Archive for December, 2011

Three Doughs, Endless Possibilities: Grandma’s Rugelach

December 29, 2011

The above is actually a picture of Hungarian Yeast Rugelach, from a much earlier post. I don’t have a picture of the crescent shaped rugelach my grandmother A”H  favored. I went with roll shaped rugelach this time. If you want to see how the crescent shaped rugelach is made, you can take a look at my earlier post.

My father firmly believes in apricot rugelach, but my notes say that my grandmother used raspberry jam.  She also used to drop blobs of it all over the dough, while I am a jam spreader. Doesn’t matter. This is a classic cream cheese dough recipe for rugelach.


Three Doughs, Endless Possibilities: Julia G.’s Rugelach

December 29, 2011

I don’t know why, but I usually feel the urge to make rugelach this time of year. Not pareve yeast rugelach, but dairy rugelach, with real butter and cream cheese.

It always seems like a fabulous idea . . . until I am halfway through rolling out, filling and shaping the dough. Then I remember why I only make rugelach once a year. These aren’t simple drop cookies. These are hand crafted miniature pastries. Rugelach are not hard to make, but they are rather labor intensive.

It helps if you are prepared for that aspect and think ahead to make things a little easier. Make the dough a day ahead. Divide the dough up into individually wrapped packets and flatten the dough a bit so you have a head start on rolling out. It is also a little easier to make rugelach logs instead of crescents.

When you serve the rugelach for dessert at a party, all the hard work pays off.  At the end of a heavy meal, what most people want is a little something rich and sweet with coffee, and rugelach hits the spot.

Rugelach making is as much about the shaping as it is about the filling and the dough. I have three different dough recipes, and I play around with different fillings, but I have found that I can get very different effects just by changing from the crescent shape to a log shape or even a larger strudel shape.  You can even make a completely different cookie by using just jam as a filling and shaping the dough like danishes.

Another thing to think about is size. One of my tricks is to make miniature rugelach, but any size is delicious.

I just posted Grandma Rose’s sour cream pastry dough, which is used to make miniature danishes or strudel. Now, I am giving you the cream cheese dough recipe from my brother-in-law’s grandmother. Julia G. A”H was a superior baker, and she was famous for her rugelach (among other specialties).


Three Doughs, Endless Possibilities: Old World Mock Strudel

December 29, 2011

I mentioned in my last post that Grandma Rose’s filled cookies are a bit labor intensive, with a lot of rolling and shaping. The dough gets divided into four parts, and by the time I had rolled and filled the first three parts, I was ready for something new to do with the remaining quarter of dough.

Grandma Rose’s dough is versatile. You can use it for many pastry purposes, but I was particularly keen on using it for making mock strudel.

Mock strudel is another “old world” delicacy that is substitutes flaky pastry dough for strudel dough. My husband’s grandmother used to make a pareve version (and Batmitbach has posted a pareve pastry strudel from her husband’s grandmother).

Many years ago Marrion Burros and Lois Levine published a recipe for this kind of mock strudel in Elegant But Easy (1960). The revised version of this cookbook (1998) also featured Ann Amernick’s variation on this recipe.

The original filling from Elegant But Easy: 6 ounces marmalade, 6 ounces apricot jam, 6 Tbl.  cup brown sugar, 1 Tbl. cinnamon, 1 cup chopped walnuts, and 1/2 cup golden raisins. The jam is spread over 4 pieces of dough, each rolled 6″x10″, the nuts, sugar, cinnamon and raisins are sprinkled over and each pieces is rolled up like a jelly roll and baked whole. It is kind of a cross between rugelach and strudel.

According to Marrion Burros, Ann Amernick’s filling was different because it called for all apricot jam, no brown sugar and lots more cinnamon, nuts, raisins and currant. Ann Amernick has actually published a few different versions of this recipe (I guess she must keep revising it). In all her versions, Ann Amernick adds much, much more filling than the Elegant But Easy version, pulling it away from its similarity to rugelach.

I ended up going with the version that appears in her 1992 book, Special Desserts, but I will explain her more recent versions.

Why did I want to make this strudel and why did I go with Ann Amernick’s version (well, one of her versions)? Well, Ann Amernick is a top-notch pastry chef with many, many years of experience. She worked as Roland Mesnier’s pastry assistant at the White House during the Carter era (she remembers the time they koshered the White House kitchen). She was pastry chef for Jean-Louis Palladin.  Her pastry role models are Gaston Lenotre and Yves Thuries. And she said in an EGullet interview that the one food she cannot resist is this particular strudel. “I love it more than anything,” she said.

Now, THAT is a dessert I have to try.


Three Doughs, Endless Possibilities: Grandma Rose’s Filled Cookies

December 29, 2011

I realize that most people have baked all the holiday cookies they intend to bake. We have moved from decadent treat baking frenzy to after-holiday fatigue and dieter’s remorse. So, my posts now should all be healthy dishes and not rich pastries.

All the same, I am going to share three (not just one, but three) different pastry doughs.

The first recipe is from my Grandma Rose, A”H. She used to make these cookies that looked little miniature danishes. Imagine crisp, flaky pastry with the rich dairy taste of rugelach, filled with with jewel-like drops of jam.

People go nuts over these cookies. They seem so much plainer than rugelach, without the nuts, chocolate, raisins and cinnamon sugar. But the simple contrast of jam and pastry lets the flavor and texture of the crust shine through. The dough, which is like a pie dough, but with sour cream added instead of ice water, puffs up into light flaky layers like buttery puff pastry when it is baked.

I have no idea where this recipe came from, but I pretty sure it is “old world.” I haven’t seen any recipe that uses a pastry dough that is exactly like this, but I have seen other sour cream doughs, and they are all “from bubbe” recipes.

I won’t lie to you. These are not a snap to make. There is a lot of rolling and cutting and shaping and baking.

When you bake them, they have the frustrating habit of exploding open (the dough really rises). It helps to freeze them before baking and to accept that they might still come apart a little in the oven. Dust them with powdered sugar and it won’t really matter so much.

If you have access to oven-proof jam that will help, too, because regular jam boils over in the oven (like with hamentaschen). Apricot lekvar probably would work perfectly. But, Grandma Rose used regular jam/jelly. I tried a few different flavors of jam (the contrasting colors are pretty) and I think that the better quality jams worked out a little better than the cheaper jams/jelly I used.

One more observation: remember this dough for Purim, since it would be make delicious hamantaschen (although you would really have to pinch to prevent them from exploding open and you would need to use oven-proof filling, like lekvar–supermarket jam would for sure make them explode open).


Vayigash: World of Illusions

December 28, 2011

“Alma D’Shikra”is a mystical concept that means that the world is full of deception and illusion. The Ishbitzer Rebbe (R. Mordecai Yosef Leiner of Isbitza, 1801-1854) in The Mei Hashiloach, applies the idea of Alma D’Shikra to Vayigash and the dramatic turn of events that takes place when Yehudah confronts Yosef.

Rabbi Tvi Leshem has an excellent drasha explicating this, and, in another article, Rabbi David Fine explains the same concepts from the Ishbitzer Rebbe with a slightly different emphasis. Dixie Yid offers a short vort on this, which give yet another perspective on what the Ishbitzer Rebbe is saying about Vayigash.

The Ishbitzer Rebbe’s insight into Vayigash is that Yehudah’s confrontation of Yosef had an illusion at its foundation. Yehudah thought he was confronting a hostile, powerful Egyptian who posed a threat. He did not realize that he was facing his own brother and was not really ever in danger.

Similarly, the Ishbitzer notes, “when haShem will save us and redeem us, then He will show us that we were never in exile and no nation ever ruled over us, only haShem Himself.” It is an illusion that we are at the mercy of powerful people, whether they be government bureaucrats, despots, or employers. Ultimately, Hashem is in control and we only need worry about answering to a higher authority.

I wanted to do a parsha project that expressed this theme of illusion, so I made a dessert that looks like eggs, feels like eggs, even has the mouthfeel of eggs, but is something entirely different. This parsha dessert demonstrates that we live in a world of illusion, where our perceptions can deceive us.



Butternut Squash, Chick Pea and Spinach Melange

December 23, 2011

This was inspired by Brina Gonzalez’s recipe for Chick Pea and Spinach Skillet. It is quick, easy, healthy and delicious.


Parshat Miketz: Three Tables

December 22, 2011

In this week’s parsha, Yosef has not yet revealed his true identity to his brothers. He invites them to dine:

“And they set for him separately and for them separately, and for the Egyptians who ate with him separately, because the Egyptians could not eat food with the Hebrews, because it is an abomination to the Egyptians.”

What is the meaning of this strange seating arrangement? There are three tables: one for Yosef, one for the brothers, and one for the Egyptians.

In a drasha given over forty years ago, Rabbi Norman Lamm explains how these three tables can be understood as a metaphor for the experience of the Jew in galut.  In this metaphor, Yosef represents the Jew who has “made it” in secular culture.

Here Yosef has achieved the pinnacle of success, but he still cannot break bread at the same table as the Egyptians. Nor is he comfortable sitting with his brethren. He sits at a third table.

Rabbi Lamm links this metaphor to the story of Chanukah and the fight against assimilation. He concludes his drasha with the prayer for the “great redemption, which will begin not with arms, not with might, but with the solid determination of every Jew to remain what he is, and what he yet may become–a true Jew. For the redemption is a time that Almighty too will smile and laugh–smile for his redeemed children, and laugh at those who would deny them their land, their freedom, their Torah, and their Holy City of Jerusalem.”

Chanukah Recipes

December 21, 2011

If you are still mulling over what to make for an upcoming party, I have some ideas for you. Below is a list of some of my favorite recipes and a round-up of what other kosher bloggers have posted this year.


Chanukah Cake Pops (from homemade cake and frosting–with dairy-free options)

December 21, 2011

I made some cake pops for upcoming Chanukah parties. The standard recipe calls for cake mix and store bought frosting, but I just didn’t want to go that route.

Making the cake and frosting is actual trivial compared to the task of shaping, dipping and decorating.  An additional bonus of homemade cake and frosting is that you can control the ingredients and eliminate trans-fats or make it dairy-free (or even vegan).

For the cake, I went with a vegan chocolate cake that is intensely chocolate, but tends to crumbly dryness, which is an advantage in this case. For the frosting, I went with a super dairy mix of powdered sugar, butter and cream cheese. It would be very easy to make this vegan/dairy-free/pareve, though, with margarine and Tofutti cream cheese.


Swiss Chard Chips

December 19, 2011

Note: this is a very healthy way to use olive oil to make something crispy to snack on on Chanukah!

My husband loves “chips” made by roasting kale. I got a little confused in the supermarket and bought Swiss chard instead of kale.

Hmm . . .  Could I make the recipe with Swiss chard instead of kale? Not wanting to reinvent the wheel, I googled and found out that, yes, I could.

Macheesmo’s approach was the one I went with.