Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Hamantaschen 101, with Chocolate Filling


Haman's Ear, Haman's Pocket, Haman's Hat . . .

However you describe them, it's time for those triangle cookies again.
 

Here are the Top Five Rules of Hamantaschen:
  1. You have to allow time to chill the dough so it will roll out easily: four hours in the fridge or one hour in the freezer.
  2. Canned fillings are okay - as long as you make your own dough, you get all the points. I'm not a big fan of bought fruit fillings, but if that's what you grew up with, then crank up that can opener.
  3. You have to freeze the formed cookies to prevent them leaking, spreading and slumping. Do not defrost before baking.
  4. More filling is not better. Especially with poppy, a great glob of filling, is just unpleasant.
  5. However your grandmother made them is the right way. If you don't like your friend's recipe, don't insult her Bubbe by telling her.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

Remember the Couscous, To Hell with Celery Root!

I really did want to like celery root. Just think, a vegetable I've never cooked. The possibilities are endless! Okay, it's not the prettiest plant.

But I really did try.

No dice.

Saturday, February 2, 2013

Purple Friday Blueberry Cake



This is precisely the wrong time of year to buy blueberries, when they are out of season in both hemispheres. But, I bought them. Of course they tasted like library paste, so I shoved the package to the back of the fridge and ignored them. You will be shocked, shocked to hear that the berries were no better a week later.

What to do?

(I think you only get half credit for using them in muffins, when you know the kids will just pick out the berries and leave them on the plate.)

Here in Baltimore, every day has been Purple Friday since the Ravens clinched a Super Bowl spot. So, Purple Friday Blueberry Cake.


Purple Friday Blueberry Cake
2 cups granulated sugar
4 eggs
1 stick butter
1/2 cup plus 1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 cup white wine (or 2 tablespoons of lemon juice or vinegar, plus enough water to make one cup)
2 1/2 cups plus one tablespoon all-purpose flour
big pinch of table salt
2 1/4 teaspoons baking powder
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup blueberries, washed and dried

  1. Preheat oven to 350 (325 convection). Spray two 9" cake pans with baking spray containing flour (or grease and flour the pans). If you are making cupcakes, put two dozen cupcake papers in muffin tins.
  2. Beat the sugar and eggs on high for 30 seconds.
  3. Microwave the butter to melt in a glass measuring cup. Add oil sufficient to make a cup.
  4. Add all the other ingredients except the tablespoon of flour and the berries to the mixer. Beat for a minute, scrape down the sides, and then beat again briefly to incorporate any stray flour.
  5. In a bowl, sprinkle the blueberries with the tablespoon of flour, then stir them into the batter with a spoon, not the beaters.
  6. Pour the batter into the pans or muffin tins. If you have an ice cream scoop with a release mechanism, use it to fill the cupcake liners.
  7. Bake the cakes for about 45 minutes - the blueberries take forever to cook. Or cupcakes take half an hour. Rotate the pans midway.
  8. Remove from the oven when the tops are brown. It is very easy to wind up with raw cake when you bake with fruit, so err on the side of overdone.
  9. Rest the cakes for five minutes before inverting them to cool on racks. Wait at least an hour before frosting.

Blueberry Frosting
1 stick unsalted butter
8 tablespoons marshmallow Fluff
4 cups powdered sugar
1 teaspoon vanilla
1/2 cup blueberries
purple food coloring (optional)

Note: I know all the cookbooks tell you not to soften butter in the microwave. Here on planet earth, you probably forgot to take the butter out of the fridge this morning. I know I did. If you turn the stick every fifteen seconds on 30% power, your butter will be soft in a minute. If you wander off and don't rotate it, you'll need to mop up a puddle of grease.

  1. Beat the butter and Fluff in the mixer to incorporate.
  2. Mix in two cups of powdered sugar and the vanilla. Scrape down the sides of the bowl.
  3. Beat in the blueberries on medium-high to break them up.
  4. Add the remaining two cups of sugar.
  5. Use your own judgement (aka listen to the food) - if your berries are very juicy and the frosting seems runny, add more sugar. If you find it too sweet already, twenty minutes in the fridge should firm it up.
  6. Add the optional purple coloring for team spirit. Keep in mind, the color will darken a shade as the frosting dries. (I couldn't even eat the ones I made for the play-off games, the purple color was so unappetizing.)
  7. You may want to put the frosting in the fridge for half an hour to set up - fruit frostings are very runny. I probably wouldn't try piping this frosting, since the blueberry bits will clog the tip, and it's just too loose to hold a shape very well. Just decorate your cake with blueberries - it will be pretty enough.
 

GO RAVENS!

(Or use cherries if you're a 49ers fan.)