Almond Crisps

IMG_1008Our Mishloah Manot arrived on the East Coast today, and though it may be too late to share this recipe in time for  your mishloah manot, I promise that these cookies are worth making any time, even after Purim!

Preparations began last Sunday morning with a trip to Trader Joe’s to stock up on baking supplies, and as you might have seen on Facebook, some packages of quick cooking grains.  By 10:00 a.m. I was home, in the kitchen, and had my radio turned on to my favorite station (the one that plays lots of Pink and Adele).  I rolled up my sleeves, divided my counter space into three stations, and after several hours, had three varieties of cookies ready to freeze (so they would stay fresh before shipping), and one batch of spiced nuts cooling on the stove.

In the afternoon I went to Sawtelle Ave. with a friend, a street filled with Japanese markets and shops.  I love going there, the prepared foods smell great, the produce is beautiful, and even though it’s just a few miles from my house, it’s a whole different world.  We did some shopping for the Purim baskets, ate some sushi, and headed home.  On Thursday, the gift baskets were assembled, packed and shipped.
 
Now what? I sit back and wait for the reviews and the comments.  They will come, and I am ready for them, feeling a little bit nervous, and of course, curious as well.  In the meantime, I am enjoying a delicious glass of wine with an almond crisp.  Hope they’ll enjoy them too.  Chag Purim Sameach.
 
Almond Crisps   adapted from a recipe by David Lebovitz

8 tablespoons butter, unsalted, cubed

1 1/3 cups Turbinado raw cane sugar

1/2 tsp cinnamon

1/3 cup  water

2 1/3 cups  flour

1/4 teaspoon baking soda

1 cup sliced almonds

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.  Melt the butter in a medium-sized saucepan over low heat with the sugar, cinnamon, and water.  Stir until the butter melts but don’t allow to boil.  Don’t allow the sugar to completely dissolve.  Remove from heat and stir in the flour, baking soda, and almonds until well mixed.  Line a 9-inch loaf pan with plastic wrap and press the dough into the pan so the top is smooth.  Chill in the fridge until firm.        IMG_1004

IMG_1007

Remove dough from loaf pan and place on wooden board.  Using a very sharp knife, slice the dough as thin as possible, across the width.  Thin equals crisp!!   Place cookies on parchment paper covered baking sheets and bake for 10-15 minutes, or until the undersides are golden brown.  Flip the cookies over and bake an additional 10-15 minutes, until the cookies are crisp and deep golden-brown on top. The baking times depend on how thin you cut the cookies.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

Shortbread Triangles

IMG_2192Shhhh,  here is what I baked and sent in lieu of Hamantaschen this year, and here is what I received in return.  Chag Purim Sameach.

Shortbread Triangles (a Martha Stewart Recipe)

1 stick unsalted butter room temperature

1 cup all-purpose flour

1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar

Preheat oven to 300 degrees. In a mixing bowl, cream butter and sugar till light and fluffy.  Add flour and mix just enough to combine. (You can chill dough for 10 minutes if it is too soft) Pat dough into a greased 8-inch round cake pan.  Using a small knife and a small ruler, score cookies so that you end up with 8 triangles. Crimp edges with a fork. Bake about 30 to 35 minutes or till just lightly golden. Cool completely, and then turn out of pan on to hard surface and immediately slice cookies along scored edges with a serrated  knife.  Set on parchment paper and dip one edge of each cookie into chocolate.

Chocolate glaze

3 oz. semi-sweet chocolate

1 tsp canola oil

Coarsely chop chocolate and melt in a double boiler, stirring with a wooden spoon.  Add safflower oil and stir.  Remove from heat, and let cool for just a few minutes.  Dip one edge of each cookie into chocolate glaze, and transfer to rack to cool.  Refrigerate for about 15 minutes. Cookies can the be stored, or shipped!

Friday, February 22, 2013

By Rav David

Our Temple Sholom Purim festivities kick off tomorrow night with our hamentaschen bake off and pizza party, followed by the Megillah reading. However, the beginning of Purim festivities technically begins two weeks in advance of the holiday, when the Hebrew month of Adar begins. For me, the spirit of Purim begins when I receive an email from my mother asking about particulars for this year’sMishloach Manot, special Purim care packages full of hamantaschen and other delicious (and not necessarily nutritious) foodstuffs.

This year’s email was particularly entertaining. I quote, in full: “Sinful goodies will soon be on their way but IF anybody doesn’t want a basket because of lifestyle “issues” then please tell me now, not after, and I can redistribute all the goodies. Love, me.” In my family, “lifestyle ‘issues'” are things like a carbohydrate- or sugar-free diet, a bout of veganism, or the like. We all write back saying that of course we’ll love whatever our beloved mother sends-which is true-and with the anticipation of homemadeMishloach Manot the spirit of Purim is upon me.

But Purim is about more than hamantaschen, carnivals, and costumes. It’s about defeating Haman through spreading joy and practicing compassion: “The Kobriner Rabbi (late 19th century) was accustomed to command his followers to give Purim gifts to each other, and to pay for the messengers by a special donation to the poor of the Land of Israel. ‘This is the best way to strike at Haman,’ said the Rabbi.” Indeed! Mordecai himself instituted the ritual of spreading the joy and compassion on Purim, in Esther 9:22: “[The] days on which the Jews enjoyed relief from their foes…had been transformed for them from one of grief and mourning to one of festive joy. They were to observe them as days of feasting and merrymaking, and as an occasion for sending gifts to one another and presents to the poor.” In the Jewish tradition, there is no more powerful way to strike at Haman, to defeat enemies, than to celebrate life, to feast, to spread joy and compassion in the world.

Leo Tolstoy said of Jews: “The Jew – is the symbol of eternity. … He is the one who for so long had guarded the prophetic message and transmitted it to all mankind. A people such as this can never disappear. The Jew is eternal. He is the embodiment of eternity.” The Jew is not eternal because Haman and his predecessors and followers all failed to destroy the Jewish people. The Jew is eternal because with the failure of each and every anti-Jewish ruler, the Jews gather together, celebrate, and defeat hatred with love. We are a people that have suffered, yes; but we have nevertheless, paradoxically, affirmed a basic optimistic outlook and joyful approach to life. Purim is the holiday that best captures that joy, and the special foods, theMishloach Manot, are an embodiment of the indefatigable Jewish spirit.

Every holiday that celebrates triumph over enemies–Purim, Chanukah, Passover, etc–gives us two options. We can either complain about the evil that caused so much suffering for our people, or we can increase the joy, increase the compassion, and increase the justice in the world. Purim is the opportunity to increase that joy.

One of my favorite teachings on this topic comes from Rabbi Abraham Isaac Kook, the Chief Rabbi of British Mandatory Palestine. A European Jew born in the mid-19th century, Rav Kook lived in Europe during World War I, and saw any number of latter day “Hamans”. Nevertheless, he challenges us to increase the good in the world rather than complaining about the evil: “…the pure righteous do not complain of the dark, but increase the light; they do not complain of evil, but increase justice; they do not complain of heresy, but increase faith; they do not complain of ignorance, but increase wisdom.”

Chag Purim Sameach – Happy Purim!

Chocolate Babka

IMG_2178I wish I knew something about the Purim celebrations that my parents experienced during their childhood.  They were both from observant families so it is hard to imagine that the holiday was not marked in some way.  On top of which my mother’s aunt owned the bakery in Mogielnica.  Did she prepare Hamantaschen or some other local pastry for the holiday?  What was the filling?  Poppy I assume,  but I will never know.  What I do know is that with only one week to go, I am without a plan as I have decided not to make Hamantaschen this year.

Last week I found myself in a situation where I had to come up with a dessert at the last minute.  Without having planned it in advance, I took part of my challah dough and made a chocolate Babka.  It turned out great and since it was my first attempt, I was pleasantly surprised.  One can only hope that inspiration will come to the rescue, but in the meantime chocolate Babka anyone?  Chag Sameach.

 

IMG_2173

 

IMG_2176

 

IMG_2177

 

Chocolate Babka

Your favorite challah recipe or mine.   I used half the dough to prepare two Challot and half to prepare two Babkas.

Filling for one Babka
1 stick sweet butter or pareve margarine, at room temperature
1/2 cup sugar
1 pound semi-sweet chocolate
Pinch of salt
1 Tb cinnamon

Egg wash (optional)
1 egg
2 teaspoons milk, water or soy milk
1 Tb sugar mixed with 1 tsp cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.  Coarsely chop bar of chocolate, then finish chopping in food processor till fine.  Add salt, sugar and cinnamon and mix for a few seconds.  Add butter or margarine and mix in by pulsing.

Grease a round pan well.  After dough doubled in size, punch down and roll into a large rectangle.  This takes some time and patience.  Make sure your surface is well floured so dough doesn’t stick.  Make it as thin and long as you can.

Sprinkle the filling evenly over the dough.  Starting from the long side, roll dough as tightly as possible.   Place in pan and let rise for about 30 minutes.   Mix egg with milk or water and brush on top.  Sprinkle with a Tablespoon of sugar mixed with a Tsp of cinnamon.  Bake for about 30 minutes and cool on rack.

Enjoy,

Irene

 

 

 

Poppy Seed Crisps

When this Judy Zeidler recipe appeared in this week’s Jewish Journal, the photo of one of the cookies featured reminded me of something my mother used to make.  Pletzlach were large, flat, sugar-topped crackers that we ate right out of the oven, when she let me. These turned out to be more of the traditional poppy-seed cookie, thin, light and not too sweet, really good, they just are not my mother’s pletzlach.

Earlier this week Norm sent me an article about forgotten foods, and the very next day my sister called and, out of the blue, suggested that I make Helzel, a chicken neck stuffed with flour, fat and spices, (similar to kishke) that my mother often made. I still remember my mother sitting at the kitchen table and patiently sewing up the neck with a needle and thread.

Now there are two recipes of my mother’s that are missing, but not forgotten. Just like my mother.

Judy Zeidler’s Poppy Seed Crisps

1 cup oil
2 cups sugar
2 eggs
6 cups flour
3 teaspoons baking powder
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 1/2 cups milk
2 ounces poppy seeds
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Preheat oven to 350 F.

Add oil and 1 1/2 cups sugar to the bowl of an electric mixer and blend together until fluffy. Beat in the eggs until smooth. Sift together the flour, baking powder and salt. Gradually add the milk alternately with the sifted dry ingredients to the oil mixture, beating after each addition. Blend in the poppy seeds. (The dough can be refrigerated for up to 4 days and stored in the freezer for 3 weeks.)

Remove the dough a heaping teaspoon at a time on to a generously floured board or a sheet of wax paper. Roll out the dough into a thin rectangle, about 8 by 11 inches. With a sharp knife, cut the dough into diamond shapes and place them on a greased baking sheet or silicone baking mat. Mix together the remaining 1/2 cup sugar and cinnamon and sprinkle over the cookies.

Bake for 8 to 10 minutes or until golden brown. Transfer the cookies to racks to cool.

Enjoy,

Irene

Lil’s Hamantaschen

One of my favorite memories of growing up in The Bronx is of the leisurely strolls down the Grand Concourse which often included a stop at Krum’s, a large soda parlor at 187th Street.  At the front of the store there was a counter behind which were bins filled with assorted, and what I thought were exotic, nuts.  Among others, there were Brazil nuts, Cashews (my personal favorite), white Pistachios, and red Pistachios which were what we always bought.  The red dye would rub off on your fingers and that was part of the fun, plus we were innocent of the danger of red dye.  In the center of the store there was a large display table that changed every season.  Cellophane gift baskets that contained combinations of dried fruits, nuts and crackers towered over the smaller items.  I always liked the Spring display the best, when chocolate Easter Bunnies dominated the table and all the confections were some shade of pastel and filled with marshmallows or soft creams.  At the back of the shop was the Soda Fountain where you could have any kind of drink, ice cream or Sundae, to which my father would treat me on occasion, always on a Sunday.

Purim is just around the corner and though this holiday doesn’t resonate with me I can’t break with certain traditions.  I try to hear the Megillah reading in the morning, at work, recited with decorum and not much fanfare.  What else?  I send my children gift baskets, Mishloach Manot.  In spite of the fact that they are not all fans of Hamantashen, I always include them along with whatever other treats I either bake or buy.  Hopefully these ” baskets” (that arrive in FedEx boxes instead of cellophane and ribbons) will create happy memories for them, like the ones that I carry,  and who knows, some day they may even develop a taste for Hamantaschen.  Chag Purim Sameach.

Here is one more tradition that I can’t change, it is my mother-in-law’s recipe for Hamantaschen and I use it every year.  Some people find the dough too soft to work with, but I think it’s perfect just the way it is.

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 to eggs and then mix liquid into dry ingredients.  Mix together till dough is soft and pliable.  If dough is too soft, refrigerate for about 30 minutes.

Filling
6 oz. dried apricots
6 oz. dried pitted prunes
1 1/2 cups raisins
3-4 Tb 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 a food processor for about one minute until it looks like 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 golden.

Enjoy,
Irene

 

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

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  I hope that we all continue to bake, and to give…. www.redcross.org

Wishing you a Chag Sameach.

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