Showing posts with label Jewish food. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Jewish food. Show all posts

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Another Delicious Hamentaschen Recipe PLUS Super-Scientific Hamentaschen Filling Research

Happy Purim! Chag Purim Sameach! To be completely honest, I wasn't sure I'd even get around to making homemade hamentaschen this year. But there's something about this annual tradition that if missed, would make the holiday feel a little empty for me.

So I did it. But I didn't go back to one of the fantastic recipes I'd made in the past (here, here, and here). I wanted to use this once-a-year opportunity to choose a recipe from a different cookbook. So I sifted through my Jewish dessert cookbooks and decided on Gil Marks ' The World of Jewish Desserts. His dough was fantastic. Easy to work with, beautifully flecked with orange zest, and held its shape when baked.

I chose to make three fillings: apricot, chocolate, and poppy seed. But I did an interesting thing before I ended up with those filling choices. I posted an unofficial poll to my Facebook page. Apparently my friends have very strong, passionate feelings toward their hamentaschen fillings! 37 comments later, I had a fair amount of data. A couple of peculiar votes like pegasus meat, children's tears, and smaller hamentaschen (that is pure genius) made their way onto the list, but mostly it was your usual chocolate, fruit, and poppy seed filling votes.

Here's my Facebook post:

And here are the results, graphed, coming to you thanks to the Happy Go Marni Research Department:

Despite a lot of anti-poppy seed sentiment in this Facebook poll, it still ended up being the most popular filling! Apricot was extremely popular too, and without any real negative comments. Chocolate seemed like a no-brainer, but I was surprised it had so many fewer votes than poppy seed and apricot. What's wrong with you people! Why isn't chocolate number one? Ok actually, I love all three of the top winners, and those are the three I made! I think I'll save pegasus meat for another year. ;)

What's your favorite hamentaschen filling?

Adapted from a recipe by Gil Marks in The World of Jewish Desserts
Makes sixty 3-inch cookies

4 cups all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 cup (2 sticks) unsalted butter or margarine, softened
1 cup sugar
3 large eggs
1/4 cup orange juice, milk, or water
2 teaspoons vanilla extract, 1 1/2 teaspoons lemon extract, or 1 teaspoon almond extract
2 teaspoons grated lemon or orange zest (optional)
About 2 cups hamentaschen filling (the sky's the limits, as you can see from the Happy Go Marni poll above)
Golden Egg Wash (recipe below)
Coarse sugar for decorating, optional

Sift the dry ingredients together: the flour, baking powder, and salt. In a stand mixer, beat the butter or margarine until smooth, about 1 minute. With the mixer on low speed, slowly add the sugar until the mixture is light and fluffy, about 4 minutes. Beat in the eggs, one at a time. Add the liquid (orange juice, milk, or water), extract, and optional zest. On low speed, add in the flour just until combined. The dough will be soft, not too dense. Wrap in plastic and chill in the fridge until firm, about 2 hours. You can leave it overnight, too. When you're ready to shape the dough, remove from the fridge and let sit out a few minutes to become malleable (won't take very long because it's a soft dough).

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Divide the dough into thirds. Return the other two chunks to the fridge so they don't get too soft. With the remaining third, roll it out with a rolling pin on a lightly floured dough board or waxed paper to about 1/8 inch thick. If you prefer thicker dough, roll to about 3/8 inch thick. Using a 2 1/2 or 3-inch round cookie cutter, cut circles out of the dough. Save the scraps to roll out again and make more cookies.

Place 1 teaspoon of filling in the center of each round. Bring three corners of each round up toward the top, pinching two points together to form one corner, then continuing until you have three corners. I like to leave some of the filling exposed, not only because it's pretty to see some color peeking out, but because then you'll know which filling it has if you are making more than one filling! If when you pinch the edges together they don't stick well, rub a little cold water on the dough to act as glue. Place 1 inch apart on parchment or silicone baking mat-lined baking sheets.

Prepare Golden Egg Wash (see recipe below). Brush egg wash on all sides of each unbaked cookie with a pastry brush. Sprinkle with coarse sugar if you'd like.

Bake until golden, 15-20 minutes depending on your oven. I prefer my cookies a little chewy, so I err on the side of less baking time. Transfer to a rack to cool. Store in an airtight container at room temperature. The cookies will keep for about one week, or you can freeze them as soon as they've cooled and they'll be good for several months.

Golden Egg Wash
Recipe from my March 2010 hamentaschen post (Marcy Goldman's incredible recipe!)

1 egg plus 1 egg yolk
1-2 tablespoons milk or water
Pinch of sugar

In a small bowl, whisk together all the ingredients. Use a pastry brush to glaze or brush on prepared, unbaked hamentaschen.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Beat butter or margarine until smooth...

Add sugar and beat until incorporated...

Add the eggs, one at a time...

Add the juice, vanilla, and zest...

Add the dry ingredients (which you had sifted together first)...

Beat just until incorporated...

Wrap the dough in plastic and chill in fridge...

Roll out the dough, a third at a time...

Cut 2 1/2 or 3-inch rounds in the dough...

Add a teaspoon of filling to the center of each round and fold up the sides to form a triangle...

Continue with the remaining two-thirds of the dough and any other fillings you want to try...

Brush with Golden Egg Wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar if you'd like...

Bake at 350 degrees F for 15-20 minutes, then let cool on a rack...

Monday, December 6, 2010

Challah from Amazing Baker Beatrice Ojakangas

I keep trying new challah recipes. It's such a common bread type that most of my cookbooks seem to have a version of the recipe. So slowly but surely I'm making my way through the recipes. This one by Beatrice Ojakangas is a great one! The dough feels awesome as you knead it. That's the moment I can tell the bread is going to be good. There's just something special about working with a dough that's soft and supple and shiny and perfect! For this Shabbat meal, I decided to braid it in the four-strand round method because I love that look. But feel free to braid it however you prefer.

The making of this bread marks an important milestone for me. It is the first bread I've made in my new kitchen! And I really do mean IN my new kitchen. You see, I moved in October. My last kitchen, which I had occupied for the last 5 years, was so small I was forced to knead dough on the dining room table in the next room. There simply wasn't a surface large enough for me to stay in the kitchen.

Now, in my new kitchen, I have so much space I can spread out, leave the flour bin beside my work station, not immediately wash my mixing bowl to get it out of the way, keep the prepared baking sheet ready to go right next to where I'm working so I don't have to lift and transfer the braided loaf very far in my hands, and other thrilling usually-taken-for-granted aspects of spacious living. It's all too good to be true! Somebody pinch me!

Adapted from a recipe by Beatrice Ojakangas in the Great Holiday Baking Book
Makes 1 loaf

3 1/2 to 4 cups unbleached all-purpose or bread flour
1/4 cup sugar
1 teaspoon salt
1 package (2 3/4 teaspoons) instant active dry yeast
1 cup very warm water (about 130 degrees F)
3 tablespoons vegetable oil
2 large eggs, at room temperature
1 large egg yolk mixed with 1 teaspoon water, for glaze
2 teaspoons poppy seeds, for sprinkling

In a large mixing bowl, combine 3 cups of the flour, the sugar, salt, and yeast. Stir to blend. Then make a well in the center and pour in the water, oil, and 2 eggs. Beat until the dough is smooth and elastic, about 5 minutes. Cover the bowl with a towel and let the dough rest for 15 minutes. Beat in the remaining flour (1/2 to 1 more cup flour). The dough will be stiff. If the dough is still really sticky to work with, add a little flour, only a tablespoon at a time. Always err on the side of less flour because you may be able to knead the dough and you don't want to add too much flour or your bread will be more like a brick! Turn the dough out onto a floured board and knead until smooth and satiny, about 10 minutes. If you're using an electric mixer with a dough hook, only knead for about 5 minutes (the dough hook is much more efficient than by hand so it requires less time for kneading and you don't want to overknead).

Shape the dough into a ball and place in a large bowl that you sprayed with Pam, then turn the dough ball over so both sides are greased. Cover the bowl with a towel and let rise for about a 1/2 hour or until doubled in size.

Prepare your baking sheet by lining it with parchment paper or a silicone baking mat.

Divide the dough into 3 chunks. Shape each chunk into a long rope about 1 inch in diameter. Braid the three strands together and pinch the ends to seal them. You can transfer the loaf to the baking sheet as a long braid or you can place it on the sheet in a ring shape. You can also use any of several other braiding techniques. Cover the baking sheet with a towel and place in a warm place for 20 to 30 minutes or until puffy.

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Create an egg wash out of the egg yolk combined with one teaspoon of water. Brush the egg was over the loaf and immediately sprinkle with the poppy seeds (the egg wash dries pretty quickly so hurry and add your poppy seeds or they won't stick!).

Bake for 25 to 30 minutes or until golden. If the loaf looks like it's getting dark but it's not cooked through in the middle, place a foil tent over the loaf in the oven for the remaining baking time. Remove from the oven and cool on a rack.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Combine 3 cups of the flour, the sugar, the salt, and the yeast...

Make a well in the center and add the water, oil, and 2 eggs. Beat, and then cover and let rest for 15 minutes...

Add the remaining flour until it forms a stiff dough...

Allow to rise in a greased bowl until doubled in size, then shape the loaf, cover and let rise again until puffy. Brush with the egg wash, then bake at 350 degrees F for 25 to 30 minutes...

Slice and serve!

Monday, November 22, 2010

Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Streusel and Caramel Brandy Sauce

Let the title of this post sink in, then pick up your jaw so you can get on with your day.

Everything about this recipe is perfect. It is a combination of several delicious ingredients. And applying that saying about the whole being greater than the sum of its parts, if you put a bunch of good ingredients together, you are going to get one GREAT thing out of it.

It all started when my friend told me she had a chocolate babka loaf and thought it could be turned into a baked good. She suggested bread pudding. I knew she was onto something. Chocolate babka is great on its own; baked into something, it could be head-turning. I agreed to take her up on the challenge to create a chocolate babka bread pudding, so the only question was, what recipe. I browsed various recipe websites for inspiration and ultimately landed on Paula Deen's "Best Bread Pudding" recipe from the Food Network. I read several stellar reviews by others who tried the recipe, including several comments that the recipe was so sweet it could actually use cutting back on the sugar. So I cut the white sugar quantity of the bread pudding mixture in half. Perfection.

The Brown Sugar Streusel Topping is an amazing addition to an already amazing bread pudding because the pecans become candied and give every bite a bit of crunch and grainy texture on your tongue. The boozy sauce is, well, boozy, and I loved it. Not everyone is into alcoholic-tasting desserts, so I recommend leaving the sauce in a bowl on the table and letting people serve themselves.

Not only did my friend and her husband love this bread pudding (which was such a relief since they donated their babka to this experiment!), but I also shared a piece with another friend who has extremely discerning taste, comes from a dessert loving, food loving background, and is generally very picky and reserved when it comes to expressing positive superlatives about what he eats. But after finishing his serving of the bread pudding, he did not hold back on the superlatives. He said this bread pudding was one of the best desserts he had ever had in his life. Maybe you don't know this guy and can't grasp the meaning of his words (I guess you'll have to bake this and find out for yourself!), but to me, those were golden words. Coming from him, they formed the kind of compliment any baker would dream of hearing. Dessert perfection: Achieved!

Chocolate Babka Bread Pudding with Brown Sugar Streusel Topping and Caramel Brandy Sauce
Adapted from a recipe by Paula Deen on

Bread Pudding
1 cup granulated sugar
5 large beaten eggs
2 cups milk
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1 9x5-inch loaf chocolate babka, cubed, and allow to get stale in an uncovered bowl overnight

Streusel Topping
1 cup packed light brown sugar
1/4 cup (1/2 stick) butter, softened
1 cup chopped pecans

Caramel Brandy Sauce
1 cup granulated sugar
1/2 cup (1 stick) butter
1 egg, beaten
2 teaspoons pure vanilla extract
1/4 cup brandy (warning: this is a LOT of brandy and creates a very boozy, strong alcoholic flavor; feel free to use less or omit completely)

Preheat the oven to 350 degrees F. Grease a 9x13-inch pan.

For the bread pudding: In a medium bowl, mix together granulated sugar, eggs, and milk. Add vanilla. Place the cubed babka in a large bowl and pour the milk mixture over the babka so that all cubes are wet. Stir gently to coat all pieces. Let sit for 10 minutes.

For the Streusel Topping: In a medium bowl, combine the brown sugar, softened butter, and pecans. Then with a fork or your fingers, crumble the ingredients together.

To bake: Pour the milky babka mixture into the prepared pan. Sprinkle the streusel topping over the babka and bake for 35 to 45 minutes, or until set. Remove from oven.

For the Sauce: In a saucepan, stir together the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla over medium heat. Continue stirring until the sugar is melted. Add the brandy, if using, and stir until slightly thickened. Drizzle over the bread pudding. Can be served warm or cold.

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Combine the sugar, eggs, milk, and vanilla...

Pour the mixture over the cubed babka and let stand about 10 minutes...

Pour the milky babka mixture into the prepared baking dish...

To make the streusel topping, combine the butter, brown sugar, and pecans...

Crumble the ingredients together...
Sprinkle the streusel topping over the babka pieces in the baking dish...

Bake at 350 degrees for 35 to 45 minutes...

To make the caramel brandy sauce, stir together the sugar, butter, egg, and vanilla...
Add the brandy and continue stirring until heated through and slightly thickened...
Drizzle over individual servings of the bread pudding and enjoy!

Monday, October 11, 2010

Lick-Your-Fingers Kugel with a Praline Topping

This kugel recipe has become a staple in my family. It is served a couple of times a year and is always requested. It's even included in our family cookbook. For those still unfamiliar with kugel, it's basically a noodle pudding made like a casserole, and it's a very traditional Jewish dish.

For those of you who are not new to kugel, you may have had kugel before, but I'd bet money you have not had a kugel this sweet. It's almost dessert because of the praline-like topping, made from combining pecans with brown sugar and butter. If you want to make this pareve, simply use margarine instead of the butter. Because you place the mixture into a tube or bundt pan, the result is a beautiful ring-shaped kugel that is sure to impress your guests!

This is really one of my favorite recipes. It's one of the best kugels on earth, perfect any time of year, so easy to make, and brings back all sorts of happy family memories. The name it was given in Joan Nathan's cookbook says it all: Lick-Your-Fingers Kugel. I don't dare modify that already-perfect moniker, but I will suggest an additional one. So without further ado, I give you: The Kugel That Makes You Go Oooooh.

Lick-Your-Fingers Kugel
Adapted from a recipe by Joan Nathan in Cooking in America, and originally from the North Shore Hadassah

1 1/2 sticks (3/4 cup) salted butter or margarine, divided
3/4 cup dark brown sugar
1 cup pecans, halved
1 pound wide noodles
4 large eggs
1 teaspoon cinnamon
1/2 cup sugar
2 teaspoons salt

Choose your pan: either a 12-cup mold or a tube pan (angel food cake pan) or even a bundt pan. Divide the butter in half and cut into chunks. Place chunks of half the butter or margarine in the bottom of the pan, then place in the oven just until the butter melts. Swirl it around so it coats the bottom of the pan and also tilt the pan so it coats the sides. Sprinkle the brown sugar around the bottom of the pan and press down with the back of a spoon. Press the pecans into the brown sugar.

Boil the noodles according to the package directions. Drain.

In a large bowl, add the eggs. Melt the remaining half of the butter and add that into the bowl. Add the cinnamon, sugar, and salt. Combine these ingredients well, then add the noodles and stir until they are all coated. Pour the mixture into the baking pan.

Bake in a preheated oven at 350 degrees F for 1 hour and 15 minutes or until the top of the kugel is golden brown. Remove from the oven and let stand for 15 minutes before inverting onto a serving plate. You'll notice after you've inverted the kugel that the top, which has the pecans and brown sugar and butter, become slightly hard just like those delicious praline candies!

Serve the kugel cold or at room temperature. Yields 10 to 12 servings. Can be made dairy or pareve. Enjoy!

Step-by-Step in Pictures
Place chunks of butter in the baking pan...

Melt the butter and swirl around the bottom and sides of the pan...

Sprinkle brown sugar over the butter...

Press the brown sugar into the butter...

Press the pecans into the brown sugar...

Boil the noodles...
In a large bowl, combine the eggs, butter, sugar, cinnamon, and salt...

Stir well...

Toss the noodles with the egg mixture...

Pour into the baking pan and bake at 350 degrees F for 1 hour 15 minutes...

Let stand 15 minutes out of the oven (but still in the pan), then invert onto a serving plate (and notice the praline topping!)...
Slice and serve!
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