Archive for the ‘cookies’ Category

Darth Vader Hamantaschen

February 14, 2014

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I noticed a while back that hamantaschen that are completely coated in chocolate look a little like Darth Vader’s helmet.  So I decided to try piping a Darth Vader design on top to complete the effect. Piping was kind of a pain. It would have been easier to use this cookie cutter.

Levana’s Almond Clusters

December 2, 2013

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Sometimes simple things can be a bit tricky.

My parents raved about my sister’s macheteniste’s nut cookies. “The best cookies I ever ate,” my dad insisted. “And Levana says the recipe is very simple: just sugar, nuts and egg whites stirred together.”

Naturally, I had to pin down the exact recipe. Turns out, Levana’s almond clusters are close cousins to Carine Goren’s almond thins, but with a few crucial twists: (1) the nuts are slivered instead of sliced; (2) the nuts are piled high into little haystacks instead of being spread into a super thin layer; and (3) the sugar is brown instead of white.

These few changes make the difference between a recipe my dad really liked (the almond thins) and one he was crazy about (Levana’s almond clusters). The brown sugar gives huge uptick in flavor, making the sweetness of the nut cookies more interesting, less flat. I think that adding vanilla and almond extract ramps up the flavor even more, but that is an optional addition.

The difficulty was that Levana is the sort of cook who makes everything by instinct instead of a precise recipe. The recipe I started with was “mix together 3 egg whites, a scant cup brown sugar and enough nuts so that the nuts are just coated.” About a pound of nuts? “Yes, about . . . at least!”

I had to experiment a bit to figure out the right ratio of nuts to sugar syrup. The first few batches of cookies had sugar syrup seeping out of them. The sugar syrup  that seeped out on the baking sheet puffed up as the nut clusters baked, making strange looking, crunchy protrusions from the cookies.

Also, the baking time was originally “until brown.” That took figuring out, too. Some batches of cookies came out a bit chewy instead of crunchy. It took me a while to figure out that the solution was drying out the nut clusters in a turned off oven.

With these issues ironed out, these addictive cookies are indeed extremely simple to make.

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Vanilla Rugelach

November 11, 2013

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Vanilla rugelach sounds not so exciting, as compared to chocolate rugelach, but vanilla rugelach can hold its own any day. The key is to use lots of strong vanilla flavor. Vanilla sugar in the filling and vanilla extract in the soaking syrup imparts an intense flavor that is reminiscent of vanilla pudding. While syrup is optional with chocolate rugelach, it is a must with vanilla rugelach. Adding lemon juice to the syrup gives a dairy taste to the rugelach.

If you want to go with cinnamon or apricot cinnamon fillings, I include recipes for that, too.

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Easy Rugelach (aka Babka Bites)

November 11, 2013

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Did you know that you can make rugelach from challah dough? Well, you can!

These won’t be super flaky yeast dough rugelach. For that texture, you need what is called a “laminated dough,” or a dough that has layers of butter or margarine rolled into it (like puff pastry, croissant or danish dough). The difference between these rugelach and the super-flaky kind is the difference between doughnuts and cronuts.

If you want super-flaky yeast dough rugelach, take a look at this. If you want something easy to make and trans-fat free (no margarine!) that tastes like bite-sized chocolate babka, read on.

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Mabul Bars

October 4, 2013

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This is Leora’s parshat Noach pun: marble cake (or whatever) for mabul or flood. The bars are Mrs. S’s recipe. I used part brown sugar instead of all white and added a little vanilla extract.

Prior Parshat Noach desserts:

Mabul Cupcakes

Rainbow Cookies

Einat Admony’s Homemade Kit Kat Bars (and my dairy-free take on them)

September 25, 2013

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The recipe that really jumped out at me from Einat Admony’s Balaboosta was her Kit-Kat Bars. It is kind of a variation on the classic peanut butter bars, which have a peanut butter and cornflake crumb base and a chocolate layer on top. This “Kit Kat” recipe swaps out peanut butter for Nutella in the base and puts a rich ganache on top.

Admony is the chef behind Taim falafel bar and Balaboosta restaurant in New York City (and she is opening another restaurant, too) . She says that the recipe for  this dessert came from Israeli restaurant Keren (Haim Cohen’s restaurant which was big in the 90’s), where she had her first professional job as a line cook.

I loved the idea of a crunchy Nutella bar, but I wanted to make these pareve. I tried two different approaches: (1) I swapped out the Nutella for chocolate peanut butter and (2) I combined regular peanut butter and hazelnut truffle chocolate. Both work. although the version with the hazelnut chocolate is a little truer to the original flavor combination.

Bonus: If you would like to see Einat Admony making these bars, take a look at this video at Daily Candy.

Another Bonus: Recent interview with Einat Admony where she talks about Sukkot and gives her mom’s recipe for chicken with pomegranate syrup and walnuts.

Yet Another Bonus: Chef Michel Richard included a recipe for Le Kit Cat in his book Happy in the Kitchen. The recipe is similar to Einat’s recipe, but calls for peanut butter and milk chocolate instead of Nutella in the base and the topping is chocolate mousse instead of ganache. If you want to see yet another variation on this, plus some attractive plating, take a look at this recipe from New Jersey chef Jonathan Adams.

Okay, one more: Chocolate Hazelnut Crunch Bars, using homemade pailleté feuilletine instead of cornflakes.

These Kit Kat bars look elegant and have a sophisticated taste–you would never guess that they are basically easy cereal bars.

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Reverse Engineered Soft Baked Chocolate Squares

June 27, 2013

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This is the result of my attempt to reverse engineer Kashi’s Soft Baked Chocolate Squares. The texture is very similar to the Kashi squares: cakey but dense, much drier than brownies and more compact than cake. I like them this way, but if you prefer a moister, fudgier bar, I have a variation that creates that texture, too.

I tweaked my recipe to mostly match the Kashi ingredient list and to even more closely hew to the nutritional data. They are vegan, with about 4 g. of fiber and 4 g. of protein per 160 calorie serving from black beans, sweet potato, ground nuts, flax seed meal, whole grain wheat, spelt and oats.

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Gooey Pesach Blondies

March 28, 2013

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These were a huge hit. I underbaked these so that the center was gooey. The edges could be cut and served in squares, but the center had to be served warm, in scoops like a runny chip cake. Someone said that it reminded him of pecan pie.

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Passover Dessert: Chocolate Mistakes

March 28, 2013

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This cookies were an accident. I was making a cookie recipe which called for just cocoa, powdered sugar and egg whites, with some chopped nuts folded in. I must have gotten distracted when measuring out the powdered sugar because the batter was just too dry. So, I added in the yolks that I had separated out from the whites. Then the batter was too runny. So added in a packet of ground nuts.

I baked the cookies, but most of them ran into each other, so I had to cut them into squares. The whole thing looked a bit like a mess, but tasted almost just like boxed chometz brownies. They had that chewy texture, with the thin  crackly top. So, all in all, this is a mistake I would make again, but I would either bake them as bar cookies, or space the cookies further apart so they wouldn’t run into each other.

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Chocolate Chunk Mandel Bread and Pistachio Blueberry Mandel Bread

March 10, 2013

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Dueling Mandel Bread: Baba’s Chocolate Chip v. Bubbe’s Pistachio Blueberry

My mother and I baked mandel bread to use up the last bit of our flour. My mother made a variation on my grandmother’s recipe and I played around with a recipe from Locke Hughes’s Baba, Daye Glassman.

And I finally used up the last of my flour!

The results: the pistachio blueberry mandel bread had a zingier flavor (from the dried fruit and orange zest and juice), but the chocolate chip mandelbread had an especially nice melt-in-your-mouth texture–dry but not too hard.

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