Hamantaschen

It is Sunday morning, March 13th, 2011.  My plan was to bake Hamantachen today, allowing for enough time to ship them to New York and Florida.   I am still going to bake, but things feel different.  In the background the radio is turned to NPR, reporting on the situation in Japan.  There is a tradition of giving Tzedakah before Purim, and so as we approach the holiday,  I hope you continue to bake, and to give…. http://www.redcross.org

Wishing you a Chag Purim Sameach.

Note: I posted this recipe last year, and the comments I received on the dough ranged from those who said it was much too soft to work with, to those who felt it was perfect.  The trick is to play with it, add flour as needed, and enjoy!

The Purim of my childhood was not very memorable.  I do not remember dressing up costume, attending Purim carnivals or going to hear the reading of Megillat Esther.  I do not remember my mother making hamantaschen or delivering Mishloach Manot.  Purim was not part of the fabric of my childhood.  My first encounter with hamantaschen was watching my mother-in-law, Lillian Saiger, make them in her home in Toronto.  It made quite an impression on me.  I was 21 years old, a newlywed, still in college, and living in a foreign country.  My in-laws were living in the same home that my husband’s maternal grandparents had owned.  The hub of that house was the kitchen, with windows that faced a backyard filled with lilac trees.  It was a house with history and part of that history included baking hamantaschen. Lil made enough hamantaschen to ship to her children, some of whom were already living outside of Toronto.  She made her own filling, a combination of dried fruits that she stewed and pureed and then gently placed in the center of these circles of dough that she had rolled out and cut.  She pinched three corners together and baked the cookies until they were golden.  They were soft, warm and delicious.  I remember that the hamataschen were kept in a tin, placed in a cupboard next to the breakfast room table.  We would have them with coffee every day, until they were all gone.  I don’t have any idea if they actually lasted till Purim.  We eventually moved to Los Angeles and had three children of our own.  Each Purim, we dressed the kids in costumes, delivered mishloah manot and took them to hear Megillat Esther.  Each year I would make hamantaschen and place them in a tin to have with coffee.  They may not be exactly the same as my mother-in-law’s ( I don’t think she actually used a recipe) but they are close.  Thank you Lil!

P.S. Keep them in a tin.

Lil’s Hamantaschen
2 eggs
3/4 cup sugar
1/2 cup canola oil
2 Tsp. baking powder
2 3/4 cups flour
1/4 cup orange juice

Mix dry ingredients in bowl.  Combine eggs and oil and mix well.  Slowly add orange juice and then mix into dry ingredients.  Put mixture onto floured board and handle until soft and pliable.

Filling
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. dried pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
3-4 Tbs sugar
1/2 Tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup water or orange juice

In a small heavy bottomed pot combine all ingredients over low heat and cook until fruit is soft, about 20 minutes.  Add water if needed.  Process mixture in Cuisinart for about 30 seconds until mixture looks like a dark jam. Roll dough out on floured board till about 1/4 inch thick.  Cut out small circles and place a teaspoon of filling in the center.  Pinch sides together to form a triangle.  Brush with beaten egg and bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes or until brown.

Enjoy,
Irene

Olive Oil Cake

Having recently read The Girls From Ames, I have been thinking about women and their friendships, and how important those relationships are.  My mother had a habit of sitting at the windowsill looking down over the Concourse, where there were always women strolling arm in arm.  Sitting with her, I would imagine myself as an adult, walking with a friend, our arms intertwined. Unfortunately it is no longer in fashion for women to lock arms as they stroll, and the art of strolling has all but disappeared. What has not changed is the importance of female companionship.

This weekend my daughter came to visit us from NYC.  It just so happened that several of her oldest friends were also in town and were able to join us for various meals.  In different configurations, they came for dinner, lunch, and afternoon tea.  They laughed, talked, rolled their eyes (mostly at their mothers), shared confidences, and exchanged glances that clearly only they understood.  All very accomplished young women, each one passionate and full of life, I loved sitting back and watching them.  We have known two of the girls since birth and one since she was six.  Three now live in NYC and one in Los Angeles but the distances don’t seem to matter, or the time apart.  Having my daughter come home is always special, but knowing that this particular group of friends would be in Los Angeles at the same time, and that we would get to see them, turned the weekend into a celebration.  So, I baked the girls a cake, in the shape of a rose.

I found this recipe on one of my favorite food blogs, The Kosher Scene.   Norm said it tasted like a glazed buttermilk doughnut. Moist and delicious.

Olive Oil Cake

1 1/2 cups extra virgin olive oil

1 1/2 cups orange juice

5  eggs

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 1/2 tsp baking powder

1  1/2 tsp kosher salt

3 c. granulated sugar

zest of  3 oranges

Glaze

1 cup confectioners sugar

Approximately 4 tsp of orange juice  (Mix juice with sugar until you have the consistency of a loose glaze, slowly, add more juice if needed)

Mix eggs in a large bowl.  Slowly add sugar, beating till egg mixture is light in color.  Add orange juice and stir till fluffy.  In a separate bowl, sift flour, baking powder and salt.  Alternating, slowly add olive oil, and then flour,  to egg mixture, and beat until batter is smooth.  Mix in orange zest.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease and flour a Bundt pan. Add batter and bake for about 1 hour or until an inserted toothpick comes out clean.  Cool on rack for about 20 minutes and remove cake from pan.  Combine ingredients for glaze and drizzle over cake.

Enjoy,

Irene

Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot and Almond Biscotti

Soft, chewy cookies or hard, crisp ones?  As with many foods, over time people develop preferences. I am a firmly entrenched fan of the hard, dry, crisp variety of cookies.  I like them to have enough substance to withstand being dunked in my coffee without melting or disintegrating. In addition to density, I like texture, so I prefer that the cookie includes nuts, chocolate chips, or both. Over the years I have tried various Mandelbrot and biscotti recipes and have found that these two recipes are among my favorites. The Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot recipe is actually a Passover recipe that was given to me by a friend of a friend.  We like it so much that I now bake it all year round. The Almond Biscotti recipe was adapted from one of Judy Zeidler’s cookbooks.  It has a more traditional flavor and is reminiscent of the Mandelbrot that I grew up with.

My mother would often visit family members and end up in their kitchen cooking.  I remember her making schav borscht in Micheline’s kitchen and chopped liver in Tante Marisha’s kitchen.  She enjoyed pitching in and being helpful, and it created a feeling of togetherness.  Although I have cooked in my daughter Shira’s and my cousin Micheline’s kitchens, I sometimes end up transporting challot or cookies from my kitchen in Los Angeles.  It is an expression of my affection, a way to let someone know that I was thinking of them even before I arrived at my destination. This morning I baked both Almond Biscotti and Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot (with Norm’s help) to take to Houston, Texas, where I will be attending my future daughter-in-law’s bridal shower.  As Marcella Hazan the famous cookbook author once said, “After all, what experience of food can compare with eating something good made by someone you can hug?”  Cookies and hugs, perfect.

Almond Biscotti

2 cups flour

1/2 tsp each of baking powder and baking soda

1/4 tsp kosher salt

3/4 ground almonds

1/2 toasted silvered almonds

2 eggs

1/2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup sugar

1 egg white

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Place dry ingredients in a shallow bowl and mix. Create a well in the center and add eggs, vanilla and sugar and quickly incorporate flour.  Divide dough into two equal portions. Cover a cookie sheet with parchment paper and, using oiled hands, form dough into two logs.  Brush with beaten egg white. Bake for about 20 minutes or until golden. Move logs to a board and carefully slice on a diagonal. Return to cookie sheet, cut side up, and bake for an additional 10 minutes on each side.

 

Loretta’s Chocolate Chip Mandelbrot

3 sticks margarine

2 cups sugar plus an extra 4 Tbs for sprinkling

6 eggs

2 3/4 cups cake meal

3/4 potato starch

1/2 tsp kosher salt

2 tsp cinnamon

2 – 12 oz. bags of chocolate chips

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Reserve 4 Tbs sugar and mix with 2 Tsp cinnamon and set aside. Cream sugar and margarine. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each egg.  Add dry ingredients.  Divide dough into 4 equal portions and with oiled hands, form 4 loaves, divided between 2 greased cookie sheets.  Sprinkle each loaf with an equal amount of the cinnamon sugar mixture.  Bake for about 45 minutes. Slice loaves and place Mandelbrot cut side up, sprinkling with more cinnamon sugar.  Return to oven and bake another 10-15 minutes per side or till crispy.

 


Enjoy,

Irene

 


White Strudel

I attended P.S.115, also called E.B.B., Elizabeth Barrett Browning, from K-8.  It was a co-ed elementary school but once we hit middle school the boys were transferred out, and E.B.B was dubbed “everything but boys.”  The school was walking distance from where we lived but there was a crossing guard, a flaming red-head named Irene, to escort the children across the Grand Concourse.  Every morning at 10:00 a.m. classes came to a halt and snack was served.  The teacher, along with a class monitor, would go to the office and bring back a flat of small milk containers and either a box of cookies or a container of pretzel rods.  As much as I liked the pretzel rods, I preferred the cookies.  I can only remember one type of cookie being served, a sandwich cookie with a cream filled center, the top half chocolate and the bottom vanilla.

School was over at 3:00 p.m. and when I arrived home I was served milk and cookies as my afternoon snack. (remember in the 1950s milk was thought to be a miracle food)  The little white bakery bag on the kitchen table held either a Black and White cookie, a brownie with walnuts and chocolate frosting, or a Chinese cookie which was a marbled coffee-colored cookie with a crinkle top and a glob of hard chocolate in the center.  Having milk and cookies at home was always better than at school, the milk was served in a tall glass, straight from the fridge and ice-cold, the way I prefer it.  The cookies were bought fresh every morning in the bakery my mother frequented on Burnside Avenue.  It didn’t seem to matter what season it was, or how low the temperature fell outside, both in school and at home the snack was always the same, and after all what could be better than milk and cookies?

This recipe came from Norm’s grandmother Shaindle Rose, who my daughter Shira is named after.  It is a very 1950s kind of recipe which includes bits of the confection Turkish Delight.  My mother-in-law Lil made it the last time we were in Toronto and told me that Bubbie Shaindle called it White Strudel.
Bubbie Shaindle’s White Strudel

4 cups flour

3 tsp baking powder

1/2 tsp salt

1 cup sugar

3 eggs

1/2 cup orange juice

1/2 cup Crisco

1/2 cup oil

rind of a lemon

 

Filling

Strawberry jam

7 or 8 thin slices of  Turkish Delight, cut into bits

Flaked coconut

Maraschino cherries, cut in half

Golden raisins

Mix together flour, baking powder, salt and sugar.  Using a pastry blender or the tips of your fingers, add the Crisco until the mixture resembles small lumps.  Make a well in the center of the mixture and add the wet ingredients.  Mix gently and add flour if needed. Dough will be very sticky.  Refrigerate dough for one hour which will make it easier to handle but feel free to add extra flour as needed.  Divide the dough into four equal portions.  Roll out one portion at a time on a well floured board into a 9 x 12 rectangle.

Spread a thin layer of strawberry jam over the dough. Then sprinkle Turkish delight, coconut, golden raisins and sliced maraschino cherries over the top.  Using a knife for easier handling, and add more flour as needed, gently roll up dough into a log and place on baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Repeat with remaining dough.

Bake at 350 degrees for 30-40 minutes or until golden. Cool and slice with a serrated knife.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Mollie’s Mississippi Mud Cake

My friend Lori wanted to share this story and recipe about her mom, Mollie.  I was touched by the request and thrilled that she wanted to honor her Mom!  Last week I spent an afternoon with Lori watching her prepare this family recipe and when the cake was done, we shared a slice.  

My mother Mollie is an amazing cook and baker, but I think she is most renowned
for this simple, easy, delicious, and moist chocolate cake called “Mississippi
Mud”.

This cake has been in my life since I can remember, certainly since I was a
little kid in Norwalk, Connecticut, but it may have entered my life even
earlier, when I was a baby in Stamford, Connecticut.  Frankly I really don’t
remember where the recipe originated or how it came to be my mom’s signature
cake.

What I do know is that Mississippi Mud has graced all my family’s functions for
decades, particularly the birthday parties and Chanukah parties.  And now that
my sister and I have families of our own, Mississippi Mud has also become a
regular dessert at our kids’ parties and other celebratory occasions.  It shows
up in tube pan shape, as cupcakes and mini-cupcakes, and as loaves and mini
loaves.  It freezes well.  For those of us who keep kosher, it’s prepared pareve
for Friday nights, and it rarely lasts through the weekend.  Mississippi Mud
even showed up at all of my mom’s grandkids’ bar and bat mitzvah celebrations.

The Mud has become sort of famous, I think, because since the 1960’s, that cake
has not only become a generational favorite in my family, but the recipe has
been shared coast to coast and throughout North America.

My mom is the connector in our family, the one who stays in touch through telephone
and by mail, and in these high tech times, through email and Skype.  After her
years of hosting and the frequency with which she serves Mississippi Mud for
desert, she’s given the recipe away to countless friends, cousins, siblings,
in-laws and children, who continue the tradition of serving this cake and then
sharing the recipe.  And since her daughters also make Mississippi Mud, we’ve
also become disseminators of this lovely little recipe.

Mississippi Mud is a delicate, dark chocolate, simple cake served plain or with
a light dusting of powdered sugar.  No frosting, no chocolate chips, no layers
are needed to enhance or distract from the pure chocolate silkiness of each
bite.  There was a time when my parents briefly resided in Virginia, and when my
mom showed up with the Mud in hand and no frosting in sight, the sugar-toothed
Southerners scrambled to find some whip cream with which to adorn it.  But
really, no such enhancement is needed for this cake.

Mississippi Mud is part of my family’s history, and now I’m sharing it with you.

Lori Harrison Port

Mollie’s Mississippi Mud Chocolate Cake

Melt together in a sauce pan or microwave:

1 stick of butter (or margarine if making a non-dairy version)
3 squares of unsweetened baker’s chocolate (can use cocoa using the conversion
recipe)
1 ½ cups of very hot water

Pour over:

2 cups sugar

1 tsp vanilla

2 eggs
Whisk to blend and cool slightly.   Stir in vanilla and eggs

In a separate small bowl blend

2 cups flour
1 tsp. baking powder
1 tsp. baking soda

Add the flour mixture to the chocolate in thirds
Batter will be very thin and there might be some lumps left – that’s okay if they are
small.
Pour into a tube pan (NOT greased or floured)
Bake at 275 for about an hour or until tester comes out clean

Cool on a rack for 10 minutes, running a knife around sides. Remove cake pan
sides.  When cool, run knife around bottom of tube pan and invert on to a
plate.

When cooled, dust with powdered sugar if desired.

Enjoy,

Irene

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

My sister recalls that I came home from Kindergarten and told my mother that I wanted to celebrate Thanksgiving.  At that point my parents and sister would have been living in the United States for about seven years,  and were open to the idea of celebrating this “American” holiday.  That was the beginning of a new tradition for our family, Thanksgiving dinner.

I remember my mother roasting a turkey, prepared the same way she prepared roast chicken for Shabbat, with lots of garlic, salt and pepper.  She made candied sweet potatoes, a dish she learned from my cousin’s housekeeper Edith, and a delicious stuffing made with challah, mushrooms, celery, carrots and caramelized onions.  It was sort of an Eastern European Thanksgiving dinner.  No guests, no fanfare, no cornucopia, but I always found it special and meaningful.

As a child of immigrants, the Thanksgiving narrative of people who came to America searching for religious freedom always resonated with me.  As a child of survivors, I understood that my family had much to be thankful for.  It was not a story from a textbook, it was the story of my family.  America welcomed them and gave them a fresh start, shelter, the ability to live openly and proudly as Jews, and a place to put down roots and watch their families grow and flourish.  For each of those reasons, and more, I will always be thankful.

Our Thanksgiving dinner is very traditional, given some dietary restrictions.  We have mulled cider, Turkey, stuffing, corn bread, sweet potatoes, pumpkin pie and our favorite Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread.

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Bread

3 1/2 cups flour

3 cups sugar

2 tsp baking soda

1 tsp cinnamon

1 tsp allspice

1 1/2 tsp salt

4 eggs, beaten

1 cup oil

2/3 cup water

2 cups canned pumpkin

1 12 oz. pkg semi-sweet chocolate chips, tossed with 1 tbsp flour

Sift together flour, sugar, baking soda, cinnamon, allspice, and salt. Combine eggs with oil, water and pumpkin and mix well. Stir into dry ingredients.  Fold chocolate chips in to batter.  Divide mixture among three greased loaf pans.  Bake at 350 for one hour or until toothpick inserted into loaf comes out dry.

Happy Thanksgiving to all.

Enjoy,

Irene

Kahk

It’s the Sunday morning before Rosh Hashana and Norm and I have been busy in the kitchen all morning.  Norm is baking bagels and baguettes, experimenting with new recipes.  Schav borscht is cooking on the stove, just because there is still so much sorrel in the garden.  I have dough rising for challot, and I just made a batch of Kahk.  Yesterday I spent the morning looking through three of my favorite Jewish cookbooks.  I loved reading about the Sephardic traditions for incorporating specific foods into the Rosh Hashana meal, mainly fruits and vegetables filled with seeds, a symbol of fertility and abundance.  Inspired, I decided to make Kahk, a dry, savory, biscuit topped with sesame seeds.  Here is to a bountiful New Year!

This recipe is adapted from Claudia Roden’s The Book of Jewish Food.

1 Tbs instant yeast

1 cup warm water

pinch of sugar

3 1/2 cups all-purpose flour

1 tsp salt

1 1/2 tsp ground cumin

1 Tbs anise seed

1/2 cup plus 1 Tbs vegetable oil

1 egg, lightly beaten

sesame seeds

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Place parchment paper on two cookie sheets.

Proof yeast in about 1/3 of cup of warm water with the pinch of sugar.  In a large bowl, combine flour with salt, cumin, and anise seed.  Add the oil and blend into flour.  Add yeast mixture and remaining water to flour and knead till you are able to form a ball. Add additional water a little at a time, as needed.  Knead for several minutes and then place in oiled bowl, cover and allow to rise for about one hour.  Punch down dough. Take a walnut size piece of dough and roll between the palm of your hands till you have a 4″ strand.  Form a circle and pinch ends together. Repeat till you use all the dough.  Brush kahk with a beaten egg and dip into a bowl of sesame seeds.  Bake at 375 for about 30 minutes or till golden.

Yield 30 Kahk

Enjoy,

Irene