Chag Purim Sameach – Happy Purim!

My first post on this blog was during the holiday of Purim and here we are one year later making Hamantaschen again. I decided to make three of the four fillings I made last year: Cranberry-Orange, Date-Walnut and Apricot Lekvar.

My family did not have a tradition of making Hamantaschen for Purim. My German grandmother made Haman’s Ears, which was dough that was rolled out and cut into strips, fried in oil and dusted with powdered sugar. I only started making this biscuits about 12 years ago when the little old lady that used to make them for our synagogue developed dementia and couldn’t make them anymore. She was not a member of our congregation, and so we used to drive 60 miles to Birmingham to buy them from her to serve at our congregation’s Purim party. One of the congregants went to pick up the 10 dozen Hamantaschen she had ordered and the little old lady didn’ t know why she was there and hadn’t made any biscuits. So, I received a frantic phone call asking if I could make them. I said I had never tried, but how hard could they be? I found a recipe and I have been making them ever since.

This year, I wanted to make another cookie in addition to the Hamantaschen because I had to make gifts to give to our landlords, who live about 100 yards away, and our new neighbors. It is Jewish law that on Purim one must send at least one Mishloach Manot (sending gifts of food) to a friend and also send Matanot La’evyonim (gifts to the poor). You are suppose to give two different types of ready-to-eat food, each of which require a different blessing. So, you can give two different cakes or biscuits or fruits, etc or mix them up.

I was looking at an Italian blog and found a link to a recipe for biscuits that are from the Jewish Ghetto in Venice. A friend of mine who is from Venice told me that he remembers going to a bakery in the Ghetto and buying these biscuits. They are called Impade and they are filled with an almond filling and rolled in icing sugar (confectioner’s sugar). Have a look at the link below for more pictures on how to make the cookies. If you speak Italian, then you can read the entire recipe. Here is a loose translation (I did a few things differently):

Impade

Yield: About 45 biscuits

Venetian Jewish Almond Cookies

Pastry:

500g all purpose flour

275g sugar

3 small or medium eggs

125 ml corn oil

Filling:

250g whole blanched almonds

200g sugar

2 eggs

Zest of one lemon

Impade Dough

Mix the sugar and the flour together and create a well. Add the eggs and the oil and bring the flour-sugar mixture from the sides into the egg-oil mixture. Mix until you create a ball, similar to pie dough. It should be soft and elastic. Set aside and prepare the filling.

Impade Almond Filling

Grind the almonds and place in bowl. Add the sugar, lemon zest, the eggs and mix well.

Preheat the oven to 200C (400F).

Rolled dough

Take 1/3 of the dough and roll into a 2cm (4/5 inch) diameter snake. Cut the snake into 5cm (2 inch) pieces and roll each one flat into a rectangle.

Rolled out and filled

Put one teaspoon of almond filling in the middle of the rectangle and bring the long sides together over the filling and pinch together into a crest.

Impade Prebaked

Then shape the dough into the shape of the letter "S".

Impade

Bake the biscuits at 200C (400F) for 5 minutes and then reduce the temperature to 180C (350F) for an additional 15 minutes.

Roll them immediately in icing sugar (confectioner's sugar) and let them cool.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2008/03/21/chag-purim-sameach-happy-purim/

Baking for Mama – May She Rest in Peace 1912-2007

My 95-year-old Grandmother has not been well lately passed away Saturday 29 December in the USA, which had me thinking of all of the wonderful times we had cooking together. I owe a lot of my cooking skills to her. She encouraged me to take cooking lessons and taught me how to make all of the family holiday recipes. During December, we always baked all of the special goodies for family near and far. Family would always come to visit during the Christmas vacation, and even though we did not celebrate Christmas, we always had special goodies around, such as her chocolate cake, 1-2-3-4 cake, her amazing butter cookies, Rose’s apricot tarts, and her schnecken. But the baked goods that she always looked forward to was the big package of German goodies that family friends in Germany sent my grandparents. The package came from the famous Lebkuchen Schmidt bakery in Nürnberg. She would open the package and take a deep whiff, and then delicately open the packages. We would stand there in excitement smelling the spicey goodness and salivating, waiting to take a bite of the lovely Elisen lebkuchen and speculaas cookies. You could smell the cardamom, cinnamon, clove and nutmeg all over the house.

I usually buy lebkuchen when I am in Germany, but this year I was unable to make a trip there before Christmas, so I decided to do the impossible and try to make some myself. I knew that they would not be as good as Lebkuchen Schmidt, who have been making these amazing biscuits since 1927. My first attempt resulted in overbaked biscuits because I had spread the dough too thin on the oblaten wafer. However, the second time round I managed to get it right and even my famously critical other half drooled every time he came close to one. I decided to leave my lebkuchen natural and used square oblaten instead of round. If you cannot find oblaten wafers, which are similar to communion wafers, then use rice paper.

I couldn’t find candied orange, so I made it myself using thick-skinned navel oranges.

Mama, I made these for you and if I didn’t live so far away, I would have brought you some to savour.

Nürnberger Elisenlebkuchen

Yield: 75 pieces of five centimeter (2 inches) diameter

470 g (2-1/3 cups) sugar

4 eggs

1 teaspoon of vanilla sugar

400 g (14 ounces) hazelnuts (one-half milled rough and the other fine)

80g (3 ounces) whole almonds, finely chopped

50 g (1.7 ounces) roughly chopped walnuts

100 g (3.5 ounces) of finely cut candied orange and lemon peel respectively

Freshly grated untreated orange and lemon peel

1 teaspoon of finely chopped ginger root in syrup

1 teaspoon of the following milled spices: cinnamon, cloves, allspice, coriander, mace, cardamom, nutmeg

Oblaten Package

2 packets of oblaten wafers (5 cm (2 inches) diameter)

Punch Icing

130 g (1 cup) icing sugar, sifted

2 teaspoon of rum

2 teaspoons of red wine

Chocolate Icing

20 g (.7 ounces) of bittersweet chocolate (preferably 70%; high quality)

For decoration:

A selection of nuts and candied fruit

Use the egg whisk attachment of an electric beater to beat sugar, eggs and vanilla sugar so that the foamed mass has doubled and the sugar is dissolved.

Ground Hazelnuts and Almonds

Candied Orange Lemon and Ginger

Then add the nuts, candied and fresh orange and lemon peel, ginger and spices. Cover the batter and leave it in a cool place for 24 hours.

Oblaten Sheets

Unbaked Lebkuchen

The next day form small, approx. 15 g (1 rounded tablespoon), balls from the mix with wet hands and place each on a wafer so that a 3 to 5 mm broad margin remains. Place the wafers on a baking paper lined baking tray and bake until light brown for 10 to 12 minutes at 200C (400F) in a preheated oven.

The Lebkuchen should be well risen but not quite finished inside because they have to further develop and remain soft inside. The finished Lebkuchen should be slid onto a drying rack to cool. Place one-third of the cookies to the side: they should remain natural, e.g. without icing.

For the punch icing:

Mix the sifted icing sugar and to a smooth consistency with rum and red wine. Then dip the upper surface of a further third of the Lebkuchen (not the wafer side) into this icing.

For the chocolate icing:

Melt and temper the chocolate, and then dip the upper surface of the remaining Lebkuchen. Leave the iced Lebkuchen on a drying rack to dry.

Decorate the lebkuchen with nuts and candied fruit while the icing or natural cookie is still soft.

Store the completed Lebkuchen in an airtight tin. Cover the cakes with greaseproof paper and lay a few apple peelings on top. This keeps them soft and moist. Try to let the cookies mature for about ten days before serving them.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/12/29/baking-for-mama/

Dinner Under the Stars

The beginning of last week we were invited to a friend’s house for dinner. We had delicious dinner in their lovely Sukkah. I forgot to bring my camera, but will update this post when my friend sends me the pictures we took using her camera.

Our friend Miriam makes delicious wines using grapes, other fruits and herbs. We had the honor of having her cabernet sauvignon, strawberry and summer wines, which is made from pea pods. Yes folks, you read it correctly, pea pods. It was delicious and tasted quite fruity; very difficult to describe without sounding a bit pretentious. The strawberry wine was a little fizzy and tasted as if you were biting into a giant, luscious and ripe strawberry. Yum.

We closed the meal with delicious lemon cakes that her daughter made and the Kritika Patouthia biscuits and mango-nectarine sorbet that my husband and I made.

Kritika Patouthia are Greek biscuits from the island of Crete. They are filled with ground almonds, ground walnuts, sesame seeds and honey and are typically rolled in icing (powdered) sugar. I decided that they were sweet enough and omitted the icing sugar. These cookies are delicious and went well with the last of the summer mango-nectarine sorbet. I came up with this recipe when I didn’t have enough mangoes to make sorbet. The nectarines work quite well with the mango and do not get lost with the strong mango flavour.

Kritika Patouthia

Yield: 5 to 6 dozen

Dough:

1/2 cup olive oil

4 tablespoons water

4 tablespoons orange juice

Juice of one lemon

6 tablespoons white sugar

4 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 teaspoon baking soda

1 teaspoon salt

Filling:

1 cup ground walnuts

1 cup ground almonds

1 cup sesame seeds

1 cup honey

Confectioners' sugar

Orange flower water or orange juice for sprinkling

Mix together olive oil, water, orange juice, lemon juice and sugar. Set aside. In a large bowl sift together flour, baking soda and salt. Add olive oil mixture to flour mixture.

On a floured surface, work and knead to a smooth dough. Cover dough (you can place the empty bowl over it) and let dough rest for an hour.

While dough is resting, make filling.

To Make Filling:

Combine ground walnuts, ground almonds, sesame seeds and honey together in a bowl. Mix until well coated.

Preheat oven to 350F (180C).

Sesame Almond Walnut Filling

Roll out dough to about 1/4 inch thickness. Cut into 3 inch squares. Place 1 heaping teaspoon of filling in center of each square.

fold up

Moisten edges with orange flower water or orange juice and cover the filling by folding in the four corners and pressing them firmly together in the center.

Bake for about 25 minutes. While cookies are still warm, sprinkle lightly with orange flower water or orange juice and dip in a bowl of confectioners' sugar.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/10/06/dinner-under-the-stars/

Mango and Nectarine

Mango and Nectarine Sorbet

Serving Size: 8

3 medium size mangoes, cut into chunks

3 large nectarines, peeled and cut into chunks

Juice of one medium size lemon

1/2 cup simple syrup or to taste

ying and yang

Place the mango and nectarine chunks in a food processor and process until the mixture is a puree. Add the simple syrup and lemon; mix for one to two minutes. Put in an ice cream maker, following manufacturer's instructions.

Take the sorbet out of the freezer 15 minutes prior to serving.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/10/06/dinner-under-the-stars/

Yom Kippur – Day of Atonement

Tomorrow at sundown begins the observance of and twenty-five hour fast during Yom Kippur. The meal before the fast should be simple, not too rich and not too spicy. It is better not to make the meal with garlic or hot peppers.

At the completion of the fast, it is better to eat something that is not too hard on the stomach, so we usually break the fast by eating biscuits (cookies) and crackers, and of course some water, but not too fast or you will upset your stomach.

A Yemenite co-worker told me today that I should drink a glass of fresh pomegranate juice before the fast, it will make the fast easier. I just happen to have some pomegranate juice and I am going to try it.

I found a very interesting Saudi Arabian food blog called Arabic Bites. Two sisters share their recipes from the region. I have really enjoyed reading the blog and I decided to make one of their recipes for the break-the-fast, Cardamom Biscuits. They are actually Iraqi biscuits called Klejah and they are not too sweet, just a perfect end to the fast.

Hope that you have an easy fast. Gmar Chatimah Tova (May you be sealed in the book of life).

And to my Muslim friends, Ramadan Kareem.

Passover Preparations

We are going to my cousin’s in Jerusalem as we do every year and we always bring the charoset, chicken soup with matza balls and dessert. I always try to bring a different dessert.

I am still trying decide what to bring this year. Maybe one of these:

  • Torta di Carote from the Veneto region
  • Persian Rice Cookies
  • Super Moist Banana & Almond Cake
  • Chocolate Almond Torte with cinnamon, allspice, cloves and a dark chocolate glaze

Last year I made Gâteau à l’Orange et au Gingembre from one of my favourite blogs, Chocolate & Zucchini. It is a moist cake that has an intense orange and ginger flavour. I might be tempted to make it again this year. It was a huge hit. And, it is very easy to make.

Gâteau à l'Orange et au Gingembre

Serving Size: 8 - 10

Orange and Ginger Cake From Chocolate and Zucchini

For the cake:

3 small oranges or 2 large oranges (preferably organic)

6 eggs

250g (1-1/3 cups) sugar

250g (1-1/3 cups) almond flour or almond meal

Thumb-sized knob of fresh ginger

1/4 C candied ginger

1 teaspoon baking powder

For the glaze:

Zest and juice of a lemon

60 g (1/3 cup) thick sugar crystals, the type used as a topping for chouquettes or brioches

Preheat the oven to 190°C (375°F). Grease a 24 cm (8-inch) springform cake pan.

Clean and scrub the oranges well. Put them in a medium saucepan, and cover with water. Put the saucepan over medium heat, and simmer for two hours, adding a little hot water when the level gets too low (note : you may, like me, find the smell of whole oranges boiling very unpleasant, but it has nothing to do with the smell or taste of the finished product). Drain, and let cool. Cut in quarters and puree in the food processor.

Peel and chop the fresh ginger. Cut the candied ginger in small dice. In a large mixing bowl, beat the eggs with a fork. Whisk in the orange puree, the sugar, the almonds, the baking powder, the fresh ginger, until well blended. Fold in the bits of candied ginger.

Pour the batter in the cake pan, and bake for about an hour, until puffy and golden. Let cool for a few minutes on a rack, while you prepare the frosting. Run a knife around the cake to loosen it, and remove the sides of the pan.

Put the sugar crystals in a small bowl with the lemon juice and zest. Spoon this mixture evenly onto the top of the cake. Let cool completely before serving. It can be made a day ahead, wrapped in plastic and stored in the refrigerator.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/14/passover-preparations/

The second dessert I made were chocolate-covered Weesper Moppen, which are Dutch almond cookies. They are chewy cookies with a wonderful almond flavour which can be made plain and rolled in coarse sugar or covered in dark chocolate. I like them because they are not very sweet.

Chocolate- Covered Weesper Moppen

Yield: About 20 cookies

250g (8oz + 2 tablespoons) coarse almond paste or grind 125g//1/2 cup of blanched almonds and 125g (1/2 cup) of fine sugar

1 tsp lemon zest

1 small egg

200g (8oz) 80% dark chocolate (Valrhona or some other premium brand), melted

Mix everything except the chocolate together until you have a soft paste.

Wet your hands with cold water, and roll the paste into log. It will still be very sticky and a bit hard to manage. You could roll them in a little kosher for Pesach icing sugar or put the dough in plastic wrap and roll it into a log and place into the refrigerator for 10 minutes to firm up a little.

With a sharp knife (wipe it between cuts) cut the dough into 20 rounds about 1/2 inch or 1cm thick. Place them cut side down on a baking sheet lined with baking parchment or a silpat liner.

Let them dry out for about 2 hours. I put them in a cold oven, with the fan on, for one hour, which worked excellently!

Then, preheat the oven to 200 C / 375 F. When the oven is hot, bake the cookies for 8-10 minutes. Check that they don't brown too much. Remove them from the sheet, let them cool.

After they have cooled, dip them in the melted chocolate. You can either cover the entire cookie or just one side.

They will dry out a bit more as they cool, but they should still be slightly chewy. They are best served the same day or the following day.

http://www.baronesstapuzina.com/2007/03/14/passover-preparations/

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