One of Atlanta’s most passionate cooks, Kennesaw resident Sandi Edelson is a master barbecue judge and trained pastry chef. A native New Yorker, she shares treasured family recipes as well as training in professional pastry arts under Nick Malgieri at Windows on the World. She fesses up to working at a Publix bakery as boot camp to master “making a million icing roses with a stick and scissors.”
Learn Edelson’s tips for using a rolling pin, what butter to buy, why she brings home her flour in a suitcase from New York, and how she cooks for good causes.
Jaffe: Growing up in New York, was your family into gourmet food?
Edelson: Even though my parents grew up eating bland, Old World, traditional eastern European food, they became adventurous eaters. They explored the wonderful international cuisines that were very accessible in New York City. I learned to be open-minded and developed a palate for a wide range of food. My grandma was born in Vienna and would make apple strudel that was the length of a banquet table, stretching the dough to transparent thinness. My mom’s highly touted stuffed cabbage was a marvelous sweet/tangy, tomato-based sauce.
Jaffe: What are some of the pastries you grew up with that you prepare?
Edelson: I love making apple cream cheese torte and use the recipe that my uncle used in his bakeries in Queens, New York, where I learned some of my techniques. I make a cinnamon crumb cake that is a retro New York bakery dessert. I’ve tweaked the recipe to get the perfect combination of cake/crumbs with cinnamon punch. This is one of the few recipes that I do not share since you can’t get good results if you don’t use Presto cake flour, which isn’t available here. I buy boxes of it online or bring an empty suitcase and bring it back from New York City!
Jaffe: What’s the secret to good rugelach?
Edelson: Since it’s such a butter-intensive dough, use the best quality butter you can buy. Budget brands contain more water than high quality butter, and it makes a big difference in your finished product. My trusted favorites are Land O Lakes, Challenge and Cabot. Same goes for cream cheese. I only use Philadelphia. Another secret is the rolling technique. If you are heavy-handed with a rolling pin, you will end up with tough dough. Don’t roll back and forth. Use a light touch and only roll in one direction.
Jaffe: What are some of the cooking awards you have won?
Edelson: Since I’m part of the competition barbeque world, I’ve been in contests held by the Kansas City Barbeque Society. My team won many first-place awards. I’ve learned how to throw down some really good smoked chicken and brisket. For two out of four years, I’ve competed at one of the most prestigious dessert contests in greater Atlanta. I won first place for my peach dessert and received a perfect score by all six judges with my peach mirror glazed cheesecake and an almond meringue torte with peach/apricot filling.
I’m a certified Master Barbeque Judge and I usually judge at least 10 certified contests a year, including the annual Atlanta Kosher BBQ [Festival] contest. It’s a great culinary experience, and judges can participate by invitation only.
Jaffe: You worked at Publix to perfect cake decorating?
Edelson: Since Publix offers such a wide variety of decorated special occasion cakes, it’s a great boot camp to perfect skills using a pastry bag. Since it’s about large quantity production, there’s no room for creativity. I could never be a production baker. Since I was required to make about a million icing flowers, I learned how to make roses with amazing speed, using a stick and a scissors to transfer them to the cake.
Jaffe: Any vegetarian entrees?
Edelson: I have a few meatless dishes in my repertoire, like a savory vegetable pie with grated carrots, parsnips, cabbage, brown rice, Gruyere [cheese] and other aromatics, encased in a pastry crust.
I also make a great walnut mushroom pâté that looks like a liver pâté, but it is totally meatless and great for parties!
Jaffe: What do you prepare for your lucky husband?
Edelson: He is a passionate gardener and prepares food with vegetables that he grows.
He loves a big bowl of pasta with a fresh, uncooked sauce of chopped ripe tomatoes, grated zucchini, fresh basil, garlic-infused olive oil, red wine vinegar, accompanied by my homemade black olive and rosemary artisan baguettes.
Jaffe: What qualities make you a good cook?
Edelson: If I am trying someone else’s recipe, I follow it literally the first time, unless I spot ingredients that don’t make sense or appeal to me. Then I improvise. Once you develop experience, you can personalize your cooking and realize that recipes are never set in stone. There’s always flexibility.
Jaffe: Do you have a business?
Edelson: I operate Buttery Crumbs Fine Desserts, for sophisticated and elegant dinner parties; however, my passion is baking for charity organizations. Some of my most rewarding baking is to fundraise for an animal rescue shelter where I volunteer. I’ve also donated and served barbeque and desserts for 60 residents at The Extension, a recovery center in Marietta and the Zaban [Paradeis Center] shelter in Atlanta. Good food and warm cookies should be shared. Isn’t that what it’s all about?
Jaffe: Leave us with your favorite recipes.
Apple Cream Cheese Torte
You can make this beautiful dessert in advance and park it in the refrigerator 2-3 days before serving. It doesn’t break the bank buying lots of expensive cream cheese either. Only takes one 8 oz. package. The buttery crust can be pressed into place, so you don’t have to haul out the rolling pin. And finally, when it’s done, it will look like a cake from a patisserie in Paris!
1 ½ cups all-purpose flour (Remember to fluff the flour up before spooning it into measuring cup.)
1 stick (8 tablespoons) cold unsalted butter, cut into small pieces
1/3 cup granulated sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Pinch of salt
1 to 2 teaspoons of apple cider (Use this as needed if dough appears dry when pressing into the pan. You can use water or apple juice as an alternative.)
Preheat oven to 400 F. Wrap outside of a 9-inch springform pan with aluminum foil. Combine all ingredients in a bowl, starting with 1 teaspoon of apple cider, and using your fingertips to mix together, pinching the dough until moist clumps form. Gather dough into a ball and press onto the bottom and ¾-inch up the sides of the pan. Freeze for 10 minutes. Bake until crust is light golden, about 10 minutes. Remove the pan from oven. Reduce temperature to 350 F.
8-ounce package of cream cheese
¼ cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
Beat all ingredients together until smooth. Pour filling into crust and smooth top.
1/3 cup granulated sugar
½ teaspoon cinnamon
3 large or 4 medium-sized apples. Peel, core and thinly slice apples. You should have about 3 cups.
¼ cup sliced almonds (Optional but adds sophistication to the finished cake).
Combine sugar and cinnamon in a large bowl, then add apples, tossing to coat. Arrange on top of filling. Sprinkle with almonds.
Bake until crust is deep golden and apples are tender, about 1 ½ hours. Remove from oven and cool for 1 hour. Brush the top with warmed apricot jam. Refrigerate overnight. Remove pan sides and serve.
Louise Cushman’s Stuffed Cabbage
This is my mom’s recipe and it’s a family treasure. Although some family recipes are guarded, she enjoyed sharing this, and hope that you will pass this on to your friends and family too. My mom would approve.
Makes about 20 pieces
2 pounds ground round [beef]
1 1/2 teaspoons kosher salt
1/2 teaspoon ground black pepper
½ teaspoon dried minced garlic
1/2 teaspoon dried thyme
2 large eggs
¾ cup of cooked, cooled, long grain rice
Mix all ingredients together and refrigerate while preparing cabbage.
Core a large head of green cabbage. If you can’t get the whole core out, it can be trimmed from each leaf that you use before stuffing.
Place head of cabbage in a very large pot of salted simmering water for about 5 minutes. Using tongs, start to peel off softened leaves, one at a time. This is a process that takes patience! Put the softened leaves in a bowl to cool. You should have about 20 useable leaves.
Constructing stuffed cabbage
Cut away the thick center stem from each leaf. Put about 3 to 4 tablespoons of meat filling on each leaf and roll halfway, then tuck in each side and roll the rest of the leaf, so the meat in enclosed. Continue until all the leaves are rolled. If you have extra cabbage leaves, they can be sliced and added to the sauce.
Preheat oven to 350 F.
1 yellow onion
1 medium apple peeled and coarsely chopped (Almost any sweet variety will do, such as Fuji)
¼ cup golden raisins (or up to ½ cup, personal preference)
One 28-ounce can crushed tomatoes
One 8-ounce can tomato sauce
¼ teaspoon ground coriander
3 tablespoons fresh lemon juice
¼ cup water
3 tablespoons light brown sugar
½ teaspoon salt or to taste
Saute the onion till softened in an ovenproof stockpot or Dutch oven. Add all remaining ingredients and stir to blend.
Place the stuffed cabbage rolls in the sauce and bake for about 90 minutes, covered. Serve over egg noodles.
Flourless Chocolate Cake
This is a classic cake that was made at my uncle’s bakeries in New York. Since it’s flourless, it’s a great recipe to make as a show-stopping Passover dessert.
12 ounces bittersweet or semisweet chocolate
3/4 cup unsalted butter
6 large eggs, separated
12 tablespoons sugar
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Preheat oven to 375 F. Butter a 9-inch springform pan. Line bottom with parchment and butter the parchment. Wrap outside of the pan with foil.
Melt butter and chocolate over very low flame. Cool to lukewarm. Using electric mixer, beat yolks and 6 tablespoons sugar until thick and pale. Fold chocolate mixture into yolks. Add vanilla extract. Beat egg whites with remaining 6 tablespoons sugar until medium firm peaks form. Fold whites into chocolate mixture. Pour into pan.
Bake about 45 minutes, until cake tester comes out with moist crumbs attached. Cook cake in pan. (Cake will fall).
Gently press down crusty top. Loosen sides of pan and remove. Invert cake onto a flat serving board or plate. Peel off parchment paper.
1/2 cup heavy cream
1 teaspoon instant expresso powder (optional)
1/2 cup dark corn syrup
9 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped
Scald cream and corn syrup in a saucepan. Stir in expresso powder. Add chocolate and remove from heat. Let sit for a few minutes until chocolate is melted. Stir until smooth.
Spread about 1/2 cup glaze over top and sides of cake. Freeze for about 4 minutes. Pour remaining glaze on top and sides. Chill cake for about 30 minutes, just until glaze is set. (Can be made a day ahead; store at room temperature).