Let me be the first to admit that the only reason that the hamantaschen archives on this site aren’t stronger are that I’m completely stubborn and generally a pedant and this gets in the way of what I know needs to be done to achieve hamantaschen perfection. If you read that sentence and thought “I know what some of those words mean but maybe not in that order,” don’t worry, you’re not alone. Hamantaschen are triangular cookies traditionally eaten during the Jewish festival of Purim (think: Jewish Mardi Gras) that falls next week. Haman, the villain in the biblical story, was said to wear a tricorne hat — with the brim turned up on three sides, something that was wildly fashionable in the 1700s which means it’s due for a hipster revival any day now — and this is where the cookies get their shape.
Almost 10 years ago, when I was a child-free, single-chinned (bah) newlywed and this site was 6 weeks old, I passingly mentioned making the Belgian brownies they serve at Le Pain Quotidien. They were as delicious as should be expected from something that’s nothing but chocolate, butter, sugar, eggs and a smidge of flour. However, I never made them after that because, ever the pedant, to me they weren’t real brownies. Brownies are dense, fudgy and even a little chewy and these were featherlight and rich. I don’t know what’s wrong with me either.
A year ago, I made what I called Bananas Foster Puddings — individual puddings in which the bananas had been lightly caramelized in butter, brown sugar and rum before being layered with vanilla custard and kind of mediocre homemade vanilla wafers before being topped with a tuft of broiled meringue. The evening I made them, I managed to spill a pint glass of water (full, I mean, of course) right next to my laptop, which led to all sorts of drama including the loss of the photos and recipe, in case you’re wondering why nobody’s going to be mistaking me for a lifestyle guru anytime soon.
I am, as ever, a sucker for a recipe with a great name. Bring me your grunts, your bundts, your fools, slumps and sonkers. Take me across the pond and let me feast on jammy dodgers, bubble and squeak, rarebit and rumbledethumps. I hope you know it’s only a matter of time until we take in some scrumptious nun’s farts. And so, for no reasons other than an inherent fascination with great food names plus egg whites to use up after a batch of these evil things, I turned my attention this week to the brutti ma buoni (meaning “ugly but good”), an egg white cookie that hails from Prato, Italy.
I have, for forever and a day, looked for a chocolate cookie I could crown with what I considered the highest honor one could bestow on it, declaring it the browniest cookie. I just didn’t expect it to take me so long to find what I was looking for. Along the way, I met cookies that suggest brownies; ones that are weakly chocolaty, better emulating mediocre brownies; those that promise soft but deliver chewy; and even versions that are a great chocolate cookie, but have little to do with the glorious puddles of square-baked halfway-between-cookie-and-cake batter I love to the point of distraction.
The single most frequently asked (possibly rhetorical but I’ve never let that stop me before) question in regards to the sweet recipes on this site is “How do you not eat all of these?” And I finally have an answer: They’re not rugelach. I love chocolate cake with chocolate frosting, I think snickerdoodles are wildly underrated, but rugelach — those impossibly flaky Central European crescent cookies — are the single item in the category of foods that are just not allowed to be here ever, because there’s something about the glorious harmony of it all (the salty cheese, the tart jam, the cinnamon aroma, the crunch, and if you love your people, the chocolate, gaaah) that it will not be safe with me. Or I will not be safe with it. Which is unfortunate, because I have an avalanche of rugelach in my apartment right now.
Thanksgiving may be my favorite holiday, I may look forward to stuffing, green bean casserole and all the pie the way normal people might anticipate Ben & Jerry’s Free Cone Day, but there is definitely a point — let’s call it right now — when I’m about at capacity with fresh fun ideas for soft orange vegetables and clever new ways to swim foods in puddles of rich sauces. Also, I still need to eat.