This parsha, Chukat, talks about the Parah Aduma (red heifer), Moshe hitting the rock with his Mateh (staff) to get water when Miriam dies and her well ceases to give water, and a plague of snakes that comes.
An easy project for the kids was making chocolate cookies in the shape of snakes, rocks, staffs, and cows. Obviously, the cow was easy for me only because I have a cow cookie cutter–a wise investment for parsha projects–but the rocks and snakes and staffs require no special equipment or skill.
Instead of the usual roll out pareve vanilla “butter cookie,” I made a favorite chocolate cookie dough that is not really for cut-out cookies, but, if chilled, is pretty easy to roll out.
I also made water challah using this recipe (but with 3 heaping Tbl. of meshaper afiyah dough conidtioner added and an additional cup of water).
For shaping the water challah, I made one into a round beehive shape using a ball of dough in a deep round pan. According to the Midrash (Tosefta Sukkah 3:11-13; Numbers Rabbah 1:2), the well of Miriam “resembled a rock the size of a beehive, from which, as out of a narrow-necked jug, water coming out in a trickle shot high up in the air like a geyser.” (see here)
adapted from allrecipes, Chef Doogie
Cream the shortening, sugar and vanilla (or vanilla plus water) until very light and fluffy:
1 cup shortening (7 ounces)
1 1/2 cups white sugar (10-11 ounces)
1 Tbl. vanilla extract (or 1 Tbl. water and 1 tsp. vanilla)
Add one at a time, beating until fully incorporated:
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon kosher salt (or regular salt, or round the measurement of kosher salt)
2/3 cup unsweetened cocoa powder (10-11 Tbl.)
Add, mixing just until combined:
2 cups all-purpose flour (9 ounces)
(Note: you can also mix together the flour, cocoa, baking soda and salt until combined and then add that to the egg/sugar/shortening mixture. That method is a little better, but messes up a bowl or plastic bag.)
(Optional, if not rolling out dough: add bag of chocolate chips, about 2 cups, 12 ounces)
Chill the dough if you want to roll it out. Divide the dough into four parts and place each part on a piece of parchment. Flatten the dough and wrap it up. Take out a piece of dough at a time to make the cookies, rolling it out lightly for cut out cookies and shaping balls and sticks or whatever you want for hand shaped cookies.
Bake at 350 degrees for 11 minutes for regular drop cookies, or the “rocks.” Rolled cookies make take only 10 minutes. Let the cookies cool thoroughly before trying to move them. They are fragile, especially the rolled cookies.