Tag Archives: Baking

How to Help Hamantaschen in Distress

How to Help Hamantaschen

How to Help Hamantaschen

I’ll be honest. I do not have a great success rate at making hamantaschen. Try as I might, year after year, they come out looking pretty mediocre.

What are hamantaschen?

Hamantaschen (ha-men-tosh-en) are cookies that are eaten on the Jewish holiday of Purim, which is tomorrow. Shaped like three-cornered hats, they are filled with preserves, chocolate, poppy seeds or other concoctions. This year I made apricot, raspberry and nutella hamantaschen.

The trick is to make them look uniform, which mine do before they go in the oven. See?

But all too often they spread while baking and come out like this:

How to Help Hamantaschen

Grr! Even Max is sympathetic.

haman max

I have tried many different recipes with varying success. I have tried freezing the unbaked cookies for 10 minutes and then baking. I have tried using an egg wash to hold the sides of the dough together. No matter what I do, chances are about 50-50 that they will come out the way I want them to.

Maybe my hamantaschen-baking readers will have some tips to share.

But this year, thanks to inspiration from My Jewish Learning, I have found the perfect solution to forlorn, misshapen hamantaschen. Melt chocolate, dip the cookies, and then coat with sprinkles. Voila! No one will notice the flaws and who wouldn’t bite into one of these?

How to Help Hamantaschen

This hamantaschen recipe was given to me by my friend Myra and it is my favorite.

Myra Wolpert’s Hamantaschen 

1 cup butter, softened
scant 3/4 cup sugar
1 egg
3 t. vanilla extract
approx.. 2 – 3 c. flour
1/2 t. baking powder

Combine butter and sugar. Add egg and beat together. Add vanilla and mix thoroughly.

Sift flour and baking powder together and add to butter mixture. Dough should be pliable and not sticky. Form dough into a flat disk and wrap in wax paper. Chill one hour or longer.

Roll onto floured surface, about 1/4″ thick.

How to Help Hamantaschen

Cut in circles. I used a 3″ round cutter but they can be larger. You can also use the top of a drinking glass to cut the circles. Add filling to center of circle and pinch sides together.

Bake at 375 degrees for 15 – 20 minutes until edges are slightly brown.

Cool on rack.

To finish off with chocolate, melt 1 c. chocolate chips (I used semi-sweet for half of the batch and white for the others) in the microwave, being careful not to burn. Add 1/2 T. vegetable oil and stir to blend.

Dip side of hamantaschen in chocolate and shake off the excess. Dip in sprinkles or other topping (coconut, chopped nuts, crushed candies, e.g.) Let dry on rack. Keep at room temperature for a day or freeze.

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Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

Of course you were aware that today,  May 15 is National Chocolate Chip Day, right?

Me neither, until social media alerted me earlier in the week, and you bet I put it on my calendar. This is the kind of celebration I can get on board with. Say no more!

You might say I bake excessively with am obsessed with am a fan of chocolate chips since they seem to show up in most desserts I bake.

I have shared some of my favorite chip-studded recipes, such as Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip M & M Cookies, and Chocolate Chip Brownies, but National Chocolate Chip Day called for something new to be created in its honor. I put on my apron, got out my Kitchenaid mixer, and let my creativity take over.

What would be the magic combination that would do justice to this auspicious occasion? I started out with chocolate chips, of course, and since nothing goes better with chocolate chips than peanut butter, I threw that in.

To make this cookie even more decadent, I reasoned, why not add Nutella, and finish it off with a swirl of melted chocolate?

Success! If you are as much of a chocolate chip-oholic as I am, I think you will adore these fudgy, peanut buttery chocolate chippy cookies.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

2 sticks butter
1/2 c. peanut butter, smooth or chunky
1/2 c. Nutella
1 c. sugar
1/2 c. dark brown sugar
2 eggs
3 c. flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. baking soda
1 t. salt
1 t. vanilla
2 T. milk or cream
1 c. chocolate chips
extra chocolate chips for optional topping, about 1 c.

Cream butter and peanut butter. Add Nutella and blend in. Add sugars, then eggs, one at a time, and beat until smooth.

In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking powder, baking soda and salt, and blend into peanut butter mixture. Add vanilla and milk and blend. The mixture will be fairly thick.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

Stir in 1 c. chocolate chips. Drop by rounded teaspoons onto cookie sheet. I always use parchment paper.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

Bake at 350 for 10 minutes.

Remove from oven and let sit for 5 minutes, then use spatula to transfer to a wire rack to cool.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

You can serve them as is, or drizzle them with chocolate as I did. Melt the remaining cup of chocolate chips and pour in a pastry bag. Pipe the melted chocolate on top and let cool until set.

Chocolate Chip Peanut Butter Nutella Cookies

You could also use white chocolate as a variation.

Enjoy, and Happy National Chocolate Chip Day!

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How to Bake a Novel

Baking and writing have some similarities, it occurs to me as I plug away at my manuscript.

I bake, I write.

For me, both have been passions and creative outlets since as far back as I can remember. After all, I did proclaim “books is wonderful” at the tender age of four, and years later would make that the name of my blog.

And baking? To this day, each time I bake bread I am transported to my childhood and my maternal grandmother.

How to Bake a Novel

Nana lived clear across the state, so her visits to our house were infrequent and highly anticipated. After giving us big hugs at the door, she wasted no time in changing out of her travel dress to her “house dress” and, on top of that, an apron that she tied around her waist.

And then she got to work.

Her mission? To supply us with enough baked goods to last until her next visit. Clearly, there was nothing commercial that could compare to her bagels, onion rolls, coffee cakes and mandel bread. We shouldn’t have to be deprived. And did we protest? Of course not.

Her week-long bake-a-thons filled the house with continuous sweetness and and yielded enough goodies to take up most of the room in our full-size freezer.

Watching her in action was awesome, but I wanted to be part of the production line. “Let me help,” I begged, and she obligingly gave me a turn at kneading the bread dough until my arms got tired. When the dough had risen and was ready to be formed into loaves, she tore off a glob for me.

Together we would bake “gingerbread” man – ginger-less, of course – plucking off pieces of dough that I rolled out with my little rolling pin. I smoothed them out, gave them symmetry, rolled and re-rolled and pinched and prodded, poking in raisins for eyes and buttons. After the gingerbread men had baked and cooled, Nana made a thin icing out of confectioner’s sugar and water that we piped on for a final flourish.

This is pretty much what I’m doing now with the novel I started during NaNoWriMo last November.

The NaNoWriMo sages tell you that you shouldn’t worry about creating a masterpiece during the 30 days of writing. Rather, the goal is to “get it down.” That is, get 50,000 words in your manuscript. It doesn’t have to be pretty.

In the end, like a glob of bread dough, you will have something to work with.

And that is what happened. I made my bread dough.

Indeed, my 50,000 words did not have the smoothness, the elasticity of a well-kneaded hunk of dough, the perfection needed to move onto the next step. It needed a little of this, a bit of that, and then another bit of this.

As I wade through the morass now, I am smoothing out the phrases that didn’t make sense, prodding and prompting a better description of my settings and characters, garnishing a scene with a gloss that makes it shine.

It can be both frustrating and exhilarating, depending on the quality of my ingredients. So each step of the way I have to inspect. Be critical. Make changes to get it as perfect as it can possibly be.

And when I know I’ve hit on something just right– just like when my bread dough rises perfectly — it is immensely satisfying.

How to Bake a Novel

I know that Nana would understand exactly what I  mean.

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Chocolate Chip Brownies

Happiness is a warm brownie.

Chocolate Chip Brownies

What’s not to love? Brownies are the chocolate equivalent of a hug; a little square of comfort food just perfect for satisfying your sweet tooth and making you feel good inside at the same time.

When I smell brownies baking in the oven I have an instant flashback to my childhood. My mother’s chocolate chip brownies were our ultimate dessert fantasy. She didn’t make them frequently, but when the occasion called for a chocolate dessert, this was it.

The whiff of chocolate-y wonderfulness emanating from the kitchen would filter up to my bedroom and I knew right away what goodness was to come. A warm brownie with a cold glass of milk. Is there anything better?

Many a brownie have I baked over the years, and many have I loved. But the recipe I always come back to is this one from my childhood — my mother’s Chocolate Chip Brownies.

Chocolate Chip Brownies

Now, these are not fancy shmancy brownies. No bells and whistles. They’re fairly sedate as brownies go, but the thing that makes them unique is the chopped nuts are sprinkled on the top only. If you are allergic to nuts, obviously this won’t work for you. You could simply omit the nuts and the brownies will still be wonderful (although I must confess I have never tried them that way).

Erev Rosh Hashanah, the start of the Jewish New Year, is tomorrow evening, and many of my Jewish friends and relatives are busy cooking. It is traditional to serve an apple dessert since apples represent the sweetness of the coming year.

But a little chocolate sweetness couldn’t hurt, either.

Who couldn’t use some extra sweetness? I say bring it on.

May the coming year be sweeter for all of us.

Chocolate Chip Brownies

 Chocolate Chip Brownies

4 sq. bitter chocolate
2 sticks butter
4 eggs
2 c. sugar
1 1/3 c. cake flour
1 t. baking powder
1/2 t. salt
1 6 oz pkg. chocolate chips
2 t. vanilla
1/2 c. chopped walnuts

Melt chocolate and butter; cool. Beat eggs well. Add sugar gradually. Continue beating and add cooled chocolate-butter mixture gradually.

Sift flour with baking powder and salt. Add gradually. Remove from mixer.

Add chocolate chips and vanilla and mix by hand. Place in large oblong pan which has been greased and floured. Sprinkle chopped nuts on top only. Bake at 350° for 35 min.

Chocolate Chip Brownies

Enjoy!

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Peanut Butter Choc Chip M&M Cookies

When it comes to homemade chocolate chip cookies, I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong no matter what recipe you use. I grew up on Toll House cookies and, for an everyday chocolate chip cookie, they’re fine by me.

But if you’re hankering for something special, something above and beyond, well, have I got a chocolate chip cookie for you.

Leave your guilty conscience behind.

My family and I try to eat healthy, and for the most part we do. But on special occasions we make an exception, and this cookie recipe is one that my kids request most often when they come home to visit.

Nutritional value? None, unless you count the peanut butter as protein. These cookies are sinfully sweet, and I’m giving you fair warning: they’re addictive.

The beauty of this recipe is the versatility. You can add or subtract ingredients depending on what you have on hand. Here are just some of the options I have used. I almost always add either chocolate or multi-color jimmies because they give the cookies a little extra pizzazz.

Peanut Butter Choc Chip M&M Cookies

I have tried many variations and have never been disappointed.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Chip M&M Cookies

1/2 c. unsalted butter (you can substitute margarine but I never do)

1/2 c. vegetable shortening

1 c. peanut butter (either crunchy or smooth)

1 c. sugar

1 c. brown sugar

2 eggs

2 1/2 c. flour

1 1/2 t. baking soda

1 t. baking powder

1 1/2 c. chocolate chips

1 1/2 c. mini or regular M&M’s

1 1/2 c. Reese’s Pieces

Cream butter, shortening, peanut butter, sugar, brown sugar and eggs until light and fluffy. Add flour, baking soda and baking powder. Mix well.

Peanut Butter Choc Chip M&M Cookies

Stir in chips and candy. Drop onto greased (or parchment-covered) baking sheet about 2″ apart. I like them a little chunky but you can flatten them if you like a smoother cookie.

Peanut Butter Choc Chip M&M Cookies

Bake at 375º for 8-9 minutes or until very lightly browned. Let cool before removing to wire racks to cool completely.

Peanut Butter Choc Chip M&M Cookies

These freeze very well — but they don’t usually last long enough to spend much time in the freezer.

I hope you enjoy them.

And have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.

 

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Yeasty Cloverleaf Rolls

Midlife Boulevard is hosting a bloghop today on favorite recipes. Scroll to the bottom to find more yummy ideas for the holidays.

 

It is likely I inherited my fondness for baking from my maternal grandmother. Of the six sisters in her family, Nana was without a doubt the most proficient and prolific baker, and her tiny apartment in Squirrel Hill was redolent of the intoxicating smells of freshly baked breads and desserts.

Since she lived across the state, Nana’s week-long visits came only a few times a year, and my brother and I looked forward to them with great anticipation. After a warm welcome with hugs and kisses and the requisite exclamation of how big we had gotten, Nana would unpack her suitcase, slip an apron over her dress, and make herself at home in the kitchen.

She liked to help my mother prepare meals, or just sit at the kitchen table and chat, but the time when she really sprang into action was in the wee hours of the morning when everyone else was fast asleep.

Nana would wake up around 4, throw on what she called a “house dress” and slippers, and noiselessly make her way down the darkened steps to the kitchen. With barely a sound, she gathered the ingredients she needed–yeast, flour, sugar, nuts and raisins—and got to work.

By the time we came downstairs for breakfast, the dough she  had prepared was already into its second rising.  Bowls of all sizes, covered with dishtowels, were scattered everywhere: on the dining room table, on top of the console TV, on window sills, anywhere that was warmed by the early morning sun and would hasten the rising of the dough.

She produced masterpieces: bagels, onion rolls, sticky buns, coffee cakes, mandel bread, cookies and pastries that filled the house with the most delicious aromas. We couldn’t resist sneaking a few while they cooled on racks, giggling when she pretended to be angry. Nana would pack up dozens of these goodies and put them in the freezer so that we wouldn’t have to go without until her next visit.

She was happy when we wanted to help, and gave us small pieces of leftover dough to make gingerbread men with raisin eyes. I watched as she kneaded the dough, adding sprinkles of flour to take away the stickiness. She let us give the dough a “spanking” to deflate it for a second rising.

When I was a young wife and mother, I took up making my own bread, remembering the lessons I had learned by watching my grandmother. I knew how to rhythmically knead the dough, fold it, give it a quarter turn, and knead it again, over and over until the stickiness was gone and the dough was shiny and supple.

Nana always let me know she was proud of me, and my college graduation, wedding and birth of my children were all highlights in her life. But I think she was secretly thrilled when I mastered my first challah.

I often feel her looking over my shoulder as I sprinkle yeast over warm water, add a pinch of sugar, and breathe in the delicious yeasty aroma.

baked cloverleaf rolls

Cloverleaf Rolls

1 packet active dry yeast
¼ c. warm water
1 c. milk
¼ c. sugar
¼ c. margarine or butter
1 tsp. salt
1 egg
3-4 c. flour
poppy seeds or sesame seeds, optional

Heat the milk in a saucepan over low heat until warm but not simmering. Stir in the sugar, margarine and salt and set aside until cooled. It can still be somewhat warm.

Sprinkle the yeast over the warm water and let it sit for 5-10 minutes until it has proofed (bubbling and changing shape).

When the yeast is ready, beat the egg in another bowl and then add the yeast and milk mixture.

Add flour, ½ c. at a time, and stir, making sure there are no clumps of flour left. Add enough flour to make a smooth dough, but be careful not to add too much or the rolls will be dry. Knead the dough briefly on a floured surface.

Place dough in a greased bowl and turn once to make sure it is greased all over. Cover with a clean dishtowel and let rise until doubled in bulk, about two hours. You can tell it has doubled if you poke a finger in it and the indentation stays there.

Punch the dough so it deflates and place it on the floured surface. Divide the dough into 36 pieces and form each piece into a ball. Place three balls in a well-greased muffin cup, and repeat until all muffin cups are filled.

Cover again and let rise in a warm place until doubled in bulk, about one hour.

Brush with a little melted butter. You can sprinkle the rolls with poppy seeds or sesame seeds if desired.

Bake in a preheated 400 degree oven until golden, 12-15 minutes. Best served warm.

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