Saturday, November 30, 2013

A Thanksgiving-y Twist on a Haunkkah Classic

Thanksgivukkah has come and gone, but the memory lives on in our hearts, always. One of the nicest things about this holiday (other than my uncle lighting the turkey on fire - long story) has been the little reunion I threw for my camp friends on Friday, which was an excuse for me to buy way too much food, and of course bake shit. It was the perfect opportunity to bake shit than can only be eaten day-of, and that + Hanukkah = donuts, obviously. 

The other day I had some leftover cider, and I was looking for recipes for cider donuts (as one does) and came across a recipe on the wonderful Tartelette. They looked amazing, and lo and behold, they were! I had a hard time keeping the oil at a consistent temperature, but they still came out nice and crispy. I also didn't have an apple corer, but I used a fondant cutter, which made pretty circular star medallions, so score. Plus, the fact that they are made with apples basically makes them fruit, right? My main advice is be sure to whisk your eggs properly into the cider mixture, because mine scrambled a little bit and I had to strain them out. But they were super-delicious, even if they made me want to avoid oily food for the rest of the day, which was problematic when the latkes came along. Worth it, though! You can find the recipe here.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

I Go on the Pill

Our mom is a real second-wave feminist. She was in the first class of women at Yale, and attended Harvard Business School when it was only ten percent women. Plus, she's bad at cooking, which is the sure sign of a feminist, amiright? So when it came to picking this year's Halloween costume, I was inspired by her and her cohort. My first choice for a costume was Slutty Ruth Bader Ginsburg (the bun, the glasses, the dicky, and a dramatically shortened judge's robe), but believe it or not, they don't make judge's costumes in women's sizes. Take from that what you will. So in honor of the sexism of modern Halloween costumes, I went as the Feminine Mystique. And no, as not one, not two, but three friends asked me, that is not a character from X Men. God, weren't any of your moms second-wave feminists?! My costume entailed a 1950s dress, an apron, heels, pearls, a bottle of wine, and a plate of pill-shaped cookies. Like any good housewife, I spent the afternoon before the Halloween party making the cookies, but my time was somewhat limited, so the challenge was to find a sugar cookie recipe that did not involve freezing time, and also did not involve the cookies spreading. I used this recipe and it worked beautifully. Plus, it tasted great. I used lemon extract, and everyone at the party exclaimed in delight over the lemony taste of the cookies, which balanced out of the sweetness of the icing nicely. The other challenge was using flood icing, which I've never done before, but once I got the hang of it, it was pretty easy. You just add water to the icing, and you don't even have to pipe it on; if you outline your shapes first and then spoon a bit of flood icing on, it spreads beautifully, thereby saving you the annoyance of having to fill your piping bag. The cookies were a big hit, not least because the party was a hipster party in Asscrack, Brooklyn, where food is apparently not a thing that people provide. So everyone was very happy to see the cookies, and as the perfect housewife, I was very happy to hand them out while guzzling wine. Happy Halloween! 

Monday, September 2, 2013

Ethnic Flavor: The Last Braid of the Year

Welcome back to the land of blogging, us! What, you didn't notice we were gone? Guess we're less important than we thought. 

Rosh Hashanah starts in less than sixty hours. Like all the pre-Purim holidays this year, it's crazy early (the first night of Hanukkah is on Thanksgiving, so get ready for turkey followed by jelly donuts - maybe jelly donuts filled with cranberry sauce?) One of the food traditions for Rosh Hashanah is that for whole month of Tishrei (the month that contains Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur, Sukkot, and Simchat Torah), we eat challah that's round, instead of the traditional braid. This past Friday, I made challah for a nice, quiet dinner with Rachel and our dad, since our mom is in Los Angeles with Rebecca. I didn't have a lot of time to make it because I got home on the late side on Thursday night, so I was really happy to find a recipe that requires a lot less rising time than recipes that I've used in the past. It calls for letting the dough rise in a heated oven, which very much cuts down on the rising time. It's from the beautiful Entree to Judaism, a cookbook my friend Amelia gave me for my birthday, which features Jewish recipes from all over the world. The challah recipe actually was a round challah High Holidays recipe, but I braided it instead.

The other unusual thing about this recipe is that it calls for butter or margarine instead of oil. I used Earth Balance margarine, which is almost indistinguishable from butter, and we could really tell when we tasted the challah! Normally, challah comes in two flavor varieties--water (which is more bread-like) or egg (which is more cake-like)--but with this I think I've discovered a new flavor: buttery! It wasn't brioche-level or anything, nor should it be, but it was still extremely tasty and different. I halved the recipe for one loaf and didn't include the food coloring, but it still came out beautifully, in my opinion. Here's the recipe

7–8 cups bread flour, divided use
2 packages rapid rise yeast
1 1/2 cups water
2 sticks pareve margarine, butter, or 1/2 cup oil and 1 stick margarine
1/4 teaspoon yellow food coloring
3/4 cup sugar
2 tablespoons poppy seeds (optional)
1 tablespoon salt
4 large eggs
1 cup raisins (optional)
Egg wash: 1 egg mixed with 1 tablespoon water


In a large mixer bowl combine 6 cups of the flour and the yeast. Stir to combine.

Heat the water, margarine, food coloring, sugar, poppy seeds, and salt in a saucepan until very warm (140°F). Water should be uncomfortably hot to your finger but not hot enough to burn you. (It will feel like hot tap water.

Add the warm liquid mixture to the flour while the mixer is on low. As the liquid is being incorporated, add the eggs. Mix thoroughly.

Gradually add the remaining flour only until a fairly firm dough is formed. This process should take about 7 minutes whether you are using the dough hook on your mixer or are kneading it by hand. The mixture will be satiny smooth.

Preheat your oven to 400°F for 1 minute. Lightly grease a bowl with some oil, and turn the dough in the bowl to oil all sides. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the turned off oven until doubled in size, about 30–45 minutes.

Punch down the dough and divide in half or in thirds. Roll each piece into a rope about 15 inches long. Hold one end 2 inches above the work surface and wrap the rest of the dough around it to make a large coil. Pinch the ends together to prevent unraveling while baking. Place the formed breads on parchment-lined or greased cookie sheets, and let rise in the previously warmed oven until light and doubled, about 25 minutes.

Remove loaves from oven and reduce to 375°F. Brush the tops of the loaves with the egg wash and bake for 25–35 minutes, depending on the size of the loaves. When the bread is done, it will be golden brown and have a hollow sound when tapped.

Sunday, July 14, 2013

Making the Bitter Sweet

Hi there! Rebecca is right, my absence from blogging has been inexcusable (although not as inexcusable as her failure to take a picture of our lovely lime meringue pie before it was gobbled up, ahem). I had such a wonderful time with her, Adam, Simon, and Leo in Los Angeles last month, but since then it's been back to real life, and back to baking.

Right now we're in a period of the Jewish calendar known as the Nine Days. This appropriately named period is the nine days leading up to the fast day of Tisha B'Av, a very sad holiday that commemorates the destruction of both temples in Jerusalem some two millennia ago. Among other restrictions, we don't eat meat during this time, because meat is considered a luxury that brings us happiness. The only time you can eat meat is if you've had a siyyum (i.e. if someone has finished a piece of learning), or on Shabbat. I promise, this random lesson in Jewish history and tradition gets relevant. 

So I decided to take advantage of it being Shabbat and made steak for some friends who were coming over for dinner, which meant I had to find a parve dessert, which could only mean one thing - Couldn't Be Parve! I was in luck because I found not one, but two recipes! One was for rhubarb sorbet; the other, for sugar cookies that Shoshana suggests you serve with it. The sugar cookies were good - they mostly tasted like sugar cookies, which is all you can ask for from a parve cookie. What I liked about them is that, unlike most butter-based sugar cookies, you don't have to chill the dough at all to get them to maintain their shape while they bake, so they're great if you're in a hurry, since the dough takes all of three minutes to throw together.

The rhubarb sorbet was fantastic. It was also very easy to make, as most sorbets are, but it was a lot creamier than I expected, almost more like ice cream. Rhubarb is one of those super-summery foods, and I've been making a lot of stuff with it this summer, I thought it was very appropriate for the occasion, because it's quite bitter, but dump a ton of sugar on it and it becomes sweet and delicious. The Nine Days are also bitter, but if you dump Shabbat on it...whatever, you know what I'm getting at. You can find the sorbet recipe here and the cookie recipe here

Sunday, July 7, 2013

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Malted Vanilla (and Chocolate) Milkshakes

An easy Baked Sunday Mornings recipe!  It has been super hot around LA this past week and so a recipe which requires no oven and results in a delicious milkshake makes it a prefect recipe for a hot summer day.  I promised my son a milkshake and he was holding out for chocolate, so I adapted this recipe a little bit, using chocolate ice cream instead of vanilla.  I still used the vanilla bean, so it had a nice vanilla, chocolate and malted flavor all mixed together.  If you are looking for a great milkshake recipe, I recommend this one.  It got the seal of approval from my five year old and from me!

You can find the recipe here and check out what all the other bakers did.

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Happy Happy Lemon Cake

I can't believe we haven't posted since May.   My life has gotten so crazy, and this is supposed to be a quiet season.  Oh well.  Can't say what Sarah's excuse is.  She came to visit us recently, and while we did bake a key lime pie, it got eaten so fast I didn't even get a picture.  I assume Sarah will chime in with a cupcake review at some point.

Anyway, enough excuses and on to this amazing lemon cake.  This is a cake that I made at the end of May for a co-worker's birthday.  Like most cakes from BAKED, it had about a zillion steps but it was so worth it.  Every single part of the cake was amazing and when they came together it was awesome.  One of the best lemon cakes I have ever had, let alone baked.  I did not have three 8-inch pans, as the recipe calls for, so I used two nine inch pans and cut the layers in half for four layers and it was great.

I highly recommend this cake, but only make it if you have time (you can make it over two days or so).  You will be rewarded for your hard work with total deliciousness.  You can find the recipe here.

Monday, May 13, 2013

Ethnic Flavor: Salted Caramel Cheesecake Bars for Shavuot

Shavout, the holiday where we celebrate receiving the Torah, is nearly upon us.    This is one of my favorite holidays, and not just because it is traditional to eat dairy foods on Shavout, but that does make it extra sweet.  One food that people love to eat on Shavout is cheesecake.  Although a plain, well made cheesecake can be delicious (and a poorly made one can be disastrous), I think cheesecake is the perfect canvas to experiment with other flavors.  This year, I decided to make these salted caramel cheesecake bars to bring to Shavuot services.  I have made them before and they were a huge hit, so I can't wait to see how people react to them on Wednesday.  They are a little bit salty, a little bit sweet and a little bit tangy with a buttery crust.  When you bite into one, the flavor just melds together in your mouth into one delicious bite.

If salted caramel cheesecake isn't your thing (and who are you??), then you can try any of these other cheesecake recipes.  

Wow, we love cheesecake on this blog.  Anyway, here is the recipe for salted caramel cheesecake bars.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Homemade Seed-uction Bread (a title that happens when Sarah forgets to put up a title)

Happy Mothers Day to all the moms out there! Now, I've seen a lot of people posting on Facebook today about how they have the best mom in the world, but the Baking Sisters know that that's not true, because they're not our siblings and therefore can't possibly have the best mom in the world. This article in today's Times made me think of her, because as we've noted here before, our mom is not the cooking type, but that doesn't make her any less of a mom. We may not have learned our mad baking skillz from her, but we learned pretty much everything else, and she is such an amazing role model in every way. So I'm putting the truth out there: Ruth Jarmul is the best mom in the world. And now it's on the Internet, so it has to be true.

Which brings us, in a roundabout way, to bread. What is more comforting and homey and mom-like than a loaf of fresh-baked bread? (See what I did there?)  The roots of this bread was that I wanted to make a loaf for a dinner I was hosting and I had some leftover whole wheat flour I was trying to get rid of, so I looked up a yummy-looking bread recipe on the King Arthur Flour site. As so often happens with these things, I ended up having to buy all of these extra ingredients in the service of getting rid of the whole wheat flour. Whoops.

Mostly, it was because of the Harvest Grains Blend. In typical excellent planning fashion, I decided to make the bread two days before the dinner, and there wasn't enough time to order the HGB from the KAF site, so I found this nice homemade recipe over at the Bread Virgin. So now I have a large tupperware full of leftover wheat flakes, rye flakes, flax, etc. There are worse things to put in a tupperware, especially since I really love seed bread. My favorite bread in America is called Seed-uction bread, and it's from Whole Foods, and every time I ask for it I'm unbelievably embarrassed. My favorite bread in England is called Thousand-Seed Loaf, and it comes from Derek in the market at Cambridge. So I was really excited to find an amazing seed bread that I could make in my very own home! This bread is excellent. It's rather dense and a little nutty, with that wonderful crunch inside and out. Plus, it's just beautiful to look at, and is sure to excite oohs and aahs at your next dinner party before anyone even takes a bite. Like all bread, it takes forever to make, but it's not too difficult, and totally worth it! Make some for your mom today! You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Chocolate Peanut Butter Spread

So I might loose all my foodie cred for telling you this but I don't like Nutella. I honestly don't understand the appeal. When I saw this week's recipe was chocolate hazelnut spread I was not excited. However, I do love peanut butter and when I had the idea to replace the hazelnuts with peanuts, then I was super excited!

I urge anyone who loves the chocolate peanut butter combo to do this. It is so easy and delicious. You just whir peanuts, cocoa powder, sugar and a bit of oil in the food processor and you come out with this rich and yummy spread. 

I also used the spread to make scones, based on the Nutella scones from baked. Instead of chopped hazelnuts, I used mini chocolate peanut butter cups. Insane!

Check out what some of the other bloggers did here.

Sunday, April 21, 2013

BAKED Sunday Morning: Black and White Cookies

I am a New Yorker.  No matter where I have lived, whether it be Connecticut, Texas or now LA, I have always identified with and been at home in New York. Black and White cookies are one of those things that people always identify with New York and that you can get in every corner deli and bakery.  Unfortunately for the iconic black and white cookie, most of the ones that you buy on the street in NYC are dry, crumbly and generally tasteless with too sweet frosting.

These cookies are the total opposite of that.  They taste like what you want a black and white cookie to taste like, only better.  They are soft and flavorful with a slight crunch on the outside and a distinctly vanilla frosting and a distinctly chocolate frosting.  Neither frosting is too sweet and it is a nice compliment to the only slightly sweet cookie.  Someone once said that the key to a true New York City black and white is lemon zest in the cookie batter, which I think adds to the flavor and keeps them from being cloyingly sweet.

These were pretty simple to put together.  The batter is something between a cookie and a cake and you scoop it with an ice cream scooper to get large but not obscenely huge cookies.  After baking you mix up the vanilla frosting and then take half of that and mix in the cocoa powder for the chocolate side.  My frosting was a little drippy (as you can see from the photo) but it set up nicely and I was able to stack and store these with minimal trouble.  

I feel like black and white cookies are one of those things that seem like they would be a lot of work, but in the end are not.  I only used three bowls and a few measuring cups, a near record for a Baked recipe.  You can find the recipe here and be sure to check out what the other bakers did.

Friday, April 12, 2013

Spring Sprang, and This Is What I Made

Monday was the first day of spring here in New York (in my very scientific definition, it's the first day that you could comfortably go outside without a coat). Don't worry, it's now back to 43 degrees and rainy, but for two and a half whole days, it was glorious. And how convenient - Monday was also the Oxford University Press bake sale to raise money for the wonderful organization New York Cares! I signed up to bring cake, and decided to make mini-bundts because a) they're adorable and b) they're easy to transport. Because they were going to be sold for money, I was very careful to grease and flour the mini-bundt pans so that the cakes would come out whole, which they so rarely do. But guess what? Every one of them did! I was inordinately proud.

Enough of the bragging, Rosenthal, tell us about the recipe! I miniaturized the excellent lemon lavender bundt recipe from Williams-Sonoma. And now I need to share the following exchange that my friend Joe Rim, who is a public school teacher in Philadelphia, had with one of his students:

Joe: I need to get a really good pot.
Student: WHAT?
Joe: Yeah maybe I'll go to Williams-Sonoma after school.
Student:...yo Rim, get me some, too.
Joe: No my dealer's name is not William Sonoma.

Anyway, this recipe tastes like spring. If I celebrated Easter, I would totally make it for Easter. The lavender flavor is so subtle and interesting, and the flowers are small enough that they don't interfere with the texture. Plus, I don't know if this was the glaze or the residual flour from the well-greased bundt pan, but the exterior had a nice l'il crunch to it. Plus, it smells great. So assuming spring ever comes back (fingers crossed!), I hope to be making it again soon. You can find the recipe

Friday, March 29, 2013

The Best Passover Cookies Ever

So remember back in my previous post when I said I wasn't really planning to make any new desserts this year?  Well, I just can't help myself...and you shouldn't either.  These are, hands down, the best Passover cookies I have ever tasted (and they rank up there with non-Passover cookies too).  A friend brought these to our seder and everyone devoured them in an instant.  It is great to have a recipe where people eat it on Passover and say how great it is, not just great for Passover.  Be sure to use really good chocolate, since that is the primary flavor of the cookies.  I also used matzah cake meal instead of matzah meal, since it is ground a little finer, but I think either would work.  The good news is that there are four more days of Passover, so you can make these!  You can find them on Martha Stewart's website.

Monday, March 25, 2013

New Passover Dessert: Chocolate Idiot Cake

The thing about Passover desserts is, when you find one that works, you really want to stick with it.  So many Passover dessert recipes are really terrible and you don't know until you bite into it, so when I find a good one, I tend to make it every year.

However, at the last minute this year, I decided I wanted something chocolate to go with our usual berry crisp.  I thought the best course of action would be to find a flourless chocolate cake that was not Passover in any way, and make it  for the seder.

After a short google, I found this flourless chocolate cake from David Lebovitz.  Since I trust the man with all ice cream, I figure he probably also knows cake.  And, since this cake is called Chocolate Idiot Cake, I figured the chances of screwing it up are small.  

This cake was very, very easy to make.  It is just chocolate, butter (margarine in my case), sugar and eggs and then you put it in a water bath.  The cake comes out creamy and very, very rich (and pretty flat, but that is par for the course).  A small slice does the trick and is a delicious chocolate end to the seder (and if you are having a vegetarian seder, I highly recommend a dollop of whipped cream).  You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Too Many Girl Scouts? Thin Mint Muffins!

Growing up in New York City, there were no girl scouts.  Finding girl scout cookies was like striking gold.  You never knew from year to year if you were going to get some, unless you happened upon a secret spot with girls from outside Manhattan selling the beloved cookies.  In college, I was a Hebrew school teacher.  One of the girls in my class asked if I would buy cookies from her.  Elated with finding the elusive cookie, I ordred four boxes.  The following week, the other seven girls in my class showed up with cookie forms and I ened up with almost 40 boxes of girl scout cookies.  Who knew that everyone was a girl scout?  Good thing I lived in a college dorm, where they were snapped up almost immediately.

Ever since then, I am more careful about my cookie ordering.  Since girl scout cookies are often delivered in the run up to Passover, I have to be careful not to order too many (let alone the fact that it is not good for my wallet or my waistline).  

This year, I ended up with an extra box of thin mints that I knew would not be eaten before Passover.  At the same moment, I happened upon this recipe from The Food Librarian.  This recipe chops up thin mints and sticks them inside a moist, chocolatly muffin.  I brought these too a work function, and even though they feel more like dessert than breakfast, they were snapped up.  I made some large ones and some minis, for people who just wanted to try them.

Check out this recipe here.  You could put all kinds of other things in the muffin base, if you don't happen to have thin mints lying around.

This is probably the last non-Passover recipe we will post here for a while.  I will probably make some of my standards, which you can find here and here.  I also plan to make this lemon mousse cake for Shabbat, when we are so over eating meat all the time and are looking for something dairy and delicious.  The Torta Del Re, made with matzah meal not flour, is also a great option (at the bottom of the post).  

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Review: Sugar Flower Cake Shop Cake Decorating Class

I know, I know, it's Pi Day! And it's near-sacrilegious to write about cake on Pi Day. But it's sacrilege I guess I'll have to commit.

Two Sundays ago I went to a cake decorating class at the charming Sugar Flower Cake Shop. I got the class as a Groupon and was very excited - though I consider myself a pretty good amateur baker, my decorating skills leave something to be desired. As I learned in the class' introductory speech from our instructor, Amy, Sugar Flower Cake Shop is all about local organic blah blah di blah blah. I kind of tuned it out because who in New York isn't into local and organic these days. But what I appreciated most was that apparently they only use buttercream, never fondant, because fondant tastes terrible. So we were off to a good start.

The lovely Sugar Flower Cake Shop

Amy and her assistants handed out squares of cake to everyone in the class. It was a vanilla cake with caramel filling, and the frosting was vanilla as well. I was lucky enough to be the only person at my table of six to get a perfectly rectangular piece (everyone else had one that had been cut from the side of the cake). Amy showed us how to hold our offset spatulas like a spoon, and instructed us to wipe the excess frosting off into a tub after every slather of frosting. This seemed excessively fastidious for me (after all, it's called a crumb coat - can't it have some crumbs in it?) but I guess it's a good habit to get in to for later, non-crumb coats. Once we had a good layer of frosting on our cakes, they put them in the fridge, and it was time to learn how to decorate! 

Amy taught us the correct angles for piping stars (large and small), shells, dots, filigree, writing, and so on. I found shells to be the most challenging. You have to hold your bag at a 45-degree angle, squirt, and then quickly move the tip to the right in order to make a thin tail. (This is assuming you're a righty, going left to right.) But it was a lot of fun to try. I was especially grateful for the tip that I should not fill my piping bag with more than a little frosting - I always overfill, and I never even realized it until now. It's a lot easier to control in small amounts, even if it's annoying to have to constantly refill it. The other major annoyance was that the frosting pretty much melted as the class went on, and became close to unusable towards the end. But Amy was adamant that buttercream should not go in the fridge, and I trust her - she's the expert!

After that, it was time for our cakes to come out of the fridge, so we could put on the final coating of frosting. This was the part I found the most challenging. Despite having the easiest piece of cake to deal with, mine took the longest to frost. I couldn't get the damned corners. Luckily, Amy was very helpful. "You can never have too much buttercream," she said, which is a fine motto for all areas of life, don't you think? Anyway, with sufficient slathering, I got the corners (mostly) covered, and got to decorating! You can see the fruits of my labor above. After we finished decorating, everyone got a box in which to take their cake home. Let's just say that my cake didn't last 24 hours in my apartment! 

I would recommend this class to any beginning cake decorator. It was totally full and so I didn't get all the personal attention I would have liked, but hey, it's a Groupon, what do you want. I feel like I learned a lot; plus, they sent all the people in the class a practice sheet for piping, so I can continue my cake-decorating education in the comfort of my own home.

Thursday, March 7, 2013

Cookie Butter/Biscoff/Speculoos...Whatever You Call It, It is Yum!

Cookie Butter.  Biscoff.  Speculoos. There doesn't seem to be a tremendous amount of agreement about what to call this spread, but whatever you call it, it is delicious.  It is a little spicy, a little sweet, a little cinnamon-y and a lot of yum.  There doesn't actually seem to be a lot of reason to cook with it, when you can just eat it straight from the jar or spread on toast, but I thought I would try something different.  

I always look for excuses to eat cookies for breakfast and scones are just a way of eating a cookie in the morning.  This scone recipe comes from King Arthur Flour.  It has a five star rating and recipes from that site with a high rating have never failed me.  I love the way they explain everything and lay it out step by step.  These scone were tender, with a great crumb and a sweet cinnamon flavor from the cookie butter (which I bought at Trader Joe's, by the way).  In the recipe, there is a glaze but I skipped it and just spread the cookie butter directly on the scones.  A tasty morning or anytime treat (and they freeze really well!).

You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Ethnic Flavor: When you go to the store to buy a cookie...

Happy Purim, everyone! I know that in the post below, Rebecca said there would be no post about hamentaschen this year. She was misinformed, and I just sent her an angry all-caps text message to correct her mistake. So, that's taken care of.

Right, Purim, Judaism's most genocide-/alcoholism-friendly holiday! This year, Purim is extra-special for a number of reasons:
1) It's on a Sunday, which is extra-good for Saturday night partying
2) It's absurdly early, just like everything on the Jewish calendar this year
3) It's also Rebecca's birthday! So if you see her, be sure to wish her a happy birthday.
4) It's apparently the only day in the month of February that the Baking Sisters are going to blog, so savor it
Purim is alway really fun, not least because I get to dress up and sing my favorite song of all time (referenced in the title of this post: you can find the full lyrics here). The cookie of Purim is, of course, the hamentaschen. Yesterday at children's services, I had the following exchange with a three-year-old:

Sarah: What is the name of the cookie that we eat on Purim?
Child: Hamentaschen!
Sarah: And why do we eat hamentaschen?
Child: Because it's Purim.

Sarah: That's kind of tautological.

No, the real reason we eat Haman's hat/pockets/ears is to commemorate our victory over the wicked wicked man. Plus, they taste good. But I've never found a recipe I've been truly happy with. This year, I tried an oil-based dough (not for any ideological reason so much as that I was making the dough while watching "Say Yes to the Dress: Bridesmaids" with Rachel and oil-based dough can be mixed while sitting in front of the TV). While I was looking on the Internet for recipes, I found a lot of folks who passionately believe that poppyseeds are the only proper filling for hamentaschen. To them I say: get a life, it's just a cookie. I filled mine with raspberry jam and mini chocolate chips. They came out a lot better than they usually do, which I attribute to two things. One, courtesy of my sisters, was that I rolled the dough out very thin. It's a little counterintuitive that thin walls of dough would hold the filling better than thick ones, but on Purim, everything is upside down! Two, I folded the corners instead of just pinching them. This probably seems blindingly obvious to most of you, but for whatever reason it never occurred to me until this year. 

Taste-wise, they were pretty good. I'm guessing that it's the oil in the dough, but they were a little tough. I happen to think that crunchy hamentaschen are better than doughy ones, so I didn't mind, but that's a matter of opinion. These were simple to make and satisfying to eat, but I'm going to keep searching for the perfect recipe, so check back in next year! The recipe is here. (Note: the recipe calls for four eggs but is not at all clear that only three are supposed to go in the dough; one is for egg wash. I put all four in the dough and I don't think it affected them negatively.)

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Vanilla Bean and Chocolate Budino

Happy Purim!  If you came here looking for some hamentashen (triangle cookies), you can find them here or here or here.  I didn't have it in me to make any this year, although I've always wanted to try my friend Shoshana's S'more Hamentashen.  However, I've been away and I have a huge Purim program today, so no hamentashen for us this year.

But, I do have some pudding for you (which reminded me of Dorie's Split Level pudding but not quite as rich).  Technically this is a budino, which is apparently an Italian custard or pudding, so pudding is fine.  Budino just makes it sound super fancy.  Despite the fact that this pudding used many, many bowls and pans, it was quite easy to make.  The thickening power mostly comes from cornstarch, so you can't screw it up.  My pudding was a little lumpy, but I don't really mind.  I really enjoyed the flavor of these puddings, both separately and together and I love the way the vanilla one looked with all the vanilla bean seeds sprinkled throughout.  If you want a dessert that looks impressive but is easy to make, you should totally try this.  You can get the recipe here and head over to Baked Sunday Mornings to see what everyone else did.

Happy Purim!  

Sunday, January 27, 2013

BAKED Sunday Mornings: Sunday Night Cake

This cake is called Sunday Night Cake because it is something that you can just throw together for an informal Sunday night gathering.  Nothing fancy and no great hassel.  When I first read the description of the cake and the frosting, I thought it would be like Dorie's Cinnamon Squares, a cinnamon cake with a chocolate frosting.  However, Dorie's cake has a lot more cinnamon punch and a richer chocolate frosting.  This cake is only faintly cinnamon and the flavor of the frosting is a more mild chocolate.  The Baked boys called this frosting a pudding and although I have never made a pudding like this, I can see what they meant.  I don't think I would want to eat it with a spoon, but together with the cake it was really good.  Don't skip the step of putting the frosted cake in the fridge.  My frosting was kind of grainy and strange tasting, but once I put it in the fridge, it was smooth and tasted really good.

I enjoyed this cake, especially in its simplicity.  The cake was tender and moist, with a good, warm flavor with a hint of cinnamon and the frosting balanced it nicely with a hit of chocolate.  My husband (the non-chocolate eater) enjoyed the cake without the frosting too.  One note...I didn't have the right size pan, so I made it in a slightly smaller pan and cooked it a little longer and it was totally fine.

Head over to Baked Sunday Mornings to see what everyone else has done and to get the recipe.  

Update: I have learned that I misread the frosting recipe and I used bittersweet chocolate instead of unsweetened. If worked fine and the frosting was great after a stint in the fridge.

Saturday, January 19, 2013

The Long-Awaited Brownies

So this is one of those recipes that I make all the time but for some reason never got around to blogging about. I made them last week for Baked Goods Friday, but I forgot to take a picture – the picture is from first semester of my senior year of college. That’s how long I’ve been meaning to blog about these brownies. 

What do I love about these brownies? Um, how about EVERYTHING. First of all, they are made with almost an entire box of butter. You simply can’t go wrong there. Second of all, you get to brown butter. I’ve been able to brown butter successfully for a few years now, but it still feels like a major accomplishment every time. Third of all, there’s the combination of chocolate, caramel-y flavor (the browned butter), and salt, courtesy of the brittle on top. Oh yes, fourth of all, the brittle. It is so good that you may want to make extra to just sit around in your freezer and eat it as a snack. Fifth of all, you can make the brownies in advance and then frost them at your leisure - the perfect way to jazz up an otherwise plain and homely brownie. Sixth of all, if you don’t feel like making brownies (in which case, what is wrong with you, you fool), you can also use the frosting and brittle on a chocolate cake to delightful effect. 

Okay, hopefully that is enough to convince you of the greatness of these brownies. The brownie recipe is here (although feel free to substitute your own favorite brownie recipe); the frosting and brittle recipe is here. 

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Not Pretty, but Totally Delicious: Four Star Chocolate Pretzel Challah Bread Pudding

Some things are really hard to photograph.  Bread pudding is one of them.  It just looks like a mushy, lumpy mess.  But let me tell you -- this is the best tasting mushy, lumpy mess I have ever tasted.  This is Dorie Greenspan's Four Star Chocolate Bread Pudding, which I made with an LA specialty, pretzel challah.  Pretzel challah is challah on the inside, but with a soft-pretzel crust on the outside.  Yummy.

Every week, my son's preschool has a fundraiser where you can buy a challah for Shabbat.  Since we love challah and we want to support the school, we signed up.  However, it has meant that our freezer often gets super full of challah because we don't always have Shabbat dinner at home.  This bread pudding came about because I simply could not fit another challah in the freezer and I'm so glad I made it.  It takes about 10 minutes to throw together (if you don't count the time waiting for the bread to become stale) and the only complicated thing about it is that it is baked in a water bath, so you need a pan big enough to hold a 9x13 inch pan.

This was completely delicious and decadent   I loved the combination of the slightly salty pretzel challah with the sweet and chocolatey pudding.  It was a real treat.  If you find yourself with an extra pretzel challah, I highly recommend making this, although I assume it would be delicious with any kind of bread.  You can find the recipe here.

Sunday, January 6, 2013

BAKED Sunday Morning: Malted Milk Chocolate Pots de Creme

Well, I have kind of fallen down on my Baked Sunday Mornings participation.  Things have been a little crazy around here and the idea of making a super complicated recipe hasn't be that appealing.  However, when I saw this recipe, I knew I had to make it.  I love Whoppers, milk chocolate, malt and pudding, so it seemed like this recipe had everything.  To top it off, it was super easy.  It was calling my name.

I wish I could say I was in love with these, since they seemed so promising.  However, mine came out way too salty and it overwhelmed the delicate flavor of the milk chocolate (public service announcement -- you have to use really good milk chocolate, not just a Hershey bar.  I used Scharffen Berger).  It seems that the Baked boys like things much saltier than I do, since this has happened before.  I hope to try them again and cut the salt a bunch.

The other issue I had was totally my fault, in that I took them out of the oven too early.  After 25 minutes they were still pretty jiggly, but I thought they might set in the fridge.  Turns out that was not too be.  They weren't totally watery, but they did not have that custardy texture I was looking for.  I haven't given up hope though, and will be trying these again one day.

Check over at Baked Sunday Mornings for the recipe and to see what everyone else did.

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