Category Archives: Baking & Desserts

Hamentashen or Popentashen

HamentashenMy family loves Purim with the telling of an exciting story and the wearing of wild costumes.  How could anyone dislike a holiday that features theater, drinking wine, and eating delicious cookies called Hamentashen. Purim celebrates the ancient Jews of Persia’s victory over their enemies. The tale held in the book of Esther includes King Ahasuerus, Esther the brave woman who becomes queen but never forsakes her people, Esther’s cousin Mordecai,and a wicked man named Hamen (for whom the cookies are named).  Why, you might ask, would we name these tasty holiday treats for the bad guy?  Well, I’ll tell you-I don’t know.  Various stories I grew up with included that the cookies were named for Hamen’s three-cornered hat, they were named for his pockets that were filled with bribes, they were named to remember his evil deeds. So nu, they couldn’t have named them Esther’s Goodies or something a little more enticing?  Anyway who cares!  Our costumes are put together and the cookies are baked.  Instead of normal hamentashen, we made tiny little cookies (filled with our homemade jams) that you could pop in your mouth in one bite so we are calling them popentashen.  It is after all a holiday that is celebrated with pride and joy and a healthy dose of silliness. Happy Purim!

Tiny Hamentashen (Popentashen)
2 sticks (1 cup) butter
2/3 cup powdered sugar
2 cups flour
1 egg yolk
1/2 tsp vanilla paste or 1 teaspoon vanilla extract
dash of cinnamon
several flavors of jam

In a stand mixer bowl or food processor, place the slightly softened butter cut into chunks and the powdered sugar
Mix until sugar is just blended in (it is OK if there are some lumps of butter)
Add the egg yolk and vanilla and mix until the egg is incorporated into the butter
Add the flour and cinnamon to the bowl and mix until the large pieces of dough begin to come together (do not over mix!) the dough will be a bit ragged.
Scoop the dough onto a floured board and press the pieces together to form a smooth dough.
Roll the dough out to a thickness of about 1/4″.  If the dough is too sticky use a bit of flour or if it is too soft to roll you can wrap it in plastic wrap and chill for an hour.
Using a small round cookie cutter or a cordial glass measuring about 1 1/2″ inches across, cut circles of dough.
Place a drop of jam in the middle of each circle
Press two edges of the circle together and then pull the remaining piece up and press together to form a triangle shape and a nice little pocket to hold the jam.
Cook at 350 degrees for about 10 minutes or until the edges brown slightly
Cool (jam gets very hot in the over) and pop in your mouth!



No-Bake Jam Jar Cheesecake

fat-free cheesecake in a jarFor holidays and celebrations, I love spending a day baking, filling and frosting cakes; whipping egg whites into fluffy meringue; crafting fancy cookies but sometimes you need a light and easy treat to share.  This jam layered no-bake fat-free cheesecake is simple to make and travels well.  Perfect for pot-luck suppers or community events.

1 8 oz package fat-free cream cheese
2 cups fat-free Greek style yogurt
1/2 cup reduced fat Graham cracker crumbs
2 teaspoons honey
2-3 teaspoons apple cider (or apple juice)
several flavors of jams or preserves
4 8 oz canning (mason)  jars and lids

Blend an 8 oz package of fat-free cream cheese with 2 cups of fat-free Greek-style yogurt.  Add 2 teaspoons of raw honey and a pinch of cinnamon to the yogurt mixture.  Mix  Graham cracker crumbs with a few teaspoons of apple cider.
Layer the Graham cracker crumbs in the bottom of each jar.  Add a layer of the cheesecake mixture and then a layer of jam.  Add another layer of cheesecake mixture and jam.  Cover jar and refrigerate until ready to serve.

Small but Mighty-Petite Sweet Rolls

cranberry pecan biscuitsThe holidays are over and finally a bit a cold weather has arrived after an unusually warm start to the winter in New England.  I awoke early to a dusting of snow on the ground and a chilly breeze outside my window and headed for the kitchen.  My favorite time to bake is morning and I thought it would be a nice treat to bring something sweet to nibble on to my client meeting.  I had tucked away a few jars of Holiday Table jam (cranberry & pecan with cranberry honey) since my family complains that sometimes I sell every jar of a flavor they like and it also it seemed like a great flavor to use in baking.  I made up some buttermilk biscuit dough (recipe below)and patted it out in a long rectangle.  I spread some melted butter on the dough and then warmed the jam and spread it on the dough leave a bit of a clean edge on one side.   Them I sprinkled a cinnamon sugar mix over the jar and butter and tossed on a handful of chopped pecans.  I carefully rolled it up jelly roll fashion (the long side gets rolled) and cut it into one inch chunks.  The little rolls were placed in a buttered mini muffin tin and baked at 400 degrees for about 12-15 minutes.  While the rolls baked, I made a quick glaze of one tablespoon orange glazefresh orange juice, one teaspoon honey, and 1/2 cup of powdered sugar all mixed together until smooth.  When the rolls when done, I turned them out onto a cooking rack and drizzled them with the orange glaze.

Petite Sweet Rolls
2 cups flour
4 tablespoons butter melted
1/2 buttermilk
2/3 cup whole milk
2 teaspoons baking powder

Mix baking powder and flour in a mixing bowl
Mix melted butter, buttermilk, and milk
pour wet ingredients into the dry and mix just to combine

3 oz jam (always plenty of jam around here)
2 tablespoons melted butter
2 tablespoons cinnamon/sugar mix
1/4 cup chopped nuts or raisins if desired


Summer Corn Butter Biscuits

corn biscuitMuch (OK all) of my kitchen time this summer has been spent happily making jam. Last week I developed a longing to bake again.  Perhaps it was the first cool breeze heralding the end of summer that was to blame for this desire but the oven went on and then I surveyed the pantry and fridge.  Pies and tarts came to mind but all the fruit I had was destined for jars.  My eyes fell on a stack of corn from the farmers market.  I snatched two small ears leaving plenty for dinner and shaved the kernels into a bowl.  I added the corn to one of my favorite drop biscuit recipes and reveled in the smell of warm butter pouring from the oven.  I broke one open as soon as they were baked and ate it hot at the kitchen counter.  Hmmm…maybe I should bake some plain biscuits too.  I do need something to go with all this jam.

Summer Corn Biscuits

1 stick butter
2 cups flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 1/4 cups buttermilk
2/3 cup fresh corn kernels
1 Tbs snipped chives

Preheat oven to 375 degrees. Mix together flour and baking powder in a large bowl.  Cut in cold butter until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs using hand pastry blender, food processor or stand mixer. Do not over mix.  Stir in buttermilk until just combined. Stir in corn and chives gently.  Scoop out 12 lumps of dough onto an ungreased baking tray leaving an each between.  Bake until light brown and cooked through, about 20-25 minutes.

Strawberry Mint Popsicles

strawberry mint popsiclesThe hottest days of the summer are on the way.  Now is the time to pick fresh strawberries and tuck some into the freezer for warm weather treats such as smoothies, sangria, or these delicious strawberry mint popsicles.  This unusual recipe calls for cooking the berries and sugar first to bring out the sweet jammy flavor, adding some lemonade and mint and  then cooling and freezing the mixure.   I hope you will have fun picking berries now and enjoy a delicious popsicle cool down during the hot days this summer.

Strawberry Mint Popsicles
Strawberries (about 1 quart)
1 cup lemonade or limeade
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoon fresh chopped mint
Plastic popsicles molds for freezing
Hull and chop enough fresh strawberries to make 3 cups
Add 1/2 cup sugar to the berries and let stand about 5 minutes
Place in a shallow pan and cook until the berries soften and juice run freely
Add 1 cup lemonade or limeade
Allow to cool and then add mint
Place in popsicle molds and freeze

Peanut Butter and Jelly Snack Cakes

peanut butter snack cakesI love the references to snack cakes or “busy day” cakes in my 1940s and 1950s vintage cookbooks.  Even the busiest mistress of the house still needed to whip up a little something for her brood. Some fast food packaged muffin will never meet the daunting task of chasing away the horrible after-school hungries in this house.  In the spirit of the busy day cake, I  have made up my own favorite speedy snack recipes and the current favorite is Peanut Butter and Jelly Snack Cakes.  I bake them in a bar shaped muffin tin but standard muffin tin works fine too.

Peanut Butter and Jelly Snack Cakes
1 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter
1/4 cup milk
2 eggs
2 1/2 tablespoons smooth peanut butter
1 1/2 teaspoons baking powder
strawberry jam (home-made or store bought)

Melt butter and peanut butter together in microwave or small pan and then cool slightly
Stir in milk and eggs
In a medium bowl, mix flour, sugar, baking powder
Add butter mixture to flour mixture and stir to combine but do not over mix
Fill each muffin cup part way, add a teaspoon of jam, and then add remaining batter covering the jam.
Bake for about 15 minutes until risen and golden brown
Serve warm or cool, plain or topped with berry frosting (below)

Berry Frosting
3 tablespoons butter
2 1/2 cups confectioners sugar
2 tablespoons strawberry jam
2 teaspoons milk

Vanilla Mint Biscuits

vanilla mint biscuitsMany times over the years I have seen the question posted on garden mailing lists or asked at horticulture lectures; “Is mint easy to grow?”  Veteran gardeners laugh at this and answer with some version of “easy to grow yes; easy to stop growing NO”.  There is a corner of my garden that I have named “the land of ill-behaving plants”.  This is where I sequester the mints, lemon balm, oregano,  and others that hatch evil plans for garden world domination.   Here in their little corner of the world they can stretch out runners and roots and spread all they wish.  In the third year of this garden bed, I have sufficient mint to make Mojitos to sip on the patio for the entire summer and still have plenty for cooking , baking, and drying for winter.
This weekend I picked a bit of the tender mint tops, chopped them and tossed them into the vanilla biscuits recipe I use for strawberry shortcake.  I was a luscious combination and I can’t wait for the strawberry season to begin!
Here is the recipe and I would love to hear any other ideas you have for using my abundance of mint.

Vanilla Mint Drop Biscuits
1 cup flour
1/2 cup buttermilk
1/4 cup butter (melted)
1 tablespoon sugar
1 teaspoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
finely chopped fresh mint

Heat oven to 425 degrees
Mix flour, sugar, baking powder in a bowl
Mix melted butter, buttermilk, and vanilla in a measuring cup or small bowl
Pour buttermilk mixture into flour mixture and stir to combine (do not over mix)
Gently stir in mint
Make six equal mounts of biscuit dough in a round ungreased cakepan and bake for 12-15 minutes until light golden on top and bottom of buscuits

Strawberry Stuffed Muffins

alpine strawberries gardenConsidering that we are two months away from strawberry season in New England, I made some pretty darn delicious strawberry vanilla preserves from California berries.  Oh hush my fellow local food lovers!  This would not be something I would ever do when the farmers market and my garden are brimming with the scent of ripe berries but I needed to perfect a recipe for my canning class and pioneer spirited women must make do with what was available.    
Early Tuesday morning I did a baking sprint, preparing muffins, brownies, honey cornbread, and chocolate chip squares for a meeting where I was also presenting.  The way I viewed it, if my talk bored the folks, at least they would be able to munch on tasty treats to quell the ennui. 
I started making the simple buttery muffins that I fill with lemon curd but when I finished the batter I realized that I had run out of homemade curd (someone had eaten the last bit and I am afraid it might just have been me).  I spotted the strawberry jam waiting patiently to be enjoyed and I swept it from the fridge and spooned a bit into each muffin.  The results were splendid!
The meeting resulted in some excellent business conversations and leads and several requests for the recipe for my strawberry jam filled muffins.

Strawberry Stuffed Muffins
1 cup flour
2/3 cup sugar
5 tablespoons butter, melted
2 eggs
1/4 cup milk
1 teaspoon baking powder
pinch of cinnamon
strawberry preserves

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Grease a 12 cup muffin tin or line with paper baking cups
Combine flour, sugar, baking powder, and cinnamon in a large bowl
Mix eggs, milk, cooled melted butter together
Pour egg mixture into dry ingredients, mix until combined but do not over mix
Let batter stand for five minutes and then scoop into prepared muffin tin
Tuck about a teaspoon of strawberry preserves into each muffin
Bake for about 20 minutes until risen and light brown around edges
Serve warm or cool

They’re So Fluffy!

My friend Michelle who writes the blog Fun & Fearless in Beantown was pouting over the lack of poof in her otherwise quite tasty popovers.  She is a fantastic cook cheddar horseradish popoversand her food photos induce Pavlovian drooling at a glance but she was seeking some help with her puzzling popover problem.  I am never one to let a friend feel deflated, so I am sharing my recipe for Cheddar Horseradish Popovers which has always yielded great results for me with no post oven letdown.  It is the perfect brunch treat for a crowd since you can make several batches ahead of time and freeze them.  Michelle and everyone; I hope you enjoy making these and that they rise to your high expectations!

Cheddar Horseradish Popovers
1 cup flour
2 eggs
1 cup whole milk
2/3 cup shredded sharp cheddar cheese
1 tablespoon butter, melted
1/2 teaspoon grated horseradish (or more to taste)

Heat oven to 425
Butter a 6 cup popover pan or 8 cups of a standard muffin tin
Mix milk, eggs, butter, horseradish
Measure flour into a bowl w pour spout or large measuring cup
Add to wet ingredients to flour and mix just to combine
Stir in cheese gently
Fill cups of the pan 3/4 full
Bake for about 20 minutes until puffed
Turn over down to 350 and bake another 10 minutes
As soon as the popovers come out of the oven, poke them gently with a fork to release steam

Sweet Passover Popovers

passover popovers and jamEvery year  at Passover I made traditional favorites but I also try to create one or two new dishes for my family and friends.  This year in addition to holding our usual big seder dinner, we are planning to have a Passover brunch toward the end of the holiday.  I love popovers for brunch so I decided to try my hand at creating a tasty version with matzo cake flour.  They came out delicious and I now have several dozen tucked into the freezer to heat and serve with homemade strawberry jam at our brunch.  Also, on our menu will be omelettes, homemade gravlox, and cranberry matzo meal pancakes.

Below is the recipe for Sweet Passover Popovers which can be made in a standard muffin tin.  They will not puff quite as much as traditional popovers but will be light, eggy, and delicious.

Sweet Passover Popoverspassover popovers
1 cup matzo cake flour (not matzo meal!)
3 eggs
1 1/4 cups whole milk
2 tablespoons butter, melted
2 tablespoons sugar
pinch of cinnamon

Heat the oven to 450 degrees
Mix together the dry ingredients in a large bowl (preferably one with a pouring spout)
Mix together wet ingredients
Add the wet to the dry ingredients
Mix until just well combined (do not overmix)
Grease a 12 cup muffin tin
Pour batter evenly into 10 cups
Bake for 15 minutes
Turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake for about 10 minutes more
Poke each popover gently with a fork to allow steam to escape
Serve hot or room temp or cool and freeze