Sunday, March 27, 2011

Purim cookies

As part of my continuing cookie-baking adventures, we made hamantashen last week. Hamantashen (or "hamentashen" - various spelling abound) are triangular filled cookies served for the Jewish holiday of Purim. I have many fond childhood memories of eating my grandmother's hamantashen, which she made in great quantities every year. Her cookies were generally denser and less floury than the ones I've eaten elsewhere, and she stuck with the traditional poppy and prune fillings, although in later years she branched out and also used apricot jam and cherry pie filling.

I opted to use her recipe for the cookie dough (actually Grandma's friend Ruth's recipe), but for the filling I went non-traditional and used some Roasted Tangelo Marmalade. (Looking back, I see that I'd intended to do that all along!) We overcooked them very slightly, but these hew pretty closely to the cookies I remember from my childhood.

Ruth's recipe from the Heirloom Cookbook, adapted and expanded

  • 1/3 C vegetable oil
  • ¼ C orange juice
  • 1 C sugar
  • 3 eggs
  • 2 tsp baking powder
  • ½ tsp salt
  • 3 (plus) C flour, plus extra to achieve correct consistency
  • 1-2 C very thick jam or other filling

Preheat oven to 375F.

In a large bowl, mix together the oil, juice, sugar, and eggs. In a smaller bowl, sift together the baking powder, salt, and 3 C flour. Gradually mix the dry ingredients into the wet ones. After the initial flour is mixed in, keep adding more flour until the dough is thick enough to roll out (it will probably still be sticky).

Form the dough into a flat disk and wrap with plastic. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours (or even overnight).

Roll out dough on a lightly-floured surface, until 1/2"-1/8" thick (the thickness really just depends on your personal preference - ours were on the thicker end of that range).

Use a glass or biscuit-cutter to cut dough into rounds. Place a small amount of jam on the center of the dough rounds, and pinch into a triangular shape. Place on a parchment paper or Silpat-covered baking sheet, and bake for 20 minutes or until dough is a light golden brown.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

cookie time

I haven't made many cookies - this is part of the reason I still claim that I "don't really bake" despite all indications to the contrary - but a friend and I recently decided to start making cookies with her 2-year-old. We began with some simple molasses cookies. It was a blast; all three of us had a great time, and the cookies are delicious. I think that I'll add some orange peel (or possibly a bit of orange extract) the next time I make them, as they're a tad too simple for me.

Sugar and Spice Drop Cookies
adapted from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking

  • 1 1/2 sticks unsalted butter, at room temperature
  • 1 C sugar
  • 1 tsp baking soda
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • 1 1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
  • 3/4 tsp ground allspice
  • 1/2 tsp ground ginger
  • 1/4 C molasses
  • 1 large egg, at room temperature
  • 2 C traditional whole wheat flour
Preheat oven to 350F.

In a large mixing bowl, cream butter together with sugar and spices. Beat in the molasses and then the egg. Finally, beat in the flour. Refrigerate the dough, covered, for at least 30 minutes.

Line two baking sheets with parchment paper or Silpats. Drop dough by teaspoonfuls onto the prepared baking sheets.
yield: approx. 53 cookies if no one eats any dough
(we got 44 cookies)

Saturday, March 12, 2011

"sneaky" banana pancakes

The "sneaky" in the title refers to the whole wheat flour I used; because the first question I ask when I serve something like this is "can you taste the whole wheat?" they're not actually sneaky at all in our house. They might be in yours, however - I don't think you can tell that they're not made with white flour.

The recipe is based on one in Helen Witty's Home-Style Menu Cookbook, tweaked with some advice on making pancakes with whole wheat flour from King Arthur Flour Whole Grain Baking. The recipe is easily doubled.

Banana Pancakes

  • 1 large egg
  • 1 medium ripe banana, mashed
  • 2 1/2 Tbsp sugar
  • 1/2 C milk (I used skim)
  • 1 1/2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 Tbsp orange juice (this won't make the pancakes taste at all orange-y, but does diminish the flavor profile of whole wheat flour)
  • 1/2 C white whole wheat flour
  • 3/4 tsp baking powder
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/8 tsp baking soda
  • optional: 1/3 C toasted and chopped pecans or walnuts
Beat the eggs in a large mixing bowl. Add the banana, sugar, milk, oil, and juice; beat well.

In another bowl, sift together the remaining dry ingredients (other than nuts, if using). Add the flour mixture (and the nuts) to the liquid mixture and stir until the dry ingredients are just dampened; don't overmix.

Heat a griddle or large frying pan over medium-low heat, until drops of water sizzle slowly when flicked on. If the drops hop and skip, your pan is too hot - turn down the heat and let cool a bit before pouring in the batter for the first pancakes. These pancakes should cook slowly and turn only a light brown.

Bake until half the bubbles on top are "set" and stay open; then flip and cook for an additional two minutes or so, until the pancakes feel firm and springy to a fingertip. A scant 1/3 C measure of batter will yield a regular-sized pancake; 2-3 Tbsp of batter will yield silver-dollar-sized cakes.
serves 2

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Dried Fruit Extravaganza

Monday: Roasted Root Veggie Tsimmes; Farro Pilaf

Tsimmes is a traditionally Jewish dish, and one of my favorites (sweet-salty main dishes are very much my thing, after all). This one is from Clean Start, which I have checked out of the library. I'm not very enthusiastic about cookbooks that are prescriptive (rather than descriptive), so I found the "clean start/clean food" concept to be a little preachy. It's also an entirely gluten-free cookbook, which is a dietary restriction I'm grateful not to have (I think it makes baking especially difficult). I'm only willing to jump through all the gluten-free hoops if I'm cooking for someone who needs to eat GF, so most of the recipes for baked goods would be special-occasion-only in our house. All that aside, though, there are some great-looking recipes in here, and I definitely enjoyed Walters' version of tsimmes.

Fruits-and-Roots Tsimmes
adapted from Clean Start

  • 1 tsp arrowroot powder or cornstarch
  • 1 C orange juice
  • 8-10 C mixed root veggies, cut into 1-inch chunks (she suggests carrots, sweet potatoes, and parsnips)
  • 1 yellow onion, sliced
  • 10 pitted prunes, halved
  • 1/2 C dried cherries
  • thumb-sized piece ginger, peeled and cut into thin matchsticks
  • 1/4 C maple syrup
  • juice of 1/2 lemon or lime
  • 1/8 tsp freshly grated nutmeg
  • peel from 1 lemon, roughly chopped
  • salt, to taste
Preheat oven to 375. Whisk a bit of the orange juice into cornstarch or arrowroot powder until it forms a paste. Whisk in the rest of the juice. Combine all ingredients (just use a few pinches of salt to start) in an oiled casserole dish. Cover, and bake for 45 minutes. Uncover, stir, and bake another 15 minutes. Stir again, and bake for a final 15 minutes.

Remove from oven, stir again, add salt to taste, and serve.
serves 4-6

The pilaf is something I improvised to use up some farro I found in the back of the pantry.

Farro Pilaf
  • 1.5 C farro (we get ours at the farmer's market from Bluebird Grain Farms)
  • 8 C stock (or water plus bouillon)
  • 1/2 C dried cranberries
  • 1/2 C walnuts, chopped
  • 4 green onions, chopped
  • juice from 1/2 lemon
  • generous grinding of pepper, to taste
  • salt, to taste
In a dry skillet, toast the farro for 4 minutes or so over medium-high heat. The grains will begin to brown and pop in the pan toward the end. Add the liquid, and bring to a boil. Cover and simmer for 5o to 60 minutes. The grains should be tender (sadly, they will still be "squeaky"). Drain.

Toss with remaining ingredients. Add salt and pepper to taste. (I found that this dish tasted best with a lot of pepper.) Serve warm.
serves 4-6

Sunday, March 6, 2011

a recipe in search of a menu

No menu this week, since I was gone for most of it. I'm back from my vacation, and was craving home-made food. I ended up making a comforting spicy-greens-with-buttermilk-grits recipe from Running with Tweezers. Awesomely, it required no shopping - I used powdered buttermilk, canned tomatoes, and some elderly kale that was hiding in the produce bin. The only change I made was to finish the grits with a bit of butter before serving. If we'd been a bit hungrier, we might have poached some eggs and put them on top, but for tonight, this really hit the spot.

Saturday, March 5, 2011

from the "archives"

It should be in the archives, anyway, as I made this soup back in October. I defrosted the leftovers and had them for dinner before my trip to Mexico. I thought I'd posted the recipe here, but apparently not. After much searching, here it is.

N.B. This soup improves enormously with a "rest" period - it is substantially better the next day (or even months later, if you are as bad about rotating frozen leftovers as I am).

Cauliflower and Bell Pepper Chowder
adapted from Cooking Light

  • 1 Tbsp butter
  • 4 large shallots, minced
  • 1/2 C sliced celery
  • 5 C home-made stock (veggie or chicken) or 5 C water plus Better Than Bouillon
  • 1 head cauliflower, chopped
  • 2 red or yellow bell peppers, chopped
  • 1 C peeled and chopped red potato
  • bay leaf
  • 1 C 2% milk
  • 1/2 tsp freshly ground pepper
  • 1 Tbsp dried basil
  • 1/4 C sour cream
Melt the butter in a soup pop over medium heat. Add shallots and celery. Cook 5 minutes or so, until softened. Add stock or water & bouillon and bring to a boil. Add cauliflower, bell pepper, potato, and bay leaf; return to a boil. Reduce heat and simmer until potato is tender (about 20 min). Stir in milk and pepper; discard bay leaf.

Using an immersion blender, process until some of the soup is pureed, but leave a few chunky bits. Stir in basil and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring often to prevent scorching. Remove from heat and stir in sour cream.
serves 4