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Hamentaschen

8 Mar

HamentaschenI just bought a can of Solo pie filling for my annual hamentasch bake. With Purim coming up in just a few weeks, I thought I’d rerun my recipe for hamentaschen, which I offered you three years ago. It’s a winner! The dough is sweet but not too sweet, and you can roll it out thin.

The Jewish festival of Purim commemorates the events told in the Book of Esther. The three-cornered shape is supposed to represent Haman’s hat, though the word means “Haman’s pockets” in Yiddish.

My mother wasn’t much of a cook, but she baked these hamentaschen every year. She got the recipe from our neighbor in Northeast Philadelphia, Ida Silver. In 2007, I read a Hadassah magazine article by Judy Davis, Ida’s oldest child, called “My Mother’s Hamentaschen.” But the recipe in the magazine was not my mother’s recipe!

I hadn’t seen Judy in at least 40 years but I tracked her down and emailed her. In her response she admitted it the recipe not her mother’s, which she either never had or lost. “But I would love to see my mother’s recipe if you would be willing to email it to me,” she wrote. “I must have had a copy at some time, though I have no memory of it….I love the idea of your mother having used her recipe (it means my mother must have shared some of them with her), and I love that it is being handed down to the next generation.”

I think my daughter has begun making these as well, with help from her daughter, continuing the tradition.

Pinching hamentaschen into a three-cornered shape

Pinch the hamentaschen into a three-cornered shape

Like my mother, I don’t use a board to roll out the dough. I cover the kitchen table with an old sheet and work some flour into it and use that as my workspace.

The recipe can easily be doubled.

Ingredients:

2½ cups flour
2½ tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
⅓ cup vegetable shortening
1/2 cup sugar
¼ cup honey
1 Tbs. lemon juice
2 eggs
1 can Solo fruit or poppy pastry filling

Directions:

Sift dry ingredients together. Cream shortening and sugar. Add honey and lemon juice and mix well. Add part of flour, then eggs, then rest of flour. Dough should be soft enough to form a ball but not stickyDirections:

Preheeat oven to 350 degrees.

Roll out on a floured board, cut out rounds using a cookie cutter or glass (dip edge into flour). Place a half-teaspoon of filling in the center of each piece, then pinch into a three-cornered shape. Bake on ungreased cookie sheet for about 15 minutes, until lightly browned. Cool on wire rack.

Makes 2-3 dozen cookies

 

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Brownies from scratch

3 Feb

BrowniesI’m about to make dozens of brownies for my Hadassah group’s dinner dance fundraiser. Mea culpa, I’m using the Ghirardelli mix from Costco — because I have two pouches in my cupboard and another pan of brownies frozen in my freezer.

But when I don’t have a mix, or when I want to make non-dairy brownies, either for a meat meal or to serve to someone who doesn’t eat dairy, I use this terrific recipe which I got more than 40 years ago from Joan Piorkowski, a fellow graduate student at Temple University and a neighbor in the graduate student apartment building where we lived. It’s almost as easy as making brownies from a mix; the only additional step you need to take is measuring the ingredients instead of dumping a pouch into a bowl.

Ingredients:

2 eggs, beaten
1 cup sugar
½ cup flour
1 tsp. baking powder
½ tsp. salt
6 Tbs. cocoa
½ cup (1 stick) melted butter or margarine
1 tsp. vanilla
1 cup chopped nuts (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Mix all the ingredients in a medium-sized bowl in the order listed.

Pour into a greased 8- or 9-inch square pan (melting the butter or margarine in the baking pan before adding it to the bowl is the best way to grease it).

Bake 30 to 40 minutes until the brownies are cracked on top and a toothpick inserted in the center comes out clean. Cool completely before cutting.

Makes 9 to 16 brownies

Miracle Bars: easiest cookies ever

21 Apr

passover miracle barsWhen we make sweets for Passover, the ultimate accolade is, “This is good enough for regular!”

Well, these easy-t0-make bars really are, probably because they contain no matzoh meal or matzoh flour — not even potato starch!

I got the recipe from a collection of Passover recipes that came into my email in-box; I apologize that I can’t credit the source.

It’s one of the easiest recipes I’ve ever made, and it would be a great one to make with young children, who can dump the ingredients into a bowl and stir. And they’re gluten-free!

The recipe says you can shape them into cookies instead of bars; I haven’t tried this. My own suggestion is to consider replacing the chocolate chips with Craisins or dried cherries — or add those in addition to the chocolate chips.

The original recipe also called for a 9 x 13-inch pan. I used an 8-inch-square pan and it worked well; I think in a 9 x 13 pan the squares would be too short. I also changed the baking time and temperature slightly.

Another bit of advice: the first few bars tended to stick to the pan, even when I greased it well — after the first few came out crumbled I was able to pry out the others intact. The second time I made this recipe I put a piece of parchment paper in the pan before adding the batter — and had no broken bars!

Ingredients:

1 cups ground almonds
1 cup brown sugar
2 eggs (extra-large work best)
1 cup chocolate chips
Optional: 1 cup Craisins or dried cherries in place of or in addition to chocolate chips

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees.

Mix all ingredients together in a large bowl. The batter will be thick; do not add water or other liquid.

Grease an 8 x 8-inch square baking pan and put parchment paper on the bottom. Or lightly grease a cookie sheet if you plan to make cookies. Spread the batter evenly in the pan or shape into cookies and place on the greased cookie sheet.

Bake square pan for 30 minutes (cookies will take less time) until the top is nicely browned and the center of the pan looks dry; do not undercook.

Cool completely in the pan, then turn out and cut into 16 squares. (If making cookies, cool for 5 minutes on the cookie sheet, then remove to a wire rack to cool completely.)

Brown Sugar, Pecan and Kahlua Biscotti

23 Dec

BiscottiThis is another great recipe I clipped from some newspaper long ago. We make it fairly often because it’s not difficult, there’s no fat, it’s very tasty, and the biscotti remain good to eat even when you keep them for a long time.  They’re great dunked into a cup of coffee.

My Jewish friends often mistakenly call these tidbits mandelbrot, which are similar but I think, on the whole, softer.

The key to making good biscotti is to bake them twice so they’re nice and hard. You’ll want to chop the nuts fairly fine so that you can cut clean slices after the first baking.

If you don’t use liqueur, you can substitute strong coffee or orange juice, and you can easily substitute walnuts for the pecans.

Ingredients:

2 cups flour
1 cup brown sugar
1 tsp. baking powder
¼ tsp. salt
3 eggs
3 Tbs. Kahlua or another liqueur  (Grand Marnier and Sabra are also good)
1½ cups chopped pecans
¼ cup white sugar

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper or spray lightly with cooking spray. Combine dry ingredients in a bowl and set aside.

Combine eggs and liqueur in a large bowl and mix well with an electric mixer. Mix in the flour mixture until just combined. Stir in the pecans until just incorporated.

Use a large spatula to remove half the dough to the prepared baking sheet and shape into a large, flattened log. Do the same with the other half. You may have to wet your hands to do this easily. Leave at least 3 inches of space between the logs.

Bake for about 45 minutes, until the tops of the loaves are firm to the touch and they begin to crack slightly. Be careful not to over-bake.

Allow the loaves to cool for about 30 minutes, then cut them with a sharp, serrated knife into slices about ½-inch wide. Lay the slices flat on the baking sheet and sprinkle lightly with white sugar. Bake for about 8 minutes, then turn the slices over and sprinkle the other side with sugar. Bake another 8 minutes. They should be lightly browned; keep an eye on them so they don’t over-brown.

Cool completely on wire racks before storing in an airtight container.

Makes 2 to 3 dozen biscotti

Trailside Oatmeal Cookies

17 Apr

Trailside Oatmeal CookiesI can’t remember where I got this recipe, but I’ve been making it since I lived in Philadelphia eons ago. You can fool yourself that you’re eating something healthy — after all, they’re full of oats, nuts, raisins and peanut butter. And they taste great too! I like to use crunchy peanut butter to give them an extra crunch. You can substitute dried cherries or cranberries for the raisins, if you like.

Ingredients:

½ cup butter or margarine
½ cup peanut butter (creamy or crunchy)
1 cup granulated sugar
1 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
¼ cup orange juice or milk
1 tsp. vanilla
2 cups all-purpose flour
1 tsp. baking soda
½ tsp. salt
2½ cups uncooked rolled oats
½ cup semi-sweet chocolate chips
½ cup raisins

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Beat butter or margarine and sugars together until creamy. Blend in eggs, orange juice or milk and vanilla. Sift together the flour, soda and salt. Add to the butter mixture and mix well. Stir in the oats, chocolate chips and raisins. Drop by tablespoonfuls onto ungreased cookie sheets. Bake for about 15 minutes until lightly browned. Cool on wire racks.

Makes about 4 dozen cookies

Almond Cookies (OK for Passover!)

18 Mar

Almond CookiesHooray, I made a recipe last week that can be used on Passover! But you don’t have to be kosher-for-Passover or even Jewish to enjoy these delicious almond cookies.

We had a friend coming for lunch who is gluten intolerant, which limited our options for dessert. I decided to make this very easy recipe for Passover almond cookies, even though it wasn’t Passover yet, because they really are good enough to eat all year round. They contain no matzo flour, so they don’t “taste like Passover.”

This was the first time I made them with cardamom, because I don’t have kosher-for-Passover cardamom. It gave the cookies a very pleasant, distinctive flavor. I also make them without the almond flavoring for the same reason. I planned to add it this time, since it wasn’t Passover yet and I have lots of almond extract in my pantry — but I forgot! During Passover, I often add a bit of cinnamon to the mix.

If you use a food processor to grind the almonds yourself, pulse it in short bursts. You want the almonds to be very finely ground, but you don’t want them to turn into a paste! I usually splurge and buy packages of ground almonds, even though that’s a lot more expensive.

This is adapted from a recipe in The Jewish Holiday Cookbbook by Gloria Kaufer Greene.

Ingredients:

2 large egg whites
⅔ cup sugar
½ tsp. almond flavoring (optional – may be hard to find for Passover)
2 cups very finely ground almonds
1 Tbs. potato starch
¼ to ½ tsp. ground cardamom or cinnamon (optional)

Directions:

Preheat oven to 325 degrees.

Whip the egg whites until they turn white and start to increase in volume, but not until stiff. Stir in the sugar and mix well, then mix in the remaining ingredients. The “dough” will be a very thick paste. With moistened hands, form small balls and place them on ungreased baking sheets about 2 inches apart. (You might want to put parchment paper on the baking sheets to make it easier to remove the cookies.) Flatten the cookies slightly with moistened fingers.

Bake for 15 to 20 minutes, until the cookies are firm and very lightly browned. Use a metal spatula to remove the cookies from the baking sheets (I’ve found turning the spatula upside down is helpful here) and cool on wire racks.

Makes about 24 cookies.