Sunday, March 9, 2014

Zebra Hamantaschen

If someone dares you to make rainbow hamantaschen, RUN AWAY!

By the time you've kneaded enough food coloring into your dough, it will be hopelessly crumbly and overworked. You will invent new profanities trying to stop the layers separating as you fold them into triangles. You'll have bragging rights forever, but you just might suffer a psychotic break. So, stay safe and just make the zebra version.

Last year, I posted the Top 5 Rules of Hamantaschen in my Hamantaschen 101 post. I'm not going to repost them here, but, seriously, you have to chill the dough before rolling it out. And you have to freeze the hamantaschen before baking so they don't spread everywhere. Do not go to all the trouble of making these crazy cookies, only to let them ooze into a puddle in the oven!

One last tip: Use chocolate or peanut butter filling. Don't use jelly or poppy, which are soft and cause the cookies to flatten out. See the difference in the picture?

The chocolate filling you can find in my last year's Purim post, and the peanut butter is just 1/2 a cup of peanut butter, 2 tablespoons of butter, 1/2 cup powdered sugar and 1 tablespoon flour whisked together. (No, I don't think that counts as a recipe.)

Vanilla Dough
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 2/3 cup all-purpose flour

Chocolate Dough
1 stick unsalted butter, softened
1 cup granulated sugar
pinch of salt
1 egg
1 teaspoon vanilla
2 teaspoons baking powder
1 1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/4 cup Dutch process cocoa powder

8" loaf pan
wax paper
parchment paper
sharp knife
cookie sheets
small offset spatula, if you have one
freezer bags

Mixing the Doughs
Preparing the chocolate and vanilla doughs isn't difficult. You don't even have to wash the mixer between batches, just make the vanilla first. For each dough:
  • Cream the butter and sugar for two minutes on medium-high until light and fluffy. 
  • Add the salt, egg and vanilla, and beat for another minute to combine. 
  • Finish by scraping down the sides and mixing in the dry ingredients. 
  • Refrigerate for at least two hours, covered in plastic wrap.

Constructing Layers
If you look at the four pictures above, you'll see that the this is just rolling the doughs out flat, layering them into a stack, cutting the stack into slices, and pressing out circles.
  • Pull out a sheet of wax paper approximately six times the width of your loaf pan and lay it on the counter. Break one of the dough balls into chunks and spread them on the wax paper. 
  • Spread another sheet on top of the dough and use a rolling pin to roll the dough into a large rectangle. 
  • Using your loaf pan as a guide, score the paper with a knife to make five sections of dough the size of your pan. 
  • Use a sharp knife to cut all the way through the dough and paper layers, leaving yourself with five strips of dough. Put the extra dough aside to roll out later.
  • Repeat above steps with second dough.
  • Spread a large piece of plastic wrap on the counter. Removing the wax paper, stack alternating strips of dough and cover with the wrap. Nest the stacked dough in the loaf pan  and refrigerate for at least two hours.

Rolling out and Filling
Allow the dough to soften at room temperature for fifteen minutes before removing the plastic wrap.
  • Slice dough approximately 1/5" inch thick and use your rolling pin to work into a square which accommodates your round cookie cutter. You may need to experiment with thicknesses here, so only cut three or four slices at once. 
  • Roll scraps together to make "marble" hamantaschen. (Don't throw away the dough, your Bubbe would be really mad.)
  • Drop teaspoons of filling in the middle of each circle.
  • Using your fingers or a small, offset spatula, fold the sides in to form a triangle and pinch the edges together.
  • Carefully move to a cookie sheet lined with wax paper, and freeze solid. Once frozen, move the cookies to a zipper-top bag and freeze until ready to bake.

  • Preheat oven to 350 (325 convection). 
  • Place frozen hamantaschen 2" apart on parchment-lined baking sheet. 
  • Bake about 15 minutes, until the edges are just barely starting to get brown. Let them rest a minute on the baking sheet before moving to racks. 
  • Cool on wire racks and serve within the next two days. 
Makes about 36 cookies.

Thursday, March 6, 2014

Pistachio Lemon Salsa

I set out to make this recipe for pistachio salsa from Bon Appetit magazine. Then I realized it's basically a cup of nuts swimming in a cup of olive oil, with a sprinkling of chives to liven up the party. True, both nuts and olive oil are healthy. But, come on now. This isn't a restaurant - I actually love the people around my table and can't justify feeding them a 400-calorie condiment.

Also, I've never followed a recipe in my life. So, fatbomb or not, it probably wasn't gonna happen.

What did happen was a really great pairing of rich nuts with briny preserved lemons. You can buy preserved lemons in the store, or easily make them yourself. I use Einat Admony's recipe from the Balaboosta cookbook, more or less.

I served it over roasted green beans, which worked well. But a salty, lemony sauce goes with everything but ice cream.

Pistachio Lemon Salsa
1 cup unsalted pistachios, roughly chopped
3 tablespoons red onions, sliced thinly
3-4 tablespoons preserved lemons, rough chopped
1/4 cup quality olive oil
salt, if needed

Stir together and allow to marinate for at least half an hour. Serve at room temperature. Store in the fridge for up to five days.

Monday, March 3, 2014

Gen X Devil's Food Cake

Remember Snackwells Devil's Food Cookies? They were low-fat and came in a green box, because they were healthy, duh. They had a thin layer of marshmallow frosting AND a chocolate coating. We ate loads of them in high school and never got skinny. The world is mysterious.

A few weeks ago, I made David Lebowitz's Devil's Food Cake. The texture seemed off to me - it probably tastes better in France. Anyway, I've been tinkering with the recipe and jonesing for those silly cookies ever since.

Sure, I could just go out and buy them in any grocery store. But doesn't everything taste better as a memory? Go ahead and try something you loved as a kid but haven't eaten in a while. I took my crew to Friendly's to try one of the patty melts my high school buddies and I scarfed down weekly. MISTAKE. (At least I didn't finish off the evening with a bottle of Boon's Farm Apple Wine.)

Snackwells were released in 1992, when Baby Got Back by Sir Mix-a-lot was number 2 on the Billboard charts. Coincidence? Here's a link to the Top 100 for that year, in case you forgot how bad music used to be. Billy Ray Cyrus was more popular than Nirvana? Better than twerking, I guess.

Okay, fellow X-ers, enough nostalgia. Time to bake.

Devil's Food Cake
3/4 cup milk (6 oz/70g)
1 tablespoon white vinegar (1/4 oz/10g)
8 tablespoons soft butter (4 oz/113g)
4 tablespoons vegetable oil (3/4 oz/50g)
2 1/4 cup brown sugar (13.5 oz/385g)
2 large eggs
3/4 cup plus 1 tablespoon dutch process cocoa powder (3 1/4 oz/90g)
2 1/4 cup cake flour (9 oz/290g)
1/2 teaspoon table salt
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
3/4 cup hot coffee (6 oz/70g)

Marshmallow Frosting
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar (4 oz/110g)
4 tablespoons corn syrup (2 1/2 oz/70g)
4 tablespoons butter (2 oz/55 grams)
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups powdered sugar ( 4 1/4 oz/120g)

Chocolate Glaze
adapted from Alton Brown
4 tablespoons unsalted butter (2 oz/55g)
1/4 cup milk (2 oz/55g)
1 tablespoon corn syrup (3/4 oz/20g)
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2/3 cup chopped bittersweet chocolate (4 oz/115g)
2 cups powdered sugar (8 oz/230g)

2 or 3 8" round cake pans
baking spray with flour
small, heavy-bottomed saucepan

For the Cake:
Stir the vinegar into the milk and set aside. Cream butter, oil and brown sugar in the stand mixer until it's fluffy and no lumps of brown sugar remain. Beat in eggs, one at a time, scraping down the sides of the bowl. Sift dry ingredients together, then add to mixer alternately with the milk. Finish with the coffee, scraping up any unmixed portion from the bottom of the bowl. Spray pans with baking spray, divide batter between them, and bake at 350 (325 convection) for approximately 35 minutes, until the cake pulls away from the sides of the pan. Cool on racks before frosting.

For the Marshmallow Frosting:
Over a low flame, dissolve sugar in corn syrup. Bring to a boil for two minutes, stirring gently. Meanwhile, whisk the egg white in the electric mixer on medium speed until it is fluffy. Working quickly, pull the whisk out of the whites and pour all the boiling sugar into the middle of the bowl. Return the whisk to the mixture and beat on high for several minutes, until the bowl feels neutral to the touch. One tablespoon at a time, beat in the butter. Finish with vanilla and powdered sugar. You may need just a bit more powdered sugar to make it spreadable. Cover the cake with a thin layer of frosting, and put it in the refrigerator for at least an hour.

Nope. Still grainy, keep boiling.

For the Chocolate Glaze:
In a small saucepan, heat butter, milk and corn syrup over low flame until butter melts. Remove from heat and stir in vanilla and chocolate. When chocolate has melted, whisk in sugar vigorously to remove lumps. Pour a couple of tablespoons of glaze two inches from the edge of the cake and ease it over the side with an offset spatula. If it drips too much, wait a couple of minutes for the chocolate to cool down. Continue working around the cake until you have decorated the whole thing. Smooth the top and refrigerate for half an hour to firm up.