Tag Archives: cookies

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!



Mad for Meringues

chocolate meringue heartSometimes I get on these cooking kicks; making one type of food over and over until my family cries for mercy.  I have made about a dozen batches of meringues in the last month and so far they are just shouting for more.  Sunshine-filled citrus mini cookies, mexican chocolate hearts filled with berries and cream,  mocha mounds, vanilla bean baby Pavlovas, and lemonade flavored ducks are a few of the variations of shapes and flavors I have tried.   

Fresh farm eggs have been flying from the farmers market to the mixer to the stove at lightning speed.  The whites staring in the meringue show and the yolks making appearances in such favorites as custard tarts, creme caramel, and a gigantic batch of lemon curd. 

There are many basic recipes for meringues out there but this one has worked well for me over many batches of quality assurance crunching.

Sunshine Meringues
4 egg whites (please use fresh local eggs at room temp)
1 1/4 cups sugar
1 tablespoon lemon & lime zest
1 tablespoon corn starch
1 teaspoon lemon or lime juice or a mix of both
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar

Heat oven to 225 degrees
Cover two baking trays with parchment paper
Mix cornstarch and sugar
Beat the egg whites with cream of tartar until fluffy soft peaks begin to form
Slowly add the sugar mixture to the eggs while continuing to beat briskly
Mix in the lemon juice and zest
Use a small cookie scoop to place mounds of meringue on the baking trays or fill a pastry bag and pipe out little dollops
Bake for an hour until crisp outside keeping the oven closed 
Shut off the oven but leave the oven light on and the door closed for three hours
The meringues are now ready to eat or store in a air-tight container

Cocktails and Cookies

rum and honey shortbreadOne of the joys of the Twitter community are the group conversations that are held on many topics.  Some friends invited me to a Tweetchat about cocktails (hashtag #drinkup if you want to join in) and this particular chat was about the delights of rum.

Today started out with piles of snow keeping me indoors yet again;  this long cold winter becoming more tedious every day.  To ward off cabin fever, I decided to bake some cookies.  As I pondered my recipe choices,  last night’s murmurings about hot buttered rum and dark rum-infused island flavors came floating into my mind.  I grabbed a bottle of dark rum and some honey and since I longed for tropical breezes, I cut my cookies into little palm trees.  Here is the recipe for my Rum and Honey Shortbread in case you need it to warm up a snowy day. 

Rum and Honey Shortbread
2 cups flour
1 stick butter
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 tablespoons honey
1 1/2 tablespoons dark rum
Pinch of cinnamon
Pinch of nutmeg
Pinch of ground ginger

Heat oven to 350 degrees
Cream together slightly softened butter and sugar and honey and rum
Stir together flour and spices
Add flour to the butter mixture and mix to make a soft dough
Roll out dough on a floured board to 1/4 thickness
Cut cookies in desired shapes
Bake until edges are just barely browned

Cranberry Raspberry Rugelach

Cranberry Raspberry RugelachEach year at Hanukkah when I was young,  I helped my Dad, who is a fantastic cook and baker, make hundreds of buttery spritz cookies and delicate flaky rugelach. Along with mandelbread, these are still my favorite cookies and over time the recipes have changed and become my own.  When I moved from New York to Boston years ago, I went crazy for Cape Cod cranberries and tried adding them in many recipes including my rugelach.   Everyone in my family loved them and now Cranberry Raspberry Rugelach are part of my holiday baking.  If we are not together to light the candles and enjoy Hanukkah, I make sure that I pack up a batch of cookies to send down to Miami for Mom and Dad. 

Cranberry Raspberry Rugelach
makes 4 dozen cookies

2 cups all purpose flour
1 cup cold unsalted butter
1 egg yolk
3/4 cup sour cream (do not use light or low fat)

2 cups fresh cranberries
1/2 cup golden raisins
3 tablespoons orange juice
1/2 cup sugar
1 cinnamon stick
2/3 cup seedless raspberry jam (homemade or store bought)
3/4 cup walnuts (finely chopped)

Sprinkle Topping
1/2 cup sugar
1 ½ tablespoons cinnamon
6 tablespoons melted butter

Equipment: food processor, rolling pin, pastry brush, pizza cutter wheel, parchment-lined heavy baking trays

 Making the Dough

  1. Cut butter into the flour using a pastry blender or food processor until the mixture resembles coarse crumbs
  2. Mix egg yolk into sour cream
  3. Add sour cream mixture to flour mixture and blend until it forms a ragged ball
  4. Divide the dough into four even pieces and wrap each piece tightly in plastic wrap
  5. Chill for at least two hours

 Making the Filling

  1. In a medium saucepan, combine cranberries, raisins, orange juice, cinnamon stick and sugar
  2. Cook until cranberries are popped and soft and juices have thickened (about 15 minutes)
  3. Removed from heat and remove cinnamon stick
  4. Add raspberry jam and process filling in a food processor to make a crumbly but spreadable mixture
  5. Chill until ready to assemble cookies

 To Assemble Cookies

  1. Heat the oven to 350 degrees
  2. Take one piece of dough and roll out to a 9” circle
  3. Brush dough circle with melted butter
  4. Gently spread  1/4 of the cranberry mixture onto the circle
  5. Sprinkle with 1/4 of the nuts and a two teaspoons or the sugar/cinnamon mixture
  6. Cut the circle into 12 even wedges with the pizza cutter or a knife as if cutting a pizza
  7. Roll each cookie from the outside edge of the circle into a crescent shape
  8. Place the cookies on baking trays
  9. Brush with melted butter and sprinkle more cinnamon sugar on each cookie
  10. Continue with remaining dough and filling
  11. Bake for about 20 minutes until puffed and light golden brown

 Eat warm or room temperature.  These cookies also freeze very well.