinary win was not Rabinovitch’s first. In 2001, her book, Canadian Living Cooks: Step by Step (Penguin Random House 2000), won the Cuisine Canada Gold Award.
That award was in the same category as its 2017 counterpart, she said, explaining that the organization changed its name to Taste Canada.
In fact, Rabinovitch co-authored six books when she was at Canadian Living. She started as the test kitchen director in the mid-90s, and became the magazine’s associate food editor.
She is also a celebrity cook in her right. She co-hosted Canadian Living Cooks, one of the first television shows to be broadcast when Food Network Canada launched in 2000.
The show ran for four seasons. “In those days the cooking shows were more about education than competition,” Rabinovitch mused.
Prior to Canadian Living, she was senior pastry chef at the David Wood Food Shop.
Rabinovitch, the mother a 19-year son, teaches cooking and baking classes and does food consulting, and recipe development. She is also a regular contributor to the CJN.
She traces her love of baking to her childhood. “I’m a born baker. Baking is so much part of my identity.”She recalls baking with her mother, when she was a young child.
Rabinovitch grew up in Montreal, but moved to Toronto to pursue a degree in political science and economics. She then went on to study journalism.
But when she was in her mid-20s she followed her heart. She moved to San Francisco to train at Tante Marie’s Cooking School. Later she honed her culinary skills as an apprentice at the Badia a Coltibuono estate in Tuscany.
Rabinovitch said she makes a challah every week and she bakes for all family occasions. “I wake up and I just want to bake. I’m constantly trying to find reasons to bake.”
2 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp light corn syrup
1/2 cup water
3/4 cup whipping cream
2 tbsp unsalted butter, softened
Crust and Topping
2 cups rolled oats or quick oats
1 2/3 cups all-purpose flour
3/4 cup packed light brown sugar
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup unsalted butter, melted
1 cup semisweet chocolate chips
1 cup chopped walnuts
Make the caramel first. In a heavy-bottomed saucepan set over low heat, combine the sugar and corn syrup with 1/2 cup water. Cook gently until the sugar dissolves. Increase the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce heat to medium and boil without stirring but brushing down the sides of the pan with a brush dipped in cold water, until the mixture turns a deep amber colour, about 5 to 8 minutes.
Averting your face (to avoid any sputtering caramel), pour the cream into the saucepan. Add in the butter. Cook, stirring constantly, until the mixture stops boiling and the caramel is smooth. Remove from the heat and let cool at room temperature for at least 1 hour or until thickened.
Meanwhile, preheat your oven to 350°F. Lightly grease the sides and bottom of a 13 × 9-inch metal cake pan. Line it with parchment paper so the bottom is covered and there is a 2-inch overhang on two sides.
In a large bowl, combine the oats, flour, sugar, baking soda and salt. Pour the melted butter over the dry mixture, stirring with a fork until the mixture is thoroughly moistened and starts to clump together. Transfer 1 heaping cup of the mixture to a separate bowl and set aside.
Press the remainder of the oat mixture evenly into the base of the prepared cake pan. Bake in the centre of the preheated oven until the crust is golden, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove the pan from the oven. Spread the cooled caramel over the base without disturbing it too much. Sprinkle with the chocolate chips and the walnuts. Sprinkle the reserved oat mixture over the surface.
Bake for an additional 15 minutes or until the topping is just starting to turn golden. Let the bars cool in the pan on a wire rack for at least 2 hours. Run a small paring knife around the edges of the pan to loosen. Lift out using the parchment paper. Cut into bars Makes about 3 dozen bars.
Blueberry Lime Bundt Cake
2 1/2 cups sifted cake and pastry flour
1 1/2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt
1 3/4 cups granulated sugar
1 tbsp finely grated lime zest
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
3/4 cup cream cheese, softened
4 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk, at room temperature
2 1/4 cups fresh blueberries
1/4 cup cream cheese, softened
1 cup icing sugar
1 tbsp freshly squeezed lime juice
Preheat your oven to 350°F. Grease a 10-cup Bundt pan; set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt in a bowl making sure the three ingredients are well mixed. In a separate bowl, stir together the sugar and the lime zest until the zest is well distributed.
In the bowl of a stand mixer fitted with the paddle attachment, beat the butter with the cream cheese for 1 minute or until well combined. In a thin stream, gradually add the lime-infused sugar. Beat until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Add in the eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the egg yolk.
Remove the bowl from the stand. Switch to using a wooden spoon. In three additions, stir in the flour mixture. Gently stir in the blueberries. Transfer the mixture to the prepared pan.
Bake in the centre of the preheated oven until the top of the cake springs back when lightly pressed, about 55 to 60 minutes. Cool the cake in the pan on a wire rack for 20 minutes. Unmould and cool completely on a wire rack.
In the bowl of a mixer beat together the cream cheese and sugar, scraping down the sides of the bowl often. Pour in the lime juice and beat just until the mixture is of a drizzable consistency.
Drizzle the icing over the cake, allowing the excess to drip down the sides. Makes 12 to 16 servings.
MORNING GLORY HALLELUJAH MUFFINS
2 1/2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
2 tsp cinnamon
3/4 tsp salt
1 1/2 cups grated carrots
1 cup buttermilk, at room temperature
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1 cup shredded apple
1/2 cup canola or vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1/3 cup raisins, plumped (see below)
1/3 cup pumpkin seeds
1/3 cup sunflower seeds
1/4 cup flax seeds
Preheat the oven to 375°F. Lightly grease a 12-cup muffin tin or line it with muffin cups and set aside.
Whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt in a bowl until the dry ingredients are thoroughly combined.
In a separate large bowl, whisk together the carrots, buttermilk, sugar, apple, oil and eggs until well combined. Pour the buttermilk mixture over the dry ingredients along with the raisins, pumpkin, sunflower and flax seeds. Using a wooden spoon, quickly stir together until just moistened and a thick batter is created.
Divide the batter evenly among the prepared muffin cups. The cups will be very full.